State vs. Civil Society
The vertically placed set of indicators – known as directions of incentives vis-à-vis conflict parties – also contains at least one interesting point for further debate. It basically concerns the distinction between the “political society” and “civil society” in Russia. The scheme of the Euborderconf project is grounded in a hypothesis of existence of more or less fixed boundaries between the political class and the non-governmental (civil-society) sector. The distinction between the two is constitutive, and it has to be accepted as a kind of demarcation line.
An important observation has to be made at this point: the civil society in Russia is actually split into two large segments. One tends to gravitate towards the officialdom (and is financially and institutionally sustained by Kremlin), while the second one seeks to be a part of global networks. Let us briefly describe what comes out of this divorce.
On the one hand, there is a meaningful “transnational sector” within Russian NGO community that are overwhelmingly connected with the international organizations and a part of what might be called “humanitarian markets”121. Concomitantly, this sector is strongly dependent upon funds coming from the outside. The transnational sector’s NGOs “are in effect (even if this runs counter to the intentions of the participants) some of the most powerful pacific weapons of the new world order – the charitable campaigns and the mendicant orders of Empire”122.
On the other hand, Thomas Carothers and some other authors make a strong point arguing that the factual boundaries between the state and a variety of non-state actors are blurred and fuzzy, these boundaries are in a state of flux and, strictly speaking, could be even non-existent123. Referring to Ernesto Laclau, “civil society cannot be constituted as a truly separate instance, for its functions both anticipate and extend the state’s role”124. As another scholar observed, the distinction between state and society is not the distinction between the two separate entities, but rather a line drawn internally within the network of institutional mechanisms through which a social and political order is maintained125. This theoretical departure leads us to a reinvention of what Giorgio Agamben – though in a different context – called “a zone of indistinction”, a social area composed of “a strange mix” of NGOs and quasi-political organizations, where the division of function between the institutions is far from clear, and rules are prone to perpetual change126.
Of course, there is always an overlapping area between the political establishment and what is called “the third sector”. There is a strong conviction that “the political vocabulary structured by opposition between state and civil society, public and private, government and market, coercion and consent, sovereignty and autonomy and the like, does not adequately characterise the diverse ways in which rule is exercised in advanced liberal democracies. Political power is exercised today through a profusion of shifting alliances between diverse authorities in projects to govern a multitude of facets of economic activity, social life and individual conduct”127. The question is whether this trend appears naturally, as a by-product of functional interconnections between state and non-state, or is an effect of an intended strategy of creating and expanding this “zone of indistinction”, which is simultaneously a zone of uncertainty. In case of Russia, it might be argued that this is an almost official policy to make the boundaries between the state and non-state institutions as uncertain as possible. Moreover, there is a growing tendency of enlarging the state-sponsored segment of the civil society in Russia through a variety of moves undertaken by the government, which has as its direct consequence the shrinking of the second segment – namely, that one oriented towards international networks.
In blurring the lines between state and civil society, the Russian government tends to install its own version of the civil society which is being constructed in sharp contrast with the foreign-sponsored model. Gleb Pavlovsky, an influential pro-Kremlin political analyst, formulates this conflict in the following way:
The existence of “zones of indistinction” constitutes not only an analytical problem (that one of identification of a boundary between the units of analysis) but a political one as well. This structural gap between the two parts of the whole complicates the EU policies of assistance to the Russian civil society.
In result, three main additions to the Euborderconf scheme could be proposed.
Firstly, what is called a structural type of influence (with two variations – “enabling”, i.e. pointed to the political elites, and “constructive”, i.e. pointed to the civil society institutions) could be divided into:
multi-actor impact, which could be presented by means of “the EU plus” formula. It points to areas of joint (for example, EU – WTO) policies which aim at changing some of the legislation and business practices in Russia. This type of influence ought to lead to greater compatibility with international norms. The most illustrative example is local enterprises’ voluntary acceptance of European quality standards to get better deals with foreign contractors.
networking impact which logically leads to identity changes through formation of “a web of overlapping and intertwining political, legal and moral commitments that act as the guiding principles for the evolving interaction between Russia and Europe”128. A networking type of influence may involve civil society (perhaps one of the most tenable examples is the Russian-speaking diaspora in the Baltic countries which possesses of its own channels of communication with Russia through media, arts, family communications, professional networks and informal links) and political elites which have their own circles of communication, including club-like ones (what sometimes is expressed by a metaphor of “meetings without neck-ties”).
Secondly, one may certainly imagine the existence of zones of inter-subjective interaction between the EU, on the one hand, and its neighbours (including Russia), on the other. In these zones of interaction both parties communicate with each other as partners, and, concomitantly, not only the EU is capable of exerting some influence upon Russia, but Russia too may have her legitimate say.