Wikipedia defines paternalism (from the Latin pater – father) as behavior by a state, which limits some person or group’s liberty or autonomy for that person’s or group’s own good.
In turn paternalism in regard to a state should be regarded as a form of rational adaptation of a person to almighty and uncontrolled power. When nothing depends on a person, he adopts this natural, normal and perfectly rational setup: there is no point in fussing, let the state take care of all my concerns now and in future.
Let us site historian V. Buldakov: “It is useless to discuss “advantages” or “disadvantages” of paternalistic system, because it is just a product of history like any other system. But one shouldn’t forget that it deprives people of the only quality that makes a man a man – the ability to rely on his proper forces and mind”.
Formally the share of Belarusians advocating the strengthening of state’s role in social life doesn’t attain 50% (Table 1). It is natural, that paternalistic state setups are more popular in peripheral social groups (senior people, people with low education level, people living in small towns and rural areas), which constitute the main part of A. Lukashenko’s supporters. Thus the triple predominance of “batka’s” supporters over his opponents in the first variant of answer.
Table 1. Distribution of answers to the question: “Some people by fundamental changes in internal and external policies of Belarus mean a strengthening of state’s role in social life, others on the contrary mean a diminution of this role. What do you mean by this?” depending on the attitude to A. Lukashenko, %
Variant of answer
All respondents
Attitude to A. Lukashenko
Don’t trust
The state should strengthen its role in society and give more support to its citizens
The state should diminish its role in society and let people act more freely
As a rule, a person depending on the state is dissatisfied. That is why paternalistic expectations from the masses are habitually accompanied by massive dissatisfaction by the state, its officials and services.
Level of trust to market institutions is quite low, and demands to the state were and are paternalistic. These demands are grounded on an idea of “nationalization” of all social secondary distribution.
A. Lukashenko perfectly understands these demands from below and constantly tries to satisfy them with corresponding public statements. The last of these statements was made on the 30th of December during the introduction of P. Kallaur as Chairman of the Board of the National Bank: “Banks should stop sheeting fat profits. Of course, our bankers do not live as large as their counterparts in the neighboring states. However, the banking industry posts much bigger profits compared to other economic sectors in Belarus. There should not be such a gap. The banking sector does not produce assets, it just services the real economy”.
In December 2014 the share of Belarusians considering that the state mostly or completely doesn’t accomplish its obligations to citizens dropped by 6 points in comparison with March 2012 (graph 1). The reason for this decrease should be seen in Anomaly 2014, repeatedly mentioned above.
It is natural that a dissatisfied person evaluates the degree of his responsibility to the state differently (graph 2). The sum of negative evaluations of the state’s accomplishments amounted to 29.4% in December, while the sum of negative evaluations of citizens’ accomplishments amounted only to 7%.
But this dissatisfaction cannot generate social protest, because state paternalism undermines possibilities of citizens’ cooperation. It strengthens mutual distrust in society, because various social groups fight with the state and with one another not for the purpose of providing freedom, equality of possibilities and justice, but for the purpose of having more privileges and a bigger piece of state’s cake.
Paternalistic system is designed for the servile personality type; all other types are labeled as rioters. Events in Ukraine gave state propaganda a possibility to “paint the images” of democratic chaos and to counterpose them against stability in a strong state.
Taking into account the structure of Belarusian society, it is not difficult to predict the perception of this counterposition. Its result is documented in Table 2. There is nothing surprising in the 4-fold predominance of the share of people who agreed with A. Lukashenko’s statement.
Table 2. Distribution of answers to the question: “Recently President A. Lukashenko stated that “In the post-Soviet countries people are fed up with democracy. Now, on the contrary, there is a process going on in which people are more supportive of the concept of a strong state, which will not allow chaos, even more so a civil war, especially after the events in Ukraine”. Do you agree with this?” depending on the attitude to A. Lukashenko, %
Variant of answer
All respondents
Attitude to A. Lukashenko
Don’ trust
In 2015 signs of crisis in Belarusian economy will be more and more apparent, and this will make paternalistic state diminish the volume of social obligations. Under these circumstances it should be expected that citizens would demand the state to provide justice (to overcome crisis not “at the expense of people”, but “at the expense of rich banks and businesses” and so on).