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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2000, Vol. 3 No. 2 .


Experimenting with Democracy: Regime Change in the Balkans
Geoffrey Pridham and Tom Gallagher (eds.)

London: Routledge, 2000
286 pp. Index. Hb.: 55.00; ISBN 0-415-18726-5



This excellent volume tackles the incomplete political transition in Southeastern Europe over the past decade systematically and comprehensively. It combines chapters on theoretical aspects of democratization in the region, including nationalism, political culture, economic transformation and the media. These are supplemented by case studies of (most of) the countries of the Balkans.

Tom Gallagher systematically explores the relationship between nationalism and democracy in this part of Europe (pp. 84-111), which takes into account authoritarian traditions, but pays particular attention to 'nomenclature nationalism'. He demonstrates convincingly the usage of nationalism and ethnic polarization to disguise authoritarian tendencies in several countries of Southeastern Europe (i.e. Serbia and Romania) and their partial abandonment after the policies of ethnic radicalization either spiralled out of control or could no longer harvest sufficient political support. Gallagher's outlook remains pessimistic: without security and some level of prosperity the prominence of malign nationalism is unlikely to decline (p. 108). His exploration of Balkan nationalism and democracy is an interesting and comprehensive piece; however, a stronger emphasis on theoretical approaches to nationalism would have benefited the article. Bianchini fills this gap in his discussion on political culture, which touches on some aspects of nationalism in post-communist Southeastern Europe (pp. 65-83). He emphasizes the importance to distinguish between the self-presentation of nationalist movements, which often appear to be antagonistic to the 'West' but structurally emulate important elements of Western political tradition and serve as "a tool for the organization of support conducted through the media by policy-makers..." (p. 80).

The exploration of the Balkan countries is varying in quality and depth. Unfortunately, Bosnia-Herzegovina is not discussed at all in this volume. Ivan Vejvoda offers an excellent chapter, which covers both Croatia and Yugoslavia. However, more space should have been devoted to both. Subsequently Kosovo and Montenegro receive only passing attention (not even one page each), which is frustratingly little in a volume covering the Balkans. Besides these occasional gaps in covering the region, the most obvious chapter missing in this volume is the role of minorities in the past decade. A comparative analysis would offer some interesting insights not only for understanding of nationalism in the region, but also of democratization (or the failure thereof).

Altogether this book offers a broad and well-researched coverage of recent developments in democratization in the Balkans. While focusing on democratization, nationalism and ethnic conflict plays a prominent role in this volume due to the unfortunate developments in large parts (but not all) of the Balkans.


Florian Bieber, Central European University



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