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    East European Politics & Societies

    DOI: 10.1177/08883254062871762006; 20; 343East European Politics and Societies

    Stephen E. Hansonand Post-Soviet Russia

    Postimperial Democracies: Ideology and Party Formation in Third Republic France, Weimar Germa online version of this article can be found at:

    Published by:

    On behalf of:

    American Council of Learned Societies

    can be found at:East European Politics & SocietiesAdditional services and information for Alerts:

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    East European Politics and Societies, Vol. 20, No. 2, pages 343372. ISSN 0888-3254 2006 by the American Council of Learned Societies. All rights reserved.

    DOI: 10.1177/0888325406287176343

    Postimperial Democracies:

    Ideology and Party Formation inThird Republic France, Weimar Germany,and Post-Soviet RussiaStephen E. Hanson

    Post-Soviet Russia, the early Third Republic in France, and the Weimar Republicin Germany can be understood as cases of postimperial democracyasituation in which a new democratic regime emerges in the core of a formerempire that has suddenly collapsed and where democratic elections continuefor at least a decade. However, the regimes consolidated in these casesrepublican democracy in France, Nazi dictatorship in Germany, and weak stateauthoritarianism in Russiavary dramatically. These divergent results reflectthe impact of new ideologies, which generated collective action among con-

    verts by artificially elongating their time horizons in an environment ofextremely high uncertainty. In France, ideological clarity allowed radicalrepublicans to outflank more pragmatic parties; in Germany, ideological clar-ity allowed the Nazis to mobilize more successfully than centrist parties; andin post-Soviet Russia, the absence ofany compelling new political ideologydemocratic or antidemocratichas rendered political parties too weak tochallenge even a very weak state.

    Keywords: ideology; political parties; nationalism

    The arrest and detention of Russian oil baron Mikhail Khodorkovsky

    by FSB special forces on 25 October 2003, followed by the

    overwhelming victory of the pro-Kremlin United Russia Party in

    the December 2003 Duma elections and Putins subsequent

    campaignwithout any real oppositionfor reelection in March

    2004, has sparked renewed debate about the current state and

    future prospects of Russias fragile post-Soviet democracy. To some

    scholars, these developments seemed to indicate a dramatic shift

    toward an authoritarian regime dominated by the Kremlin and the

    so-calledsiloviki, that is, representatives of the FSB and military.1

    1. Michael McFaul, Vladimir Putins Grand Strategy . . . for Anti-Democratic Regime Change in

    Russia, The Weekly Standard, 9:10, 17 November 2003.

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    344 Postimperial Democracies

    Another group of analysts agreed that Putins move against

    Khodorkovsky and the taming of the Duma marked a significantchange but argued that it was a salutary one, eliminating the rem-

    nants of the corrupt and debilitating oligarchical rule of the Yeltsin

    era.2 Finally, some commentators portrayed the events of 2003-4 as

    merely the first phase of a long-term struggle to decide the nature

    of the Russian political system in 2008the year that President

    Putin would be constitutionally obliged to step down from his post.3

    Ironically, following a period when the majority of Russia watchers

    had concluded that the Putin regime had finally brought stability to

    the countrysymbolized by the upgrading by Moodys of Russias

    sovereign debt to investment grade statusRussian politics sud-

    denly appeared as enigmatic and unpredictable as ever.

    Our surprise at the continuing uncertainty of Russian politics,

    well into the second decade of the post-Soviet era, betrays a lack of

    sufficient perspective to grasp the true immensity of the social, eco-

    nomic, and cultural changes under way in the wake of the collapse

    of communism in Europe and Eurasiaparticularly in the center of

    the former Soviet empire, where Leninist political rule and Stalinist

    socioeconomic institutions were enforced for more than six decades.

    In such a situation, comparative historical analysis of post-Soviet

    Russian democracy would seem a useful antidote to the sort of

    instant analysis typical of much post-Sovietology.4

    In this essay, I propose to analyze the Russian Federation since

    1990 as one of the relatively few historical cases of postimperialdemocracy, that is, a situation in which new democratic regimes

    are born in the wake of the defeat and quick collapse of formally

    imperial polities and where reasonably fair and open democratic

    elections are held for at least a decade after the imperial collapse.5

    In particular, I will focus here on the first 15 years of the Third

    2. Lewis Lehrman, The Case for Putin: Dont Write off Russias President, The WeeklyStandard, 9:14, 22 December 2003.

    3. Svetlana Babaeva and Georgy Bovt, 2004-2008 Program,Izvestiia, 16 March 2004, pp. 1-3,translated in Johnsons Russia List #8120, Center for Defense Information.

    4. Stephen E. Hanson, Sovietology, Post-Sovietology, and the Study of Postcommunist

    Democratization,Demokratizatsiya 11, no. 1 (Winter 2003): 142-49.5. Other cases that could be added to the list of postimperial democracies would be Austria

    and Hungary af ter World War Isince both were cores of the Austro-Hungarian Empireand Portugal in 1974. Cases in which national sovereignty was gained through the defeat offoreign empires, such as interwar Poland, and where empire collapsed only gradually, as intwentieth-century Britain and France, pose rather different theoretical issues.

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    Republic in France (1870-85), the Weimar Republic in Germany

    (1918-33), and post-Soviet Russia (1990-2005). In all three ofthese cases, the continuation of formal democracy well after the

    initial period of social chaos generated by imperial defeat led to a

    distinct environment of prolonged uncertainty governing key

    institutional features of the new regimeincluding constitutions,

    electoral rules, national symbols, and national bordersbefore

    the eventual consolidation of a new regime type. However, the

    particular regimes consolidated in these three casesrepublican,

    democracy in France, Nazi dictatorship in Germany, and weak

    state authoritarianism in Russiawere dramatically different.

    I will argue that none of the leading explanations for institutional

    outcomes in post-Soviet Russiapoorly designed formal institu-

    tions (and in particular, semipresidentialism), legacies of the past

    empire, and antidemocratic political culturecan by themselves

    explain these diverse regime outcomes in the Third Republic,

    Weimar, and post-Soviet cases. Indeed, all of these factors, I will

    show, were present in similar ways in all three of these postimper-

    ial democracies. Instead, a factor largely ignored by comparative

    historical analysis to date, political ideology, can be shown to be the

    key independent variable that generated coherent political par-

    ties that proposed viable alternative regimes in two of these three


    Ideology, I argue, generates collective action among party

    activists by artificially elongating the time horizons of ideologicalconverts in an environment where rational actors must necessar-

    ily have high discount rates in evaluating potential future payoffs

    for political action. In France, ideological clarity allowed radical

    republicans and legitimists to outflank more pragmatic parties;

    the victory of the republicans generated an institutionalized repub-

    lican polity that endured for seven decades. In Germany, ideologi-

    cal clarity allowed the Nazi and Communist Parties to mobilize

    more successfully than the centrist parties of the Weimar Coalition;

    the victory of the Nazis generated a genocidal dictatorship. In the

    case of post-Soviet Russia, by contrast, the absence ofany com-

    pelling new political ideologywhether democratic or antidemoc-ratichas generated a situation in which all political parties are too

    weak to challenge even a very weak state. Thus, the situation

    East European Politics and Societies 345

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    346 Postimperial Democracies

    in Russia today is likely to culminate neither in consolidated

    democracy nor in consolidated fascism but rather in a novel formof weak state authoritarianismwith unpredictable conse-

    quences for the geopolitical future of Eurasia.

