DEMOCRACY STRUGGLES NGOs and the Politics of Aid in Serbia

Tracing the boom of local NGOs since the 1990s in the context of the global political economy of aid, current trends of

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DEMOCRACY STRUGGLES NGOs and the Politics of Aid in Serbia

Table of contents :



Chapter 1. Empowerment, Fast-Track
Chapter 2. NGOing and the Donor Effect


Chapter 3. The “Democrats”: Salon NGOs in Belgrade
Chapter 4. The “Nationalists”: Radikali and Privatization


Chapter 5. Revitalizing Communities, Decentralizing the State
Chapter 6. NGOs vs. State: Clash or Class?



Citation preview

Democracy Struggles


General Editors: August Carbonella, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Don Kalb, University of Bergen & Utrecht University; Linda Green, University of Arizona The immense dislocations and suffering caused by neoliberal globalization, the retreat of the welfare state in the last decades of the twentieth century, and the heightened military imperialism at the turn of the twenty-first century have raised urgent questions about the temporal and spatial dimensions of power. Through stimulating critical perspectives and new and cross-disciplinary frameworks that reflect recent innovations in the social and human sciences, this series provides a forum for politically engaged and theoretically imaginative responses to these important issues of late modernity. For a full volume listing, please see back matter.

Democracy Struggles NGOs and the Politics of Aid in Serbia

_ Theodora Vetta

berghahn NEW YORK • OXFORD

First published in 2019 by Berghahn Books © 2019 Theodora Vetta All rights reserved. Except for the quotation of short passages for the purposes of criticism and review, no part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without written permission of the publisher. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Vetta, Theodora, author. Title: Democracy struggles : NGOs and the politics of aid in Serbia / Theodora Vetta. Description: New York : Berghahn Books, [2018] | Series: Dislocations ; 25 | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2018026305 (print) | LCCN 2018035065 (ebook) | ISBN 9781789201000 (ebook) | ISBN 9781789200997 (hardback : alk. paper) Subjects: LCSH: Democratization--Serbia. | Non-governmental organizations--Serbia. | Serbia--Social conditions--21st century. Classification: LCC JN9656 (ebook) | LCC JN9656 .V48 2018 (print) | DDC 327.1/11--dc23 LC record available at British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library ISBN 978-1-78920-099-7 hardback ISBN 978-1-78920-100-0 ebook


Acknowledgements Introduction

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Part I. Civil Society in the Making Chapter 1 Empowerment, Fast-Track


Chapter 2 NGOing and the Donor Effect


Part II. The Politics of Culture Chapter 3 The “Democrats”: Salon NGOs in Belgrade Chapter 4 The “Nationalists”: Radikali and Privatization

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Part III. Good Governance Chapter 5 Revitalizing Communities, Decentralizing the State


Chapter 6 NGOs vs. State: Clash or Class?









This book is the outcome of years-long relationships and discussions in university classrooms, pubs, workshops, conferences, and informal soirees. Above all, I would like to thank my thesis supervisor and friend Jonathan Friedman for his immense intellectual inspiration and continual encouragement through all the phases of research and writing. I’m grateful to Don Kalb for his strong support in making this publication happen, and for years of exciting intellectual debates. I also would like to thank Steven Sampson, Slobodan Naumović, Alexandra Bakalaki, Barbara Karatsioli, Yannis Mylonas, Dimitra Kofti, Tassos Grigorakis, Katerina Polychroniadi, Anna Hedlund, Boris Petric, Jaime Palomera, Susana Narotzky, Dan Belchita, and Berghahn Books’ reviewers for their insightful comments and help in various parts of the book. The research was financially supported by the A. G. Leventis Foundation and the Marie Curie SocAnth Program Promoting Anthropology in Central and Eastern Europe (FP6-MOBILITY, Project reference: 20702). The writing was partially funded by the Swedish Institute and editing by the European Research Council Advanced Grant “Grassroots Economics: Meaning, Project and Practice in the Pursuit of Livelihood” (IDEAS-ERC FP7, Project Number: 323743). My most profound gratitude goes, of course, to all the participants of this study in Serbia who gave me their time, shared their views and experiences, allowed me to observe their work, and welcomed me into their homes. I particularly want to thank Tanja, Nadja, Marinko, and Jelka—I learned so much. Last but not least, I would like to thank with all my heart my parents, Yiannis and Kyriaki, my partner, Darko, and my close friends back home in Greece, who stood by me in good and bad times. I dedicate this book to them, fighting this shameless war. Venceremos.

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Map of Serbia. Created by Darko Ivančević, based on maps from Wikipedia Creative Commons. Used with permission.


