Location: Bowdoin / Gender and Women's Studies / Redefining the Common Good After Communism / Abstracts / Julie Hemment

Gender and Women's Studies

Julie Hemment

Abstract: Common good/common bad: redefining social entitlements and the deserving in Putin’s Russia

This paper considers Putin era reform of the social welfare system.  Coming to power as he did in the context of popular dissatisfaction with the
interventions and policies of the nineties, Vladimir Putin had a clear mandate for change.  Indeed, his formulation of “sovereign democracy” appears to mark a clear break with the neoliberal policies that predominated in the immediate post-Soviet period.  However, Putin era social welfare policies encode a new vision of the common good that has interesting hybrid features and draws on the models he ostensibly disparages.  It at once honors the Soviet past and affords symbolic prominence to Soviet era categories and values (the veteran, patriotism), whilst simultaneously advancing distinctively neoliberal
technologies of self-help and self-reliance.  This paper considers the vision of the common good that is articulated via one provincial state-run youth
voluntarism program, Vazhnoe Delo (Important Business).  Drawing on ethnographic data collected in the course of a collaborative research project
with Russian scholars and youth, I consider the architecture, implementation and efficacy of this youth project, specifically focusing on its reception by
the volunteers and social workers engaged it. Focusing on the interpretive work undertaken in this program, I argue that it offers a symbolic salve and a
measure of recompense to those most disaffected by neoliberal reform, while at the same time inculcating new models of subjectivity and citizenship