Focusing on the experiences of people in Russia and Ukraine, Staging Democracy shows how some national leaders' seeming popularity rests on local economic compacts. Jessica Pisano draws on long-term research in rural communities and company towns, analyzing how local political and business leaders, seeking favor from incumbent politicians, used salaries, benefits, and public infrastructure to pressure citizens to participate in command performances.
Pisano looks at elections whose outcome was known in advance, protests for hire, and smaller mises en scène to explain why people participate, what differs from spectacle in totalitarian societies, how political theater exists in both authoritarian and democratic systems, and how such performances reshape understandings of the role of politics.
Staging Democracy moves beyond Russia and Ukraine to offer a novel economic argument for why some people support Putin and similar politicians. Pisano suggests we can analyze politics in both democracies and authoritarian regimes using the same analytical lens of political theater.
Introduction: Performances of Democracy
1. Researching Political Theater
2. History of the Form
3. Setting the Stage
4. Staging Performances
6. Meanings of Participation
7. States of Ambiguity
Conclusion: A New Social Contract
Jessica Pisano is Associate Professor in the Department of Politics at the New School for Social Research. She is the author of The Post-Soviet Potemkin Village.
Jessica Pisano, however, offers a new way to think about politics. Staging Democracy is a must read for anyone interested in Ukraine and Russia. But it's also required reading for anyone interested in the evolution of politics in the 21st century.