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Regular version of the site

Culture and Institutions in Comparative Perspective

Priority areas of development: sociology
Head: Ponarin, Eduard, Welzel, Christian

The laboratory for comparative social research (LCSR) is founded by a The University of Michigan’s professor, Ronald Inglehart, who is the author, along with Christian Welzel, of the evolutionary modernization theory. The LCSR is a partner of the World Values Survey, an international project that has collected data from more than a hundred countries representing more than 90% of the world’s population since 1981. The focus of the lab’s research is various traits and aspects of the process of modernization, given specific conditions and time periods. Even though the process of modernization is very diverse, there is a distinct common pattern. The key argument of the evolutionary modernization theory is a universal nature of the process of modernization of human societies, given cultural diversity of existing trajectories. The evolutionary modernization theory views the social evolution as a three-stage process. Its starting point is improvement of living standards, which makes people’s existence secure. As the result, this development leads to a shift from survival (materialist) values to self-expression (post-materialist) values. The value shift, in its turn, affects institutional change. Moreover, as the Inglehart and Welzel’s theory argues it is cultural shift affects institutional changes, but not in the opposite direction. The current project “Culture and institutions in a comparative perspective” aims to further develop – and adjust where necessary – the modernization theory.

The lab’s main method is statistical analysis of the data collected by the World Values Survey and other comparative projects, such as European Value Study and European Social Survey. Additionally, LCSR has its own data collected in Russian provinces and using both traditional survey methodology and novel experiments.

This report presents the following results, arranged in seven chapters, that the lab achieved in 2019.

The first chapter explores the effect of certain cultural traits on the quality of institutional performance in a historical perspective. In particular, it focused on the relationship between historical family types and current level of corruption in Western and Eastern Europe. The key argument is as follows. Relatively early emergence of nuclear family (that may also include paid employee who were not family members) contributed to building impersonal and universal institutions that were so important for the onset of modernization. Meanwhile, existence and domination of large, multi-generational families in Eastern and South Europe supported prevalence of personalistic relations that impeded modernization. As the result of the project, new data on historical family types were obtained and systemized as well as their effect on current corruption level.

The second chapter focuses on the effect of spatial variation of institutional performance within the countries that are characterized by the historical unevenness of the settlement of their regions during the colonization process – Russia, the United States of America and Brazil. The study revealed that variation in the length and level of state control of various territories could explain both cultural and institutional (given the fact the federative nature of all countries) differences between regions within these countries. Moreover, new datasets on the length of state control of various territories in selected countries were created.

The third chapter examines the role of competition between the states on the international arena on domestic policies. In particular, the project focused on the development of national ideology in the Russian Federation under the rising geopolitical tensions. The study revealed that more intense geopolitical competition leads to ideological consolidation, including the domain of national identity. This approach allowed to obtain new data on national ideology building and consolidation of Russian society under conditions of growing geopolitical pressure. These findings are consistent with the Randall Collins’ geopolitical theory that combines political regime’s might and legitimacy with its foreign policy successes.

The forth chapter focuses on the role of institutions in electoral behavior. In particular, the study revealed that differences in institutional performance (“political machines”) on the regional level affected the voting outcomes. These findings allowed to extend our knowledge about regional level political institutions in Russia.



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