When Does Business Get Violent?
Abstract: My research focuses on political economy of violence. In my dissertation project entitled “When Does Business Get Violent?” I look at why in postcommunist countries competition in business so often degenerates into physical violence. Violent competition is inimical to the development of true market economies as well as liberal societies as it leads to cultivation of force and coercion, not fair competition in both the economy and politics. Under what conditions do economic elites actively engage in, or become a target of, violent competition? Economic theory assumes that competition is a positive force in economic development. Yet, positive competitive strategies such as improving the quality of products and services are not the only possible ways to compete in a marketplace. Firms can resort to alternative strategies aimed at increasing the costs of production and distribution for other firms in the same market, artificially raising the barriers for new entrants, foreclosing competitor’s access to resources, and forcefully removing existing competitors. Political economists (Bates 2006; Bates, Greif, and Singh 2002; Dixit 2004, Weingast 1997), have identified the conditions under which a single specialist in violence would abstain from predation while citizens engage in productive economic activities and pay taxes, but they did it under two assumptions: that there exists only one potential specialist in violence that does not have to compete with any other violent entrepreneurs, and that producers (businessmen) do not use violence to compete with each other. Because Russia does not fit either of these assumptions, this project examines the role that violent practices may play in commercial activities using Russia as a case study.