Brian Aitchison

MRes, PhD, Political Science
Department of Government
London School of Economics and
Political Science

Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE


My PhD work focused on the significance of small business associations in influencing regional and municipal politics in Russia. Stemming from a critique of state capture and collective action theories, it departed from mainstream academic discourse on Russia's politico-economic development, which tends to treat relationships at the highest levels (e.g. amongst resource industries and the president) as representative of the whole. It examined the role of the small business community in building Russia's legal and political infrastructures from the grassroots level. Small business associations had become increasingly influential under Putin and Medvedev; the development of the community has been a cornerstone of their modernization program. The success of small businesses' collective action has resulted in increased participation in the representative institutions created to accommodate it. Small business associations have become key allies in the fight against corruption and the deconstruction of the ubiquitous Russian bureaucracy. Traditional understandings of 'capture' theories appear to break down at the small business level: one small business is too small to 'capture' a state office, and commensurately it is too small to draw the attention of an increasingly powerful state seeking to 'capture' strategic enterprises. Small businesses' collective efforts to gain political influence thus carry much less nefarious implications when compared with those of larger enterprises, as they necessarily involve bargaining, discussion, and compromise among a broad range of actors. In this sense they are key (and understudied) players in Russia's political, economic, and social development
I employed a mixed method approach in this work. Comparative historical analysis of small business lobbies in different contexts was combined with a quantitative analysis examining a potential causal relationship between small businesses' contribution to a locality's GDP and its democracy score. This work complemented data obtained through field interviews and a focus group conducted in Saratov, Russia with local political and business leaders under the auspices of the Volga Regional Academy of Civil Service (Povolzhskaya Akademiya Gosudarstvennoi Sluzhby). Ultimately, the aim of the research was to examine small business groups' potential as democratic- and market-institution builders, and to reconcile that potential with the Russian executives' national development objectives.

Curriculum Vitae