Political Science Issues

V.V. KOMLEVA Doctor of sciences (sociology) Dean of the faculty of international regional studies and regional governance, Institute of public service and administration, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Service, Moscow, Russia


In the conditions of stronger external influences on the internal political processes in Russia, the task of finding mechanisms and technologies ensuring social and political stability has become even more topical. The article proposes a model of stability based on the mechanism of social immunity. Social immunity is developed in the process of socialization, it is fixed in the course of interaction with political institutions and is supported by the conditions of life as well as relevant popular ideas about the quality of life, justice and security. Existential security, social memory, social cohesion, institutional and systemic trust are considered the main factors of maintaining social immunity.

Key words: social and political stability, external influences, destabilization, social immunity, existential security, social memory, social cohesion, institutional trust, system trust.

Numerous studies of the topic of ensuring stability in conditions of potential or real threats of destabilization are aimed, in most cases, at describing the problem field, identifying and classifying the threats themselves, their consequences and developing proposals for their elimination or prevention. However, a comprehensive holistic model of ensuring socio-political stability has not yet been developed or described. Such model is supposed to link the main tasks of ensuring stability, the main institutions responsible for their implementation and, most importantly, a mechanism that allows identification of the destabilizing factors among the many influences. An attempt to conceptualize such a model is proposed in our study, the brief results of which are presented in this article.

The main goal of all efforts to ensure stability, in our opinion, should be the development of social immunity, as the ability of the society to recognize threats that destroy the process of social development, the stability of the system, the ability of the system center to manage and provoke fluctuations in the system. Social immunity produces immunity of society to foreign influences, reducing the effect and risks of such influences. The perception of alienness is manifested in the ability to identify external influences as destabilizing (on the principle of "own-others", "useful-harmful", "developing-killing", etc.) and in the negative reaction of the society to such impacts.

How does the society develop social immunity to external and internal destabilizing influences? Few people answered this question, describing specific technologies and techniques. Of the authors we know such studies were carried out by Z.A. Zhapuev and much earlier by A. Zinoviev who studied it on the example of the USSR .

Having considered the mechanisms of social immunity in the USSR , А. Zinoviev highlighted ways of its formation: 1) by limiting contacts with the outside world ("iron curtain"); 2) through the system of education (Communist) and application of sanctions ("punitive measures") against those who succumbed to external influences; 3) by creating conditions in which the immediate environment prevented people from falling under external influences. Most of such mechanisms in modern society would not be either applicable or effective. And not all external influences should be seen as destabilizing the socio-political system. In part, due to some of these influences, the system itself becomes more competitive, reflecting on its state and adopting other experiences. But there are destructive influences, which we actually mean when talking about destabilization.

Our proposed conceptual model reflects the logical relationship of the goals and objectives of the subjects and objects of technological interaction, factors affecting political stability in the region, methods and resources that are appropriate to use to achieve such goals and objectives. The conceptual model covers in general terms the existing dependencies, trends, patterns and forms the basis for reaching the empirical level of concrete actions. Application of the model would allow achieving a synergetic effect when different technological methods are used by different actors.

Below we enumerate principal positions on the basis of which the model of technological support was developed.

1. In the situation of external destabilizing influences, the system is able to independently maintain homeostasis, maintain the equilibrium position in the controlled boundaries with small changes, maintain its internal control potential and integrate parts of the system provided there is a developed social immunity against destabilizing influences. External influences will not have a destabilizing effect if they are assessed by the majority of the population as alien, violating the normal development of the social system and its foundations which satisfy the society.

2. This kind of immunity is developed in the conditions of public trust in the system center, approval of its activities, internal cohesion of society, consistent public consciousness and social memory, compliance of the decisions of the system center with public ideas about social justice, decent quality of life, rights and freedoms. Development of immunity against external influences is possible only in the conditions of effective complex activity of institutes ensuring the above conditions.

3. A special condition for the development of social immunity against external destabilizing influences is the presence of constructive opposition within the system itself. Such opposition is important because it periodically makes "social vaccinations" in the form of constructive public criticism. It checks the immune system of the society on the subject of dissatisfaction with the actions of the system center, conflict of values, the actual vectors of socio-political attitudes, willingness to open protests; it tests the system center and the elite on the subject of unity and presence of conflicting interests, the ability to integrate and mobilise public in protecting the integrity and values.

