Protest and the politics of blame: the Russian response to unpaid wages
The wage arrears crisis has been one of the biggest problems facing contemporary Russia. At its peak, it has involved some $10 billion worth of unpaid wages and has affected approximately 70 percent of the workforce. Yet public protest in the country has been rather limited. The relative passivity of most Russians in the face of such desperate circumstances is a puzzle for students of both collective action and Russian politics. In Protest and the Politics of Blame, Debra Javeline shows that to understand the Russian public's reaction to wage delays, one must examine the ease or difficulty of attributing blame for the crisis.
Previous studies have tried to explain the Russian response to economic hardship by focusing on the economic, organizational, psychological, cultural, and other obstacles that prevent Russians from acting collectively. Challenging the conventional wisdom by testing these alternative explanations with data from an original nationwide survey, Javeline finds that many of the alternative explanations come up short. Instead, she focuses on the need to specify blame among the dizzying number of culprits and potential problem solvers in the crisis, including Russia's central authorities, local authorities, and enterprise managers. Javeline shows that understanding causal relationships drives human behavior and that specificity in blame attribution for a problem influences whether people address that problem through protest.
Debra Javeline is Assistant Professor of Political Science, Rice University.
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Why Blame Attribution Matters for Protest
A Difficult Issue
Whom Russians Blame for Wage Arrears
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ACCEPT AS VOLUNTEERED actors aggrieved individuals Anatoly Chubais April 1998 past attribute blame attributions of blame back wages behavior blame attribution blame for wage Boris Nemtsov Boris Yeltsin CARD AND READ causal cause central authorities collective action Communist Party confidence Crowley dependence theory Desai and Idson difficulty economic efficacy example explanation federal FNPR grievance groups guilty HAND CARD Home Is Russia identify individuals or institutions issue Jamestown Foundation know/difficult to answer KPRF less March 1997 April miners mobilize month late mutual dependence theory nonpayment nonwage benefits officials organizations paid participants in strikes past three pensions percent of Russians problem protest activities protest and passivity protest in Russia regional role rubles sians social specific attributions specificity in blame stipends strategic importance strike or protest strikes and protests survey target Tarrow tion trade union unemployed Viktor Chernomyrdin wage arrears crisis wage delays workplace Yabloko Yeltsin