Vadim Radaev
"In order to achieve their end collectivists must create power - power over men wielded by other men - of a magnitude never before known, and... their success will depend on the extent to which they achieve such power" (Hayek 1945: 107).

What is the basis of social stratification in the Soviet-type system? What kind of a role is played by power in the social structure? These issues make up the subject matter of the present article. As it is impossible to handle all the aspects of this immense problem, this paper will be confined to the socio-economic issues, and deal with political ones only in so far as it is unavoidable for the analysis.1 The classic example of the Soviet Union (or more precisely, the Russian Federation) is analysed, though the basic characteristics described are more or less relevant for all the societies of the Soviet type in the period before radical reform took place. With the exception of the last section of the paper, the system described is that which existed before 1985, in order to give us a clearer image of its essential features. The paper is mostly concerned with the general theoretical framework of power stratification. But in many respects (dealt with mainly in sections 4 and 5) it is a preliminary for empirical research as part of the project on `Power and Economic Relationships', currently being carried out in the Soviet Union.

1. Class versus stratum

The characterisation of the social structure of any society is more than just one of the fundamental problems in the social sciences. It is of practical importance, especially for the Soviet Union. The mainstreams of the Soviet social sciences, which have been seriously ideologised, have not so much analysed the reality as `created' the social structure at the order of the political authorities. Numerous studies of the social structure, some of which were really stimulating, were, nevertheless, strongly influenced by the dominant mythological model of `two friendly classes (workers and peasants)' together with a loosely defined stratum of `the people's intelligentsia' which includes officials ranging from the Prime minister to the lowest office clerk. There is no need to get down to a detailed description of all the controversies of the `2+1' model which falls far short of explaining the real pattern of social differentiation. This model has been widely criticised. To put these considerations into a broader framework, let me start with the following initial statement: the Soviet-type system is conceptually a society without classes.

The most wide-spread anti-class argument, stressing the absence of social groups of independent fully-fledged proprietors, is quite correct. But the decline of class is viewed in this paper not only from the starting point of differences in the possession of property, but within the much broader context of the existence of political, social and economic acquisition classes. The decline of all these forms of class resulted from the gradual destructuring of the Soviet-type societies. This process had three stages, namely the liquidation of the pre-revolutionary classes, the atomisation of society and growing social marginalisation.

The liquidation of the pre-revolutionary classes began immediately after the seizure of power with the expropriation of the landlords and capitalist employers, and then proceeded to incorporate most of the self-employed. The peasantry, being at that moment the vast majority of the population, were divorced from the land during the enforced collectivisation campaign and, therefore, lost the basis of their peasant status. The old highly trained intelligentsia, together with the small number of highly skilled industrial workers, lost their advanced positions, along with the conditions favourable for the maintenance of their professional and cultural values. The conflict with the pre-revolutionary classes was solved by means of violence including mass physical repression.

This process was followed by the gradual atomisation of the whole society. The abolition of private property and `etatisation' of all the basic public institutions destroyed the elements of civil society at the very early stages of its development. Moreover, the system of totalitarianism succeeded in the elimination of any socially significant and independent horizontal relationships between individual actors, as well as any voluntary non-state social, economic or political associations capable of protecting the interests of their members. Even the possibilities of articulating these individual interests were prevented. The individual actor was left completely helpless against the largely arbitrary power of the all-mighty party/state machinery. Except for the ruling strata, integrated by the nomenklatura organising principle, and other relatively uniform group interests, there was no basis for the consolidation of any other independent social forces. Basically speaking, the Soviet-type system is an amorphous society. The major part of the population can best be described as `the masses'.

The third point concerns the growing marginalisation of many social groups. The `marginals' here are understood to include not only the range of outsiders and outcasts living at the bottom of society. Marginality means the stable and socially conditioned discrepancy between the social, cultural backgrounds and the present position of the social actors (Starykov 1990). The people of peasant origin promoted to the top positions in the country; the first generations of `people's intelligentsia', ideologically educated professionals dependent on the bureaucracy and economically on a par with the manual workers; the landless `peasants' treated as civil workers; the masses of labourers with their preindustrial consciousness subjected to military-style industrial discipline; younger people starting their career and pensioners living below the poverty line - all of them represent various examples of large-scale marginality in the Soviet-type system. The basic reason for this is seen in the long-run party/state policy of enforced social mobility (both vertical and horizontal) which in fact was an active strategy of building up a socially homogeneous society.

The final argument in favour of the classless nature of the Soviet-type society comes from conflict theories defining a class as a large social group standing in opposition to some other social groups.2 Even the conflict theory supporters, however, while formally agreeing that the only way a class can be observed is in its conflict relationships, often fail to follow this theory consistently in the analysis of social action. Actually, apart from rare exceptions, since the early thirties in the Soviet Union very little actual social conflict has taken place. An amorphous society with poorly articulated social interest groups lacks conflict. So, a version of the socially homogeneous (classless) society had developed in reality long before it was proclaimed by the official authorities to be the achievement of `advanced socialism'.