    Explanations for Russian semidemocracy

    Clearly, in the wake of recent events, no serious analyst can argue

    today that Russian democracy is fully consolidated. For some,

    however, the entire subject of democratic consolidation is mis-

    leading. Some cynics (including President Putin himself, in a fall

    2003 address at Columbia University) simply argue Russia has

    never really been democratic; from this perspective, Russian pol-

    itics since 1990 has been nothing more than a struggle to see who

    would control the post-Soviet Russian state. Adherents of this

    point of view, however, forget that even if Russian formal demo-

    cracy has been frequently imperfect or even, in some cases,

    marred by outright fraud, such democratic institutions as the

    1993 constitution, parliamentary and presidential elections, and

    formal legislation passed by the Federal Assembly have all played

    crucial roles in post-Soviet politics. Others accept the importance

    of such democratic institutions as parliaments, elections, and law

    but argue that the term consolidation imposes a misleading

    teleology on the process of democratization in Russia (and else-

    where) and should be abandoned.6 Doing so, however, leaves uswith no widely accepted conceptual framework to analyze the

    dynamic trajectory of Russian semidemocratic politics from

    Yeltsin to Putin. To insist that Russia through 2003 (though per-

    haps not beyond) has been an unconsolidated democracy thus

    has some important analytic advantagesas long as the term

    consolidation can be reasonably clearly defined.

    In a recent essay, I have argued that democratic consolidation

    must be defined as a subtype of regime consolidationand that

    our failure to look at the mechanisms by which various forms of

    authoritarianism get consolidated as we theorize about democratic

    6. Guillermo ODonnell, Illusions about Consolidation,Journal of Democracy 7, no. 4 (April1996): 34-51.

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    East European Politics and Societies 347

    consolidation has been a major shortcoming of the comparative

    democratization literature to date.7

    Regime consolidation, I havesuggested, can be understood as a situation in which the enforcers

    of state institutions can be expected with high probability to obey

    the commands of state elites. Democratic consolidation is a type of

    regime consolidation in which state staff can be expected consis-

    tently to enforce and defend state institutions guaranteeing elec-

    toral competition, citizen participation, and civic definitions of the

    boundaries and membership of the polity. By this definition, Russia

    in Putins first term was (barely) a formal democracy but one that

    was moving away from consolidation and, during his second term,

    possibly toward a type of formal (but equally unconsolidated)

    autocracy. Why, well over a decade after the collapse of commu-

    nism, is this the case?

    The first, and by far the most common, explanation for

    Russias lack of democratic consolidation is based on an insti-

    tutionalist approach to comparative analysis. Scholars in this

    camp point in particular to the institutional problems of mixed

    presidential-parliamentary systems, particularly when presiden-

    tial power is, as in Russia, so overwhelming by comparison with

    the legislature and judiciary.8 Strong presidential power, such

    theorists argue, damages the prospects for democratic consoli-

    dation in several ways at once: it undermines the importance of

    the legislature and thus of political parties, encouraging irrespon-

    sible forms of parliamentary politics, it leaves significant socialinterests without avenues for representation in national policy

    making, and it facilitates the ability of the executive branch to

    declare states of emergency and to shut down democratic poli-

    tics altogether. The transition from Yeltsins irresponsible and

    erratic superpresidentialism to Putins semiauthoritarian version

    7. Stephen E. Hanson, Defining Democratic Consolidation, in Postcommunism and theTheory of Democracy, ed. Richard Anderson Jr., M. Steven Fish, Stephen E. Hanson, and

    Philip Roeder, 126-51 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001).8. See, for example, M. Steven Fish, The Dynamics of Democratic Erosion, inPostcommunism

    and the Theory of Democracy, ed. Richard Anderson Jr., M. Steven Fish, Stephen E. Hanson,

    and Philip Roeder, 54-95 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001); Alfred Stepan and

    Cindy Skach, Constitutional Frameworks and Democratic Consolidation: Parliamentarianismversus Presidentialism, World Politics 46, no. 1 (1993): 1-21; and John Carey and Matthew

    Shugart, Presidents and Assemblies: Constitutional Design and Electoral Dynamics

    (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).

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    348 Postimperial Democracies

    is thus the predictable result of poorly designed formal democratic

    institutions.Seen in the light of our comparison with the two earlier postim-

    perial democracies, however, the formal institutionalist argument

    becomes more problematic. In fact, both the early Third Republic

    and Weimar Germany were also political systems in which the scope

    of presidential power was undefined and potentially open to anti-

    democratic abuse. In the case of France, the first several years of

    democracy witnessed a prolonged struggle over the powers of the

    executive, and the battle over whether the Third Republic would be

    parliamentary or presidential was not decided until the defeat of

    General MacMahon after his effort to dissolve the National Assembly

    in 1877. In the case of Germany, too, the powers of the presidency,

    and in particular, the role of Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution

    allowing the president to bypass parliament in states of emergency,

    were not clearly defined until the economic crisis of the Great

    Depression led President Hindenberg to invoke these formal powers

    in 1930. Even in Russia, we should remember, the emergency pow-

    ers of President Yeltsin in 1992 were originally set to expire in one

    year, returning the Russian Federation to a system of parliamentary

    sovereignty based on the Soviet-era constitution; the formal system

    of semipresidentialism currently in place was established only after

    Yeltsins military assault on the Supreme Soviet in 1993. Yet, as we

    have seen, regime outcomes in these three cases were utterly

    different: consolidated democracy in France by the mid-1880s, con-solidated fascism in Germany by 1934, and unconsolidated author-

    itarianism in Russia at a comparable developmental stage.

