Understanding the New Land Rush: How Capital Inflows Transformed Rural Russia

Lecture | August 31 | 4-5:30 p.m. | 270 Stephens Hall

 Susanne Wengle, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Notre Dame

 Institute of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ISEEES)

Rising global prices for agricultural commodities have led to the inflow of capital to rural economies and to transfers of land ownership to new agricultural operators (NAOs) in developing and post-Soviet countries. How capital inflows affect rural communities is often explained with the variable of institutional strength, an explanation aligned with the good governance approach to economic development: capital inflows have positive developmental effects, if strong domestic institutions vet land deals and regulate NAOs. Contra the focus on institutional parameters as exogenous variables, the Russian case suggests that we should pay attention to political projects and priorities that shape local outcomes and drive institutional change. Vladimir Putin’s food security agenda is important to understand the country’s rural transformation, because it led to a myriad of interventions that privileged NAOs as agents of change, while other actors were sidelined.

Susanne Wengle is an assistant professor in the Political Science Department at the University of Notre Dame, with a Ph.D. from the from University of California Berkeley. She also holds a concurrent faculty appointment at Notre Dame's Keough School for Global Affairs. Before joining Notre Dame’s faculty, Wengle conducted research and taught classes at the University of Chicago. Her main research interests concern the politics of markets regulations. Her past research examines how particular regulations function and how they evolve, hence what “politics” make them possible, but also how their effects change the political conditions in which they were formulated. Wengle’s book, Post-Soviet Power: State-led Development and Russia’s Marketization (2015, Cambridge University Press) examines the political economy of newly created electricity markets in Russia, and more generally engages with questions how we study markets in the post-Soviet context and beyond. The empirical focus of her current project is agriculture and food production in Russia and the US.