2. Looking for the basic criterion

Moving on to the issue of social stratification one should specify the main ideas behind this approach. Social stratification is the relationship between the different social groups (strata) standing relative to each other in a hierarchy. In other words, it is a combination of a number of different dimensions of inequality among social actors in social groups. Stratification analysis is helpful in estimation and measurement, firstly, of the differences in actors' positions as members of passive strata or, secondly, of the differentiation in actors' social behaviour as members of active strata. The positions and behaviour of social actors also involve subjective ranking, though subjective evaluations vary and are difficult to observe.

If the existence of the social inequalities is assumed, does it mean that the only task of a researcher is to show objectively that society is divided into strata which have been decided on a priori? The answer is no. Moreover, no stratification research can pursue value and attitude neutrality or be completely objective. The choice of criteria and working methods is always, explicitly or implicitly, influenced by the researcher's personal views and preferences. But by and large, the analysis should possess a degree of explanatory power for the subjects of the research.

The next problem is that of the criteria which should be taken to make stratification analysis meaningful in the case of the Soviet-type system? Occupational lists are commonly used, and in the socio-economic sphere there is no better technical point with which to begin than the range of occupations. But pure occupational ranking is socially neutral and needs to be supplemented by other criteria. For instance, all scholars in the social sciences are sometimes grouped under the single heading of professionals, but this puts a junior research assistant, the head of department, the director of an institute and the party central committee adviser, in the same category, despite the fact that they represent four different social strata according to their social standing.

It has been mentioned already that the traditional Marxist criterion of social division on the basis of ownership has lost its meaning in the case of the Soviet-type system, at least in its orthodox version, under the conditions of universal party/state-owned property and the transformation of all workers into state-hired labourers. Soviet stratification studies carried out since the early 70s by Arutyunyan, Gordon, Klopov, Ryvkina, Shkaratan, Zaslavskaya and other scholars, were based mostly on the criteria of education and skills, work content and income differentiation. However, even in their most advanced attempts they experienced difficulties in explaining the sources and mechanisms of that social differentiation. The inevitable question is what is the real basis for the status of a social actor in the Soviet type society - educational level or personal wealth, occupational standing or some particular abilities? All of them are really important but play only a secondary role. The initial hypothesis considered in the present paper is the following: it is the distribution of power that constitutes the basic criterion of social stratification in the Soviet-type system.

The position of a social actor in a power hierarchy defines, to a considerable extent, the working conditions and access to information, the opportunities to control state-owned property and the level of material well-being. Power allows access to all social rewards. So, power structure forms the pivot of the stratification system in the Soviet-type society as a whole.3

3. Power as domination

As soon as power is recognised to be the core of social relationships in the Soviet-type system, a more detailed interpretation of power itself is needed. Initially power is considered here as the capacity of a social actor, whether individual or collective, to promote their own interests irrespective of the interests of the other social actors. Power means one's capacity to impose one's will, regardless of whether this activity is supported or rejected.4

Generally speaking, the distribution of power forms the basis of any society. But the specific forms of control and authority vary greatly among different social systems. In modern western societies the power of social actors is mediated by the basic institutions of private property and rule of formal law. In the Soviet-type society, on the contrary, highly concentrated political and economic power has no substantial institutional limitations. It has been institutionalised as `bare' power and direct control over social resources. As a result, no `pure' economic laws can be observed in this system, in which property has been suppressed by power. No branch minister or factory manager make their decisions as actors driven only by distinct economic incentives.5

Some writers deny that the ruling strata have power, because they cannot run the society efficiently. But essentially, power is distinct from management. The latter means a capacity to achieve efficient outcomes through the coordination of various interests. The former includes also a right to allocate and spend resources or simply to put a stop on activities regardless of economic efficiency. In the Soviet-type system the use of power is basically inefficient in economic terms, and pursues non-economic goals. For instance, if in spite of all current debates in the Soviet Union, the costly new oil-refinery complexes in Siberia are constructed, it will not be an example of economic management but of the exercise of authority. Power (first of all political) intervenes and subordinates the basic structure of economic relationships.

A Soviet-type society is organised along the lines of a number of power hierarchies. Power relationships are established in the domination of higher layers over lower ones. Control is established not only by means of force and violence, but through a peculiar type of authority, which is distinct from the Weberian legal, traditional and charismatic types. Following the Weberian tradition, Bauman defines this as a fourth ideal type of authority, namely `partynomial'. It is characterised by futuristic legitimation, by loyalty to the party as the ruler building the ideal society, and by teleological determination of the macro-social processes (Bauman 1974: 134-140). It is noticeable also that this type of authority has no full legal basis. It is rule outside formal law.

`Partynomial' authority has excluded the existence of power in the form of autonomy, that is relative independence in decision-making concerning one's own activities. All social actors become involved in gigantic collectivist projects. Conflicts of interests among groups and individuals have been resolved by the creation of the system of fear. But very often social actors, being objects of ideological manipulation, perceive these interests as their own, even if they lose from the interaction.

From the standpoint of economics, which is most important for this paper, a range of structural elements can be defined to specify the content of power relations, namely:

  1. - the monopoly in the allocation of resources and finished products
  2. - the control of access to information utilised as a kind of resource
  3. - the opportunities to veto other kinds of activities and to authorise economic rules
  4. - the possession of personal influence over people and events.

