Local level responses to rapid social change in a city in the Russian industrial Urals
This thesis addresses the organisation of socio-economic life in the context of rapid social change. It does so by analysing people's livelihoods in 2000, and their implications for social differentiation in a large industrial city in the Urals region of Russia. It shows who the winners and losers in the reform process were and why opportunities to prosper were restricted to a small group. As a case study of one city, the thesis is limited, but it does indicate how the shift 'from plan to market' actually happened in ways not expected by reformers and how institutional failure was circumvented in ingenious ways at the local level. This thesis focuses on how people in a large provincial city responded to the weakness of formal legal structure and high levels of state corruption and organised crime, and their engagement in the formal and informal economy. It provides information on the emergence of economic elites and how people made a living despite dismal wages. After laying out the its theoretical concepts and discussing the research methods used, the thesis considers how the institutional context shaped people's responses to rapid social change. Arguing that the ability to make a living was determined by access to social, human and material resources, it examines the reasons behind the economic positions of different kinds of households. The thesis contends that social networks were a major influence on people's situation and that access to them was determined by a range of factors, including gender. Organised crime is analysed as a form of social organisation that stepped into the void of the Soviet state's collapse, with long-term implications for life in the city. Drawing upon these various local level responses, the thesis makes some conclusions about the dynamics behind social differentiation in the city.