Societal Determination of Professional Identity in Russian Society
Ludmila Klimenko1 and Oxana Posukhova2*
1International business, Southern Federal University, Rostov-on-Don, Russia
2Regional studies and Eurasian studies, Southern Federal University, Rostov-on-Don, Russia
- *Corresponding Author:
- Oxana Posukhova
PhD in Sociological Sciences
Regional Studies and Eurasian Studies
Received Date: Jan 09, 2017; Accepted Date: Jan 15, 2017; Published Date: Jan 19, 2017
Copyright: © 2017 Klimenko L, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License,
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The aim of the article is to study the integrative and disintegrative nature of professional identity under institutional changes in Russian society. The methodological base of the research involves concepts of “societal effect” and “precarization”, which bring professional identity analysis from the level of professional identification, social and group interaction in professional circle to the level of macro-social analysis. In societies with established labor culture and values of professional excellence, with a stable status configuration in professional groups, professional identity is a priority to the social well-being. Vague criteria of stratification, unstable labor relations, “off-the-books” exercise of profession and other manifestations of crisis in economic and social development in modern Russia deform professional identity and decrease its potential integration. The practical relevance of the research consists is in secondary analysis of Russian empirical studies that allow to diagnose professional identity under Russian precarization at the macro level. The paper provides a conclusion that professional identity among Russian working class becomes diffuse, unstable, with reducing impact of incentives providing its dynamism – mindset on professional activity, profes
Precarization of labor relations; Professional identity; Societal
The precarization of labor relations in the world negatively
affected modern conditions of Russian society development.
Precarizated work associated with uncertainty and insecurity
in socio-economic relations, unhealthy competition, flexibility
of labor relations, different social classes of workers etc.
deforms professional identity and decreases its potential integration. The purpose of this article is to study the
integrative and disintegrative nature of professional identity
under institutional changes in Russian society.
In the social sciences, professional identity is most often
considered at the level of professional identification, social and
group interaction in professional circle. At the same time,
professional identity has a macro-social determination, which
is especially important in the context of deforming social and
labor relations in the modern world. In stable economic
(balanced labor market, fixed labor rights, long-term
guarantee) and social (strong system of values and social
relations) conditions, professional identity performs
integrative functions with respect to the entire social system,
developing current social structure and patterns of socio-labor
relationship. In turn, the dynamic changes of social class
within professional groups, in the principles of work
organization directly affect the living circumstances of workers,
their identity and social behavior patterns. This entails societal
transformation, which can destabilize the social system under
Therefore, the relevance of the topic is determined by
deformation trends of social and labor relations in the world
and their edgy occurrence in modern Russian society. Russia
has recently experienced a break-up of social structure and
social stratification systems that form the basis of societal
reproduction. These macro-social changes are accompanied by
a destruction of previously established principles of social and
labor relations, reasons for profession’s stature and
mechanisms of professional identity formation. According to
Zaslavskaya, member of the Academy of Sciences, there
occurred a degradation of the institutional system in post-
Soviet Russia, as well as the imbalance of social structure ,
which led to a long-term disintegration effect in society that
has not been overcome to date. Series of economic crises of
2008-2009 and 2014-2015 in Russia even more deepened the
social contradictions in society. Therefore, it is urgent to
preserve the societal integrity and stability of society,
strengthen solidarity backgrounds and relations. The article
provides an attempt to study the societal functions of
professional identity under crisis of social and labor relations
in Russian society.
Professional identity in the context of sociohistorical
development of society
The nature of professional identity, including personal
visions of objectives and motives of professional activity and
self-knowledge, depends on social, historical and sociocultural
context. The phenomenon of social identity with a particular
community or group of people, in fact, occurs in destruction of
life hoods, where the need for self-determination in the
system of social relationships is not revealed and where there
is a natural division of labor. Formation of industrial societies
radically transforms the living circumstances and identifies the
need for correlation of the individual with a new multi-class
and dynamic social structure and with new organizational
forms of labor relations.
In this regard, some researchers distinguish the concepts of
professional identity and labor identity, while the latter is
determined by personal relatedness to a particular historical
form of labor. This idea can be developed and we could argue
that labor identity is correlated with the class structure in
industrial society. The classes, unlike the social “stratums”,
display the unequal access to power resources and economic
power (capital). In these circumstances, personality visions
about his or her role in industrial relations, his or her place in
society and the system of social relations are determined by
the labor the person occupies (mechanical work, assembly
line, automated production) and how his or her work is
On the other hand, professional identity rises in the postindustrial
society, when rigid social structure with a stable
configuration of main social classes in society is replaced by
the mobile socio-professional system of social stratification. In
terms of numerical domination of middle class in developed
societies, social structure differentiation shifts to values and
lifestyles, as well as to substantive nature of work determined
by professional’s background.
