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Publication Details

Rutland, Peter  (2013) Neoliberalism and the Russian transition. Review of International Political Vol. 20, No. 2: 332-362.

This article aims to assess the role of neoliberal ideas in shaping Russia’s transition to a market economy. Prevailing ideas of theWashington Consensus undoubtedly encouraged Russia’s leaders to embrace radical reforms, but Russia’s reformers were not blindly following an ideological agenda set for them in Washington, DC. The actual policies that were implemented diverged considerably from the prevailing neoliberal orthodoxy and were heavily shaped by the self-interest of the elites who were making the policy decisions. While prices were freed and international trade and currency flows opened up, an insider-dominated privatization process left the Russian economy in the hands of a narrow circle of oligarchs. Russia’s corrupt, oil-dependent and state-centered economy is far removed from the decentralized, competitive market system that the reformers had envisaged. Democracy, which was initially seen as integral to the transition process, also fell by the wayside. While critics argue that Russia suffered from an overdose of ‘market fundamentalism’, neoliberals themselves still insist that Russia did not go far enough in unleashing genuine market forces. Either way, Russia has now joined the global market economy, while at the same time preserving many of the institutional features that are the product of its unique geography and historical heritage.

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