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Lecture | Research seminar

Entangled Transformations: Hegemonic and Counter-Hegemonic Power Dynamics in Belarus

Friday 14 October 2022
Matthias de Vrieshof
Matthias de Vrieshof 3
2311 BZ Leiden
Verbarium (1.04, first floor)


Please register at least 4 days in advance at l-peg@hum.leidenuniv.nl to receive a copy of the paper and attendance details.

Abstract:  How did the Belarusian state-society complex evade the neoliberal hegemony of the 1990s and early 2000s? It is puzzling how its neighbours all embraced market capitalism and liberal democracy, albeit in different shapes and to different degrees, while Belarus moved towards a state capitalist formation embedded in a non-democratic regime that relied on welfare protection and decent economic results (rather   than   nationalism) for   domestic   political   legitimation.   Instead   of implementing the IMF-backed fiscal consolidation package, Belarus maintained a trajectory toward full employment and macroeconomic flexibility. Externally, Belarus leveraged a preferential access to Russian raw resources and preserved its state-owned industrial base to establish an export-oriented economy. The standard transitologist account reduces Belarus’ divergence down to the consequences of Lukashenka’s idiosyncratic policies, thereby suggesting that the country is a laggard hibernating outside of history and awaiting to be “synchronised” once the autocrat is out of office. While undoubtedly relevant to Belarus’ current predicament, this explanation cannot unpack the conditions and mechanisms that propelled Lukashenka’s rise to power, nor the specific brand of capitalism that emerged in Belarus. In contrast, this paper introduces a neo-Gramscian IPE perspective to investigate the social forces driving the transformations of Belarus’ post-independence state-society complex.  Accordingly, the paper emphasises the importance of historical trajectories (Belarus as the Soviet “success story”),  class  constellations  (weakness of proto-capitalists), and transnational interactions(cross-border reverberations of shock therapies) in advancing a deeper understanding of Belarus’ deviant counter-hegemonic moment.  

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