In the advanced stage of industrial development, there are
dominating corporate or organizational identity  – an
employee connects his or her professional fate with service,
usually in a large corporation (full-time wage labor). This
nature of professional identity is associated with a particular
type of social fair trade with the organization and its interests
in the center. Institutional loyalty is rewarded by "corporate
paternalism". Most often, the achievement of uniform
corporate standards means hackwork. This corresponds to the
model of continuous production.
In post-industrial society, employment structure and nature
of labor relations are fundamentally changing. The important
factor remains to be not only the name of employer, but also
the kind of labor, which is becoming more qualified. The
individualization and customization of labor relations step
forward the hackwork and corporatism, reflecting in
professional identity. With the development of Internet,
wireless communications equipment, cloud services etc. the principles of business and labor organizations are changing
radically. At present, millions of American and European
citizens "refuse one of the long-term results of industrial
revolution – permanent jobs – and create new forms of
employment. They become independent white collar workers,
home-based businessmen (...) freelances and "e-Lancers",
independent contractors and professionals ... » .
Scientists conceptualize the new type of employment
through the concept of free agents (Pink) or network
employees  with a specific professional identity not
matching the specific labor organization and even with
particular area of professional activity. Russian theorists
distinguish a number of identity features inherent in postindustrial
workers, which include creativity, professionalism,
self-dependence, creativity etc.
We should also point out a group of theories that cover a
numerous class of people without any permanent job and a
stable workplace. This group, named as precariat, has an
unsatisfactory level of social and legal protection [5,6]. In ever
increasing frequency this category covers people with a
relatively high level of education that are forced to accept jobs
below their qualifications by status or income. In addition,
precariat can present itself in society as a group of people
voluntarily refused professional activity since it is not a value
for them. Hardt and Negri write that on the post-industrial
stage of social development precarization affects not only the
world of work, but also the entire system of social relations,
changing the traditional structure of society in developed and
developing countries . Thus, precariat is inherent insecurity
of employment, income instability, uncertainty about the
future and the lack of long-life strategies that problematize
professional development in the context of creative and
socially useful activity.
Hence, we can argue that the professional identity and its
function in society are transformed in social and labor
relations’ development, the nature of which is determined by
the dominant production model (Taylorist/Fordist system,
"ideology of the new global capitalism") and by the type of
social life organization (industrial, post-industrial/ information/
Societal Effects of Professional
In modern literature, the concept of “societal effect” is most
often used to describe the processes, structures and
mechanisms that ensure society integration and integrity at
the macro level. According to N.I. Lapin, societal sphere
provides "the balanced satisfaction of agents’ conflicting
needs, values and interests of the system" . In terms of
socio-economic inequality and socio-cultural development of
society, societal processes carry out the dynamic balance in
Lokvuda and Giddensa have formulated conceptual ideas,
according to which societal integrity of society is on two levels
of integration – at the level of institutional structures and at the level of intergroup and interpersonal interactions [9,10]. In
addition, Giddens refers to different mechanisms of
institutional integration formation – Parsons idea of selfregulating
systems and conceptualized statement on purposebased
regulation of societal spheres. In this context,
professional identity can be considered as both the
mechanism and the result of socio-professional structure
formation and reproduction. The social system stability in
terms of maintaining a balanced socio-professional structure
requires efforts aimed at social fair trade formation, increasing
value of skilled labor, models’ promotion of social success in
professional career. It is also important to present a model of
professionalism in specific industries and occupations.
Therefore, one can say that socio-professional structure
development and its set of values, behavior patterns and
identity matrices, provide the organizational integration of
Professional identity is socially constructed in nature; it
refers to societality and compete in priority for an individual
with a primordial identification systems. The intensity of
professional identity depends on status marker disposition,
prestige, profession advantages in paying and personality off
base. In societies with established labor culture and values of
professional excellence, with a stable status configuration in
professional groups, professional identity is a priority to social
well-being. Vague criteria of stratification, unstable labor
relations, “off-the-books” exercise of profession and other
manifestations of crisis in economic and social development in
modern Russia deform professional identity and decrease its
Professional Identity in Post-Soviet
Russia: Resource of Market Economy
or Sense Feathering
In modern Russian society, there was a loss of traditional
labor identity, which has been associated with allegiance to
particular social class of Soviet society, characterized by
productive skills and abilities, employment in the primary
social and labor sphere. The social structure restructuring
caused the downward mobility of entire socio-professional
“stratums” (teachers, doctors, scientists – middle class). This
caused a crisis of professional identity among these groups.
