Putin’s successor in the form of the system he created, who is not yet very decisive and looking back at his demiurge, is groping every day for new opportunities for expansion and pushing the limits of independence. Such a Leviathan may one day need a new sovereign
The big press conference of Vladimir Putin, like the straight line, is traditionally designed to play some kind of therapeutic function in relation to the socially irritated population. However, this time it looked like Putin himself needed therapy: the “live” press conference allowed him, at least in some way, albeit in a synthetic form, to come into contact with the source of legitimacy – the people (in this case, he was represented by the “popular media”) and feel your own relevance. Such a need is a rather vivid signal of a change in the role of Putin himself in the system, where, after the constitutional reform, there is a process of separation of the sovereign from the state, which, like Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan, acquires its own subjectivity, eclipsing its creator, albeit with the latter’s permission. The transit of power began the way Putin considered the most secure for himself and for the state,
Cult of the state
One of the important features of Putin’s late period is the gradual formation of a “cult of the state.” The special attitude of Vladimir Putin to the state as an institution that has the right to have special, exclusive and extraordinary powers in relation to risk and threat management, as well as the absolute primacy of state interests over the interests of society is increasingly visible. In contrast to the democratic understanding of the nature of the state, here this institution is endowed with the presumption of innocence, the right to make mistakes and minimize its accountability to society, hiding any share of information about its activity.
Simply put, the obsession with security in all its senses turns the state into one giant FSB, where there is also an exclusive “historical” right to “lawlessness” if it is explained by national interests. Hence, for example, sharp resistance to attempts to stir up the archives of the NKVD, a painful reaction to criticism of Stalin, or the transformation of state functioning into the form of secret special operations. In such a system, there is no room not only for non-systemic opposition, but also sharply narrows the space for systemic political forces, from which the Kremlin is increasingly demanding the manifestation of unequivocal political solidarity.
Vladimir Putin has built his entire presidency on the basis of the fundamental principle that the United States has been preparing the collapse of Russia from within for decades. Hence the unequivocal stake on tightening the screws inside the country, building a more rigid vertical, suppressing the liberal opposition as an ideological ally of the West. Contrary to popular belief, Putin ended up building not a personal authoritarian, but a depersonalized regime, where state security as the highest value becomes the ideological outline of the functioning of all power. On the one hand, Putin’s Leviathan, a cult of the state with extraordinary powers, was maturing and politically maturing, and on the other hand, there was an erosion of Putin’s personal role, a decrease in his accessibility to the elites and a sharp weakening of his arbitration function. Constitutional reform, coupled with a pandemic,
Maturation of Matter
Leviathan, or Matter, as the English philosopher of the 17th century Thomas Hobbes wrote about the state, like God, should remain incomprehensible, especially for an ordinary person who can only bow before his power, authority and wisdom. This is very similar to Russian reality, where the political discourse is curtailed and simplified, society is gradually deprived of the right to know and participate in decision-making (just look at the latest draft laws on public power, where the president actually gets the right to veto the results of regional elections), and the head of state , without hesitation, admits that b óMost of his meetings do not receive official coverage. “I am in contact every day with colleagues, say, from the real sector of the economy. We just don’t show it on TV: people sit three meters away from me, and we talk. “
Belief in some kind of moral and historical mission leads to the sacralization of the state in the eyes of Putin himself, to the deliberately cultivated lack of control and demonstrative impunity. The right of the state to legitimate violence in such a situation is transformed into the right to emphasized cruelty (the case of Zuev, Lilia Chanysheva), which is not just excessive, but in most cases occurs without the direct involvement of the president himself.
It is becoming more and more difficult for such a system not only to admit mistakes, but also to make the necessary indulgences (this is clearly seen in the sluggish process of revising the legislation on foreign agents, which may eventually turn into tightening). With the appearance of serious criticism, Putin increasingly takes the position of a lawyer for the Leviathan raised by his own hands: this is clearly seen in his answers to questions about torture in prisons (in the West, it is even worse), investigation of political crimes and rude treatment of journalists from “hostile” countries – SKY News and BBC. Putin’s condescending position sharply reduces the ability to stop or simply slow down the inertia of tightening: the system not only does not know how to “roll back”, it considers this to be showing weakness, creating vulnerability that enemies can inevitably take advantage of.
Withering of the sovereign
In the logic of Hobbes’ Leviathan theory, Putin appears to be a classic sovereign with unique rights – the only one who retains absolute power and function to represent Leviathan in relations with society. However, the peculiarity of the current situation is that the sovereign begins to give in to the growing power of his own brainchild – Leviathan, allowing him to increasingly completely replace himself.
