(If you’re interested in this topic, please see my earlier posts on neoliberalism (1) and (2))

Source: Fotolia

Increasingly, there appears to be a connection between neoliberalism and the development of anomie. Such an association is unsurprising considering that neoliberalism encourages individuals to achieve ever greater success even though such a goal is unrealistic. In response to being blocked from realizing their never-ending aspirations, Merton (1968) argues that people in success-driven societies will feel deprived and frustrated as a divide forms between idealistic ambitions and factual reality. While such a divide has traditionally been the widest in developed capitalist states like the U.S., Passas (2000) contends that the growth of neoliberalism has exacerbated this problem in countries throughout the world. As a result, anomie, or the “withdrawal of allegiance from conventional norms and a weakening of these norms’ guiding power on behavior” has increased on a global scale (Passas 2000:20). Oozing with the anomie brought about by constant strain, neoliberalism can intensify the occurrence of violence as frustrated people struggle to live and to succeed in an unequal society. In response to this idea, it appears that as neoliberalism becomes more prominent in a country, it can be expected that anomie and, as a result, interpersonal violence within that country will increase. more...


Today marked the penultimate day of Wiley-Blackwell’s first Virtual Conference. As I am sure you will all agree, thus far, each day has contained many gems, and today has been no different. Eileen Joy’s (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville) keynote lecture: ‘Reading Beowulf in the Ruins of Grozny: Pre/modern, Post/human, and the Question of Being‐Together’ looks at the aftermath of the Russian bombing of Chechnya through the lens of Beowulf.

The two final papers of the conference were provided by P. Grady Dixon (Mississippi State University) & Adam J Kalkstein (United States Military Academy) and Nicole Mathieu (CNRS, University of Paris). Their papers respectively entitled: ‘Climate–Suicide Relationships: A Research Problem in Need of Geographic Methods and Cross‐Disciplinary Perspectives’ and ‘Constructing an interdisciplinary concept of sustainable urban milieu’ have looked at indisciplinarity from a geographical and environmental perspective. The final publishing workshop was ‘How to Survive the Review Process’ by Greg Maney (Hofstra University).

Although, the conference is due to end tomorrow it is not too late to register and take advantage of the book discount and free journal access. Each of the papers and podcasts will remain on the website, and it is hoped that you will keep the comments coming in.

by christinablunt


On Monday, 9 a.m. local time, just as the citizens of Nazran were arriving at their offices a suicide bomber drove a truck full of explosives into the police quarters of Ingushetia’s capital city. This act of terrorism is an example of the violence that has become all too familiar in the north caucus region of Russia. The New York Times presents such acts of terror as a nearly daily occurrence. Depending on the account, between 60 and 138 people were wounded in the attack; at least 10 of which were children. By Monday evening, 20 were identified as dead.

Terrorism in the region is fueled in part by the local militants as well as by the arrival of separatist fighters fleeing the brutal counterinsurgency in Chechnya; where a decade and a half of internal warfare has worn on the rebel movement. When he was elected in October, Ramzan Kadyrov, the president of the region attempted to reach out to opposition leaders and militant commanders in order to ease tensions. Monday’s attack however, is another of many reminders that if change is to come, it will not be quick. Russia’s President, Dmitri Medvedev has sacked the federal interior minister and ordered an increase in strength of police forces in Ingushetia; undoubtedly an indication of his lack of confidence in Kadyrov’s kinder, gentler approach.


by ChristinaBlunt

468px-Vladimir_Putin_official_portraitOn Saturday July 18, the Washington Post reported that respected human rights group Memorial will suspend its activities in Chechnya following the murder of one of its activists, Natalya Estemirova. Reports state that Estemirova was kidnapped outside her home last Wednesday and found with a bullet in her head hours later outside the Chechen capital. Estemirova’s work involved documenting crimes committed by representatives of the authorities. The Post reports that Estemirova was killed the same day a report that she helped research was released, concluding there was enough evidence to demand that Russian officials, including Prime Minister Vladmir Putin, be called to account for crimes committed on their watch.

