Hunger and Fury
The Crisis of Democracy in the Balkans
A cool analysis of authoritarian tendencies among the Balkans’ entrenched elites and the hollowness of existing ‘democratisation’ approaches.
Less than two decades after the Yugoslav Wars ended, the edifice of parliamentary government in the Western Balkans is crumbling. This collapse sets into sharp relief the unreformed authoritarian tendencies of the region’s entrenched elites, many of whom have held power since the early 1990s, and the hollowness of the West’s ‘democratisation’ agenda.
There is a widely held assumption that institutional collapse will precipitate a new bout of ethnic conflict, but Mujanović argues instead that the Balkans are on the cusp of a historic socio-political transformation. Drawing on a wide variety of sources, with a unique focus on local activist accounts, he argues that a period of genuine democratic transition is finally dawning, led by grassroots social movements, from Zagreb to Skopje. Rather than pursuing ethnic strife, these new Balkan revolutionaries are confronting the ‘ethnic entrepreneurs’ cemented in power by the West in its efforts to stabilise the region since the mid-1990s.
This compellingly argued book harnesses the explanatory power of the striking graffiti scrawled on the walls of the ransacked Bosnian presidency during violent anti-government protests in 2014: ‘if you sow hunger, you will reap fury’.
Jasmin Mujanović is a political scientist whose work focuses on southeast European and international affairs, with a broader interest in the politics of post-conflict and post-authoritarian democratisation. He works as a researcher and consultant for a variety of international NGOs, government development agencies, and monitoring organisations. Originally from Sarajevo, he currently lives in New York.
‘Jasmin Mujanović’s critique of authoritarian elites in Southeastern Europe and their kleptocratic practices sends a powerful warning about the future of this region. If proven right, the region is entering a new period of destabilization. If he is wrong, the Balkans will linger on the European periphery. Either way, one should brace for those challenges with this book in hand.’ — Vladimir Petrovic, Senior Academic Researcher, Centre for the Study of Europe, Boston University
‘This wonderfully original book explores the phenomenon of creeping authoritarianism and democratic backsliding in the Balkans. Using an engaging narrative argument, it persuasively sets out the case for democratic renewal based on popular protest against the illiberal elites that have held power in the region for far too long.’ — Will Bartlett, LSEE Senior Visiting Fellow, LSE and author of Europe’s troubled region: economic development, institutional reform and social welfare in the western Balkans
‘Texts on the Balkans and former Yugoslavia are few and far between. Thank goodness for this book then and its author Jasmin Mujanovic. Mujanovic is a young, energetic and perceptive scholar of the region. But don’t expect the optimism of youth. The Balkan states are in the grip of criminal mafias masquerading as politicians, and the Russians, Gulf Arabs, Chinese and Turks are prowling in search of prey- be it in the shape of geopolitical gain or commercial profit. The European Union is in disarray and “the only certainty” of the region is that “upheavals, tumult, and revolt” are coming. Don’t say you were not warned.’ — Tim Judah, correspondent for The Economist and author of In Wartime: Stories from Ukraine