Greg Yudin 1, 2
  • 1 Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences, Gazetnyy Pereulok, 3-5, Moscow, Russian Federation 125009
  • 2 Princeton University, 304 Laura Wooten Hall Princeton, NJ 08544

Russia as a Plebiscitary Democracy

2021, vol. 20, No. 2, pp. 9–47 [issue contents]

Electoral procedures, such as elections, voting, or opinion polling, play a pivotal role in the Russian political system. A theoretical problem for contemporary political science arises; how can this proactive recourse to the popular voice coexist with the obvious depoliticization and concentration of personal power? Describing the Russian political regime as intermediary and inferior as opposed to full democracies cannot account for its electoral enthusiasm nor its robustness and endurance. This paper reverts to the plebiscitarian theory of democracy to address these issues. Combining monarchical power with universal suffrage created the political system of the Second Empire in France, and was later thoroughly theorized in Germany during the years of the Weimar Republic. Plebiscitary democracy produces direct democratic legitimacy for a strong leader while severely reducing the role of the masses under a drastic and rapid extension of suffrage. This paper identifies key principles as well as the main contradictions of plebiscitarian regimes. Additionally, it demonstrates that the plebiscitarian ideas proposed by Max Weber and Carl Schmitt have affected the minimalist definition of democracy espoused by Joseph Schumpeter, and therefore keeps enjoying a wide influence in political science. In identifying democracy with elections, the minimalist view promotes the electoralization of political regimes and favors the contemporary rise of plebiscitarianism. The paper considers present-day Russia as a radical case of plebiscitarian politics and traces some of its key developments.

Citation: Yudin G. (2021) Rossiya kak plebistsitarnaya demokratiya [Russia as a Plebiscitary Democracy]. The Russian Sociological Review, vol. 20, no 2, pp. 9-47 (in Russian)
The Russian Sociological Review
Office A-205
21/4 Staraya Basmannaya Ulitsa, Building 1
Deputy Editor: Marina Pugacheva
Rambler's Top100 rss