The Kremlin Emboldened: What Is Putinism?

Issue Date October 2017
Volume 28
Issue 4
Page Numbers 61-75
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Under Vladimir Putin, Russia’s ruling class again claims to represent a superior alternative to liberal democracy. How can we theorize this regime? Putinism is a form of autocracy that is conservative, populist, and personalistic. Its conservatism means that Putinism prioritizes maintaining the status quo and avoiding instability. Conservatism also overlaps with Putinism’s populism in crowd-pleasing broadsides against gay rights and feminism, but gives that populism a distinct cast when it comes to questions of social spending and interethnic or interconfessional relations. Finally, as a personalist autocracy, Putinism rests on one-man rule. Yet the identification of the regime with a single person may fatally undermine Putinism’s effectiveness in its self-appointed role as a bulwark against upheaval.

About the Author

M. Steven Fish is a professor of political science at the University of California, Berkeley.

View all work by M. Steven Fish