    A second school of thought in post-communist studies down-

    plays the causal significance of formal political institutions,

    instead arguing that the legacies of various types of communism

    (and of precommunist regimes as well) are the crucial factor

    explaining the diverse democratic, semidemocratic, and auto-

    cratic outcomes in post-communist Europe and Eurasia.9 The

    extent to which different parts of the post-communist region

    9. Ken Jowitt, New World Disorder: The Leninist Extinction (Berkeley: University of California

    Press, 1992); Stephen E. Hanson, The Leninist Legacy and Institutional Change, ComparativePolitical Studies 28, no. 2 (July 1995): 306-14; and Herbert Kitschelt, Zdenka Mansfeldova,Radoslaw Markowski, and Gabor Toka,Post-Communist Party Systems: Competition, Represen-

    tation, and Inter-party Cooperation, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).

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    East European Politics and Societies 349

    have been burdened by the aftereffects of Leninist one-party rule

    and the concomitant suppression of civil society, of Stalinist col-lectivization of agriculture and industrial planning, and of the cul-

    tural aftermath of communist redefinitions of national and ethnic

    identities seems to correlate remarkably well with the success or

    failure of the democratic project in East-Central Europe and the

    former Soviet republics.10 Even formal institutions themselves

    may be the results of preexisting structural factors rather than

    independent causal variables in their own right; where commu-

    nist party bureaucracies remained well organized and rooted in

    agricultural sectors of the economy, presidential and/or authori-

    tarian rule was more likely than in places where communist elites

    split before the Soviet collapse and economic modernization was

    more advanced.11 From the legacies perspective, neither Russias

    initial moves toward competitive democracyreflecting internal

    cleavages in highly urbanized and industrialized Soviet Russia

    nor its inability to consolidate democracydue to its particularly

    burdensome political, socioeconomic, and cultural legacies from

    the communist pastshould surprise us.

    The legacies approach to analyzing post-communist institu-

    tional change, in my view, represents an important advance over

    theorizing that focuses solely on the impact of formal institutions.

    Yet as the most recent analyses of the effects of Leninist legacies

    have shown, structural variables by themselves are insufficient to

    account for the full range of regime types formed since the revo-lutions of 1989-91; agency, too, must in some way be taken into

    account.12 Our comparison of Third Republic France, Weimar

    10. Clifford Gaddy, The Price of the Past: Russias Struggle with the Legacy of a Militarized

    Economy (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1996); Valerie Bunce, SubversiveInstitutions: The Design and the Destruction of Socialism and the State (Cambridge:

    Cambridge University Press, 1999); and Anna Gryzmala-Busse and Pauline Jones Luong,Reconceptualizing the State: Lessons from Postcommunism, Politics and Society 30, no. 4(2002): 529-54.

    11. Gerald Easter, Preference for Presidentialism: Postcommunist Regime Change in Russiaand the NIS, World Politics 49, no. 2 (1997): 184-211; and Philip Roeder, The Rejection of

    Authoritarianism, in Postcommunism and the Theory of Democracy, ed. Richard

    Anderson Jr., M. Steven Fish, Stephen E. Hanson, and Philip Roeder, 11-53 (Princeton, NJ:

    Princeton University Press, 2001).12. Pauline Jones Luong,Institutional Change and Political Continuity in Post-Soviet Central

    Asia: Power, Perceptions, and Pacts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002); andGrzegorz Ekiert and Stephen E. Hanson, eds., Time, Space, and Institutional Change in

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    350 Postimperial Democracies

    Germany, and post-Soviet Russia makes this clear, since again, in

    all three cases, legacies of past imperial institutions constrainedpostimperial democratic elites in strikingly similar ways. In the

    case of France, the authoritarian Second Empire left behind

    administrative bureaucracies trained in the Napoleonic tradition of

    hostility to independent civil society, a military that chafed at its

    defeat by the Prussians and distrusted the radicalism of the parlia-

    mentary opposition, and a bourgeoisie accustomed to depen-

    dence on, and political deference to, the state. Based on past

    legacies alone, one would have predicted not the victory of radical

    republicans but the restoration of some sort of alliance between

    the military and the Orlanist bourgeoisie. In the case of Germany,

    the defeat of the Kaiserreich in World War I left behind similar lega-

    cies of imperial militarization, state-led industrialization, and wide-

    spread cultural hostility to democracy, which was seen in many

    quarters as a tool for the suppression of German national great-

    ness. Yet the two parties with the most effective network of party

    activists and grassroots supporters, by the time of the Great

    Depression, were the Nazis and Communistsneither of which

    existed before 1914 and which remained politically marginal until

    the very end of the 1920s. Finally, in Russia, a legacies explana-

    tion can certainly help pinpoint the formidable institutional and

    cultural obstacles to democratic consolidation but cannot so easily

    explain why there has not been any consolidation of authoritarian

    rule either. Indeed, from the perspective of Leninist legacies alone,one might have expected the simple restoration of the key institu-

    tions of Soviet-style communismas proposed by Zyuganov and

    his relatively well-organized Communist Party of the Russian

    Federationinstead of the genuinely competitive struggle for

    power within formal democratic rules that has taken place for the

    past decade. Thus, France, Germany, and Russia alike inherited

    semimodernized, statist economies with significant bases of social

    support for military and/or authoritarian politicsyet regime out-

    comes in the three cases differed fundamentally.

    Postcommunist Europe, in Capitalism and Democracy in Central and Eastern Europe:Assessing the Legacy of Communist Rule, 15-48 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,

    2003), 15-48.

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    East European Politics and Societies 351

    This brings us to a third widespread theory purporting to

    explain the failure of Russian democracy to consolidate: the cul-tural approach. There are many variants here, ranging from the

    civilizational view that differences in the value orientations of

    Russian Orthodoxy and Western Christianity account for greater

    deference to state authority and weaker civil society in Orthodox

    countries13 to the argument that among the various legacies of

    communism that now thwart democratization, the cultural lega-

    cies of weak civil society and widespread political alienation are

    the most significant.14 In the contemporary period, such phenom-

    ena as Putins restoration of Soviet-era symbols such as the Soviet

    national anthem and the red flag; the genuine popularity of both

    Putin and, to some extent, even the slavishly pro-Putin United

    Russia party; and the increasing skepticism among Russians about

    both democracy and the liberal capitalist West have made cul-

    tural arguments about Russian de-democratization increasingly

    appealing. Such cultural theorists can seemingly account quite

    easily for the difference between consolidated democracies in

    Western Europe and unconsolidated democracies further east.

