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­­­Studies in economic sociology of social stability in crisis times

Priority areas of development: sociology

Goal of research: Revealing the reactions of different markets (for example, the markets of retail chains, financial, alcohol products, the market for remote work, industrial enterprises) and consumers to the economic conditions caused by the crisis in Russia, which began in 2014 and still continues.  

Methodology: Quantitative and qualitative sociological methods.

Empirical base of research: Nationwide survey of the population, representing the adult (over 18) population of the Russian Federation on the gender, age, employment status and the type of settlement in which the respondent lives, as well as some federal districts of Russia. The scheme provides a sample of respondents with the following characteristics:

  • The total amount - 1,600 people,
  • The number of the Russian Federation subjects, in which the sample is realized - at least 40;
  • The number of settlements (administrative territorial units - ATE) - at least 150;
  • The number of respondents in one settlement (ATE) - at least five people.
  • sampling error - 3.4%
  • Time of the survey - October-November 2016

Results of research:

In the field of behavior in the alcohol market

Along with consumers of moonshine, for the first time a separate group of consumers of domestic wine was statistically revealed. It is shown that groups of consumers of moonshine and home wine are close in scale, almost do not overlap in composition and demonstrate contrasting consumption styles. Consumers of moonshine often put their own health at risk, and home wine consumers are more prone to moderate consumption of alcohol and demonstrate more civilized habits.

Using as the two dependent variables the presence or absence of consumption of moonshine and house wine within the last 30 days, and based on the regression analysis, we found out that consumers of moonshine are more often found among men, older people, respondents with lower education and income, they are more concentrated in rural settlements and non-titled regions of Russia. Consumers of the house wine among the most of these parameters demonstrate exactly the opposite features.

Assessing the short-term effects of the new alcohol policy of the state, we can conclude that the most influential factors affecting the consumption of domestic alcohol are related to its availability in the local environment, while the growth of retail prices for industrial alcohol as a result of tightening fiscal measures has no significant impact.

In the field of Internet banking research in Russia

Electronic payment systems are still regarded as a specified technology in Russian practice, although at the same time there are trends towards wider dissemination by simplifying the use and integration of EPS in various mobile systems and electronic marketing sites. At the same time, at the moment, EPS makes sense to be viewed as a predominantly separate set of payment systems, because if an individual successfully purchases in Internet using bank cards, then he will rather continue to use the already “proven and convenient” way for him, rather than resorting to options of electronic payment systems.

The stability and availability of Internet networks is the basic condition for the successful operation of EPS. So far, such a “privilege” is enjoyed by large cities and megacities. At the same time, curiously, among users of EPS in the whole country (that is, in all federal districts and settlements), membership in moderately well-to-do groups of individuals is stable, which may indicate the potential for expansion and development of EPS in our country. Internet banking began its active expansion among Russians, and will require careful analysis in the future. At the moment it is known that its scope is mainly in the work with Internet sites as a virtual bank card. In many respects, the principles of the operation of EPS and Internet banking are considered by users in a similar way, which can mean the gradual synergy of both technologies in one technical “practice”.

In the scope of online labor market in Russia

Drawing on a unique dataset of 9,685 internet freelancers, we shed light on the entrepreneurial potential of the Russian-language online labor market, where more than half of freelancers exhibit entrepreneurial orientations. Our findings reveal heterogeneity of internet freelancers in relation to entrepreneurship documenting strong differences amongst groups of actual entrepreneurs, potential entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs in terms of socio-demographics, professional characteristics, work behaviour and wellbeing. The fact that by most indicators potential entrepreneurs who plan to start a business typically take an intermediate position between non-entrepreneurs and actual entrepreneurs signals the feasibility of entrepreneurial intentions. Researching the entrepreneurial potential of internet freelancers contributes to better understanding of how solo self-employment may give rise to new businesses in knowledge-intensive and creative industries which are crucial for modernising transition economies.

In the field of price behavior of Muscovites

It is demonstrated that the Soviet planned economy with its “simple Soviet man”, socialized in the ideology of “free-of-charge” and denial of consumerism, gave rise to the institutional logic of the moral economy of money prices, referring to the social obligations of the state as the basis of its legitimacy. Here, prices are perceived as a social fact, the configuration of which depends on the will and integrity of the state.

