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Institutions, Culture, and Civil Society

Priority areas of development: economics, sociology, management
2019
The project has been carried out as part of the HSE Program of Fundamental Studies.

Object of Research

The project investigates various aspects of institutions, culture, and civil society as factors and drivers of economic development. Key themes of the project are the interaction between state and society; grassroots self-organization; comparative institutional analysis; historical legacies of institutions, culture, and development; and cultural differences and development issues in poly-ethnic societies. As in the preceding years, the project made use of the synergies of integrated comparative studies at the levels of nations, regions, and cities. Another distinctive feature of the project is active use of historical data, so that institutions and culture can be analyzed not only cross-sectionally (between countries, regions, etc.), but also across time.

Goal of Research

The goal of research is to study the interplay of institutions and culture, their mutual influence, historical roots and other factors, as well as the role of civil society in these linkages, through a set of methodologically and informationally integrated research projects.

The main objectivesof the implemented projects were as follows:

  • by using various cases and sources of empirical data and by employing modern theoretical concepts and empirical techniques, identify and analyze the mechanisms of interaction between institutions, culture and civil society in relation to each other, as well as with other factors and conditions of economic development;
  • explore the prerequisites for self-organization in the society, and the "division of labor" between governments, civic communities, and the private sector;
  • explore the historical roots of institutions, culture and social and economic outcomes;
  • explore cultural and other differences in multi-ethnic communities, and the implications of such differences foe society and governance.

 To achieve the above objectives, the following research projects have been implemented:

  1. Theoretical studies (theory of coproduction and ingredients of collective action)
  2. Historical roots of forced labor: empirical analysis of the origins of serfdom in Russia)
  3. Historical analysis of technology transfer (The case of Germans settlements around the Volga River in the Russian Empire)
  4. Cultural norms and human capital in poly-ethnic societies)
  5. Analysis of participatory budgeting practices in Russian regions
  6. Trust in democracies: mini-publics and professional groups
  7. Attitudes in society to immigrants and immigration: measurement and analysis
  8. Assessment of government-society partnership: The case of Russian schools
  9. Historical origins of economic inequality
  10. Other studies (analysis of decentralized corruption; diagnostics of Russian regional institutions; consequences of ethnic fractionalization for cultural differences in poly-ethnic communities)

Methods of analysis  

In the above studies modern theoretical concepts and models of institutional economics and political economy were combined with various tools of empirical research, including econometric models.

Empirical base of the project  

The project made use of multiple data sources, including surveys conducted in Russia and abroad, official statistical materials and information available from various research institutions, including the HSE University.

Project results

Main results of the implemented studies are as follows.

  1. New theoretical knowledge on coproduction of public goods and services by government and society, and on the role of social capital and civic culture as ingredients of collective action.
  2. New empirical evidence, employing various historical and geographic data, of the “critical juncture” effect in Russian institutional dynamics – the case of the emergence of serfdom in Russia.
  3. Data of a “natural experiment – compact settlement of various ethnic groups – were used to obtain empirical evidence of innovation diffusion between such groups.
  4. Historical data demonstrate the role of culture in social capital accumulation, including child mortality. The latter therefore reflect not only economic conditions, but cultural patterns and attitudes as well.
  5. Regularities and patterns of citizens’ involvements in participatory budgeting, and evolving public preferences in such processes have been analyzed.
  6. Advantages of mini-publics as deliberative democracy forms have been studied, including greater social trust in public decisions. The capacity of professional groups as mini-publics was assessed.  
  7. Measures of attitudes to immigrants and immigration were derived as latent variables from a detailed survey dataset. These measures show different correlations with individual characteristics of respondents and their basic norms and values, as well as with public polices and social and economic conditions.
  8. Analysis of coproduction in education produced empirical estimations of the impact of coproduction on satisfaction with educational institutions and on academic achievements of students.
  9. A new link of economic inequality in Russian regions with the Soviet period of Russian history is found, and a causal mechanism behind such link identified. .
  10. An empirical confirmation at the cross-country level of heavier burden decentralized corruption and its adverse impact on the provision of public goods was obtained.

The above studies shed light on general patterns of the interplay between institutions, culture, and civil society in the process of economic development and institutional and cultural change. They make contributions to the institutional theory, and could be relevant for institutional and policy reform.  

Contribution to the body of knowledge

Project materials have been published or are being prepared for publication in academic journals, and were presented at various seminars and Russian and international conferences

Fields of application

Findings of the above studies are of theoretical and practical significance for the understanding of factors and mechanisms of modernization and development, interplay of institutions and culture, division of labor between state and society, development of multi-ethnic communities, etc. Apart from their academic value, project results can be used in teaching a number of courses at economics, sociology, and political science departments. They could also inform expert opinions and policy advice in the above areas.