    Here, too, however, an examination of our other two historical

    cases of postimperial democracy casts doubt on the cultural

    hypothesis. The success of French democracy since World War II

    has led most analysts today to emphasize the famously democra-

    tic elements of the French political tradition dating from the

    French Revolution of 1789 with its triumphant proclamation of lib-ert, egalit, fraternit. But in 1870, after the defeat of the Second

    Empire in the Franco-Prussian War, contemporary assessments of

    French political culture were far less sanguine. Indeed, the first

    century since the French Revolution had seen the triumph

    of Napolon, the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy, the estab-

    lishment of a slightly more liberal monarchy, the election of

    Napolons autocratic nephew, and the creation of a Second

    13. Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order(New York:Simon & Schuster, 1996); and Russell Bova, Political Culture, Authority Patterns, and the

    Architecture of the New Russian Democracy, in Can Democracy Take Root in Post-Soviet

    Russia? Explorations in State-Society Relations, ed. Harry Eckstein, Frederic J. Fleron Jr., ErikP. Hoffman, and William M. Reisinger, 177-200 (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1998).

    14. Marc Morje Howard, The Weakness of Civil Society in Post-Communist Europe

    (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

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    352 Postimperial Democracies

    Empire. Brief periods of republicanism after 1789 and 1848 had

    led quickly to street violence, terror, and brutal repression. Evenafter the establishment of the Third Republic, respected scholars

    argued that the French tendency toward hierarchy and Utopianism

    in politics accounted for that regimes frequent scandals and crises

    as well as widespread disaffection with republican rule.15 Until quite

    recently, most analyses of German political culture, too, have

    emphasized that countrys tendencies toward anti-Semitism and

    authoritarianism and pointed out the relative weakness of German

    liberalism16although a more recent historiography emphasizes

    the importance of Germanys parliamentary tradition from the

    nineteenth century onward.17 Thus, as in the case of France,

    Germanys political culture during the Weimar period contained a

    mixture of authoritarian and democratic elements. Even in Russia,

    the emergence of significant antiregime protest from below in the

    last years of Gorbachevs rule led a number of analysts to conclude

    that democratic impulses had triumphed within Russias civil

    society; only in the latter half of the 1990s did most analysts of

    Russian culture become truly pessimistic.18 In short, the political

    cultures of France, Germany, and Russia during the postimperial

    periods were arguably more similar than different. If so, the expla-

    nation for varying regime outcomes must lie elsewhere.

    Ideas and ideologies in comparative politics

    The argument of this essay is simple: regime outcomes in the early

    French Third Republic, Weimar Germany, and post-Soviet Russia can

    15. Stanley Hoffmann et al., In Search of France (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,

    1963); and Maurice Crozier, The Bureaucratic Phenomenon (Chicago: University of ChicagoPress, 1964).

    16. Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba, The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracyin Five Nations (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1963); Ralf Dahrendorf, Society

    and Democracy in Germany (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1967); and Daniel Goldhagen,Hitlers Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust(New York: Alfred A.

    Knopf, 1996).17. Marcus Kruezer,Institutions and Innovation: Voters, Parties, and Interest Groups in the

    Consolidation of Democracy: France and Germany, 1870-1939 (Ann Arbor: University of

    Michigan Press, 2003).18. Moshe Lewin, The Gorbachev Phenomenon: A Historical Interpretation (Berkeley:

    University of California Press, 1988); and Timothy McDaniel, The Agony of the Russian Idea(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996).

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    East European Politics and Societies 353

    be traced to the formal ideologies of the most successful political

    parties in each of these initially uncertain democracies. In postim-perial France in the 1870s, the two most successful political parties

    were the legitimists and the republicans; after the final defeat of the

    former in 1877, the republican party was able to reorient the staff of

    the state bureaucracies and military to defend democratic elections,

    participatory institutions, and criteria for citizenship (for men, at

    least). In postimperial Weimar Germany, the two most successful

    parties, by the early 1930s, were the Nazis and the Communists; in

    1933, the Nazi party took power and consolidated a totalitarian, and

    ultimately genocidal, state. Finally, in post-Soviet Russia by the Putin

    era, no political parties were able to sustain their commitments

    to coherent ideological principles, and as a result, no new regime

    type could be consolidated well over a decade after the Soviet

    imperial collapse.

    This seemingly simple argument, however, can be sustained

    against the competing explanations above only after a great deal

    of preliminary conceptual and methodological work. The long-

    standing bias in social science in favor of materialist episte-

    mologies and ontologies puts the burden of proof squarely on the

    shoulders of more idea-oriented theorists. Indeed, idea-based

    explanations for social outcomes often do suffer from problems

    of conceptual fuzziness, methodological indeterminacy, and inad-

    equate attention to causal mechanismssadly reinforcing the

    worst fears of the social science materialist mainstream.To begin with, scholarship on the causal impact of ideas

    must begin by making clear, conceptual definitions of diverse

    types of ideational variables.19 Far too often, such terms as

    ideology, culture, ideas, worldviews, and schemas are

    used interchangeably in the literature, even though scholars

    using these terms may intuitively wish to highlight quite different

    empirical phenomena and processes.20 Moreover, in reading the

    literature using any one of the above terms, one is struck by the

    multiplicity of competing definitions they are givena situation

    19. Sheri Berman, The Social Democratic Moment: Ideas and Politics in the Making ofInterwar Europe (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998).

    20. Stephen E. Hanson, From Culture to Ideology in Comparative Politics: A Review Essay,Comparative Politics 35 (April 2003): 355-86.

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    354 Postimperial Democracies

    obviously hindering social science cumulation and reinforcing

    the dominance of materialist views. Since the independent vari-able in this analysis is ideology, we must then be careful to dis-

    tinguish the use of this concept here from earlier definitions in

    the scholarly literature. In particular, I wish to differentiate my

    use of the term ideology from earlier works defining ideol-

    ogy as worldview, as flawed thinking, or as position on a

    left-right scale.

    The first of these definitionsof ideology as a worldview,

    belief system, or shared mental modelis by far the most wide-

    spread.21 Indeed, the notion of an ideology as a worldview is ubiq-

    uitous to the point of becoming a part of ordinary language. But

    such a fuzzy definition is unlikely to help us very much in exploring

    the empirical impact of specific political ideologies in concrete

    historical situations. For one thing, it is difficult to imagine any

    political elite with no worldview or shared mental model what-

    soever. Nonideological politicians, by this definition, would liter-

    ally have to approach their professions with no preconceptions at

    all, changing their orientations toward their local and global envi-

    ronments constantly in response to changing circumstances. For

    another, even apolitical people have basic understandings about

    the world around them to help them negotiate their lives; the

    notion of ideology as worldview thus requires us to assume that

    every social actor has an ideology, and there are, therefore, poten-

    tially billions of different ideologies at any point in time. Thus, mostanalysts in this tradition refine their definition of ideology to

    emphasize the relative consistency and formality of ideological as

    opposed to other kinds of worldviews.22 This is a step forward but

    still leaves many methodological problems unresolved. Religions,

    scientific paradigms, and certain kinds of paranoid delusions can be

    quite internally consistent too, but few people would wish to refer

    21. Leon Baradat, Political Ideologies: Their Origins and Impact (Englewood Cliffs, NJ:Prentice Hall, 1991); and Arthur T. Denzau and Douglass C. North, Shared Mental Models:

    Ideologies and Institutions,Kyklos 47, no. 1 (Spring 1994): 3-31.22. Philip Converse, The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics, in Ideology and

    Discontent, ed. David E. Apter, 206-61 (New York: Free Press, 1964); Clifford Geertz, ed.,

    Ideology as a Cultural System, in The Interpretation of Cultures (New York: Basic Books,1973); John Gerring, Ideology: A Definitional Analysis,Political Research Quarterly 50,no. 4 (December 1997): 957-94; and Franz Schurmann, Ideology and Organization inCommunist China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966).