It is the monopoly in resource distribution that is the crucial point in the establishment of power. Possessing the right to control and reallocate the financial, material, labour and information resources, a social actor is capable, as a rule, of making other people his subordinates.

The party/state political control imposed on the Soviet-type society has opened the way for the expropriation and redistribution of huge resources for production. Direct producers deprived of ownership of the means of production, divorced from real consumer demand and sources of valid information, have become the objects of administrative manipulation. The latter is provided through the channels of informal departmental decision-making in the form of mandatory planning, and various instructions and directives. The economic rules for any producer are strictly determined, including both the rates at which their incomes are expropriated through fixed prices and taxation systems, and the ways in which they are allowed to use what is left over.

Of course, the power of party/state authoritative bodies is by no means absolute domination. It allows space for bargaining and for the lower layers to simply cheat their authorities (This problem will be considered in section 6). The higher party/state authorities can easily and quite consciously miss a lot of variation in the producers' behaviour. But they maintain their unquestionable right to interfere at any moment and put a stop to any kind of activities they recognise as inappropriate.

4. Ranking and privilege

Power provides an intrinsic reward for an individual, in feelings of satisfaction. But what is much more important, the implementation of power brings to its possessor the whole variety of extrinsic rewards. It gives access to the sources of material benefits and elite education, to the most favourable working conditions, and to higher social prestige.

1. From ranking to power

In the system of non-market power relationships the different aspects of the social status of an individual cannot be measured basically in monetary terms. A party functionary influences economic activities without being an owner of the means of production, at least in the full sense, and without being even an economic actor in legal terms. His consumer's power is only partly defined by the level of his months' salary as well. The main flows of socio-economic rewards come here from a completely different source, namely, from the system of privileges. Privilege is the exclusive right of a social actor, legitimated by law or customs, to obtain rewards (goods and services) to which access is limited. The widespread, but not very reasonable notion still prevails that privileges are the attributes of top officials only. This notion has been taken up in the slogans of the populist anti-bureaucratic social movement in the Soviet Union, but basically speaking, privilege is the main type of reward distribution in the Soviet-type system of power relationships, involving the vast majority of the population.

There is no need to specify that this type of distribution is extremely far from being equal for all the members of the society. The range of privileges possessed by an individual depends strongly on his relative power capacities. The latter, in its turn, derives from his rank, that is a formal position in a social hierarchy, fixed by the higher authorities. The basis of ranking in the Soviet-type system could be a subject for endless debate. But at least one ranking system seems to exist without doubt. Moreover, it exists quite openly. The necessary information can be easily found on any standard form filled in and signed by a Soviet person before entering a new job or becoming involved in any other social contacts with the bureaucratic staff.

This kind of formal stratification is not merely a matter of statistics and administrative control over the flows of manpower. It means the establishment of a real and rather strict form of social differentiation. Formal rank largely predetermines the capacities of an individual to obtain a more or less powerful social position. The closer to the top a desirable position is, the more significant role is played by formal ranking.

This artificially-built and sometimes ill-fated formal stratification system has been promoted through semi-illegal but widely legitimated practices. (The actual social norm keeping people of Jewish origin or non-members of the Communist Party from certain jobs is unwritten.) Accompanied by political loyalty to the established regime and by smooth operating to meet the orders of higher authorities, formal ranking provides the basic input to the Soviet-type power structure.

It is noteworthy that different variables contributing to rank formation operate in different ways. For the period of the 1980s they can be divided into two sets of A- and B-variables. A-variables influence the rank position more directly than the B-variables, the influence of which is mostly mediated by A-variables (See: Table I).

Table I. Range of Formal Ranking Variables.6 


B-Variables          A-Variables:Formal Ranking


1. Age                  1. Party membership
2. Sex                  2. Place of residence (passport register)
3. Social origin        3. Place of work (institution category)
4. Ethnicity            4. Occupation
5. Education            5. Formal standing
6. Skills               6. Titles, Degrees, Higher state awards
7. Service record       7. Election
8. Former imprisonment

Males have more opportunities on average than females to get an advanced position. Workers with higher education and skills enjoy more favourable conditions in the competition for better occupations than less educated and skilled performers. Residents registered in capital cities have advantages for easier career promotion compared with the residents of smaller cities and country areas. Most prestigious and promising job places are frequently more easily acquired by representatives of dominant ethnic groups than those of ethnic minorities etc. As a result, the former possess a higher ranking status, and therefore better power capacities, as well as a legitimate right to a certain amount of party/state rewards being provided to them almost automatically.

2. From power to fringe benefits

For the vast majority of the population their access to economic rewards becomes available mostly through their involuntary incorporation into the different state-run institutions. Consequently, the major part of all privileges in the Soviet-type system takes the form of so-called fringe benefits, e.g. the range of privileges provided to the social actors as a result of their employment at the given institution, due to their being corporate members.

In comparison with the minor role of fringe benefits in western societies, their range in the Soviet-type system is very developed and covers all the requirements of human subsistence. Sometimes fringe benefits are not evaluated in money at all, e.g. the allocation of housing. Sometimes they encourage the purchasing of scarce goods and services in a collectively-organised way for the regular price or merely for a nominal price which could never cover the production costs.

