The Moral Economy of Ordinary Belarussians and a Critical Examination and Re-Evaluation of the 2020 Post-Electoral Uprising
Date of Degree
Political Science | Sociology
moral-economy, Belarus, Lukashenko, socially-oriented, market-socialism, neoliberalism
This study is three studies in one: First, a qualitative study of the moral economy of ordinary Belarussians based on E.P Thompson’s class-based economic conception of moral economy, as applied to complex socio-economic systems by Reinarman (1987). Second, a critical and broad examination and re-evaluation of the August 9, 2020 post-electoral uprising. And third, an examination of both the West’s hostility toward Belarus’ largely state-owned socially-oriented economic model (often considered market socialism) and toward President Lukashenka, and, of the West’s commitment to overthrowing President Lukashenka and Belarus’ largely state-owned socially-oriented economic model, through its sponsorship of color revolution, “democratization,” regime change, etc. I also explored the question of whether there was Russian involvement in the 2020 uprising.
The findings of the study were that, despite claims made by some researchers, the moral economy of ordinary Belarussians has not changed. The ordinary Belarussians in this study overwhelmingly supported Belarus’ state-owned economy, adamantly rejected its privatization, and were deeply hostile to neoliberalism and neoliberal ideology. And although this was a v limited qualitative study, there are reasons to believe that these results are generalizable, and that these beliefs are widespread. The examination of the 2020 post-electoral uprising, among other things, showed that the official results of President Lukashenka’s August 9, 2020 re-election were, in fact, very plausible; that President Lukashenka won the majority was very likely; and the fact that he won the election, and that the opposition candidate, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya lost the election, is almost certain.
The examination of the 2020 post-electoral uprising also showed that it was not a “popular uprising,” but instead mainly a middle-and-upper-class uprising whose ranks were greatly increased by the participation of the large affluent IT sector.
The third part of this study, which explored the West’s hostility toward Belarus’ largely state-owned socially-oriented economic model and toward President Lukashenka, showed that the previous post-electoral uprisings in Belarus, in 2001, 2006, and 2010, which according to the literature are seen as attempted color revolutions, could also be understood as attempted Western-imposed neoliberal capitalist counter revolutions—and that overthrowing Belarus’ largely state-owned economic model was a fundamental priority for the West, an agenda separate from its strategic anti-Russia geopolitical interests in Belarus. The 2020 uprising, unlike Belarus’ previous post-election uprisings, involved a significant segment of the Belarussian capitalist class, mainly from the IT sector, that, along with other important factors, greatly contributed to its large size, scope, and duration.
In conclusion, the moral economy of ordinary Belarussians has not changed significantly. There is still great support for Belarus’ state-owned economy. Ordinary Belarussians adamantly oppose privatization and neoliberal ideology. Furthermore, this study builds on the work of other researchers who argue that President Lukashenka and Belarus’ largely state-owned socially-oriented economy model is a reflection of the moral economy of ordinary Belarussians—and not the other way around, as some researchers argue. Namely, President vi Lukashenka does not “impose” Belarus’ socio-economic model on ordinary Belarussians as some researchers argue, but rather Belarus’ socio-economic model itself is the reflection of the moral economy of ordinary Belarussians.
Although the 2020 post-electoral uprising was promoted in the Western media as a “democratic revolution,” against an unelected and unpopular dictator, in reality the 2020 postelectoral uprising is best understood as a neoliberal capitalist counterrevolution against Belarus’ popular, largely state-owned socio-economic model and against President Lukashenka, who is genuinely popular and democratically elected. Furthermore, beyond merely challenging the dominant anti-Lukashenka oppositional narratives promoted in the Western media, this study explores deeper questions about democracy and neoliberal capitalism’s fundamental hostility toward democracy and majority rule. It is my hope that rather that, as opposed to viewing President Lukashenka and Belarus’ socially-oriented socio-economic model as a pariah, the model could serve as powerful counterexample to the currently dominant neoliberal capitalist ideology and serve to promote socialism or at least more socialistic economic policies in the West.
Furthermore, this study not only relied on E.P. Thompson’s class-based economic conception of moral economy as a powerful sociological lens to understand Belarussian society, but also contained an extensive review and discussion of the moral economy literature in general and an argument in favor of limiting moral economy solely to Thompson’s deeply insightful class-based economic conception of moral economy, as opposed to the numerous broader interpretations, which make the concept merely synonymous with “values.” If not, we risk losing an important and useful concept, rendering the term moral economy “meaningless” (Edelman 2012:63). Furthermore, it is my hope that this study promotes the further use of Thompson’s conception of moral economy in sociology, as Thompson’s conception of moral economy is unfortunately under-utilized in sociology (Ibrahim 2014:82).
Blank, Geoffrey, "The Moral Economy of Ordinary Belarussians and a Critical Examination and Re-Evaluation of the 2020 Post-Electoral Uprising" (2022). CUNY Academic Works.