25 November 2020
For November's seminar in our International Development and Innovation series, Dr Balihar Sanghera, a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Kent, presented 'The other road to serfdom: 'shock therapy' and the rise of the rentier capitalism in Central Asia'.
Dr Balihar Sanghera's main interest is the political and moral economy of Eurasia, exploring how economic institutions and relationships relate to moral values and norms. His current research examines how global powers and associated international financial institutions shape and contest Central Asia. His papers have appeared in Europe-Asia Studies, Cambridge Journal of Economics, Theory and Society, International Sociology, International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, The Sociological Review, and Sociological Research Online.
He has been a visiting lecturer at Novosibirsk State University, American University - Central Asia and Boston University. He has also been a visiting scholar at Harvard and Boston Universities. Last year, he was the George F. Kennan scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington D.C. He received his PhD Sociology at University of Lancaster, MSc Agricultural Economics at University of Oxford and BA Economics at University of Lancaster.
This paper offers a moral economy critique of the transition to a market economy in the post-Soviet space. In a reversal of the classical ideal of a ‘free market’ (a market free from land rent, monopoly rent and interest), neoliberalism has promoted and celebrated rent extraction, sometimes over wealth creation (Hudson 2017). In freeing markets from government regulation, neoliberalism has enabled powerful economic actors (in particular banks and property owners) to exploit and indebt others. Rentiers receive unearned income (such as rent and interest) by virtue of property rights that legally entitle them to own and control key assets, which others lack but need and want. Neoliberalism has established, regularised and legitimised ‘unearned income’ (Sayer 2015). Post-Soviet market reforms have produced shifts in the balance of power in relations between lenders and borrowers, landowners and tenants, utility companies and clients, and so on. Assets have become ‘improperty’, in that they are owned and controlled for exchange-value rather than use-value (Sayer 2015; Hudson 2014). While rentier activities are morally justified and normalised, they are harmful to the economic and social well-being of the population. Not surprisingly, some post-Soviet economies seek to extricate themselves from neoliberalism through alternative economic imaginaries, such as the Eurasian Economic Union and the Belt and Road Initiative.
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