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    East European Politics and Societies 355

    to, say, Sufism, quantum mechanics, or the worldview of mass

    murderer Gary Ridgway as ideologies. More important, sucha definition of ideology demands that the analyst develop test-

    able criteria for distinguishing degrees of consistency in political

    Weltanschauungensomething rarely attempted in comparative

    analyses of this sort.

    The second most common definition of ideology in the social

    science literature can be traced to the scorn of Napolon

    Bonaparte for the French ideologues, that is, Enlightenment

    intellectuals who wished to arrive at a predictive theory that would

    explain the origins of political beliefs and thus, in principle, allow

    for a more objective science of human begins. Napolon saw

    these intellectuals as hopelessly impractical, and his dismissal of

    the ideologues thus generated the stubborn association of ide-

    ology with incorrect and unrealistic thought. In the scholarly

    literature, this definition of ideology shows up in studies of the

    ways in which ideological blinders can inhibit perception of

    reality among closed-minded individuals.23 It also permeates

    the literature on United States foreign policy, in which the political

    philosophies of U.S. opponents are frequently described as ideo-

    logical to distinguish them from the presumably pragmatic

    views of U.S. allies. Unfortunately, this definition of ideology also

    gets us into sticky methodological difficulties. Fundamentally, to

    assess which beliefs of political actors are ideological and which

    are realistic, the analyst herself must presume to know just whatrealityis. Otherwise, one persons ideology will be another per-

    sons foresighted strategy, and vice versa.

    The third common definition of ideology is taken primarily

    from studies of American and West European electoral politics,

    and this is to equate political ideology with self-placement on a

    left-right numerical scale. In the delimited context of consoli-

    dated Western electoral democracies, studies based on this opera-

    tional definition can, of course, be extremely useful. On a broader

    comparative level, however, such a definition begs the question of

    just why left and right are given their particular political con-

    notations in different social environments. At best, the left-right

    23. Milton Rokeach, The Open and Closed Mind: Investigations into the Nature of BeliefSystems and Personality Systems (New York: Basic Books, 1970).

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    East European Politics and Societies 357

    can be explained by its role in serving the interest of a given

    economic class, but if so, to argue that ideology has a causalimpact in buttressing class domination becomes tautological.28

    For Geertz, the existence of ideology can be explained through its

    role in formalizing cultural norms to cement the legitimacy of

    political rulers29; again, given this definition, arguments about the

    role of ideology in building political legitimacy become inevitably

    circular. Even in much of the recent rational choice literature on

    ideology, this sort of functionalism ironically rears its ugly head;

    thus, Denzau and North explain the role of shared mental models

    by pointing to the reduced transaction costs among adherents of

    the same ideology but never explain how rational individuals could

    ever coordinate around a single mental model of reality, given

    that such shared mental models are public goods for their

    adherents and no preexisting selective incentives exist to ensure

    their provision.30 Finally, all of these functionalist approaches to

    ideology, by their very nature, can tell us nothing about the for-

    mation and impact of ideologies that fail to benefit ascendant

    classes, political elites, or rational economic actors. Yet a method-

    ologically rigorous argument for the impact of ideology on observ-

    able political outcomes must avoid selection on the dependent

    variable, that is, examining only ideologies that win.31

    All of these considerations lead me to propose a new definition

    of ideology that hopefully improves upon these common

    approaches. Specifically, I define ideology as any formal and con-sistent definition of the criteria for membership in a real or pro-

    posed political community.32 This definition takes its cue from the

    28. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology: Part I, 2nd ed., inThe Marx-EngelsReader, ed. Robert C. Tucker, 146-200 (New York: W. W. Norton, 1977); and Antonio

    Gramsci,Prison Notebooks (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992).29. Geertz, Ideology as a Cultural System.30. Denzau and North, Shared Mental Models.

    31. Gary King, Robert O. Keohane, and Sidney Verba,Designing Social Inquiry:QualitativeInference in Scientific Research (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994).

    32. Stephen E. Hanson, Ideology, Uncertainty, and the Rise of Anti-system Parties in Post-

    Communist Russia, Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics 14, no. 1-2,(March/June 1998): 98-127; Hanson, Defining Democratic Consolidation, inPostcommunism

    and the Theory of Democracy, ed. Richard Anderson Jr., M. Steven Fish, Stephen E. Hanson,

    and Philip Roeder, 126-51 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001); and Hanson,Instrumental Democracy: The End of Ideology and the Decline of Russian Political Parties, inThe Elections of 1999-2000 in Russia: Their Impact and Legacy, ed. Vicki Hesli and William

    Reisinger, 163-85 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

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    358 Postimperial Democracies

    literature on formal and consistent worldviews in the first school

    of thought examined above and excludes from the concept thefuzzy, inconsistent, and informal norms and practices typical of

    most ordinary social actors (political and apolitical alike). I go a

    step further, however, in focusing attention here on how certain

    formal, consistent political viewpoints also set out clear rules for

    defining just who is a member of ones political community

    and who is alien. From this perspective, ideologues are people

    who explicitly choose to politicize their identities by designing

    recognizable and enforceable group boundaries that can be

    policed. It is not surprising, then, that ideologues are frequently

    interested in claiming control over a statethat is, the monop-

    oly of the legitimate means of coercion within a given territory

    to institutionalize such identity boundaries.33

    Formal and consistent religious worldviews that focus on a world

    beyond this one, therefore, are not ideologies by this definition,

    neither are scientific paradigms or personal philosophies/delusions

    that do not claim to articulate criteria for political membership.

    Ideologues, by this definition, are actually quite rare; few social

    actors in any given social context are able to set out clear and con-

    sistent definitions for membership in the political community they

    favor. By this definition, moreover, ideologies are neither incor-

    rect nor correct; ones approbation or condemnation of a given

    ideology will instead depend upon ones particular values. Finally,

    the term ideology as defined here is meant to be employed asa Weberian ideal type; no political actor or set of actors is ever

    absolutely formal and absolutely consistent about criteria for defin-

    ing political membership, but nonetheless certain political actors

    orient their behavior toward each other in ways that closely approx-

    imate this ideal typical definition.

