Nineteenth-century Serbia: So What?
In the nineteenth century, Southeastern Europe turned its orientation from southward-looking to northward-looking. From being culturally peripheral to the Ottoman Empire, the Balkans became culturally peripheral to Europe. The term "peripheral" signals to most readers world system analysis and dependency theory. The former considers the modern history of individual societies explicable only as part of the worldwide system of capitalism that has grown up since the sixteenth century. A small group of core states dominated this system by extracting surplus from a large group of peripheral societies whose social and political characteristics were predicated on their subordinate position in the system. Dependency theory pushes world system theory further by insisting that it is precisely the subordinate role played by the peripheral societies in the capitalist system that prevents them from developing. This "development of underdevelopment" is characterized by the emergence of a class of local economic and political leaders who perceive their own interests more in terms of how they can profit from participation in the system of the core states than in how they can achieve economic development in their own lands, and contrasts with the view of modernization theory, by which development proceeds by a process of diffusion.
From Horst Haselsteiner, ed., Wirtschafts- und Kulturbeziebungen zwiscben dem Donau- und dem Balkanraum seit dem Wiener Kongress ( Graz, Austria: Institut für Geschichte der Universität Graz, Abt. Südosteuropä2ische Geschichte, 1991), pp. 219-231. Originally entitled "Political Development in Nineteenth Century Serbia." Reprinted by permission.