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Slobodan Milosevic and the Fire of Nationalism

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  • Ronald Wintrobe

Abstract

This paper is an economist’s attempt to understand the behaviour of dictators with special reference to the Milosevic regime in Serbia. The author focuses on nationalism, ethnic cleansing and war, especially the most recent war with NATO. The basic argument is simple. First, like any dictator, Milosevic needed support in order to survive in office. His provocative and warlike actions towards other groups are best understood, not as the latest round in a centuries-old tradition of ethnic fighting, but as the attempt of a competitive politician to survive in a situation where the old basis of power had collapsed. Second, in attempting to survive the wave of democratization that swept Eastern Europe after 1989, Milosevic played a wild card—the nationalist card. Nationalism can be wild because, under some circumstances, it is contagious. Especially when combined with the security dilemma, it can spread uncontrollably. Ethnic cleansing and war are seen in this light as neither deliberate, coldly planned strategies of brutal repression, nor the results of complete miscalculation, but the results of a process in which the leadership of the regime was reacting to events which it may have set in motion, but did not entirely control.

Suggested Citation

  • Ronald Wintrobe, 2002. "Slobodan Milosevic and the Fire of Nationalism," World Economics, World Economics, 1 Ivory Square, Plantation Wharf, London, United Kingdom, SW11 3UE, vol. 3(3), pages 1-26, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:wej:wldecn:107
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Akerlof, George A, 1991. "Procrastination and Obedience," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(2), pages 1-19, May.
    2. Albert Breton & Gianluigi Galeotti & Pierre Salmon & Ronald Wintrobe, 1995. "Nationalism and Rationality," Post-Print hal-00445587, HAL.
    3. Fearon, James D., 1995. "Rationalist explanations for war," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(03), pages 379-414, June.
    4. repec:cup:apsrev:v:87:y:1993:i:03:p:567-576_10 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Wintrobe,Ronald, 1998. "The Political Economy of Dictatorship," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521583299.
    6. Katz, Michael L & Shapiro, Carl, 1985. "Network Externalities, Competition, and Compatibility," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(3), pages 424-440, June.
    7. Abhijit V. Banerjee, 1992. "A Simple Model of Herd Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(3), pages 797-817.
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    1. Ronald Wintrobe, 2006. "Extremism, suicide terror, and authoritarianism," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 128(1), pages 169-195, July.

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