Serbia since 1989: Politics and Society under Milosevic and After

Article excerpt

Sabrina Ramet and Vjeran Pavlakovic, eds. Serbia since 1989: Politics and Society Under Milosevic and After. Jackson School Publications in International Studies. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2005. xii+440. Glossary. Index. Cloth.

It is difficult to do justice to such a superbly edited and carefully conceived book as Serbia since 1989. Despite the considerable literature on the Yugoslav break0up, few authors have managed to capture so consistently and with such attention to detail the political mood and social dynamics of Serbia as the contributors to this collection. The volume makes it explicit at the outset that the study of Serbia is in many ways intriguing because of its nearly quintessential feature of a state in constant flux. At least since the end of the Cold War, Serbia seems to provide evidence for a fairly consistent pattern of oscillation between authoritarianism and democracy, ethno-nationalism and political reform, past and future. In this respect, the fifteen essays in Serbia since 1989 address the issue of the seeming permanence of this vacillation.

The contributors tend to agree that it was the existence of these disparate energies that allowed Slobodan Milosevic to harness and mobilize popular support through his discursive strategies for a "Greater Serbia," which seemed to capture the imagination of society at large. In particular, it is the manipulation of myth and reality, desire and ability, which Vjeran Pavlakovic credits as the engine of Milosevic's "anti-bureaucratic revolution" (p. 13). At the same time, he points out that the "bulldozer revolution" (p. 47) of October 2000 failed to alter significantly the character of Serbian politics. In effect, as Obrad Kesic suggests, Serbia after Milosevic is best described as "an airplane with eighteen pilots" (p. 95). This metaphor refers not only to the endemic conflict between the different opposition leaders, but also their pervasive mediocrity as decision-makers who have failed to tackle issues of democratization and systemic change.

Other contributors ascertain that many of the political dilemmas confronting the consolidation of post-authoritarian politics in Serbia stem from strong cultural and psychological undercurrents. …