Global (Post)structural Conditions
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Structuralist approaches are gaining prominence in the study of Russian foreign policy, mostly due to their ability to offer a solid comparative perspective on the Russian case. This chapter reviews the existing structuralist literature on the subject and contrasts it with other ways of looking at Russia’s position in Europe and in the world, in particular with mainstream constructivism. It differentiates between historical materialist approaches, which stay true to the classical Marxist precept of determination in the first instance by the economy, and discursive and institutionalist theories, foregrounding institutionally embedded hierarchies and multi-layered hegemonic orders. What all structuralist perspectives share is the emphasis on inequality inherent in the international system. This, in turn, results in conceptualising Russia’s insecurities and its ambiguous identification both with and against the West as resulting from its subaltern, semi-peripheral status in world politics and global economy. Building on these insights, the chapter puts forward the image of Russia as a subaltern empire, positioned in the interstice between two hegemonic orders of unequal scale.