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Slobodan Milosevic and the Fire of Nationalism

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This paper is an attempt to understand the Milosevic regime in Serbia. I focus on nationalism, ethnic cleansing and war, especially on the most recent war with NATO. I first look at how its behaviour has typically been understood in the popular press and in the light of the most prominent social science theories. I then suggest a different approach based on my model of dictatorship. The basic argument is simple: First, like any dictator, Milosevic needs 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 attempts of a competitive politician trying to survive in a situation where the old bases of power have 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.

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  • Ronald Wintrobe, 1999. "Slobodan Milosevic and the Fire of Nationalism," UWO Department of Economics Working Papers 9917, University of Western Ontario, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:uwo:uwowop:9917
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    1. Fearon, James D., 1995. "Rationalist explanations for war," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(03), pages 379-414, June.
    2. Akerlof, George A, 1991. "Procrastination and Obedience," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(2), pages 1-19, May.
    3. Abhijit V. Banerjee, 1992. "A Simple Model of Herd Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(3), pages 797-817.
    4. Albert Breton & Gianluigi Galeotti & Pierre Salmon & Ronald Wintrobe, 1995. "Nationalism and Rationality," Post-Print hal-00445587, HAL.
    5. Katz, Michael L & Shapiro, Carl, 1985. "Network Externalities, Competition, and Compatibility," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(3), pages 424-440, June.
    6. repec:cup:apsrev:v:87:y:1993:i:03:p:567-576_10 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Wintrobe,Ronald, 1998. "The Political Economy of Dictatorship," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521583299.
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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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