Habits of the Balkan Heart by Stjepan G. Meštrovic
Social Character and the Fall of Communism

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Synopsis

Almost as soon as Communism fell in Eastern Europe in 1989, Western politicians and intellectuals concluded that the West had "won" the Cold War and that liberal democracy had triumphed over authoritarianism in the world. Euphoria spread with the expectation of a New World Order. Within months, the giddy optimism began to fade, especially in the face of what soon became a brutal war in former Yugoslavia.

Why did Serbia choose to replicate many of Germany's methods and aims from World Wars I and II, including ethnic cleansing (read "genocide") and a campaign to establish a Greater Serbia?

Sociologist Stjepan Meštrovic, writing with Slaven Letica and Miroslav Goreta, argues that the social and political character of the Dinaric herdsmen--which dominates Serbian culture and politics, even though it is found in all Balkan nations--accounts for the form Communism took there, the fall of Communism, and the savagery and brutality of the post-Communist war.

With carefully reasoned analysis, the authors show how sociological theories of social character--propounded by such thinkers as de Tocqueville, Veblen, and Bellah--can shed light on the conflicts in the Balkans, which, according to conventional wisdom, were not supposed to occur when Communism fell. They demonstrate that ancient, traditional ethnic, social, and nationalistic tendencies--"habits of the heart"--of the various people of the Balkans have taken precedence over pressures for democracy in the political and cultural vacuum left by the end of Communism in the region.

Unfortunately, the difficulties in the Balkans will persist for a long time to come, and similar conflicts could break out in the former Soviet Union. This thought-provoking book has much new to say about the causes of such ethnic and class conflicts in the region, and the feasibility of policies for dealing with these sores. If democracy is to be achieved in post-Communist East Europe, the authors argue, it must be based on the "good" habits of the heart that coexist there with "bad" or authoritarian social character.

 

About Stjepan G. Meštrovic

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Stjepan G. Meštrovic is professor of sociology at Texas A&M University. He holds a Ph.D. from Syracuse University, Master's degrees in theological studies and education from Harvard University, and a bachelor's degree in psychology from Harvard. He has published books on Emile Durkheim, the coming fin de siecle, and sociopolitical culture in Eastern Europe. Research for this book included three trips to Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1990-93.Slaven Letica is a professor of sociology at the University of Zagreb.Miroslav Goreta is a professor of forensic psychiatry at the University of Zagreb Medical School.
 
Published November 1, 1993 by Texas A&M University Press. 200 pages
Genres: History, Travel, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction
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