Ed A Hewett Book Prize

2022 Citation Recipient

Margarita M. Balmaceda

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.

Co-Winner: Margarita M. Balmaceda

Title: Russian Energy Chains: The Remaking of Technopolitics from Siberia to Ukraine to the European Union (Columbia University Press)

Margarita Balmaceda’s book, Russian Energy Chains, provides an innovative study of energy politics. Writing in a much-studied area, she offers critical new insights into how energy politics is not just about state actors, not just about oil, and not just about supply and demand. Rather, she considers the variety of actors, incentives, and technical characteristics that affects the power of energy. She challenges the view that Russia used its role as one of the largest energy producers as a political weapon against energy-dependent and thus allegedly weaker consumers, especially countries in the former Soviet bloc and the EU as a whole. Drawing on a rich set of case studies, she instead encourages us to examine how multiple actors engage in negotiations of power along these resources’ value chain, from producers, mediators in various locations used for energy transit, and consumers. The analysis draws on insights from political science, international relations, anthropology, and cultural studies. In short, the extensive research, the nuanced analysis, and the interdisciplinary approach make this book worthy of the Hewett Book Prize.

Co-Winner: Bryn Rosenfeld

Title: The Autocratic Middle Class: How State Dependency Reduces the Demand for Democracy (Princeton University Press)

Bryn Rosenfeld’s book, The Autocratic Middle Class, challenges a central tenant of comparative politics and does so with new empirical evidence collected in a clever way. She focuses on the 28 post-communist countries in Eastern Europe and Eurasia, with a particular focus on Russia. She offers a well-written evaluation of why the middle class in autocratic regimes tends not to support democratization efforts, either because the autocratic state employs them or provides essential social services. The author paints an interesting and innovative view of how the middle class is bought off by autocratic regimes, arguing that this is an intentional strategy rather than an indirect outcome of state-centered economic investment and a lack of private sector middle-class jobs. One of the highlights of the book includes surveys of Russian protestors, which provide representative protestor data that is highly unique outside of developed countries. She expands on these findings with insightful field research in Kazakhstan and Ukraine. In summary, her work provides a nice and much-needed corrective to the authoritarian mentality approach and to work that focuses solely on parties in this region, providing insights valuable to a wide range of scholars with important implications for authoritarian regimes around the world. The Autocratic Middle Class is a new classic in the field.