Virtual Politics


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Faking Democracy in the Post-Soviet World

Andrew Wilson

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States like Russia and Ukraine may not have gone back to totalitarianism or the traditional authoritarian formula of stuffing the ballot box, cowing the population and imprisoning the opposition–or not obviously. But a whole industry of “political technology” has developed instead, with shadowy private firms and government “fixers” on lucrative contracts dedicated to the black arts of organizing electoral success.

This book uncovers the sophisticated techniques of the “virtual” political system used to legitimize post-Soviet regimes: entire fake parties, phantom political rivals and “scarecrow” opponents. And it exposes the paramount role of the mass media in projecting these creations and in falsifying the entire political process.

Wilson argues that it is not primarily economic problems that have made it so difficult to develop meaningful democracy in the former Soviet world. Although the West also has its “spin doctors,” dirty tricks, and aggressive ad campaigns, it is the unique post-Bolshevik culture of “political technology” that is the main obstacle to better governance in the region, to real popular participation in public affairs, and to the modernization of the political economy in the longer term.

Andrew Wilson is senior lecturer in Ukrainian studies at the School of Slavonic & East European Studies, University of London. He is the author of The Ukrainians, published by Yale University Press.

“The best of the recent books on the new Russia. . . . This work, by a smart London-based specialist on Ukraine, draws one of the few accurate portraits of how electoral politics operate across Eurasia. . . . Its content is scintillating.”—Stephen Kotkin, New Republic

“This is a splendid study that captures the essence of post-Soviet politics, getting to the core of Putin’s Russia and showing the author’s unmatched command of Ukrainian political life. It is a book to be read by anyone with an interest in the machinations of contemporary politics”—James Gow, King’s College London

"Wilson, with remarkable thoroughness and panache, dissects [political technologists’] ploys, tactics, and tricks, particularly in Russia and Ukraine."—Robert Legvold, Foreign Affairs

"[Wilson] writes briskly and clearly. . . . The result is a systematic and intelligent discussion of a generally neglected or misunderstood part of the post-Soviet political process."—Robert Cottrell, New York Review of Books


'Mr Wilson's richly detailed analysis of politics in the post-Soviet states provides an exciting study based on many new source materials. He is to be applauded for writing a work that is not only of interest to specialists, but also for those who are not entirely familar with politics in the former USSR.' - Peter Hylarides, Contemporary Review

"Wilson has carried off a tour de force. Virtual Politics is not to be missed by anyone who is interested in politics in the post-Soviet states, especially Russia and Ukraine. The book also deserves attention from students of comparative politics who follow recent trends in public relations and the use of mass media. Some of its passages are hilarious, though their implications are disturbing."—The Russian Review

“An original contribution to the study of post-Soviet politics… Anyone who reads this book will never look at Russian politics in quite the same light again.” - Martin McCauley, East-West Review

"Andrew Wilson's new book expertly plumbs the depths of post-Soviet politics. . . . Wilson's well-researched book reveals the fascinating and sadly understudied dark side of post-Soviet politics. It should be required reading for anyone who hopes to understand political development in the post-Soviet world."—Juliet Johnson, Political Science Quarterly

"All those interested in Russian politics will value this work."—Harvey Glickman, Perspectives on Political Science

"A treasure chest of details about politics in the region that, until the publication of this book, have been carefully hidden from the public. . . . Wilson has written a book that everyone interested in post-Soviet politics must read."—Michael McFaul, Slavic Review

‘Without doubt, this book will have a formative influence on future post-Soviet studies and should lead to re-assessment of many former findings on post-Soviet politics.’---A. Umland, SEER 85,3

Selected by Choice Magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2006.
ISBN: 9780300244199
Publication Date: August 28, 2018
352 pages, 6.125 x 9.25
16 b/w illus.
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