The Lessons of Yugoslavia. (Book Reviews/Comptes Rendus)

By Vratusa, Vera | Canadian Journal of Sociology, Fall 2002 | Go to article overview

The Lessons of Yugoslavia. (Book Reviews/Comptes Rendus)


Vratusa, Vera, Canadian Journal of Sociology


Metta Spencer, ed, The Lessons of Yugoslavia. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science Inc., 2000, 378 pp.

This collection of sixteen papers introduced, resumed and appended by the editor, Metta Spencer, attracts readers attention among other publications attempting to draw lessons from the answer to the question "What killed Yugoslavia?" (3), by the biographical, socio-demographic and theoretico-ideological diversity of authors included in it. The variety of backgrounds of contributing authors, notwithstanding that they "are by no means are presentative sample of the opinions of ex-Yugoslavs" (334), diminishes, but does not exclude, the tendency towards one-sidedness and bias of similar explanatory-educational attempts by single authors.

Papers dealing with specific aspects of the title theme are chronologically ordered in four parts. The first part entitled "Historic and Structural Developments," contains six such contributions. Robert K. Schaeffer concentrates on exacerbation of divisions due to partial character of the democratisation process in Yugoslavia. Mitja Zagar focuses on the inadequate 1974 constitutional regulation of ethnic relations. Dusko Sekulic examines the impact of enclaves on ethnic tolerance. Sonja Licht stresses retarded development of a genuine civil society and insufficient support of "international community" to "islands of civility." Corey Levine explicates the role of premature recognition of seceding republics by international community. Darko Silovic also unravels the foreign factor, especially the "credible threat of force," after stressing the basically internal origin of the war in Yugoslavia.

The second part entitled "Wars in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia" begins with the paper of Margarita Papandreou, underlining the importance of the Western neo-colonial "pipeline politics" among international factors of the war in Yugoslavia. Michel Chossudovsky demonstrates institutionalisation of the recolonising interest of Western powers dominating international financial institutions, through adoption of "Constitution" in Dayton, allowing for takeover of productive assets, extension of markets and stripping Bosnia and Herzegovina of its economic and political sovereignty. David Last tackles the dilemma of military and civilian-based protection of civilians in "safe areas," in circumstances of civil war. Jan Oberg underlined the importance of peacemaking from below through all phases of the conflict transformation process within a network of civil society organisations, since resolution of conflict and real peace can be attained neither through self-serving non-governmental organisations imitating government s nor through violent military occupation. Done Wilsnack also criticises instances of self-interested motives, ideological and strategic limitations of international NGOs' intervention in Yugoslavia, and praises instances of good reconstruction projects.

The third part entitled "After the Breakup and Dayton" contains just two papers. Timothy Donais displays how the elections held in the circumstances of unsettled conflict over unity or partition of Bosnia and Herzegovina which started the war in the first place, contributed to further division of this already deeply riven state. Milica Z. Bookman portrays lowering of the level of the women's protection and participation in the economy as important casualty of the Yugoslavia's breakup.

The fourth part of the collection "Kosovo: The Post-war War" was added to 1997 Science for Peace Conference contributions, after escalation of the conflict in it. Srecko Mihajlovic borrows the pendulum metaphor to describe the shifts of local ethnic and foreign occupying agents of domination in this Province through centuries, breeding ethnic isolation and inter-ethnic hatred more often than coexistence. Kenneth Simons points out that community unifying strategy of non-violent resistance and non-cooperation of the majority Albanian population with the officials and security forces of the Republic of Serbia, remains inflexible since it does not leave a place for dialogue with local minorities and their protection from terrorisation after the unconvincing disarnament of KLA. …

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