The system of fringe benefits is not similar to the regular rationing common to all citizens registered in an area. It represents corporate rationing in accordance to membership and rank in the corporation hierarchy. This system of `departmental' distribution has supplanted free shopping to a considerable extent. (Moreover, it keeps on strengthening in the present situation of economic crisis in the Soviet Union).

There are at least three pre-requisites of the fringe benefits phenomenon: firstly, the desired rewards are continually scarce; secondly, access to these rewards is a function of membership in one or other corporate institution; and finally, the channels and the total amount of resources allocated through enterprises are defined by higher political and administrative authorities.

Fringe benefits are a kind of peculiar social rent guaranteed by the possession of a job. They vary greatly among the different institutions for the same categories of manual and non-manual workers, as well as among workers of different occupations within the same workplace. An engineer, who is employed in the defence industry, usually gains more rewards in comparison with his colleague working in a small enterprise in light industry. But he still gets considerably less than the director of his institution. There is nothing of great significance in the fact of differentiation. The crucial point is that all those inequalities are officially accepted and promoted by the party/state authorities.

Fringe benefits have been integrated into the party/state-run system of resource allocation as an extremely diverse system, and as an extremely diverse but, simultaneously, essentially uniform order. A regional party secretary is distinguished from an ordinary official by the range and amount of benefits available within easy access. However, in essence the distribution mechanism is very much the same.

The list of fringe benefits allocated is somewhat long and covers a broad range of socio-economic rewards. To begin with income (including wages, salaries, grants, pensions and various bonuses): its initial base is fixed in accordance with the formal standing of an individual at his or her institution and the official category of that institution. Accordingly, it does not fit the notion of income in market terms. Basically, income has been transformed into privilege.

In many cases the availability of sources of additional (monetary and non-monetary) income at different social positions is even more important, namely: payments from the enterprise `Funds for Social Development' (which include free services, so called `material help', free-interest loans etc.); business trips abroad with access to foreign currency; vouchers for visits to sanatoria; and tourist trips abroad (especially those paid for by trade unions). As far as free services are concerned, there are departmental hospitals and kindergartens, canteens and libraries, personal cars with drivers for the bosses and free transport for all workers in certain occupations.

Given the economics of chronic shortage and the limited purchasing power of money, the greatest benefits are extracted from access to those goods and services in short supply. Scarce necessities supplied to workers are distributed through the network of departmental shops, `food orders' (packages of food delivered periodically), closed sales of industrial goods, including the sales of finished products of their own enterprises, sometimes at reduced prices. The whole range of consumer durables (cars, furniture, TV sets etc.) is available through the closed departmental allocation, as well as plots of land. Good quality housing has always been the scarcest, yet the most desirable, object in this range. What kind of accommodation one manages to get and how many years it takes also depends on certain elements of a person's formal ranking.

Among the outcomes of the ranking system are variations in working conditions including the possibility of obtaining a secondary paid job, and the ability to plan one's own work and to use working hours for other kinds of activities, though the correlation between ranking and working conditions is not necessarily so straightforward.

The higher ranks also widely benefit indirectly through informal relationships, providing, for instance, better education in elite schools and institutes for their children. Rank influences almost all the competitive capacities of individual actors. Even the incomes raised by the self-employed (on their personal land plots etc.), including illegal revenues in the `shadow' economy, are strongly tied to state-run institutions. People mobilise state-owned resources by pilfering them from their enterprises. Formally speaking, this is considered illegal but in fact the practice is widely regarded as legitimate and has been transformed into a set of informal fringe benefits.

So, the main flow of privilege comes either directly through the institution one is employed by, or at least through the job status. The perks of the job which play a less significant role in western societies have become one of the basic types of redistribution of goods and services in the Soviet-type system. It is fringe benefits, not wages and salaries, in which representatives of different strata are mostly interested when entering a new job and social position. Traditionally, the system of fringe benefits has not attracted very much attention from scholars and the mass media, though it may be as important as regular access to goods and services, many of which are rationed, and its importance is increasing.

Thus power in the Soviet-type system is dependent on ranking and the control of privilege, which it in turn reinforces. Of course, ranking and privilege do not explain all socio-economic phenomena, just as private property and income do not explain everything in western societies. But they do form crucial elements in the functioning of the system.

5. Modelling power hierarchies

If the notion of power, as the relationships of domination and subordination, is extended, the social structure of Soviet-type society can be represented as a system of power hierarchies. Three types of those hierarchies will be considered here, namely the hierarchy of social strata, which are mostly not corporate groups with members who interact with each other, but rather categories based on rank; the hierarchy of institutions as corporate actors; and finally, the internal hierarchy of corporation members. The aim of this paper is not to provide a detailed description of these various social structures but is an attempt to point out some of the principles of their organisation.

1. Hierarchy of social strata.

The initial point of this social structure is provided by the range of occupational groups, taking into account their different decision-making capacities. The largest share, relatively speaking, of power capacities in the Soviet-type system has been accumulated by the ruling strata of high and middle-rank nomenklatura members including, first of all, the political (party) leadership and, secondly, the senior full-time functionaries and managers of the party and state. They include the secretaries of party committees, high-rank government officials, the heads of security and the military, the leaders of Supreme Soviets and heads of Soviet executive committees, the officially appointed leaders of all-union and republican public organisations, creative unions, and academies of sciences; and the chiefs and and managers of the large state-run enterprises, research institutes, educational and cultural institutions. At first sight this stratum is a very mixed one. But its members are united not only by the nomenklatura principle of cadre promotion but also through their position as the champions of party/state corporate interests. The ruling strata are the only more or less consolidated ones in a Soviet-type society. Of course, the relationships within the ruling strata have never ceased to be a battlefield for power and privileges but this does not damage their dominant collective interests.

