Illiberalism and post-ideology party politics in South East Europe

Illiberalism and post-ideology party politics in South East Europe

Wednesday, 8 March 2017 - 5:00pm
Seminar Room, European Studies Centre, 70 Woodstock Road, Oxford OX2 6HR
Othon Anastasakis (St Antony’s College, Oxford)
Adis Merdzanovic (St Antony’s College, Oxford)
Nancy Bermeo (Nuffield College, Oxford)
Othon Anastasakis (St Antony’s College, Oxford); Adis Merdzanovic (St Antony’s College, Oxford)

SEESOX Seminar Series
The rise of illiberalism in South East Europe
The current European crises appear to have facilitated the (re-)emergence of illiberalism as a viable alternative for political elites, both within the European Union and on its periphery. Arguably, this effect has been greater in transition countries that found their path towards liberal democracy disrupted, as well as in countries that already face internal challenges in terms of their legal, political, social, or economic environments. The seminar series will look at the conditions that allow illiberal ideas to infiltrate and illiberal practices to develop; how such ideas are expressed and instrumentalised in different fields of social interaction; their impact on politics and economics; and, finally, what, if any, counter-reactions they have produced. Are these temporary setbacks caused by the crises, or a frustration with the European Union and certain of its policies? Or are we witnessing a profound and longer-lasting challenge to the primacy of the liberal democratic model?

This concluding seminar of the seminar series on the rise of illiberalism in South East Europe will explore the connection between illiberalism and the phenomenon of post-ideology party politics, which we may observe in many countries in the region. Adis Merdzanovic will show how the process of the Western Balkans’ European Union integration removed from contestation many political issues and policy choices by presenting them in an apolitical, technocratic and hence necessary manner. This ‘policy of depolitisation’ structured the political space in a particular, post-ideological way paving the way not only for the emergence of strong leadership within political elites but also for the well-known phenomenon of state capture. Against this background, Othon Anastasakis will focus on the developments within centre-left political parties in the Balkans and discuss the ambivalent and ill-defined ideological nature of their structures and policies.  Post-ideological social democratic party politics in the Balkans can be understood in the context of three major changes: first, their transition and reform from communism; second,  the particularistic, personalised and clientelistic nature of the party system; and, third, the wider “balkanisation” of social democratic politics in the current crisis-ridden European environment.

Dr Othon Anastasakis is the Director of South East European Studies at Oxford (SEESOX) and Senior Research Fellow at St Antony’s College. He is also an Adjunct Professor at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. He teaches South East European politics and EU politics in Oxford. He received his BA in Economics from the University of Athens, his MA in Comparative Politics and International Relations from Columbia University, New York and his PhD in Comparative Government from the London School of Economics. His most recent books include Balkan Legacies Of The Great War: The Past Is Never Dead (with David Madden and Elizabeth Roberts, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016); Defining A New Reform Agenda: Paths To Sustainable Convergence In South East Europe (with Peter Sanfey and Max Watson, SEESOX, 2013); Reforming Greece: Sisyphean Task Or Herculean Challenge? (with Dorian Singh, SEESOX 2012);  In The Shadow Of Europe: Greeks And Turks In The Era Of Post-Nationalism (with Kalypso Nicolaidis and Kerem Oktem, Brill, 2009); Greece In The Balkans: Memory, Conflict And Exchange (with Dimitar Bechev and Nicholas Vrousalis, Cambridge Scholars Press, 2009). He is the Principal Investigator of the SEESOX Greek Diaspora Project.

Dr Adis Merdzanovic is a postdoctoral Junior Research Fellow at South East European Studies at Oxford (SEESOX) at the European Studies Centre of St Antony’s College, University of Oxford. He obtained his PhD in political science from the University of Zurich and was previously a Swiss Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington, D.C. His research focuses on democratisation of divided post-conflict societies with a particular emphasis on political and constitutional orders in the Western Balkans. His current project, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, investigates challenges of liberalism in the Western Balkans in light of the region’s European Union membership perspective. Recently, he published his monograph Democracy by Decree: Prospects and Limits of Imposed Consociational Democracy in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Ibidem, 2015).