Policy Memos

The End of 'Primitive Capitalist Accumulation'?: The New Bankruptcy Law and the Political Assertiveness of Russian Big Business

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One of the important long-term trends in Russian business since the collapse of the Soviet Union has been concentration, as a small number of business groups (the heads of which are often termed oligarchs) have increasingly brought the country’s most significant firms under their control. These big business groups, many argue, have reached a crucial transition in their attitude to law. Weak legality and fragile property rights facilitated the acquisitions key to empire building. Now these empires have reached their limit—further expansion could occur only through costly struggles among the business titans themselves. To the extent that they are focusing on maintenance and restructuring holdings rather than new acquisitions, business groups now prefer strong property rights rather than weak ones. On this view, the recent wave of pro-business legislation in Russia reflects not a newfound political will to carry out unpopular reforms, but shifting business interests. So-called primitive capitalist accumulation has ended, and the new class of property holders hopes to use law to consolidate its position. [...]

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