The Culture of Power in Serbia: Nationalism and the Destruction of Alternatives

The Culture of Power in Serbia: Nationalism and the Destruction of Alternatives

The Culture of Power in Serbia: Nationalism and the Destruction of Alternatives

The Culture of Power in Serbia: Nationalism and the Destruction of Alternatives

Synopsis

How does the regime of Slobodan Milosevic and his Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) remain in power? Since legitimizing its power in 1990, the SPS has never received a majority of votes in an election. Furthermore, it has been defeated in three military conflicts, produced more than 500,000 refugees, presided over the most extreme hyperinflation in modern times, and failed in its original defining promise to see "all Serbs in one state." In The Culture of Power in Serbia, Eric Gordy explores how the Milosevic government prolongs its tenure despite failures and setbacks that would have brought down most other regimes.

Gordy finds the answer in everyday life. The Milosevic regime has largely succeeded in making alternatives to its rule unavailable. By controlling key aspects of daily life, including politics, media, and popular music, it has undermined opposition by closing off alternative voices. The result is an atmosphere in which people feel they have lost control over their private life and cultural environment.

Nevertheless, Gordy finds reason to be optimistic about the long-term prospects for Serbia. The regime's forays into popular music have largely failed, and it has had only partial success in controlling the media, suggesting that the present strategy will not work forever. In Gordy's judgment, the Milosevic regime has a limited future.

The Culture of Power in Serbia provides fresh perspective for readers interested in contemporary Eastern Europe, in the strategies and tactics of authoritarian regimes, in the sociology of everyday life, and in the political potential of culture.

Excerpt

How does the regime of Slobodan Milošević's sps (Socijalistička partija Srbije) remain in power in Serbia? By most measures of predicting the success or failure of regimes in political power, it ought not to have survived as long as it has. Since legitimizing its power as the successor of Serbia's League of Communists in December 1990, it has engaged in three losing military conflicts, produced over 500,000 refugees whose interests it had come to power promising to protect, presided over the hugest hyperinflation in modern times, and turned back on its original dangerous and defining promise to see "all Serbs in one state." Aside from its long list of failures, the party in power has not once received a majority of votes in an election, and each election after 1990 has seen its support declining further.

Conventional answers to the paradox of Milošević's longevity in power involve enthusiastic response to demagogic nationalist rhetoric, war hys-

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