In This Review

The Politics of Inequality in Russia
The Politics of Inequality in Russia
By Thomas F. Remington
Cambridge University Press, 2011, 234 pp.

Convergence theory, which imagined that the two Cold War superpowers were growing more alike in actions and character, never held water. But in one important respect, Russia and the United States have converged in the post–Cold War period: among advanced countries, the two are in a class by themselves when it comes to economic inequality. After comparing the levels of income inequality among Russia’s regions, Remington concludes that the political dynamic in each is an important factor in determining economic disparities. Surprisingly, the more democratic a region is, the greater its inequality. Yet at the same time, more democratic regions also enjoy stronger economic growth and lower poverty rates. Remington sees all three outcomes as the result of the greater autonomy, shared sacrifice, and opportunities for partnerships that exist in more pluralistic settings. The vast literature on democracy and economic inequality, well sampled by Remington, reveals a complex relationship. Democracy’s effect on inequality remains ambiguous. The damaging impact of inequality on democracy, however, does not.