4. The priority role in the formation of social immunity is played by the institutions that create the regulatory framework for the stability of the social system. However, with the development of the information society there are new actors the activities of which take place in the virtual environment. The most important for ensuring stability are mass social networks (actually, these networks are used by the actors of destabilization). Their role is growing along with the growing public attractiveness and importance of the horizontal communication models. The task of the system center in modern conditions is to include significant and influential actors of the virtual environment in the system relations in order to use their potential for the creation of conditions for the development of social immunity against foreign influences.

The conceptual model is intended for the system centers providing integration of the parts of the system and making decisions on the creation of conditions ensuring its integrity, stability and strength, namely, for the authorities creating and providing internal conditions of stability.

We divided the conditions for social immunity into three groups:

1) conditions for the emergence and development of social immunity;

2) conditions supporting social immunity;

3) conditions under which it is possible to test the ability of the social immunity to identify foreign influences and respond to it.

Let's briefly reveal these conditions.

The conditions required for the emergence and development of social immunity that essentially result from socialization. The following features are formed in the process of socialization: 1) values and spiritual foundations shared by the majority of society; 2) social bonds (in the form of social expectations and sanctions); 3) consistent social memory; 4) social relations, the value of which is much higher than the benefits offered by the external actors. The most important institutions that form these conditions are: the family, education system, media and religion. Separately, we will highlight the institutions of political socialization, which include socio-political associations and youth organizations allowing to learn the norms and values of the political system and the culture of political competition inherent in a particular society. However, the immunity will fade without the maintenance of social immunity laid down by the institutions of socialization or without public approval of reactions to external influences. In other words, internal conditions are needed to maintain social immunity.

Here are key conditions necessary for maintaining social immunity:

– the attractiveness of society for its members, manifested in the level and quality of life (satisfying the majority of society), the ability to realize their potential, high evaluation of the fairness of the distribution of benefits and resources;

– existential security, manifested in fear of losing the existing stability; confidence in the present and future, in the absence of threats to life, health, rights, freedoms and the system of generally accepted and reference values and spiritual foundations;

– the ability to influence the process of managerial decision-making, manifested in the availability of political institutions and authorities, for the development of the expert potential of civil society institutions.

It is advisable to direct the activities of political institutions (especially authorities), economic institutions (especially those that distribute economic benefits and resources), institutions of control, supervision and security to the formation of this group of conditions. Of course, mass media play an important role in supporting public opinion.

To understand whether social immunity works, it must be tested periodically. Testing makes it possible to understand limits within which the society allows external influences and the threshold after which they are assessed as destabilizing.

The conditions under which it is possible to test social immunity for its performance are related to the presence of constructive opposition and civil society institutions with high expert potential.

The existence of such conditions depends on the ability of the political opposition to perform its functions (to be the opposition and to offer constructive alternatives to problem solutions) and on the activity of civil society institutions and civil initiatives.

In other words, to ensure social stability, we need a set of internal conditions under which social immunity against foreign influences is formed, maintained and periodically tested. If the complex of the considered conditions is realized, then the system of interdependence of the goal (the desired state of stability), the conditions for the development of the mechanism of social immunity, the mechanism and institutions that ensure its development, maintenance and verification is formed. The proposed model is presented in Fig. 1.

Figure 1

Model of technological support of political stability in the conditions of destabilizing influences


Internal institutional environment

In addition, researchers should answer the question: what mechanisms are included in the formation of social immunity. The answer to this question determines the priorities in the activities of the institutions.

We propose to highlight at least the following significant mechanisms: the mechanism of social memory, social cohesion, existential security, institutional and systemic trust. They provide formation of social immunity and counteraction to destabilizing influences.

The mechanism of social memory is closely connected with the socialization and reproduction of social experience, it develops as a universal basis of social and individual knowledge (definition by J.K. Rebane, given by him in the work "Information and social memory"). The mechanism of social memory not only records the past state of society, but also reproduces the current types and certain aspects of these relations. The action mechanism of social memory is described by B.S. Ilyizarov: "In order to update the retrospective information in one way or another, it is extracted from the long-term memory, transformed and reproduced in the current public consciousness. Each such act of a document publication, each object in any museum, an architectural monument in the streets of a modern city, any "live" broadcasting of memoirs through the modern means of mass communication up to the most sophisticated analytical processing of retrospective information in a scientific research can be seen as an appeal to the "memory" about historic events important for such society. The social memory mechanisms ensure the participation of retrospective information in the formation of the "picture of the world" (in the" worldview") of today people .