Nothing remained of Putin’s famous manual control system for a long time, but today Putin’s personal role is also marginalized. And on the last straight line, and within the framework of the current press conference, he is already acting as a mechanical transmission link of “complaints and suggestions” to the “competent authorities” – without the manifestation of political will, without the formulation of a clear own position on the above problems. Even on issues in which he is deeply and in detail immersed, such as the epidemiological situation, the president prefers to play the role of an outside observer who describes the situation rather than participates in managing it. Question after question, he relieves himself of responsibility for what is happening: the demographic problem is the same in all post-industrial countries; high mortality from covid – people do not want to be vaccinated; increasing the rate of vaccination – let the governors persuade the population; hospitals and schools are not being built – the regions are saving, although their financial capabilities have increased significantly; the infrastructure of the village is not developing – the government is doing everything, the programs are running; Rusnano is in crisis – the new management of the company has carte blanche, even if they are doing it. Putin reacts to the stream of acute systemic problems lying on the surface as if he were only a corporate lawyer of the state, ready to hear the position of the accusation and then develop a line of defense for his ward. Rusnano is in crisis – the new management of the company has carte blanche, even if they are doing it. Putin reacts to the stream of acute systemic problems lying on the surface as if he were only a corporate lawyer of the state, ready to hear the position of the accusation and then develop a line of defense for his ward. Rusnano is in crisis – the new management of the company has carte blanche, even if they are doing it. Putin reacts to the stream of acute systemic problems lying on the surface as if he were only a corporate lawyer of the state, ready to hear the position of the accusation and then develop a line of defense for his ward.
This distancing from the state, looking at its work as if from the outside, is a sign of the voluntary political devaluation of Putin himself as an autocrat and the transition to a depersonalized “system” – one where, apart from Putin himself, no one else is allowed to exist politically.
This does not mean that the president is satisfied with everything. However, Putin will deliberately and meticulously talk about success, considering such a line a matter of state (no longer political) stability – the need to demonstrate power unity. Fearing that mistakes and blunders publicly brought to the surface will immediately become a geopolitical vulnerability, he is inclined to hush up many objective problems and challenges. This was clearly seen in the emotional dialogue with director Alexander Sokurov at a recent meeting with members of the HRC. Hence the constant maniacal comparisons with “how they are” – according to Putin, Russia is both politically liberal (the law on foreign agents) and more economically efficient (the Russian economy has sagged much less and is recovering faster than in the West).
Putin is much more than in previous years distancing himself from the actions of the security forces, unequivocally giving preference to the “competent authorities” and their “professional” position over his own opinion. And if Putin’s public position contradicts the official actions of the security forces or the judicial system (and this is happening more and more often), the president does not hesitate to emphasize the priority of the latter. The court can easily ignore Putin’s words that there is no need to keep Zuev in jail, or continue to harass Jehovah’s Witnesses, despite the president’s indignation. And Putin does not perceive this as sabotage, on the contrary, he is striving for this – for the formation of a tough system that could function outside the political environment.
Such a deliberate delegation is nothing more than Putin’s preparation of a Leviathan grown with his own hands for life in post-Putin Russia. Objectively, this leads to an increase in the subjectivity, initiative of the state and the erosion of the role of the sovereign. As long as Putin himself is relatively politically strong and capable, the processes of “growing up” of his brainchild seem to be under control, and the prerogatives are returnable (I will allow it today, but tomorrow I can change my mind). However, time plays against it, and as institutional muscles build up, such a Leviathan may one day push the sovereign himself to the sidelines.
Vladimir Putin is gradually teaching, developing, testing, testing Leviathan, while protecting him from criticism, protecting and protecting him. This is not only and no longer so much a question of political comfort (it’s boring to do routine or unwillingness to take responsibility for unpopular decisions), it has become a question of a creeping transit of power. The President is preparing the country for his “departure” – it does not matter whether it is natural or through the appointment of a successor: in any case, it is assumed that Putin’s system of manual control of the autopilot regime will be replaced in the form of a mature, politically subjective Leviathan, who is the very successor, but the name of the current the president will no longer be so important.
Putin, in turn, very clearly separates what he considered necessary to do inside the country (here, against the background of constitutional reform and post-constitutional laws, a completed unitary state and a controlled vertical are being built), and what he has yet to complete in the external arena. In the second case, two strategic projects remained unfinished – the “neutralization” of Ukraine as “anti-Russia” (whether through “security guarantees” or through the direct presence of Russia on the territory of Ukraine) and the geopolitical annexation of Belarus (the formation of such institutions and mechanisms that would consolidate Belarus in the zone of influence of Russia, regardless of the nature of the ruling regime there). And then – you can and at rest.
The problem with this plan is only one thing – throughout Putin’s term in office, many of the fateful decisions were made under the influence of sudden circumstances or circumstances beyond the control of the Russian leader. Raising a Leviathan makes Putin even more dependent on his environment and less able to control his own future. But no matter how the circumstances evolve, Putin’s successor in the form of the system he created, who is still not very decisive and looking back at his demiurge, is feeling new opportunities for expansion every day and pushing the limits of independence. One day, such a Leviathan may need a new sovereign who, unlike its predecessor, is capable of rebuilding the social contract and regaining the function of “last resort”.
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