Hunger and Fury: The Crisis of Democracy in the Balkans

Hunger and Fury: The Crisis of Democracy in the Balkans

Wednesday, 24 January 2018 - 5:00pm
Seminar Room, European Studies Centre, 70 Woodstock Road, Oxford OX2 6HR
Jasmin Mujanović (EastWest Institute)
Adis Merdzanovic (St Antony’s College, Oxford)
Othon Anastasakis, David Madden, Jonathan Scheele (St Antony's College, Oxford)
Danijela Dolenec (University of Zagreb)

Seminar Series: Key issues and developments in South East Europe

Our Hilary 2018 SEESOX seminar series on South East Europe looks at regional developments from a thematic, interdisciplinary and cross-country perspectives and touches upon issues which are at the forefront of the region’s current affairs. We look at South East Europe from international politics, political economy, and/or societal perspectives, by engaging with a selection of topics ranging from the challenges to democracy and free speech, to geopolitics, energy, migration and European integration.

Co-Convenors: Othon Anastasakis, David Madden, Jonathan Scheele (St Antony’s College)

In his book Hunger and Fury Jasmin Mujanović contends that the parliamentary regimes of southeastern Europe are in crisis. The process of Euro-Atlantic integration (i.e. EU and NATO membership) has not significantly altered the structural dimensions of the region’s prevailing political and economic dynamics. Politically, the post-Yugoslav Balkan elite are still a band of oligarchs. Their economic policies remain rooted in clientalism, corruption, and dispossession: a system that has elsewhere been referred to as “kleptocracy.” The coercive power of the state is still the primary means of accumulation for Balkan elites, allowing them to continue to govern as warlords even in an era of peace. Since 2012, however, in reaction to both to the bankruptcy of Western democratization efforts and the retreat of local elites from even nominal commitments to accountable and responsive democratic governance, a wave of new grassroots social movements – from Slovenia to Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) to Macedonia – has dramatically realigned politics in the former Yugoslavia. In their wake the essential cleavage of contemporary Balkan politics has become the determined attempt by insurgent mass movements to topple the entrenched, oligarchic elites of the region, who alone in the sea of former communist regimes in Europe successfully navigated the collapse of the Cold War order without ever actually losing power.   

Danijela Dolenec will discuss Mujanović theses, but also give an insight into her own project on 'Disobedient Democracies', a comparative research project exploring how protest politics advances democracy. Motivated by citizens' detachment from the institutions of representative democracy, the project brings new perspectives on the ways in which citizens can reclaim democratic politics. By gathering and analysing data on protests and social movements in four countries of the European semi-periphery (Portugal, Spain, Croatia, Serbia), the aim is to further our understanding of the phenomenon of disobedience.

Jasmin Mujanović is a political scientist (PhD, York University) specializing in the politics of post-authoritarian and post-conflict democratization. His first book Hunger and Fury: The Crisis of Democracy in the Balkans (Hurst Publishers & Oxford University Press) examines the persistence of illiberal forms of governance in the Western Balkans since the end of the Yugoslav Wars. His publications also include peer-reviewed articles in top-flight academic journals, chapters in numerous edited volumes, policy reports for Freedom House, the European Council on Foreign Relations, and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, as well as popular analyses in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, Al Jazeera, openDemocracy, and a host of other media. He has a prominent social media presence and has made appearances for international television and radio programs on Al Jazeera, CBC Radio, Huffington Post Live, Voice of America, as well as numerous Balkan media outlets. Originally from Sarajevo, he is currently a Fellow at the EastWest Institute and a policy consultant for the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung – Dialogue Southeast Europe office.

Danijela Dolenec (PhD, ETH Zurich) is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Zagreb, where she teaches comparative politics, protest movements and social science methodology. Her research interests are in comparative politics, comparative political economy and European studies. More specifically, her work focuses on analysing the changing contours of political conflict in Europe in the context of the crisis of representative democracy and the recent rise of the Right. Danijela is currently leading the research project Disobedient Democracy, analysing contentious politics in the European periphery with the aim of exploring  ways in which citizens reclaim democratic policies. Some of her most recent work came out in East European Politics and Societies, Europe Asia Studies and the Review of Radical Political Economics, while her first book, Democratic Institutions and Authoritarian Rule in Southeast Europe (ECPR Press), received the National Science Award in 2013.