Ed A Hewett Book Prize

2016 Citation Recipient

Douglas Rogers

The Ed A Hewett Book Prize, established in 1994 and sponsored by the University of Michigan Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, is awarded annually for an outstanding monograph on the political economy of Russia, Eurasia and/or Eastern Europe, published in the previous year.

Winner: Douglas Rogers
Title: The Depths of Russia: Oil, Power, and Culture after Socialism (Cornell University Press)

Douglas Rogers’s masterful account of the oil industry in Perm’ region provides insights into the nature of governments and corporations, the connections between big business and cultural production, and the evolution of the Soviet and post-Soviet oil sector.  Based on close ethnographic field work and archival research, Rogers shows “the material lives of oil.” He traces the evolution of the Soviet oil industry through the eyes of planners, managers, and even environmental protesters who saw the smog hanging over Perm’.  Rogers is also able to explore the lives of surrogate currencies both before and after the end of the Soviet system.

In Parts II and III, Rogers takes the reader inside the relationships among the state, foreign NGOs, and LUKoil in their efforts to develop a regional civic identity.  He shows, first, that it was the corporation, rather than the other organizations, that came to lead this project over time, often in an attempt to counter negative impressions of its industry.  Second, he demonstrates the crucial role played by the notion of “depth” in these efforts.  Just as oil is extracted from the depths of the earth, LUKoil’s support for Perm city’s campaign to be a European cultural center focused on the deep cultural roots of the region and its inhabitants, seeking to link the company and the community in the minds of residents.

In tracing these processes, Rogers uncovers new links among corporations, the material nature of their businesses, and the communities in which they are located.  Those findings illuminate the course of the Russian political economy in the last two and a half decades, and they suggest paths for future research on state-business-society relations in other settings around the world.

Honorable Mention: Susanne A. Wengle
Title: Post-Soviet Power: State-Led Development and Russia’s Marketization (Cambridge University Press)

Post-Soviet Power, a history of the reform of the Russian electricity sector from 1992 to 2008, the largest electricity liberalization anywhere, is a study of how political rivalries and compromises shaped market institutions in the post-Soviet economy. Wengle shows the role of interests, legacies, ideas, geography, and political and economic actors in this major development reform. Her insights on the political economy of Russia during privatization go well beyond a particular sector in a particular time and place.

By comparing the changes across three supra-regional areas in Russia and across more than a decade and a half, she incorporates industrial geography, economics, and political science, including game theory, to show the political processes that were employed to create three separate price regimes, which were suited to the diversity of regional production. She moves us beyond various unidimensional understandings of change—whether focused on rent-seeking, state capture, or bureaucratic corruption—to show a dynamic, mutually constitutive relationship between politics and economics.  Her constructivist interpretation of political economy is able to account for governors’ ability to block change in the 1990s but their impotence under Putin, the undeniable prevalence of graft but also the consistent drive toward building supra-regional markets for electricity, and the ability of some oligarchs to shape reforms but the failure of others to do so.  She does this by showing that economic development is the result of shifting political pacts among major players, while transformation of the economic system affects who those major players are.

This well-written book thus offers empirical detail and theoretical challenges that help us understand the past two decades and will shape any future efforts to study these questions.