Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Display:
I think I probably came upon this just as you were posting:

Surkov's "Sovereign" and "Managed" Democracy

Sean:

The deputy head of Putin's administration, Vladislav Surkov gave a rare press conference this week. His comments touched on energy geopolitics and Russian democracy. The latter topic has generated the most press as critics have tried to ascertain the meaning of Surkov's use of "sovereign democracy" versus "managed democracy". For the latter he gave this definition: "By managed democracy we understand political and economic regimes imposed by centres of global influence - and I am not going to mention specific countries - by force and deception." Of course Russia doesn't try to install "managed democracies" on its borders. Yeah, right. In this sense, Russia does what every power currently does. It uses the rhetoric of democracy as a tool of geopolitical maneuvering.

Take Surkov's democratic rhetoric as an example. His definition of "managed democracy" is a direct reference to America's view that the only democracy is American democracy or at least the only viable democracy is one that conforms to American interests. Surkov made these comments in the context Dick Cheney's hypocrisy in labeling authoritarian states "democracies." "When [Cheney] was in Kazakhstan after criticizing our democracy, he gave the highest rating to Kazakhstan's democracy. The Kazakh people are our brothers. But I will never agree that Kazakhstan has gone further in building democracy than we have." I'd have to score one to Surkov here. For Cheney to suggest that Nazarbayev's regime approaches anything close to a democracy should evoke rancorous laughter. The point however is Russia is itself playing the "democracy" game by measuring others and itself against imagined, and self-referential idealism about its own democracy.

In contrast, western critics use the term "managed democracy" to describe Russia as "backsliding" into authoritarianism. Surkov essentially turned the Western usage on its head. According to Surkov, "managed democracy" is given to states that are under the American neo-imperial umbrella. So Karzai's Afghanistan, Musharaf's Pakistan, Mubark's Egypt, and Iraq are democracies, while Russia is not. "They [the West]," charged Surkov in specific reference to American attempts to dominate the globes energy resources, "talk about democracy but they're thinking about our natural resources."

What we're talking about here is one phrase being used for multipe frames.  I agree with Sean's "Yeah right."  I agree with Surkov's legendary take-down of American policies.  However, you'll notice Surkov and Tretyakov are not using the same definition.  Because Tretyalov was doing analysis and Surkov was doing PR.  

I will give you this one, blackhawk.  On the sole basis that I'm coming up empty handed trying to provide anything you'd consider passable evidence for the term originating in the Kremlin.  

However, on some level I'm not totally convinced because I explicitly remember being long under the impression it was a phrase made up by the western press and then one day stumbling upon something (trying to jog my memory, I know it was in one of the half dozen books abut the Putin Admin I've recently read...)  in which people from the administration were explaining how they came up with this idea of managed democracy!  I seem to remember Surkov being in on that too, which, given politics and his PR mission, does not strike me as impossible.  And those whole thing was causing all kinds of grief and fallings out within the administration.  And I was like, "Oh!  I stand corrected!"  And now I'm standing corrected yet again.  So, frankly, I do not know.  I can go through life believing nothing I read (so why read at all) or reading everything and trying to glean some sense from it all.  

and quoting Sergei Roy (from the SRB post):

Consider the controversy concerning "managed democracy" vs. "sovereign democracy." Certain "purists" insist that either you have democracy or you don't, that real democracy comes without any adjectives, that any additions to the concept make it less of a democracy or no democracy at all. Well, those purists should pay attention to the frequency with which the phrase "effective democracy" is used in the US ideological environment and, still more, to the practice of imposing this "effective democracy" throughout the world -- most notably in Iraq, of course. Surkov's, and quite a few other people's, insistence on sovereign democracy means, quite simply, that to have a democracy in Russia, there must first be a Russia, recognizable to its people as their birthplace with a thousand-year history and a certain future as a single, indivisible country. A sovereign country. No wonder this term, sovereign democracy, is so virulently attacked by the said purists, for whom there can be only one kind of democracy the world over -- American democracy. We see only too clearly, however, that American democracy abroad is democracy for Americans abroad and at home, not for the peoples of that "abroad." Countries like Georgia and Ukraine are too close to Russia for us to miss the effect of the loss of sovereignty on democracy. To the US, these lands may appear to be beacons of freedom and democracy. At closer range, they look more like what the irreverent French call bordel de Dieu, the brothel of Our Lord. They are not even managed democracies, as Surkov calls them. They are mismanaged pseudo-democracies.

This is what I was getting at earlier.  Russia's being given an ongoing democracy purity test.  (And if you imagine that is NOT exactly what was going on at that G8 interview with Medvedev, you're naive.)  Any qualifier, regardless how it got there, how valid it may be as a descriptor or how maliciously it may be used in the press, means they're failing.  <--This is the message the world wants us to get.  Perhaps for you, and for Russia, and for its leaders, the desire is to deny or back away from these qualifiers.  For me, I say, own them.  Democracies probably SHOULD be managed, sovereign and rational!  And if they didn't create these qualifiers, they should co-opt and go fiercely after the mythology that the rest of the world are not doing the exact same thing, that only America or wherever is a genuine democracy, that for every "democracy" on earth, there are infinite PR spins to distract from the aspects of those democracies are anything but pure.   They need to change the frame and turn the tables (as Surkov was doing) but not just to point the finger at someone else, but to illustrate and reject outright the fallacy implicit in the suggestion that ANY country can be a pure democracy!


"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Thu Jul 10th, 2008 at 02:16:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Others have rated this comment as follows:

Display:

Occasional Series