This paper develops the concept of stolichnaya praktika (‘capital practice’) to understand how centralized power is maintained in contemporary authoritarian and hybrid regimes that face the dual challenges of protracted economic crisis (which limits their use of traditional patronage mechanisms) and the necessity of maintaining a democratic guise (which limits their use of force). The concept is derived from the experience of Russia, where, since the onset of a prolonged economic crisis in 2014, centralization of power is increasingly maintained by demanding that regional elites compete for symbolic—rather than financial—resources for implementing policies. Central authorities instrumentalize Moscow’s expertise, packaging it as a resource available to the regions. Through a case study of the Moscow Housing Renovation program and its proposed federal expansion, the paper conceptualizes stolichnaya praktika as a technology of government that relies on the interplay of the capital and federal scales, simultaneously constructing Moscow’s exceptionalism and reviving the perception of a caring and paternalistic federal state. By seeming to extend an invitation to the regions to emulate the capital, stolichnaya praktika provides top-down policies with a semblance of voluntarism, while actually reinforcing regional dependencies. This study contributes to the burgeoning scholarship on authoritarian urbanism, by shifting empirical attention away from spectacular mega-projects in capital cities to demonstrate how basic urban service provisioning serves as a tool of authoritarian governance, and by excavating how central authorities make regional actors comply with, and locally implement, the center’s political development goals in and through the field of urbanism.
This paper considers aspects of spatial justice in the processes of land acquisition for large-scale solar energy projects in the developmentalist context of India. It explores the case of one of the world’s largest solar park projects in Charanka, Gujarat. While the official rhetoric suggests an inclusive project for globally benign renewable energy production, the research reveals a more controversial land and power politics of renewable energy. It is argued, in particular, that the project increases the precariousness of vulnerable communities, who are exposed to the loss of livelihoods due to the enclosure of common land and extra-legal mechanisms through which land acquisitions for the project have reportedly taken place. This case exemplifies how solar mega-projects may manifest a regime of accumulation whereby low-carbon coalitions of interests can maximize their gains by dispossessing vulnerable social groups of their life-sustaining assets.