The State as Investment Market : An Analytical Framework for Interpreting Politics and Bureaucracy in Kyrgyzstan

Abstract: What type of state has emerged in post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan, and what kind of theoretical framework must we develop to understand its behavior and performance? This study argues that the logic of political and bureaucratic organization follows that of an investment market in which public offices are purchased with the expectation of yielding a favorable return. This theory represents a novel perspective on the post-communist state which has hitherto either been premised on modernization theory or emphasized a robustly personalistic logic of political organization.There is a serial of linkages to this argument. First, the decisive factor for public employment is unofficial financial payments rather than merits or personal ties. The sums involved in the exchange are far greater than conventional “bribery.” The market for public offices, intimately connected from top to bottom in the state hierarchy, pertains to a much more unified system than the one found in the literature which treats political and administrative, high and low level corruption as distinct and unrelated forms. Second, individuals invest in public offices in order to convert the rights, assets and powers connected to officialdom into private capital. In this political economy, alternative markets for enrichment are subordinated to the state and poorly functioning. Third, the abundance of pecuniary corruption in Kyrgyzstan is standardized, entrenched and predictable norms of behavior in this type of state. The key to success on this market is the ability to control the supply of “public” goods and services in exchange for unofficial payments.Finally, the risk for systemic instability increases when more reasonably inclusive personal connections and money is no longer sufficient and access to the state for earning and investing is manipulated by narrow personalistic ties. This creates pressure for returning to a more competitive market as opposed to a monopolistic order.