The Myth of Ethnic War: Serbia and Croatia in the 1990s / Edition 1

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Yugoslavia in the late 1980s was, in V. P. Gagnon's view, on the verge of large-scale sociopolitical and economic change. He shows that political and economic elites in Belgrade and Zagreb first created and then manipulated violent conflict along ethnic lines as a way to short-circuit the dynamics of political change. This strategy of violence was thus a means for these threatened elites to demobilize the population. Gagnon's noteworthy and rather controversial argument provides us with a substantially new way of understanding the politics of ethnicity.
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Editorial Reviews

Foreign Affairs
Neither the popular explanation nor the oft-cited theory is right, Gagnon argues. The Balkan wars of the 1990s did not come about because of "ancient ethnic hatreds" or because ruthless elites manufactured crises to mobilize otherwise peacefully co-habiting communities to preserve their own power. Both Croatian and Serbian leaders manufactured crises all right, but it was in order to demobilize forces threatening the status quo with a move toward pluralism and liberalism. Violence, not ethnicity, was the tool, and it was consciously deployed not to exploit but to change popular identities, denying legitimacy to the reform-minded by rendering moribund the "political space" they sought to modify and substituting a harsh, fear-driven alternative. Gagnon challenges some widespread notions about the dangerous linkage between ethnicity and the upsurge of violence in the post-Cold War world, and he does it crisply and with plenty of carefully marshaled data.
From the Publisher

"V. P. Gagnon challenges some widespread notions about the dangerous linkage between ethnicity and the upsurge of violence in the post-Cold War world, and he does it crisply and with plenty of carefully marshaled data."—Foreign Affairs

"Gagnon presents an impressive and very original 'social constructivist' analysis of the recent wars in Bosnia and Croatia. In refuting approaches that assume deeply felt ethnic hatreds, the author contends that Yugoslav elites responded to the end of the Cold War by pursuing strategies that would ensure their hold on power and privilege. . . . This is a must-read for those who want a deeper understanding of the conflict processes in the former Yugoslavia."—Choice

"Beautifully researched and written . . . . This is an excellent volume that makes an important and timely contribution to our understanding of the collapse of Yugoslavia."—International Affairs

"This book is going to make waves for all the right reasons. The argument—the use of nationalism by leaders to demobilize publics, especially those supporting democratic reform—is original and important. Basing his arguments on considerable evidence, V. P. Gagnon invites us to think seriously about demobilization, which is critical in all kinds of political settings, and he challenges the assumption that nationalist leaders invariably have large numbers of nationalist followers."—Valerie Bunce, Aaron Binenkorb Chair of International Studies and Chair of the Government Department, Cornell University

"Although the Dayton accords were signed years ago, the conflict among Serbs, Croats, and Muslims remains one of the central cases for those studying conflict and identity issues. With its inclusion of many primary sources, I believe The Myth of Ethnic War is the best of the social constructivist treatments of the Yugoslav wars and engages the current state of the study of ethnic conflict."—Roger Petersen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"Other books on the subject of the violent breakup of the former Yugoslavia could be described as partial or polemical. V. P. Gagnon adds the crucial dimension of a sustained analysis of the internal political dynamics of nationalism. His powerful argument has important implications well beyond narrow regional studies: contrary to the common view, which depicts nationalism as a euphoria of patriotic ecstasy, Gagnon introduces the productive and suggestive concept of demobilization, by which nationalism operates as a political strategy to empty political space of concrete content and offer license to authoritarian regimes."—Eric Gordy, author of The Culture of Power in Serbia: Nationalism and the Destruction of Alternatives

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801472916
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author

V. P. (Chip) Gagnon, Jr., is Chair of the Department of Politics at Ithaca College.

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Table of Contents

1 The puzzle of the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s 1
2 Image versus reality : misidentifying the causes of violence 31
3 Political conflict in the league of communists of Yugoslavia, 1960s-1989 52
4 Serbia and the strategy of demobilization, 1990-2000 87
5 Croatia and the strategy of demobilization, 1990-2000 131
App A brief overview of the literature 195
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