Almost a Paradox: Healthcare, Neoliberalism, and the "Risk Society" in Russian 1992 - 2000

  • Daniel Shtein Ryerson University
Keywords: healthcare, social policy, risk society, neoliberalism, authoritarianism


This paper examines the healthcare situation in Russia during the neoliberal rule of Boris Yeltsin from 1992-2000 using Ulrich Beck's (1992) theory of the "risk society". I explore the privatisation of state-funded healthcare in Russia during that time, along with the corresponding detrimental effects on the population's well-being. It is found that Russian society became politically lethargic as living conditions worsened despite the extreme unpopularity of both healthcare policy and Yeltsin himself, lacking even Beck's expected "solidarity motivated from anxiety" (Beck, 1992, p. 49). Individual risk management possibilities became sought after to the detriment of most other concerns, and Yeltsin was able to remain in power through elections by providing said possibilities despite his poor policymaking. I conclude that the extreme mutual distrust inherent in the risk society helped enable Yeltsin's authoritarian tendencies, and favored neoliberal social policy approaches for their ability to provide increased perceived risk management possibilities.