The wage arrears crisis has been one of the biggest problems facing contemporary Russia. At its peak, it has involved some $10 billion worth of unpaid wages and has affected approximately 70 percent of the workforce. Yet public protest in the country has been rather limited. The relative passivity of most Russians in the face of such desperate circumstances is a puzzle for students of both collective action and Russian politics. In Protest and the Politics of Blame, Debra Javeline shows that to understand the Russian public's reaction to wage delays, one must examine the ease or difficulty of attributing blame for the crisis.
Previous studies have tried to explain the Russian response to economic hardship by focusing on the economic, organizational, psychological, cultural, and other obstacles that prevent Russians from acting collectively. Challenging the conventional wisdom by testing these alternative explanations with data from an original nationwide survey, Javeline finds that many of the alternative explanations come up short. Instead, she focuses on the need to specify blame among the dizzying number of culprits and potential problem solvers in the crisis, including Russia's central authorities, local authorities, and enterprise managers. Javeline shows that understanding causal relationships drives human behavior and that specificity in blame attribution for a problem influences whether people address that problem through protest.
". . . a thorough examination of a crucial and underappreciated element in understanding Russian response to a painful transformation."
"[This book] seeks to explain why protest against unpaid wages was rather limited. Using data from a 1998 nationwide survey and other statistical data, the author shows that people's strike and protest behaviour is influenced largely by their understanding of casual relations and specificity in blame attribution."
—International Review of Social History
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