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Social Networks, Civil Society, and the Prospects for Consolidating Russia's Democratic Transition

James L. Gibson
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 45, No. 1 (Jan., 2001), pp. 51-68
DOI: 10.2307/2669359
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2669359
Page Count: 18
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Social Networks, Civil Society, and the Prospects for Consolidating Russia's Democratic Transition
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Abstract

Conventional wisdom asserts that democracies require a strong civil society and high levels of interpersonal trust. Neither of these attributes seems to characterize contemporary Russia. This article challenges this conventional wisdom, finding Russian culture characterized by broad, porous, and politically relevant interpersonal networks. Perhaps in response to the totalitarianism of the past, Russians have developed extensive social networks with high levels of political capacity. These social networks are important means for the diffusion of democratic ideas in Russia. For instance, those embedded in extensive social networks are more likely to support key democratic institutions and processes. My analysis also reveals that interpersonal trust actually has little to do with attitudes toward democratic institutions and processes. I conclude by arguing that Russians are not atomized and socially isolated, and that aspect of Russian political culture has important consequences for the future of democracy in Russia.

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