The means of information storage (printed, electronic (audiovisual sources of different types (film sources, television and radio)) form the material basis of social memory. This basis is created by the resources of the institutions that systematize and store the generalized collective experience of a particular community.

New institutions are emerging in the virtual environment. And if some of these institutions simply store information (for example, storage bases), others interpret it (for example, in social networks), influencing formation of positions of network participants, forming certain values and worldview and, as a result, socializing them. Virtual network content, "digital traces", social networks, as factors affecting social immunity, should become an independent topic of fundamental research in the present and future. Methods of virtual actors analyses are still being developed and tested, but many scientists still do not know how to use such methods. Meanwhile, network content and virtual influencers pose a major challenge for system centers.

Against this background, it is increasingly difficult to form a consistent social memory, spiritual bonds and values shared by the majority of the population, clear social expectations regarding the behavior of members of the societies, institutions and elites. It is increasingly difficult to apply formal and informal social sanctions that support the reproduction of the social system. In other words, alternative centers of influence and socialization appear in social networks.

Yarskaya-Smirnova E.R. and Yarskaya V.N. consider as mechanisms of cohesion "mechanisms of national and intra-group mobilization, formation of the public sphere on the issues of cohesion, trust and inclusion" and emphasize the importance of "construction, symbolic production of cohesion, in particular, in the discursive space of the media and mass culture" . Undoubtedly, these are the most important tasks and effective methods. However, the content of the discursive space of media and culture ceases to "work" without the support of the real life practice and becomes plausible. Social cohesion is supported by positive public assessments of equal access to basic social and economic benefits, to political institutions, and the effectiveness of mechanisms for the realization of citizens' rights and freedoms. Positive assessments of the above contribute to the development of public trust in the government. In our case, we are talking about institutional trust (trust of citizens in such complex organizational structures as political institutions) and systemic trust (in respect of the whole system and its participants, that is, in respect of public order, economy, culture, etc.).

Both types of trust are formed in a certain atmosphere of collective trust. Therefore, from the point of view of technologies to ensure political stability, it is important to form such state of the society, which Shtompka P. calls "culture of trust" when trust becomes a social rule, a normative rule. The culture of trust is formed as a historical result of the collective experience of positive interaction between the government and society and positive interaction of individual social groups with each other. As a result, the factor of historical heritage plays an important role in the formation of trust in the government and society. The level of public trust can be measured. The results of this measurement suggest the degree of readiness on the part of society to follow the decisions of the system center, to believe its measurements of the degree of alienness of external influences. System trust depends on the need for existential security. It is expressed in the expectation of a clear structural and institutional context of life, the expectation that the system will provide regulatory stability, formulate clear and worthy goals, ensure transparency of political organization, justice, protection of the rights and freedoms of the citizens. Thus, it is a general axiological trust and guardianship type (in terms offered by Shtompka). Under this type of trust, a big role is played by independent institutions, which play the role of defenders of the citizens ' rights (court, arbitration) and authorities, which strictly force the authorities to fulfill their obligations (prosecutor's office, police). If such institutions are effective, citizens feel safe from arbitrariness, abuse of rights, fraud, crime and show general confidence in the system.

In this context, we note the positive role of opposition institutions. It consists in testing social immunity through "social vaccinations" in the form of criticism. The opposition institutions force the institutions of power to pay attention to the painful points, those social problems that can undermine the systemic and institutional trust. In this regard, the lack of constructive opposition does not contribute to, but rather hinders the existence of socio-political stability.

Summing up, it should be noted that social immunity against destabilizing influences is of critical importance for ensuring social and political stability. Social immunity will determine among the many influences those that are destabilizing the society, that are alien and threatening its integrity. The development and efficiency of the mechanism of social immunity are associated with the mechanisms of social memory, social cohesion, existential security, institutional and systemic trust. The internal conditions of life of the society, on the development of which it is advisable to direct the efforts of responsible institutions, are of decisive importance for the maintenance of social immunity and identification of external influences as destabilizing and in assessing the degree of their threat.


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