The Soviet type identification structures with clearly defined
intersections of personal and group interests were displaced
by new structures of group solidarity, which are characterized
by instability, ambivalence, different meaning of social entity.
In the post-Perestroika Russia, there was a so-called
"Revolution of claims" associated with indicators’ shift if social
fulfillment from awareness of sweat equity and labor
motivation to high incomes, social independence and prestige
(particularly among the young) . Public professionalism
values are no longer social resource. In terms of property and
social inequality, wage level serves as the main indicator of
professional status. Changing manner of labor behavior
regulation was largely due to market orientations added in
post-Soviet system of values – desire to earn well and to be well settled in life. This nature of professional identity can be
defined as "market".
Focusing on a new "market" professional identity is
associated now with active adaptation strategies, the desire to
have a concurrent professional mobility. Research on
orientations of modern young Russians indicates that a special
value for them is the opportunity to do their thing (achieving
this objective desire almost 98% of respondents) . At the
same time, 76% of respondents expects to achieve success in
life and material sufficiency . It can be assumed that the
favorite thing includes the possibility of success in life, which
correlates with the choice of "market" professions by young
people (lawyers, financiers, economists). In the course of
professional self-determination, the vast majority of Russians
of all generations paid the most attention to the wage level
(85%) . If social reality reveals an incompatibility with
projective orientations and expectations, there are selfprotection
mechanisms set in motion, as well as mechanisms
of active adaptation, focus on good earnings, regardless of the
feeling of professionalism and professional.
Thus, the identity as allegiance to a certain socioprofessional
group is shifted to indicate demonstrative effect
of power, wealth and prestige. Under these conditions,
satisfaction of profession is often not correlated with work
satisfaction. A hackwork that takes all the fun out of
professional activity is balanced by corporate leisure,
communication with colleagues, mainstream in "fashionable"
social initiatives. From this point of view, professional identity
becomes possible as a corporate societality, regulated system
of mutual social commitment subordination, voluntary
discipline. Professional identity is formed mainly by borrowing,
transfer of foreign corporate patterns and standards. In the
first turn, from business structures with high reputational
capital. Wherein, a person understands the approved patterns
adapted to particular professional environment as a way of
structuring own actions.
Russian sociologists note that the survival problem, raised in
a deep crisis, immediately provides the lower informal level of
adaptation to market requirements. There are formed
employment strategies driving the informal networks,
exchange transactions involving the rejection of qualification.
In this regard, it must be noted that, despite the new
professional identity in innovative sectors of economy, there is
a decline in employment associated with intellectual highly
qualified activity conflicting with the idea of "permanent
modernization" of Russian society.
At the same time, many important socio-professional groups
(teachers, doctors, scientists-middle class) have lost the value
and point of group solidarity, ending in the zone of negative
professional identity for a long time. In particular, the Russian
scientists determine engineering workforce depletion,
deceased orientations on public service, the weakening
commitment to professional ethics, the lack of perception of
one’s own professional group as the reference group .
Although it is now possible to capture the trend of gradual
increase of the social status of teachers, military personnel,
doctors in the Russian society, the labor collective has not become for many Russians a space to realize social ambitions
and a sense of affiliation. Moreover, allegiance to a certain
socio-professional group is not associated with the group
commitment, with group call.
As a result, personal professional identity and determination
of group solidarity configuration transforms professionalism
into ground of success, career and money. On the one hand,
competitiveness and corporativity of the new professional
identity promote market values’ reproduction in Russian
society. On the other hand, establishment of professional
identity as demonstrative, containing possibilities of social
redefinition may indicate ambivalence of professional identity,
its trend to traditional labor values, criteria of professional
skills, standards of socio-professional relationships.
Professional identity of major Russians can be characterized as
unstable with orientations on self-sufficiency and
independence, and at the same time, with low potential of
Precarization of Labor Relations in
Modern Russia and Professional
Precarization of social and labor relations is a world
problem. According to OECD experts, more than half of the
economically active population of the world, that is 1.8 billion
people, is working without contracts and without social and
labor guarantees . Currently in Germany, about a fifth of all
employees are working in precariousness; in France, the
Netherlands and Greece - about a quarter of working
population (according to 2010) . The materialization of
uncertainty, unpredictability and risk characterize American
labor in a greater extant . Employment structure
deformation was in Japan, South Korea, where under unstable
employment conditions work from 40% to 50% of employees
Many researchers have noted that in modern Russian, there
is precarization of labor relations- large groups of employees,
constantly in episodic job, involved in shadow markets and
have disadvantaged social status [19-21]. Series of economic
crises (2008-2009, 2014-2015) have unbalanced relationships
between employees and employers, which entailed job cuts
(8.1 million jobs from 1991 to 2015) 1, worsen situation in
compliance with social and labor rights, increasing workload
without any increase of wages. Only about a third of the
working population of Russia see the situation as good .