The third stratum, which can be called an intermediate one, contains medium and low-level managers, foremen, superintendents, party functionaries and civil servants. Their power capacities as well as a range of privileges acquired are much more modest in comparison with the ruling strata. They serve as a social `buffer' between the nomenklatura leaders and ordinary operators, but some of them at least still have a chance for future advancement to the upper ruling strata.

The rest of society can be seen as `performers' including professionals outside positions of leadership; highly skilled manual workers; non-manual workers in routine, semi- and un-skilled occupations; semi- and un-skilled manual workers. Having no authority over the other members of the society, the majority of the population enjoy only rather restricted autonomy at work and usually get only the standard amount of fringe benefits which their institutions are ready to provide.

The state-supported strata, living not on wages or salaries but on state grants, come next. The major part of these people (students, pensioners, mothers involved in child-raising) do not participate in production activities. They are deprived of any influence and fringe benefits and live below the poverty line if no additional support is available.

At the bottom of the society the least-privileged strata include declass&eecute; and lumpen groups, the long-term unemployed people, often the victims of deskilling. They may take an occasional part in economic activities, in return for low pay, but without social rights and job security. Finally, there are the social outcasts: prisoners living in labour colonies and ex-prisoners living in special reservations.

This scheme of social stratification can be represented as a pyramid broadening at the bottom. But the initial occupational structure should be combined with other variables in the ranking system. The positions and typical behaviour of the social actors vary considerably inside their strata.

First of all, the category of work place is of importance. Performers occupied in elite institutions form `retainer' groups (see Lenski: 244-247). They include professionals and routine non-manual workers serving the nomenklatura leaders directly as the members of their bureaucratic staff (advisers and instructors, secretaries and typists), along with the manual service personnel of the top institutions. To ensure the social reproduction of the ruling strata, they are repaid with higher living standards and better working conditions. The range of fringe benefits available separates them from the rest of their occupational groups. Moreover, any performer from the retainer group gains more rewards than any member of the intermediate stratum.

A relatively separate and privileged position is enjoyed also by the workers in the distribution sector involving supply, trade and services. Their power derives from control of resources, and is strengthened under conditions of chronic scarcity of goods and services.

In the case of regular production there are, anyway, considerable differences between the agricultural and non-agricultural sectors, and between large and small enterprises. The workers in the defence industries are the most privileged on average. Social groups occupied in primary industries, providing energy and raw materials, are also in a stronger bargaining position. In contrast to them, numerous organisations, including the Soviet army and the labour colonies, exist which lay heavy obligations on their unprivileged workers (including the rank and file in compulsory military service, and convicts.)

The social status of any individual depends strongly on the registered place of residence, other things being equal. Residence in capital cities, regional centres, small towns or the countryside, means not only differences in the supply of goods and services but also different opportunities for higher education and good jobs. Ethnicity and party membership play important roles as well as the other factors in ranking (see: Table II). Other factors affecting ranking are: Communist Party membership; service record; possession of scientific degrees, honorary titles, higher state rewards (Hero of Socialist Labour, Order of Lenin); `election' or, more precisely, selection to the party, Komsomol, trade union committees and soviets of people's deputies on a part-time basis (`public work'). This latter provides a channel for members of lower strata to get into various nomenklatura ranks. The final social location of an individual or a social stratum is the result of the complex combination of all of these formal-ranking positions.

2. Hierarchy of corporate institutions

The atomisation of the Soviet-type society does not mean that an individual preserves his independence or is left on his own. On the contrary, all the individuals are deliberately integrated into the party/state-run corporate institutions. A corporation is a hierarchically organised and relatively closed association created to articulate and protect collective interests which are imposed on all its members.7 In the Soviet-type system, following Coleman, the power of people has been transformed into the power of corporate actors. The latter consist of a number of resources and social functions rather than a group of people who can be freely replaced (Coleman 1974: 27-37). In vesting their resources and functions in corporate actors, individuals have lost their control over them. As a result, they interact mostly on behalf of the corporations they belong to. Their personal power capacities in many respects depend strongly on the power of these corporate institutions.8

Table II. Main Factors in the Soviet Ranking System 


I. Initial occupational structure:	

1. Political leadership	
2. Higher functionaries and managers:	
   a) Party functionaries	
   b) civil servants	Ruling strata
   c) security, protection and	
   military servants	
   d) managers and chiefs of large	
   state-run institutions		
3. Medium and low-level managers,	Intermediate
   foremen, functionaries	stratum
4. Professionals in non-command stand.	
5. Highly skilled manual workers9	
5. Highly skilled manual workers10	
6. Routine non-manuals	Performers
7. Semi- and low-skilled manuals	
8. Students, pensioners etc.	State-supported
9. Declasse, lumpen, unemployed	
10.Convicts, conventionally released	Outcasts

II. Job Place\fR	 III. Living Place

1. Elite service institutions	1. Capital cities
2. Distribution sector	2. Region centres
	3. Small towns
3. Production sector	4. Countryside
   a) defence industries	
   b) primary branches	IV. Ethnicity
   c) other large non-agricultural units	
   d) other small non-agricultural units	1. Russian
   e) agricultural enterprises	2. Dominant non-Russian
	3. Minority
4.Military and prison enterprises


The incorporation process in the Soviet-type system appears to be all-absorbing. Becoming an employee of party- and state-run enterprises and institutions is almost the only way to obtain the means of subsistence. Accordingly, power is wielded not through the relationships of social groups but mostly through the interactions of corporate actors.

