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Property, Predation, and Protection
Piranha Capitalism in Russia and Ukraine


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  • Date Published: December 2016
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107459076

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About the Authors
  • What threatens the property rights of business owners? And what makes these rights secure? This book transcends the conventional diagnosis of the issue in modern developing countries by moving beyond expropriation by the state ruler or by petty bureaucratic corruption. It identifies 'agent predation' as a novel threat type, showing it to be particularly widespread and detrimental. The book also questions the orthodox prescription: institutionalized state commitment cannot secure property rights against agent predation. Instead, this volume argues that business actors can hold the predatory state agents accountable through firm-level alliances with foreign actors, labor, and local communities. Beyond securing ownership, such alliances promote rule of law in a rent-seeking society. Taking Russia and Ukraine between 2000 and 2012 as its empirical focus, the book advances these arguments by drawing on more than 150 qualitative interviews with business owners, policy makers, and bureaucrats, as well as an original large-N survey of firms.

    • Provides a new answer to the number-one question in political economy of development: what makes property rights secure?
    • Offers a new conceptual and empirical approach for measuring the security of property rights
    • Utilizes over 150 in-depth qualitative interviews with local business owners, state actors, and experts
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    • Winner, 2016 Stein Rokkan Prize, International Social Science Council and the European Consortium for Political Research

    Reviews & endorsements

    'This book takes on a big topic - the origins of property rights, which are widely held to be fundamental to economic growth. Theoretically, Markus departs from the existing literature in emphasizing the threat to property rights posed by agents of the sovereign rather than the sovereign himself. Empirically, he paints a vivid picture of piranha capitalism in postcommunist Russia and Ukraine, with much that will be new even to seasoned observers of the postcommunist region.' Scott Gehlbach, University of Wisconsin, Madison

    'Brilliantly mobilizing evidence from Russia and Ukraine, Stanislav Markus forces us to fundamentally revise how we think of property rights security in weak states. Documenting that one of the greatest threats to property rights in such states tends to be piranha-like lower-level officials acting on their own, this book shows that firms can protect themselves through strategically arranged stakeholder alliances with other powerful actors, including foreign firms, and that this can constitute a previously unrecognized path toward the rule of law. Property, Predation, and Protection is an outstanding example of new theory developed through deep research into how politics actually works outside the developed West.' Henry Hale, George Washington University, Washington DC

    'Property, Predation, and Protection assesses the political circumstances under which property rights in emerging markets become more or less secure. As a perennial research question in comparative political economy, one might expect that fresh insights would be hard to come by. Yet Stanislav Markus has defied the odds by producing a truly groundbreaking book. When asked 'what has the study of postcommunist countries contributed to theory building in comparative politics?', scholars should now include Markus's theory of property rights and agent predation as an outstanding example.' Juliet Johnson, McGill University, Montréal

    'Stanislav Markus's book rigorously dissects the problem of securing property rights in postcommunist states. Markus develops a theoretical framework for classifying the types of vulnerability to state predation faced by firms, and relates these to the difficulty that rulers of weak states face in restraining their own bureaucratic agents. He grounds his analysis in carefully researched case studies of Russia and Ukraine. The result is a masterful contribution to the theory of property rights and its application in the post-Soviet region.' Thomas Remington, Emory University, Atlanta

    '… the author's arguments … address important issues and do so in a way that demands attention. I thoroughly recommend the book to anyone interested in business-state relations in transition societies.' Stephen Fortescue, Slavic Review

    'The book's greatest strength lies in its empirical richness. Markus draws on his interview with managers, political observers, and policymakers, as well as on his own survey of 396 Russian and 120 Ukrainian firms.' Katheryn Hendley, The Russian Review

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    Product details

    • Date Published: December 2016
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107459076
    • length: 256 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.38kg
    • contains: 7 b/w illus. 7 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    2. Agent predation and secure ownership
    3. Not too petty: disorganized threats beyond corruption
    4. Minibeasts versus sovereign: ownership threats beyond 'the system'
    5. Commitment dissolved
    6. Firm stakeholders versus state predators
    7. Firm stakeholders and rule of law.

  • Author

    Stanislav Markus, University of Chicago
    Stanislav Markus is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago. His research has been published in World Politics, Socio-Economic Review, and Polity. He is the winner of the 2014 Gregory Luebbert Article Award for the best article in comparative politics awarded by the American Political Science Association. Professor Markus received the Academy Scholar award from the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, 2008–9 and 2011–12. He holds a PhD in government from Harvard University, Massachusetts.


    • Winner, 2016 Stein Rokkan Prize, International Social Science Council and the European Consortium for Political Research

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