Social structure and public policy

Valery Fedorov, General Director of the Russian Public Opinion Research Center, moderated the discussion on the “Complication of the social structure of society: challenges for social and economic policy” held on the third day of the Gaidar Forum. He explained that the complication of the social structure of society is one of the most serious challenges that can affect many aspects of state life. 

A key speech at the discussion was presented by Stepan Lvov, head of the research department at the Russian Public Opinion Research Center. The expert called the misalignment with the context of social processes one of the modern problems. This problem can be solved by choosing adequate differentiating features.

The expert drew attention to such a definition of the concept of a seriality. Despite the autonomation of society, such autonomations form an aggregate. Fears and anxieties may cause the emergence of the seriality. These phenomena are the main attributes of modern life. As a result, modern society finds itself in a state of anxiety. 51% of society members are anxious about the future. Respondents were asked to rate their fears by 13 criteria. 36% have their fears expressed in a high degree.

People, who assess their financial situation as good, are less susceptible to fears. Fears are conventionally divided into several categories: economic, physical and social. The first make up the largest share.

A person in fear needs to be protected, and stereotypically refers to “common places”. Thus, the effect of general intelligence arises. As a result, people have the so-called mantras. The most common mantras are related to raising the retirement age, blocking Telegram, elections, and others.

Collective life suits the majority, to some extent being a part of the “seriality” is attractive - it excludes inequality.

Vladimir Petukhov, Head of the Center for Comprehensive Social Research of the Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, commented on the topic of public anxiety.  

According to the expert, many fears are man-made, and not the results of objective reality. The highest indicators of anxiety according to research results are caused by the situation in the country, whereas the situation in the region of residence causes the lowest fears.

Vladimir Petukhov commented on the key demands of society for change and the formation of new subjects of social action.

The relative majority of the Russians believe that changes are needed; however, a considerable part of them voiced a request for stability. The demand for changes is particularly pronounced in the segment of the young part of the population. The majority of demands is social in nature.

Oleg Chernozub, Head of the Center for Social and Economic Research, RANEPA, paid attention in his report to the problem of loss of explanatory models relevance.

According to the expert, the concept of modern man is currently in crisis. Following the traditional model, a person acts on the basis of what is beneficial for him or her. This thesis has become extremely problematic in recent years. Economics has proven that even under ideal conditions, the model of a rational person is very limited in its operation. The more uncertain the environment, the less rational behavior becomes. What to do if a person does not understand what is beneficial for him/her and how to behave? It is necessary to study decision-making mechanisms and related factors. Only some of a person’s motives can be rationally explained, Mr. Chernozub believes.

Alexander Demidov, General Director of GFK-RUS, drew attention to the problem of the social and value-based potential of society in the context of influence on challenges.

When discussing the social structure, references to various factors of influence are always made, but attention should be paid to the issues of the social and value-based potential of society. The renewal of the system of values determines the social structure of economic transformations.

Social institutions are formed only after the formation of social and personal values. Over the past 20 years, the values of the Russians remain relatively stable, Alexander Demidov assures. The ratio of moral and material values is an indicator of the democratization of society. The personal values of the Russians are changing towards democratization at a very slow pace, the speaker said.

At the same time, the expert drew attention to the fact that it is extremely important to influence the value-based potential of the population in the first place, and this is more difficult than changing one or another economic component.

Natalya Tikhonova, chief research fellow at the Center for Stratification Studies of the Institute for Social Policy at the National Research University of Higher School of Economics, commented on the thesis of the rational behavior of the Russians and noted that there is a fundamental difference between economic rationality and rationality in general. The Russians, according to the expert, are generally relatively rational. In modern realities, they prefer to build up their material capital in order to remain in their social stratum. Even if it is associated with the need to undertake credit and mortgage obligations. On the one hand, such behavior is irrational, but from a social point of view it is rational, since in modern society social status is of high importance.

Natalya Tikhonova paid special attention to the need to study the social structure of society in order to develop social and economic policy.

In different countries of the world there are different types of societies with different types of structures. In Russia, this is an uneven regional development. A number of regions, for example, Moscow, are at the European level of development, and some are only starting to move towards it.

The expert explained that such a phenomenon as social stratification may contribute to the implementation of social policy objectives.

Iosif Diskin, Deputy Chairman of the Academic Council of the Russian Public Opinion Research Center, Member of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation, stated: “The economic structure does not change much, but the interpretation of positions changes. Speaking about the problems of regulatory impact, it is necessary to understand the complexity of the social structure.

If the Russian breakthrough is successful, it will lead to dramatic changes in the situation of most social groups. This is a test for the socio-political system as a whole.

Politicians as public figures are always under scrutiny, and their “stupidity” and various statements have recently caused massive reactions among society. This suggests that the importance of a number of basic values has significantly increased. As soon as socio-economic decisions affect these values, an extremely emotional reaction is seen in response.

In society, moral sensitivity is growing. As crisis expectations increase, such sensitivity intensifies. This, in turn, limits the corridor of opportunities in the implementation of socio-economic policy."

All participants in the discussion noted the importance of the social situation in the country and the fact that its understanding is one of the necessary components for development of an efficient socio-economic policy.

All records of live broadcasts from the Gaidar Forum 2019

10th Gaidar Forum Organizers:

The Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA);
The Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy (Gaidar Institute);
The Association of Innovative Regions of Russia (AIRR).

The general partners of the Gaidar Forum are Gazprom and Gazprombank; strategic partners include Prosveshcheniye publishing house, Coca-Cola, Pharmstandard group, ACIG Group of Companies, the Russian Textbook Corporation, SANOFI, Novartis, Johnson & Johnson, Russian Railways, MSD, and Mastercard; EY, Cisco and Russian Direct Investment Fund are partners. This discussion’s partners are Philips, Cherkizovo and RVC.

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