Hierarchies of corporations established by higher authorities have become the major means for the institutionalisation of power in the Soviet-type system. Therefore, this society can be represented as a range of overlapping institutional hierarchies in which any lower placed institution is invariably subordinated to the higher layers. The latter act mostly on a non-competitive basis as monopolies or, at least, as oligopolies in relation to their inferiors.

The concentration of power in the hands of higher authorities does not mean that the top corporations are capable of running and controlling effectively all the inferior actors, but mostly their close subordinates who, in their turn, influence their juniors. The structure of institutionalised power presents a system of rather peculiar `vassalitaet'.

There are four basic institutional hierarchies in the Soviet-type society:

The overlapping of these hierarchies means that any enterprise is recognised as an object of control imposed simultaneously by party, administrative, soviet and public authorities. But basically, it is the party that plays usually the role of the dominant and integrative force.

Summing up, in the Soviet-type system, in which every legal institution, whether it is a party committee or a state-run enterprise, takes the shape of a very similar type of corporation, so that the whole of the society reproduces all the main features of corporate organisation. The Soviet systems is a huge strictly organised corporation.

3. Intracorporation hierarchy

Finally a few points will be made about the issue of the internal division of power in a corporate institution. In spite of the great variety of these corporations on the surface, three principal strata can be singled out, namely: management, fully fledged performers, and unprivileged performers.

The basic management figure is the director of an institution or subordinate enterprise. The director is backed up by the administrative and managerial personnel plus selected leaders of the party and official public organisations (trade unions, Komsomol league). These groups are provided with better working and living conditions, and are usually first in the queue for any fringe benefits in scarce supply.

The majority of full-time performers (manual and non-manual) are permanent members of their corporation. To get all the fringe benefits delivered by a given corporation to an ordinary performer, they must meet three simple requirements: fully-fledged membership; obedience and personal loyalty to the management; and political loyalty to the Soviet regime. In this case, other things being equal, their relative position in a corporation frequently depends on their service record (the number of years spent working at one enterprise).

People, who fail to meet some of these requirements form the groups of non-privileged performers deprived, more or less, of rights which are normal for this corporation. Trainees fit into these groups as well as various kinds of temporary and part-time workers or workers taken from the strata of deskilled outcasts who lack both passports and registration in a given area.

If the management has both its authority and privileges, and regular workers possess no authority but gain a certain number of fringe benefits, these last groups enjoy neither authority nor benefits. By and large, the intracorporation power hierarchy reproduces, with rare exceptions, a very similar power structure at the macro-level.

6. Power as exchange

This section deals with two interconnected points in particular: limits on power in hierarchical systems, and the argument that exchange, rather than domination, is the basis of power relationships. The lower layers of the power hierarchy have sufficient means to oppose total domination from above, and authorities are forced to enter into bargaining with their subordinates. On this basis, networks of informal socio-economic interactions develop, in which domination is replaced by exchange.

1. Power of the powerless

Coercive domination is maintained by repressing any opposition, but violence is efficient only as long as it is tolerated. This is the reason party/state authorities do their best to keep control over thought and make attempts to maintain the enthusiasm of performers in building an `ideal society'. But neither the fear of repression nor ideological manipulation have been sufficient to break down the resistance of the lower strata, even though that resistance was expressed mainly in unorganised and passive forms instead of open conflict. Numerous forms of everyday passive resistance including poor productivity and wastefulness, foot dragging and false compliance have been effectively used by performers for centuries (see Scott 1985). Many of them are widespread within the Soviet system. The source of legitimation of Soviet-type authority is by no means confined to belief in the justice of a future `communist' society. It has arisen out of peculiar relationships of party/state paternalism.

Paternalism means the strict subordination of social actors accompanied by the kind of care and protection which is the quite legitimate requirement of minors. The ruling strata enjoy their privileges but they are obliged to guarantee to the performers minimal means of subsistence irrespective of their current work contribution. That social protection is provided through universal employment and low work requirements, the provision of minimum wages, goods and services (services are commonly free of charge). Food rationing and maintenance of all unprofitable enterprises are examples of socio-economic paternalism. The latter has spread to the micro-level as well, creating informal relationships of subordination and protection between the workers of enterprises and their management.

