Do middle strata stabilize the Russian society? (evidence from national sociological surveys)
Keywords:middle-income strata, middle class, Russia, socio-political activism, the Olson-Huntington model, sociological surveyss
AbstractThe purpose of the article is to assess the scale and constructiveness of socio-political activity of medium income groups (strata) forming the basis of the middle class in the Russian context of 2010s. The article is based on the analysis of the data of all-Russian surveys conducted by the Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences from 2008 till 2016 according to the all-Russian sample representing the country’s population by regions of living, and within regions — by sex, age, level of education and type of settlement. Socio-political activism of middle income groups of Russia is considered in two aspects: the survey data regarding how these strata representatives participate in different kinds of socio-political activity are analyzed first, followed by the study of their views on the possible future forms of such participation as a response to any “challenges“. It is concluded that the strata with medium income are not yet performing the expected function of a political stabilizer in contemporary Russia. As compared to all other strata, the highest level of real involvement in the social interaction and political participation network is demonstrated not by a middle-income, but a high profit group of the Russian population. At the same time, concerns associated with Olson-Huntington model, that the middle strata will turn out to be a generator of radicalism have not been confirmed either. It is shown that in contemporary Russia people with average income occupy, as a rule, an intermediate position between the most politically active and constructive high-profit group, on the one hand, and politically the least active group with low income, whose representatives are rather inclined to radical protest, on the other hand. This means that the role of socio-political stabilizer in modern Russia is most consistently played only by the upper part of the middle class, and the destabilizing role is more noticeable in the lower strata of the middle class. Such a “blurred nature“ of socio-political characteristics confirms a viewpoint on the undeveloped character of the Russian middle class as a special mass social agent.