In states and regions where there is low trust, weak legitimacy, and high crime and corruption, social organizations and NGOs generate a culture of civic regulation and public accountability. In “Civil Society and the Public Sphere” Larry Ray explains that “this is not to propose civil society as a panacea, but an important factor is structuring social outcomes.” In defining civil society the emphasis is most commonly placed on economic exchange and association. The concept can be traced back to Greek and Roman political philosophy but is greatly influenced by the theorists of eighteenth-century and is often linked to the rise of the European bourgeoisie. However, underlying this notion is the understanding that civil society is a “public realm of voluntary association essential for the stability of democracy.” It is argued that in Eastern Europe, civil society was the key to closing the gap between institutional arrangements, therefore linking the public and private for active and informed citizens. For many writers civil society lies at the heart of concerns with “self-government, activism and privacy, separation from the state, human rights, free economic initiatives, and the definitions of the social itself.” The absence of civil society is both an explanation and reinforcement of authoritarian yet ineffective government.

square-eye Read the article at the Washington Post

square-eye Read “State and Civil Society” by Larry Ray at Blackwell Reference Online

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by christinablunt


On Tuesday, May 12, two women attempted, in the face of almost certain failure, to become the first same sex-couple in Russia to legally marry. LGBT rights activists, as well as the gay community in Russia, have been met with antipathy and hostility in the past so, it came as little surprise to the two when their request was denied. Not only have activists been violently attacked, according to the New York Times, state officials have assigned the gay community blame for the spread of HIV. Instead of receiving a marriage license yesterday, the couples’ attention was directed to Article 12 of the family codex, which specifically articulates that marriage is only legally sanctioned between a man and a woman. The pair will be appealing the outcome.

One might ask why, in the face of such antagonism, these women would make such a bold statement of political protest. However, this move was not meant to serve as one isolated statement but rather as the pretext to a much bigger effort on the part of LGBT rights activists in Russia. They were helping to construct the political opportunity for a protest set to take place in Moscow on Saturday in conjunction with the Eurovision final, which will take place in the same city. The two women, along with many others, are employing protest politics to combat the state’s influence on an area of the social life not historically seen as political. While the LGBT community of Russia is not likely to achieve legal equality through this one collective action, there is still much they can hope to achieve. David S. Meyer explains, “Movement activists aspire to change not only specific policies but also broad cultural and institutional structures; they therefore can affect far more than their explicitly articulated targets.” So, while policy changes may still be a long way off for Moscow, the participants in such protests are taking major strides in the transformation of the Russian social and political culture.

Square-eyeLink to the story in the New York Times


Square-eyeLink to Blackwell Reference Online: Protest and Political Process by David S. Meyer

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by Nickie Wild

Russia’s parliament recently moved to ban the American television shows “South Park,” “Family Guy,” and “The Simpsons,” alleging that they sent negative messages to the country’s children. Russian cartoon network 2×2, which airs the programs, had its license up for renewal, and the Kremlin was not intending to grant it. Besides general accusations of moral depravity, the government particularly objected to the “South Park” episode Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics, in which a piece of human waste comes alive and sings holiday songs. Officials said that this promoted religious hate speech, which is illegal under Russian law. The government proposed a new channel, which would instead have shows that promoted patriotism and morality to the country’s youth. However, the public reacted strongly against this move with collective action – protests, rallies, and flash mobs sprung up over several weeks of unrest. Some participants merely supported the particular programs, but many others acted out of concern that the government was returning to its authoritarian past. Petitions were signed by tens of thousands.

The government has since decided to renew 2×2’s license, provided that they do not show the offending episode again. Analyzing this incident with an eye towards Gramsci’s concept of hegemony leads the observer to question if the Kremlin was attempting to fight against the encroaching cultural doctrines of the West, or impose its ideology on the country’s children. Many Russian citizens seem to have firmly believed the latter.

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Hegemony and the Media