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What reform? Civil societies, state transformation and social antagonism in ‘European Serbia’

Mikuš, Marek (2013) What reform? Civil societies, state transformation and social antagonism in ‘European Serbia’. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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This thesis examines a set of intentional transformations of the government of society and individuals in the globalising (‘Europeanising’) and neoliberalising Serbia in 2010–11. It asks two closely related kinds of question about these ‘reforms’ – first, what reform is really there, of what depth, and second, whose reform is it, in and against whose interests? This inquiry strives to identify some of the dominant transformational tendencies and resistances to these, and to relate these governmental projects and their actual achievements to the conflicted interests and identities in Serbian society that undergoes profound restructuring in the context of a prolonged economic decline and political crisis. Based on ethnographic engagements with various kinds of nongovernmental organisations, social movements and public institutions, the reforms are traced at the interface of the ‘state’ and ‘civil society’ so as to examine how their mutual relations are being reimagined and boundaries redrawn. Civil society is conceptualised, building on anthropological and Gramscian approaches, as a set of ideas and practices that continually reconstitute and mediate the relationships of ‘state,’ ‘society’ and ‘economy,’ and which reproduce as well as challenge domination by consent – cultural and ideological hegemony. While a particular liberal understanding of civil society has become hegemonic in Serbia, in social reality there is a plurality of ‘civil societies’ – scenes of associational practice that articulate diverse visions of a legitimate social order and perceive each other as antagonists rather than parts of a single harmonious civil society. The discourses and practices of three such scenes – liberal, nationalist and post-Yugoslav – and their relationships to the perspectives and interests of various social groups are examined in order to identify some of the key moments of social antagonism about reform in contemporary Serbia.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2013 Marek Mikuš
Library of Congress subject classification: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe)
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Supervisor: Pelkmans, Mathijs and James, Deborah

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