Paternalism provides the mechanisms of specific social exchange. Power is considered no more as pure arm-twisting, but the possession of particular services which cannot be delivered from other sources. Unilateral services are usually balanced by reciprocal actions.11 At the macro-level of Soviet-type societies, social relations are established, in which the appropriate productivity level and political loyalty of mass lower strata are exchanged for the stability and security of their position. The subjects suffering from such paternalistic exchange most of all are the strata of the skilled professionals and highly skilled manual workers. But they are suppressed by the `big alliance' of party/state authority and the strata of semi- and unskilled workers.12

2. Bargaining for economic resources

Another constraint for ruling authorities on the use of force is that they are incapable of running the economic system competently. Firstly, it is completely impossible to control all the diverse and dynamic socio-economic processes over such vast areas. Secondly, party and administrative bodies have never possessed valid and sufficient information about the internal production potential of their subordinates. As the boundaries of potential productivity are rather vague and flexible, the final decisions are made as a result of bargaining between the superior and inferior economic layers.13

Bargaining has spread over all levels of institutional hierarchy: branch ministries bargain with the Council of Ministries and CPSU Central Committee; enterprises and their associations negotiate with ministries and their local party committees; workers make informal deals with superintendents and managers etc. The regular objects of bargaining are the following: production targets and bonuses; allocation of material resources and budget subsidies; wages and rates of payments to centralised funds. The power capacities of a social actor in the bargaining process depend mainly on two parameters: the official rank of the institution represented and personal informal ties with the various parties to the negotiation. The institutions whose outputs are officially recognised to be of primary importance for the economy, obtain more power. They can obtain more material resources in scarce supply, lower productivity targets, and lower rates of taxes and payments, while providing their workers with a more impressive range of fringe benefits.

Bargaining also extends to horizontal interactions as a common practice of mutual reciprocal relationships between actors (ministries, enterprises, workers) on the same level of official ranking. These reciprocal interactions take the form of the barter exchange of material resources and information, finished products and services in limited supply. The institutions capable of monopolising such resources frequently enjoy their power capacities to benefit from the exchange and to acquire resources which are necessary for their own production. Being, basically, a form of non-monetary interaction, barter exchange has become an element inherent in a deficient and ill-balanced economy, in so much as the central authorities fail to provide sufficient resources to meet their own requirements.

3. Informal `power fields'

Paternalism in relationships between the members of different strata, bargaining for economic resources among corporate institutions, and barter exchange filling the gaps in the command economy, all assist in establishing the various forms of informal, and very often personal, ties between the representatives of different corporations as well as inside those corporations. On this basis, hidden and frequently illegal `power fields' are created by groups of social actors from various institutions and social strata. They unite to pursue their collective interests in the exchange of services and in order to compete with the other groupings for resources and benefits. Many of these `fields' involve political issues directly or are mediated by them.

Branch ministries and other state-run institutions form alliances to exert more influence by putting pressure on the government and higher party authorities. Any large enterprise has champions of its interests at the branch ministry and State Committee for Supply, who are helpful in providing useful information and taking the right side in any bargaining. In any city there are social groupings including the representatives of the Party Committee, the City Executive Committee and large enterprises pursuing socio-economic policies of their own. In any enterprise, management tries to get an alliance with the part of well-to-do workers to raise a support for their requirements.

A prominent example of a `power field' is provided by the so-called `mafia' which is an alliance of distribution workers, on the one hand, with members of the bureaucratic staff and, on the other hand, with groups of performers including certain outcasts (criminals). An example of this `mafia' illustrates quite well that `power fields' spread down the whole of the power hierarchy from the top to the very bottom of society.

So, power in the socio-economic sphere is exercised as a complex combination of domination and exchange. The first of these competing notions of power came from conflict theory. The second one is close to integration theory.14 The synthesis of these theories in the consideration of power is possible and even desirable.15 But as far as the Soviet-type system is concerned, there is a need to avoid exaggerating the role of exchange, because in its basic forms that exchange is non-market (in neoclassical terms) and asymmetric. I do not take into account here the theory of exploitation based on a somewhat arbitrary division between equivalent and non-equivalent exchange. I mean that in the rigid hierarchically based power system the higher layers usually bargain from a more advanced and privileged position, while the bargaining capacities and freedom of choice of their inferiors operate within relatively narrow constraints. Enterprises cannot go beyond the established framework of economic rules, and the workers stating their requirements for wages increases experience official wage `ceilings' etc. Besides, the lower layers must compete with each other for scarce resources which weakens their position in the exchange.

The mere fact that higher party/state authorities are able to replace any person, who does not meet their requirements, determines their privileged position. Any director or even an ordinary performer of a state-run enterprise will be forced to retire if he fails to follow the formal and informal rules prescribed by the `collective chiefs'. Power, therefore, is domination. But it can also reflect an asymmetrical exchange of services based on the unequal distribution of rank and privilege.

7. Facing radical reform

Waves of radical changes have passed over the Eastern European countries as an outcome of the crisis in the Soviet-type system. The Soviet Union, lagging several steps behind, experiences shifts in power structure as well. After long-term stagnation an economic and political crisis has burst out in the Soviet Union. The curtailment of production and the supply of goods, together with severe inter-ethnic clashes, have aggravated instability and damaged the social security of the population. It leaves even the minimum of means of subsistence and, in some areas, the life of people outside guaranteed protection.