Especially negative effect this trend had on qualified young
people in large cities .
Precarization of labor relations along with the instability and
deprofessionalization creates new risks of social inequalities . On the one hand, one can witness formation of the
professional elite, demonstrating that they are The Chosen
One by society. On the other hand, there are people doing just
something, whose professional identity is not a worthwhile
goal due to the permanent search for changing forms of
activity, which is an unreliability risk. In addition, the question
of their mortal living would naturally arise…2 However, not
only low-skilled workers are in non-guaranteed employment
area, but also a lot of professionals and people with high levels
of education. In favorable socio-economic conditions,
professional skills are guarantee of professional status, as well
as accurate portrayal of a professional, demand for
competencies and skills. However, the risk of becoming
unemployed creates the phenomena of fluctuating
unemployment or involuntary unemployment entailing
deprofessionalisation of a person, his or her demoralization3.
The youth integration (especially university graduates) in
Russian society occurs not in a professional differentiation
manner or internalized professional standards. Therefore, the
youth consider professional identity not to contain specific
ways for societality. The majority of young people, who face
precarization, are forced to act independently – they do not
form a stable professional group focusing on their own
capabilities, which are usually limited and based on desire for
In this context, the prospects of professional identity to
reach the level of metamotivation can be criticized (by
Parsons’s terminology) . Apparently, it more likely that
motives are under aggregation, because, according to
sociological studies, Russians consider professional identity as
an instrumental resource in comparison to other types of
group identities. They are not focused on the recognition of
professional identity as the main form of self-determination.
The majority of the population identify primordial groups of
everyday communication as their priority (family, friends,
community), whereby there is a hierarchy of personal interests
Eventually, in terms of 30-40% of fluctuating unemployment
, it is difficult to expect the reference of professional
identity. In this situation, not the personality identification in
professional community is prior, bur the awareness of relative
social deprivation and competition in the access to material
values. Behavioral patterns are associated mostly with balance
disadvantage of social risks, especially with the threat of
downward social mobility. In this respect, there is a risk of
disintegration on a group level, as well as the negative identity
in the form of self-protection, self-help dos not require social
bounds, collective self-determination at the professional level,
except for social commitment. In a society at the grassroots
level is reduced willingness to connect not only to the universal social order, but also to the particular normative
defined by the specific field of professional activity.
We consider the problem of professional identity in modern
Russia in the macro-social context of sustainability in socioeconomic
development, social inequalities’ elimination,
assessment of prospects of Russian middle class. Therefore,
the scientific value of the study is in the substantiation of
societal effect of positive professional identity among general
population – professional identity introduction in the structure
of dispositional personality orientations and intensification of
professional socialization increases integrative potential of
society and opens the door to its permanent modernization.
The practical relevance of the research consists is in
secondary analysis of Russian empirical studies that allow to
diagnose professional identity in the context of Russian
precarization. We concluded that in changing social and labor
relations and in changing criteria for symbolic indication in the
post-Soviet Russia, professional identity becomes with
reducing impact of incentives providing its dynamism –
mindset on professional activity, professional growth,
acquisition of new skills and knowledge. We have to admit
that, despite new identities in innovative sectors of economy,
professional identification matrix does not acquire a universal
character, but it is deformed under precarization and
decreased attractiveness of professionalism.
Thus, we can conclude that the professional identity in
Russian society is not a meta-motivation, a strong socially
balancing and socio-orienting form of self-determination,
which carries reproductive and stabilizing function in society.
Moreover, it is necessary to pay close attention to the
potential of social tensions and dysfunctional effects
associated with large differences in carrying out professional
roles and depressing professional identity. This is the reason
why the research team develop empirical research aimed at
studying the strategy-making experience for professional
fulfillment in correlation with settlement types and urban
saturation, socio-economic and socio-cultural stratifies in the
region, as well as with professional area (education, business,
public service, law enforcement agencies). Such an analysis
will allow comprehensively evaluating the constitutive and
destructive effects of professional identity under institutional
changes in the world of work and precarization of Russian
This article was financially supported by the grant of the
Russian Science Foundation № 16-18-10306
1Dynamics of the overall decline in employment in Russian economy – from 73,8 million jobs in 1991 to 64,7 million jobs in 2015.
2"....when we have shuffled off this mortal coil must give us pause..."
3They are taken depression, have breaking mind and morals ..., thereby they are left to wander the desert only with a kettle.
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