Reviews

Under the supervision of locally famous scholar A. Kh. Makhmutov, several members of the Ufa School of sociology based at the Faculty of Economy of the Bashkir State University edit this important collective work on poverty in present-day Russia. Focusing on the regional level, they deal successfully with one of the most sensitive questions in post-Soviet Russia. Every Russian citizen is aware of this paradox, often mentioned: One of the richest countries in the world (for its GDP level of internal wealth) has one of the poorest populations. After the failure of the Soviet regime, in the context of transition to a very relatively more liberal economic system, how and why poverty has acquired in Russia such a massive character? In the present book, the question is approached by regional sociologists through a qualitative and quantitative analysis based on sociological surveys achieved in 2005-7 among the population of the Republic of Bashkortostan. The independence and high scientific quality of the content has to be noticed, in a context often characterised still recently by pressures on scholars from local authorities. In an innovative reflection on methodology, unusual and relevant statements are made on social categories: how to define poverty and to fix its limits? The authors provide a non essentialist approach of poverty seen as social construction. Such an approach leads them to interesting debates on the origins and nature of poverty. More than the low level of salaries, the social order itself is described to be responsible for poverty. Beside description of the situation in rural areas, the book largely focuses on urban life where a high level of unemployment explains why half of the new poor population is made of persons in age of working. The book ends with propositions for a state programme to struggle against poverty. According to the authors, the new social policy should move to a relative conception of poverty, as in European countries, taking into account not the minimal level of incomes but the middle one. Finally, this book of sociological economy is welcome in a time when the global economic crisis appears to more dramatically affect Russian regions.

Xavier Le Torrivellec, French-Russian Centre for Human Sciences, Moscow
CER: II-6.2-492