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Article

Государство и потребители: распределение ответственности в восприятии потребителей

Решетеева Р. И.

This paper aims to reconstruct relationship between consumers and the state.  Consumer culture and politics are recognized as overlapping domains.  Analysis is based on historical account of sovient consumer culture and data from representative survey in Moscow collected in 2017. We also in historical perspective. Russian state was closely intertwined with consumer affairs. Institutionalization of consumers’ dissatisfaction was an important line of political work during soviet period and postsocialist time. Official consumer complaints reflected the paternal model of dependence of the citizens on the authorities, which was an organic part of the idea of Soviet societal structure. Power asymmetry was formed in soviet consumer culture: lack of competition between state-owned retailers, dependence upon the retailer often left consumers defenseless. Survey results show that consumers still acknowledge the possibility of deceit from market players. Assessment of government’s actions in sphere of consumption is not so different from negative evaluations of stores and producers. Idea that market agents put their interests above consumer interests is a social norm, predictable instability. Muscovites consumer behavior follows what we call “the culture of suspicion”. We can assert that culture of suspicion is a structural constraint, forging consumers’ identity. Accounting for “fairness” of the purchase, consumers expect “righteous” market exchange where each party seeks benevolent and equal relations. By doing so, consumers try to socialize market and to infuse it with moral meaning. Consumers do not separate economic sphere from current social and political reality. Consumers who feeling unprotected and vulnerable before the market system more than others question government efforts to defend their rights. Anticipation of deceit and hazards from market allows to question state’s attempts to restore market justice and to seek the alternative ways of resolving the conflict.