The Business Dialogue (2003–2006)
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Bakhtin’s ideal was polyphonic, which basically means narratives ‘with equal rights and each with its own world’. In 2006, the co-chairs of the Energy Dialogue’s thematic group on investments declared that the ‘[t]he prospective model of the Russia-EU energy partnership should be based on a wider participation of European capital and companies in the development and the modernization of Russia’s energy sector’. But it was a statement of intent rather than an affirmation of actual reality. In fact, private business participation was severely limited in the Energy Dialogue, on both sides of the table. In Bakhtinian terms, business was denied true authorship of the dialogue’s envisaged energy partnership. In the introduction to the previous chapter I described politics as the governance of subjectivities. Indeed, authorship and authority are closely related. To Bakhtin, authorship was a form of power, which when used well resulted in art, but when used badly resulted in totalitarianism, or monologue. To be sure, neither the EU nor Russia was totalitarian in any way. Bakhtin also denied that real monologue was possible, given the fact that narrative discourse is by definition dialogic (one cannot remove context). Similarly, complete polyphony is equally impossible to achieve. For Bakhtin polyphony was an ideal, rather than a reality. But just as it is possible to impose pluralism through centrifugal (untying) processes, it is equally conceivable to move centripetal (tying) forces to the point where the narratives of certain interest groups are severely curtailed. This is what happened to the voices of EU and Russian business in the Energy Dialogue, albeit for very different reasons.