    It remains to be shown how this alternative definition of ideol-

    ogy can help us pinpoint the causal mechanism that hypothetically

    links ideology to successful party building and subsequently to

    regime consolidation in the sense of predictable support by staff

    of the formal political norms of the state. In this context, it is

    33. Max Weber, Politics as a Vocation, inFrom Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, ed. H. H. Gerthand C. Wright Mills, 78 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1946).

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    East European Politics and Societies 359

    important to note that the definition of ideology as any formal,

    consistent definition of the criteria for membership in a real orproposed political communitylike the rational choice approach

    of Denzau and Northrests on a foundation of methodological

    individualism. Ideologies do not represent or reflect preexist-

    ing social groups or structures; they are instead proposed by

    specific individuals and either accepted or rejected by other indi-

    viduals who are in a position to consider new ideological defini-

    tions of their polity. Adopting a methodologically individualist

    approach to ideology allows us to explore not only how ideologies

    exert their effects on social actors but also how social actors create

    new ideologies in the first place.

    Specifically, I argue that ideologies can succeed in generating

    collective action in favor of new political identities to the extent

    that they artificially elongate the time horizons of new ideologi-

    cal converts. New ideologies, as formal and consistent definitions

    of proposed future polities, can give those who accept them con-

    fidence that they have found a dependable, long-term group of

    trustworthy allies. As we know from a wide range of theoretical

    and empirical studies, lower discount rates among social actors

    can generate more successful cooperation over time than is

    typical of actors who discount future benefits more heavily.34

    Moreover, the very formality and consistency of ideological

    approach to defining political membership ensures a certain

    credible commitment among the faithful.35 Since it is often verycostly to maintain a formal consistency concerning ones politi-

    cal identityparticularly in times of rapid social and political

    changeactors who manage to do so over long periods of time

    are unlikely to be behaving opportunistically. Of course, in stable

    institutional environments, the causal effects of ideological com-

    mitment and of simple instrumental rationality can be very hard

    to disentangle; adherence to hegemonic definitions of political

    identity in such cases is generally both a sound strategy and, for

    34. Robert Axelrod, The Evolution of Cooperation (New York: Basic Books, 1984); and Michael

    Taylor, The Possibility of Cooperation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987).35. Douglass C. North and Barry R. Weingast, Constitutions and Commitment: The Evolution

    of Institutions Governing Public Choice in Seventeenth-Century England, Journal ofEconomic History, 49, no. 4 (December 1989): 803-32.

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    East European Politics and Societies 363

    Louis Napolon in exile and then, after his death, by the Prince

    Imperial. The Orlanists had most of the French bourgeoisie ontheir side, and in 1871, Thiers was perhaps the best-known politi-

    cian in the country.39 The Bonapartists were temporarily in disar-

    ray due to the collapse of the empire at Sedan but nonetheless

    continued to have substantial support within the state bureau-

    cracy and the military.40 Yet during this period, neither of these

    parties could settle upon clear ideological messages depicting a

    consistent, explicit definition of the future of France. By the latter

    half of the 1870s, both the Orlanists and the Bonapartists had

    suffered innumerable factional splits, and by 1877, neither was

    very influential in the National Assembly. Instead, the dominant

    cleavage in second half of the 1870s was between legitimists

    whose leader, the Comte de Chambord, continued to insist on a

    return to feudal rights, thefleur-de-lys, and French defense of the

    temporal power of the Papacyand the republicans, led by the

    well-known radical Lon Gambetta, a hero of the French resis-

    tance to the Prussians who was ideologically committed to uni-

    versal male suffrage and secular public education.41

    In Weimar Germany, too, centrist parties could not manage to

    maintain party discipline in the early period of chaos; both the

    left liberal Deutsche Demokratische Partei and the right liberal

    Deutsche Volkspartei quickly lost support to more radical left

    and right parties, while the Social Democratic party lost ground

    to both independent workers parties and to the pro-SovietCommunist Party.42 Here, too, one of the main reasons for the

    decline of the center of the party spectrum was the inability of

    Weimars prodemocratic parties to define any clear or consistent

    conception of prodemocratic German patriotism in the wake of

    the humiliation imposed on the country by democratic occupy-

    ing powers. As in the case of Third Republic France, the clear

    39. J. P. T. Bury and R. P. Tombs, Thiers, 1797-1877: A Political Life (London: Allen and Unwin,

    1986).40. John Rothney,Bonapartism after Sedan (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1969).41. J. P. T. Bury, Gambetta and the Making of the Third Republic (London: Longman, 1973);

    and Stephen D. Kale, Legitimism and the Reconstruction of French Society, 1852-1883(Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1992).

    42. Larry E. Jones, German Liberalism and the Dissolution of the Weimar Party System, 1918-1933

    (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988).

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    364 Postimperial Democracies

    winners in party competition by the mid-1920s were parties with

    clear and consistent ideologies. Within the Weimar coalition, theSocial Democrats rejected the revisionism of Eduard Bernstein

    and adopted a relatively orthodox Marxist position based on the

    centrism of Karl Kautsky, while the Catholic Center became

    increasingly reactionary and statist as well.43And antisystem par-

    ties of the left and right, such as the German National Peoples

    Party (Deutsch-Nationale Volkspartei), the pro-Soviet Communist

    Party (Kommunistiche Partei Deutschlands), and, after 1929, the

    Nazi Party, proved far more capable of welding together national

    networks of committed party activists.44

    Finally, in post-Soviet Russia as well, efforts at centrism such

    as the Civic Union formed by Aleksandr Rutskoi and Arkady

    Volsky found themselves increasingly unable to stem the increas-

    ing polarization of the political spectrum; even after October

    1993, efforts to weld together parties of power interested pri-

    marily in serving Kremlin interests tended to disintegrate due

    to free riding and short-term switching of party affiliations in

    response to changing political circumstances.45 Even the relatively

    ideologically consistent Russias Choice party of Yegor Gaidar suf-

    fered greatly from its efforts to be pragmatic in its relationship

    to power, as former pro-Yeltsin activists split from the party due to

    its close association with the Kremlin.46 From the first elections to

    the new State Duma in December 1993 until the last elections of

    the Yeltsin era in December 1999, only parties with clear, consis-tent definitions of the future of Russia were able to maintain

    enough institutional continuity to be reelected in each parlia-

    ment: the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, the Lib-

    eral Democratic Party of Russiawhich did present a consistent

    superimperial vision of the future Russian state, despite the

    43. Berman,Social Democratic Moment; Stephen E. Hanson, Time and Revolution: Marxismand the Design of Soviet Institutions (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press,1997); and Ellen Lovell Evans, The German Center Party, 1870-1933: A Study in PoliticalCatholicism, (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1981).