The accelerated marketization that followed during the “perestroika” contributed to the formation of Russians' desire for inflated demonstrative prices, because the cornerstone of the social identity of the “new Russian” was the ability to earn a prestigious consumption. And although the consumer boom in Russia is far behind, the institutional logic of demonstrative price behavior, when prices are used as a tool of social self-affirmation, is visibly present in the narratives of modern Russians.

The maturation of the Russian market economy gave rise to a regime of fair market prices. It finally legitimated the motive for profit as the basis of economic activity. However, the condition for the cultural legitimacy of market exchange was the request for fairness of the mediating prices - transparent and mutually beneficial - resulting in the appropriate institutional logic of interpreting price as a criteria for the ontological security of market exchange.

The deep economic crisis faced by the Russian market economy in 2014-2017, on the one hand, shook the balance between the sense registers that existed in the repertoire of price perception, and on the other hand, became a trigger for the emergence of a new politico-cultural regime of leaning the money prices and corresponding to it as the institutional logic of responsible price behavior. The Russian consumer today gets to know the conscious consumption, actively learns to decode and calculate the observed market prices, trains to spend carefully, “as in Europe”. At the same time, the study at the epicenter of the economic crisis makes it possible to fix how much the latter is not easy given the echoes of other registers. A special meaningful investigation of perception is required: in pursuit of the lowest prices, it is important not only to remain “able to earn” and “competent in terms of market exchange”, but also not to give the freedom to the state, at least formally responsible for the economic security of its citizens.

In the field of studying debt and credit behavior

The ethnographic study of credit behavior in small towns shows that the explanation lies not so much in the level of financial literacy of the population as in the moral regulation of economic behavior, the level of trust, both among residents and local financial institutions.

The growth of the market of credit services and products occurred during the backdrop of rising incomes of the population and consumer abundance. Simultaneously, in small towns, which are characterized by seasonal employment and pendular labor migration, growth in income gap from the level of people's expectations, as well as growing inequality in consumption occured. As compensation, in cities with high social density, where people know and follow each other's lives, such processes are accompanied by a consumer race and a demonstrative nature of consumption. If in the dashing 1990s, people coped with poverty collectively, various forms of economic mutual aid and gift exchange were distributed, today there is an individualization of economic behavior. Social life in small towns takes on a form in which the moral arguments governing financial behavior lose their significance. Purchases in debt take on the meaning of “gifts to themselves” and are accompanied by emotional, rather than sensible decisions. In this sense, lending practices become a tool for demonstrating social independence and status within the community.

The massive distribution of loans in small towns was accompanied by the erosion of credit guarantee institutions and interest-free private loans. These institutions played the role of sources and generators of trust within the local community.

A typical situation of a break in trust with a surety, when the latter (due to a frivolous desire to help a friend or relative) was forced to pay a significant portion of the loan after the debtor was losing his job or unable to repay the debt on his own. Such cases quickly become the property of the local community and lead to unwillingness to join the institution of surety.

The institute of interest-free private loans in small cities exists today amid a massive spread of microloans with high debt burden. And private debts to each other and microloans in general are identical in terms of borrowings, but they are fundamentally different in their social significance. Private debt is a sign of mutual social dependence, whereas microloans, on the contrary, are a sign of social independence and autonomy. In fact, the expensive interest, paid for using a microloan, is the payment for distrust within the community.

In the field of studying ethical aspects of the economic journalists profession

Being a special professional group, both in terms of required skills and role in society, in the course of their work, economic journalists often face a number of difficulties. This fact is confirmed both by real incidents (dismissal of editorial offices of leading Russian mass media) and by international statistics. In 2016, Russia was ranked 148th in the Press Freedom Index. An integral part of the journalists’ activities is professional control, which, according to A. Abbott, can be carried out at three levels - external, internal and individual. This part of research is devoted to the analysis of professional control in the activity of journalists in modern Russia. The empirical base of the study includes 18 interviews with economic journalists, which are understood as employees of the editorial departments “Economics”, “Finance” of printed and Internet publications from different federal districts of the Russian Federation. The interviews testify the insufficient effectiveness of the external level of control, despite its comprehensive nature. As for the journalist's own values, they acquire importance in the context of the moral choice that the professional community often encounters. In a situation where external control does not ensure the proper regulation of the activities of journalists, and the individual norms and values ​​of media employees are significantly influenced by external factors, the organizational culture of specific publications (internal control) becomes particularly important. The editors carry out the regulation of their employees, creating internal ethical codes, as well as facilitating communication and exchange of experience.


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