Liberalism in fragments: oligarchy and the liberal subject in Ukrainian news journalism

Taras Fedirko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article explores the place of liberal subjectivity in the professional culture of Ukrainian journalists to analyse a more general process by which liberal ideas are transferred from contexts of hegemonic liberalism at the core of the global capitalist system, to its postsocialist margins. I outline how certain Anglo- American ideals of good journalistic practice, which encode traits of liberal subjectivity, are borrowed and elaborated by a Western-funded movement for an anti-oligarchic liberal reform of Ukrainian journalism; and examine how these ideals are taken up within oligarch-controlled media, a context that the reformers see as inimical to liberalism. Through an ethnographic portrait of an editor- censor at a major oligarch-owned TV channel in Ukraine, I analyse how she reworks these professional ideals in ways that simultaneously uphold oligarchic patronage, and extend the reach of liberalism in Ukraine. This reveals how in the contradictory force field of global capitalism, both the reformers and those whom they seek to reform, are part of the same actually-existing liberalism. I propose that to better understand cases like this, we need to learn to see liberalism in fragments: as always partial and incomplete, and as constituted by multiple elements.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-489
Number of pages19
JournalSocial Anthropology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jul 2021


  • Journalism
  • Oligarchy
  • Liberalism
  • Liberal subject
  • Ukraine


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