    44. Giovanni Sartori, Parties and Party Systems: A Framework for Analysis (Cambridge:Cambridge University Press, 1976).

    45. Hanson, Ideology.46. Michael McFaul, Russias Choice: The Perils of Revolutionary Democracy, in Growing

    Pains: Russian Democracy and the Elections of 1993, ed. Timothy J. Colton and Jerry F.Hough, 115-39 (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1998).

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    East European Politics and Societies 365

    unpredictable antics and dubious financial dealings of its leader

    Zhirinovskyand the liberal Yabloko (Apple) Party.


    In all three postimperial democracies, the rise of ideological par-

    ties and the decline of pragmatic ones gave rise to a period of

    stalemate in which competing ideological visions of the future

    polity struggled for power against a president with no official party

    affiliation of his own. In the French case, conservatives and monar-

    chists within the National Assembly forced Thiers to resign in

    1873, and his successor as president, General MacMahon, was a

    military hero with no ideology of his own but a cultural affinity for

    ultramontane and monarchical groupings.47Although the various

    factions in the Assembly were able to negotiate a new constitution

    in 1875 that formally declared France to be a republic, powerful

    conservative political and social forces continued to resist what

    they saw as the anarchism, secularism, and even socialist tenden-

    cies of the Republican Party leadership.48 Ultimately, disputes over

    the power of the church in education played a major role in gen-

    erating a political crisis in which President MacMahon tried to dis-

    solve the National Assembly and sought support for this move in a

    national plebiscite. The Republican Party, however, was by this

    point organized enough on a national scale to mobilize activists

    throughout the country to rally voters in defense of republicanismand against what they depicted as antidemocratic feudal reac-

    tionaries bent on restoring their former privileges, and MacMahon

    suffered a politically fatal defeat.49

    In Germany, too, the relative stabilization of the polity and econ-

    omy after the initial chaos period in 1924 did not end the struggle

    to define the future symbols and orientation of the postimperial

    state. Indeed, after the election of the aging war hero President

    Hindenburg in 1925, the Reichstag became increasingly polarized

    along the lines of its major ideological partiesthe Catholic

    47. Mitchell, German Influence in France.48. Kale,Legitimism and the Reconstruction of French Society.49. Judith Stone, Sons of the Revolution: Radical Democrats in France, 1862-1914 (Baton

    Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1996).

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    366 Postimperial Democracies

    Center, the Social Democrats, the nationalist right, and the

    Communist left. The Great Depression thus only exacerbated thegeneral erosion of democratic compromise and bargaining in

    the Weimar Republic.50After 1930, when Hindenburg and Brning

    began to rely on emergency decrees for most major policy

    decisionsbypassing parliament altogetherWeimar democracy

    became an empty shell.

    In post-Soviet Russia, too, the end of the chaos period in 1993

    gave rise to formal political and economic stabilization combined

    with a continuing stalemate concerning the future ideology of the

    regime. President Yeltsin, like MacMahon and Hindenburg before

    him, was increasingly perceived as out of touch, ineffective, and

    (like Hindenburg) possibly senile. Within the State Duma, the best

    organized ideological party of the Russian FederationZyuganovs

    Communistscontinued to insist rhetorically on a clear and consis-

    tent definition of Russia as a great power including all the former

    Soviet republics and clung to cherished ideological symbols such as

    the hammer and sickle and Lenins mausoleum.51 Zyuganovs ideo-

    logical rigidity was clear in the 1996 presidential campaign, when

    he insisted on praising Stalin, sponsoring a Duma declaration that

    the 1991 accords formally dissolving the USSR were legally invalid,

    and hinting that a Jewish conspiracy was to blame for all Russias

    post-communist woes. Even after Zyuganovs defeat to Yeltsin in

    the 1996 elections, his rhetoric changed very little over the next

    several years; thus, the sense of stalemate between a weak Kremlinand an antisystem Duma continued to bedevil the fragile post-

    Soviet Russian democracy.


    Finally, in each country, a fundamental crisis in the polity led to a

    resolution in which either an ideological party was able to remake

    the state in its imageor, if no ideological party succeeded,

    parties in general were subordinated to an authoritarian state

    50. Harold James, Economic Reasons for the Collapse of the Weimar Republic, in Weimar:

    Why Did German Democracy Fail?, ed. Ian Kershaw, 30-57 (London: Weidenfeld andNicolson, 1990).

    51. Veljko Vujacic, Gennadiy Zyuganov and the Third Road, Post-Soviet Affairs 12, no. 2(April-June 1996): 118-54.

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    East European Politics and Societies 367

    bureaucracy. In Third Republic France, the victory of Gambetta

    and the Republicans over President MacMahon in the seize Maicrisis of 1877 clarified for all relevant political actors that the role

    of the parliament would henceforth be paramount; from this

    point on, the Third Republic presidency became a weak, largely

    ceremonial office. Moreover, the Republican leadership took

    advantage of its strong and loyal network of party activists to

    carry out thorough purges of the state, educational, and mili-

    tary apparatuses. Supporters of monarchy, Bonapartism, and the

    Church were replaced with loyal republicans committed to uni-

    versal suffrage and free secular education. The Third Republic

    now officially adopted the Marseillaise as its national anthem and

    the tricolor flag as its emblem, and declared 14 July a national hol-

    iday.52 By the 1880s, the ideological redefinition of France as a

    republic became culturally accepted, such that even a serious

    economic downturn and the rise of new antidemocratic chal-

    lenges to the regime failed to uproot French democracy. Indeed,

    not only did the Third Republic, despite many serious crises, sur-

    vive another seven decades, but also the redefinition of France

    itself consolidated by the victorious republicans remains the cen-

    tral basis of French national identity through the present day.53

    The outcome of ideological competition in Weimar Germany,

    of course, is tragic and well known. Whereas MacMahon allied

    with the ideologically committed legitimist movement and lost to

    the prodemocratic Republicans, Hindenburg chose to ally withan ideologically committed National Socialist party that, when

    given the opportunity, quickly subjugated all its competitors. The

    ideologically inflexible Catholic Center and orthodox Social

    Democrats proved incapable of forming a nationwide prodemo-

    cracy alliance comparable to that of the French Republicans;

    instead, Hitlers theory of race war and vision of Germany as

    the thousand-year Reich provided the ideological basis for the

    construction of an entirely new type of German state.54As in the

    case of France in the 1880s, but this time guided by a profoundly

    52. Stone,Sons of the Revolution.53. Francois Furet,Revolutionary France, 1770-1880 (Oxford, UK: Longman, 1992).

    54. Eberhard Jaeckel,Hitlers World View: A Blueprint for Power(Cambridge, MA: HarvardUniversity Press, 1981).

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    East European Politics and Societies 369

    patriotism. Whereas France in the resolution phase adopted

    republican national symbols and Nazi Germany in the resolutionphase adopted Nazi national symbols, post-communist Russia

    under Putin adopted a pragmatic symbolic compromise: the old

    Soviet national anthem was restored with new, non-communist

    lyrics, and the red flag (minus its hammer and sickle) was restored

    as the flag of the Russian military while the democratic tricolor

    remained the flag of the state.

