Is there any politics in local, everyday and household mobilisations? Reflections on the Russian case

On 4 May, the Centre for Comparative History and Political Studies hosted a lecture by Karine Clément titled “Is there any politics in local, everyday and household mobilisations? Reflections on the Russian case”.

  • Karine Clément - Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Smolny College, and the Andrew Gagarin Center for Civil Society and Human Rights.

In her speech, Karine Clément focused on the question of what might be considered politics. Should politics be perceived as a separate sphere of ideas and high ideals, or as grassroots actions based on the experience of collective action by ordinary citizens struggling to maintain or improve their living conditions? According to her, this question has a particular significance in Russia, as one can observe a great division between “life”—the scope of the vulgar and mundane—and “being”—the sphere of high ideals in the country.

Clement notes that Russia, like many other countries, has a progressive humanist intellectual tradition. However, citizens do not perceive local and everyday struggles as political actions. Moreover, the participants of grassroots social initiatives often deny the political component of their social activities.

Using the example of a few cases of politicisation through grass-roots initiatives (Kaliningrad 2010; Astrakhan 2012), and the example of depoliticisation caused by the political movement “For Fair Elections”, Karine Clément tried to answer the question of whether all these movements are related to politics. She noted that in Russia more generally there are more pragmatic, small, “down to earth” movements than broad social movements, but the former type of movement remains undetected for various reasons, or is quickly erased from the collective memory of the population. In addition, despite the fact that a significant proportion of Clément’s respondents claim that their actions have nothing to do with politics, in her opinion, all these movements are somehow politicised, because they are closely related to the concept of “collective empowerment”, which means a grain of politicisation, as it is closely connected with the wider population as well as solidarity. However, Clément, referring to Artemy Magun claims that these movements contain a very limited range of politicisation of its members. Furthermore, most of them have a single goal: the protection of personal space. That is why they are close to the principle known as “not in my backyard”.