The alliance between the top and lower strata has been broken, undermining `partynomial' authority together with the common belief in `socialist values'. There is a growing lack of confidence in the bodies of the Communist Party and its government, and its prestige has suffered. This lack of confidence has, paradoxically, been combined with increasing public pressure on the central organs of the party/state. Losing their legitimacy, the higher authorities have been very cautious in the use of open force (which is still considerable). But they are losing the capability for real decision-making as well. In the socio-economic sphere this is the result of at least four factors: failure to cope with the macro-economic financial and investment problems; the demands of the union republics for independence; the increasing autonomy of state-run enterprises; and the growing strength of the non-state second economy. The last three points reflect the gradual decentralisation of socio-economic power. Keeping their hands on a large amount of resources, central authorities are forced to change, step-by-step, their direct control over producers by indirect regulation. Not only the production resources but also essential economic rules are involved in the severe bargaining.

Simultaneously, social actors make attempts to build up their systems of self-protection at the lower levels (republican, regional, and even district). The decline of the relative value of money leads to further `naturalisation' of the economy. The territorial rationing of necessities is spreading. Work collectives do their best to acquire these necessities in the form of fringe benefits. The barter exchange of resources, now legalised, is flourishing. In the system of formal ranking the influence of A-variables (party membership, titles, degrees, rank of institution) declines, while that of some B-variables (ethnicity, age, skills) rises (see section 4).

Following the erosion of Soviet-type power structures, the crystallisation of new social forces is in progress, including different strata, new `power fields' and institutions. There is nothing surprising in the fact that initial organisation within the amorphous society is based first of all on ethnicity. But the ethnic factor, which is most influential at the moment, is not a subject for consideration in this paper. As far as the socio-economic sphere is concerned, a new power structure has appeared here, that of entrepreneurship.

Before reform, the real non-state second economy existed mainly in the form of `shadow' (illegal) activities. Its resources could be hardly separated from the state-run ones. It was likely a dark and pervasive side of the state sector itself. By now the second economy has won its relative independence and has begun to crystallise in opposition to the dominant state-run economy initially in forms of cooperative and `individual labour' activities.

The entrepreneurial structure contains three distinct social strata: employers, self-employed workers, and hired employees. In quantitative terms the entrepreneurial structure is not very powerful yet. But its influence is sufficient for the creation of tension between two power structures. The final disruption of society is still prevented by two partially stabilising factors: relatively strict control imposed on the entrepreneurial activities by the party/state bureaucracy, and increasing social mobility between the two economic sectors.

There is an obvious split in the ruling strata. One section of party/state functionaries has become the subject of `embourgeoisement'. They use their monopoly over state-run resources and information to enter cooperative activities and, especially, joint-stock ventures. Another section, possessing formal scientific degrees, seek positions as professionals. Most active directors of state-run enterprises are trying to turn their enterprises into independent economic units through the semi-legitimate practices of lease-holding, share-holding and so called `collective' ownership, allowing them to become the managers of these reorganised enterprises. Professionals and highly skilled manual workers get their chance to be recruited to the non-state sector on full- or part-time bases. (So far they have created the major part of the entrepreneurial structure). Mobility processes give hope for the gradual transformation of the Soviet-type power structure.16

The specific feature of new `power fields' lies in their tendency to be legally institutionalised in different types of associations. State-run enterprises getting rid of the direct control of their branch ministries develop associations among the producers. The groups of professionals ally with entrepreneurs creating consulting firms and centres. Coop dealers and lease-holders found associations of their own. Manual workers (first of all in primary economic branches) unite in joint actions led by their strike committees. Political associations (popular fronts, party-like organisations) are mushrooming. Soviets of People's Deputies, undergoing a process of renewal, intend to influence the economic decision-making.

To sum up, the large-scale redistribution of power is taking place. But it is noteworthy that the principal type of authority is rather slow to change. Under the slogans of `marketisation' traditional corporate values are frequently maintained. Socio-economic associations of different sorts try to obtain and preserve their monopolistic privileged position to remain protected from the distorted market. A characteristic example is that of the informal alliance between some cooperative enterprises and bureaucratic authorities. The latter gain their benefits from the new cooperative movement by maintaining the privileged position of the former in production, just by keeping other people out of these new economic activities. As far as the new-born political associations are concerned, they are very often not developed enough to reflect any distinct socio-economic interests.

The future general trend in the development of the power structure is expected to be as follows. The system in which formal ranking status and informal personal and business relationships with the people in authority defines the power of a social actor and his position in the redistributive order, will be gradually transformed into a system in which ownership and skills (both organisational and performance) form the basis of a social actor's position in the market of labour and all other productive resources.

The presented analysis, elaborating the structure of the problem rather than answering all the questions posed, obviously needs further theoretical and empirical substantiation. But this kind of approach, I believe, can be a key to the understanding of the complex dynamics of social forces in Soviet-type societies.


Many initial points developed in this article were worked out in collaboration with Professor O. Shkaratan. The advice of Anthony Heath was very helpful during work on the paper. I would also like to express my gratitude to Zygmunt Bauman, David Lane and Teodor Shanin for advice on different aspects of the problem. I feel myself also strongly indebted to all the organisers of the Soviet Summer School, directed by Ray Pahl at the University of Kent, who provided favourable conditions for this paper to evolve.