    With Putins triumph, and the end of ideology in the Russian

    Federation, the Russian party system began to disintegrate entirely.56

    Instrumental deputies throughout the parliament quickly signed

    on to support Putins cause, as did the equally instrumental gov-

    ernors of most of Russias 89 subjects of the federation. By

    December 2003, the poor showing of the KPRF and the utter

    collapse of both Yabloko and the liberal Union of Right Forces

    concretized Putins total dominance over the Russian political

    system. As before, the only organized opposition parties in the

    Russian Duma were those with clear and consistent formal

    ideologiesnamely, the LDRP and the KPRFbut both had been

    so completely discredited by their records of compromise with the

    Kremlin that neither had many loyal activists willing to sacrifice for

    the cause. Meanwhile, the United Russia party controlled a two-

    thirds majority in the Duma, ensuring passage of any legislation

    favored by Putin.

    However, while as of 2004 it appeared that Russian democracyhad essentially failed and a new form of plebiscitarian authoritarian

    rule had been established, Russia was still a long way from anything

    like Hitlers ideologically committed fascism. The formal constitu-

    tional order established in 1993 remained largely in place, for the

    time being, and Putin continued to pledge that he would uphold

    not only the constitution but also Russias multiparty democracy as

    his second term unfolded. Without any clear or consistent ideology

    to guide it, Putins presidential regime appeared unlikely to weld

    together antiliberal activists to build a strong authoritarianism

    although informally, antiliberal actors had plenty of scope to harass,

    marginalize, and even imprison their political opponents. Still, the

    56. Hanson, Instrumental Democracy.

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    370 Postimperial Democracies

    consolidation of pragmatic patriotism in Russia under Putin left

    fundamental questions about Russias national identity unresolvedwith potentially destabilizing effects in the future.


    In all three of our cases of postimperial democracy, ideological

    parties tended to defeat pragmatic parties in the initial period of

    postimperial chaos, ideological parties tended to generate a

    political stalemate both between the executive and legislative

    branch and among competing ideological parties, and a final res-

    olution of the political struggle led to regime consolidation along

    the lines of the most successful ideology (whether prodemocra-tic or antidemocratic). The case of Russia under Putin, then, is the

    proverbial exception that proves the rule: no ideology, no parties.

    Given that our case selection controls for the most widely cited

    institutional, historical, and cultural factors inhibiting or facilitat-

    ing democratization, this study provides compelling support for

    the argument that ideology plays a crucial, and hitherto misun-

    derstood, role in determining the fate of uncertain democracies.

    Is the case proven beyond any doubt? Obviously, no comparative

    historical analysis can control perfectly for every variable, and

    some readers may quickly think of innumerable differences among

    nineteenth-century France, early twentieth-century Germany, and

    post-communist Russia that have not been addressed here. To

    counter the argument for the causal role of ideology, however, it is

    not enough merely to point out that every case is unique: rather,

    one must make a plausible case that some other variable accounts

    better for the divergent regime outcomes in these three cases.

    Others may object that the argument here places too much

    emphasis on agencyin particular, the political rhetoric of mar-

    ginal ideologuesand too little on socioeconomic structure. Are

    outcomes so completely determined by the long-term goals of

    radical visionaries as the argument here implies? To begin with, it

    should be reemphasized that the dynamics explored in this essay

    are not typical of stable political environments; the role of ideol-ogy stands out here precisely because intense levels of social

    uncertainty temporarily weakened the constraining power of class

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    power and inherited institutions. Moreover, it is certainly true that

    the resolution of the crises in these three postimperial democ-racies depended to a large extent on the decision by nonideologi-

    cal political and economic elites to back one or another political

    partyor to crush all partiesat the end of the stalemate period.

    Specifically, the decision of the French bourgeoisie to side with

    Gambetta over MacMahon and of the German bourgeoisie to side

    with Hitler over the social democrats played crucial roles in push-

    ing France toward democracy and Germany toward fascism,

    respectively. Moreover, the fact that the post-Soviet Russian bour-

    geoisie remained too weak to put up any serious resistance to the

    initiatives of President Putin in his first term also contributed

    mightily to the establishment of weak state authoritarianism in

    Russia. Nevertheless, in none of these three cases did the most

    powerful class or institutional actors in the initial period of imperial

    breakdown work consistently to promote the particular regimes

    that were ultimately established. Quite the contrary: the French

    bourgeoisie chose to back the radical republicans only because

    the legitimists were seen as even worse threats to property rights,

    and most German capitalists embraced Hitler only when it seemed

    to them that the Nazis were the only sure defense against social-

    ism. In analyzing regime change in these revolutionary periods,

    the role of structural conditions certainly cannot be ignoredbut

    socioeconomic structures could select for only those political

    forces that had managed to survive and reproduce themselves inthe initial chaos period. As we have seen, in each case, radical ide-

    ologues were the only actors capable of managing this feat under

    conditions of high social uncertainty.

    If the argument in this essay is right, then the presence of com-

    mitted ideologues in post-Soviet Russia might also have made a

    crucial difference to the regime outcome therefor good or for

    ill. A more consistent and coherent ideological articulation of

    Russia as a democratic community in the early 1990s might have

    given liberal parties a fighting chance to organize Russian activists

    and voters to resist the establishment of presidential semidicta-

    torship in the early twenty-first century. Conversely, a more con-sistent and coherent articulation of Russian fascism could have

    led to the establishment of an aggressively nationalist Russian

    East European Politics and Societies 371

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    state, generating Yugoslav-style ethnic violence throughout the

    former Soviet Union. The victory of the nonideological Putin,however, leaves the long-term trajectory of Russian politics very

    much undecided, as it will be extremely difficult to consolidate

    any coherent Russian state institutions on the basis of Putins con-

    tradictory hodgepodge of symbols and political commitments.

    Given a new political crisis, the weakness of Russian institutions

    might allow ideological agency once again to play a determining

    causal role.

    372 Postimperial Democracies