Brookings Mountain West presents "The Middle Class vs the Creative Class: The Fight for Russia's Future" a talk by Clifford Gaddy, senior fellow, Foreign Policy.
Russia needs to modernize, and to do that it needs a large number of people who in terms of education, motivation, and outlook are the equals of the middle class populations of Western Europe and the rest of the advanced world. There is now a struggle in Russia between two different notions of the middle class. Vladimir Putin wants a middle class with certain virtues such as a willingness to work hard and a desire for stability and predictability. He does not, however, want one that looks to the West as its model or that insists too strongly on the value of individual freedom and dignity. Putin is placing his bets on "his" middle class. Geographically, it will be based outside Moscow, in the cities with large manufacturing plants inherited from the Soviet Union. The social base will be skilled workers, scientists, doctors, and teachers - what in the old Soviet Union was called the "intelligentsia." His target and opponent is the layer of the population that loosely resembles what Richard Florida has termed the "creative class." Putin's dilemma is that success in creating a competitive economy requires a strong and vibrant creative class. The system must respond to the needs and desires of this creative class in order to fully realize its economic potential. But this would threaten Putin's regime.