_ If it wasn’t for the NGOs here, this whole country would extinct! We were the only genuine democratic force against Milošević and even if we were working in impossible conditions, we managed to throw him down. I am talking here about genuine activism. And it’s not only during 2000, when at times we risked our lives. Then the situation was “it’s either now or never.” But things started much earlier. We started much earlier. I remember we had these walks for months with thousands of Belgraders and of course students … it was so exhausting! Sometimes I look back and I still do not know how we made it, walking all day every day around the city. It was freezing. Here, if you do not believe me, I will show you my shoes from 1996. You should see the soles, totally melted. I kept them as … as a souvenir! They are Italian by the way. As we used to say, Samo Setnja Srbina Spasava [only walk can save the Serbs]. —Goran, personal interview, June 2006

Only Walk Can Save the Serbs was a parody of the national saying Samo Sloga Srbina Spasava (Only Unity Can Save the Serbs) that had taken on ultra-nationalistic tones during the violent Yugoslav conflicts in the beginning of the 1990s. The new twisted version became the slogan of marches that started in November 1996. Serbia had already been transformed into a multiparty system back in 1990, and the Socialist Party of Serbia (successor to the League of Communists of Serbia), having led rallies against corruption and bureaucracy but also promising national security and economic recovery, occupied both parliament and presidency (Goati 2000; Sotirović 2009). Yet in 1996, a year after the signature of the Dayton Peace Accords putting an end to the tragic wars, the oppositional pro-democratic coalition Zajedno (Together) managed to out cast the Socialist Party of Serbia during the local government elections, winning in thirty-two municipalities, including the capital of Belgrade. The attempted electoral fraud of the regime prompted massive mobilizations that lasted for three months and ended with the official recognition of the electoral results. –1–

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This was the first time a serious internal threat was posed to the President Slobodan Milošević, otherwise known as Europe’s Last Dictator. Goran, a forty-five-year-old lecturer and my Serbian language teacher when I first arrived in Belgrade in spring 2006, recalled these events with pride. Being involved back then in an educational NGO network, he felt like that pair of old brown boots was the epitome of his youth achievements, his small-yet-vital role in writing the democratic history of his country. As it was with most of the older NGO staff I met, he took part in numerous pro-democratic protests held in Belgrade after the outbreak of the war. The sociologist Marina Blagojević, herself involved in various NGO activities, has characterized the 1990s as a history of protests (2006), culminating in a series of demonstrations in 2000 and the final overthrown of Milošević during the so-called Bulldozer Revolution on 5 October 2000. Local NGOs played an important role in these events. Based on experiences from the pre-election campaigns OK98 in Slovakia and Vote 99 in Croatia, they organized the Izlaz 2000 [Exit 2000] campaign, encouraging people to get out and vote so that “the sun would exit and no bigger dark would reign” (Paunović et al. 2000). Yet, their political actions had started much earlier with many newly established organizations running civic and human rights initiatives during the late 1980s and anti-militarist campaigns during the early 1990s (e.g., Stojanović, Zajović, and Urošević 2013). By the time I started my research at the end of 2006, Serbia had already experienced its own associational revolution. This book seeks to understand the emerging social realities wedded to the NGO phenomenon in post-socialist and post-conflict Serbia. I refer to local NGOs as a phenomenon, because I consider them part of the remarkable wave of the worldwide NGO boom, manifested through the sheer proliferation of their number, the staggering enlargement of their budgets and size, the expansion of scale and of thematic areas of their intervention, and, last but not least, their growing integration in global governance structures, such as their granted consultative status in the UN. Indeed, such an NGO upsurge has even been referred to as an associational revolution that has swept the world for the last thirty years. Lester M. Salamon, a political science professor at Johns Hopkins University and a leading figure in the civil society field, has saluted such developments, arguing that this striking rise in organized voluntary action “may be permanently altering the relationship between states and citizens, with an impact extending far beyond the material services they provide” (1994: 109). He went as far as to state that “we

Introduction   |   3

are in the midst of a global ‘associational revolution’ that may prove to be as significant to the latter twentieth century as the rise of the nation-state was to the latter nineteenth” (1994: 109). For this school of thought, the NGO boom partakes in the “third wave” of democratization. As categorized and defined by Harvard’s political scientist Samuel Huntington, after the first (from early nineteenth century until the rise of fascism in Europe) and the second democratic wave (from the end of World War II until early 1960s), the third wave has seen new democracies rise around the world starting in 1974, including democratic transitions in Portugal, Greece, Latin America, and more recently Eastern Europe and former Soviet Union. The underlying cause of the associational proliferation is considered as twofold: first, influenced by institutionalism and economic paradigms such as the public good theory and the contract failure theory, explanatory frames that are built around the notion of need. Forming NGO appears to be a normal institutional answer for people with complex needs that exceed the existing public goods and services. NGOs are thus perceived as “an adaptive response to the constraints of the majority rule and the equitable distribution criteria of the state” (Paul and Israel 1991: 4, quoted in Tvedt 1998: 43). From a similar perspective, NGOs arise as a result of state and market failure to cover citizens’ needs. They are said to function as remedies, filling the gaps in social provision created by governmental and market shortcomings. This applies to both developed and developing countries, as the rise of NGOs coincides and is correlated with the crisis of the welfare state “in the West” and economic shock therapies, governmental downfalls, and belly politics “in the rest.” Such narratives are widely reproduced in political science literature and are meant to give historical weight to the NGO phenomenon— yet they cannot. The historical weight needs to have an explanatory dimension and reveal social complexity. The above accounts, however, echo functionalist approaches, leaving historical causalities unpacked, and questions of power unaddressed (Tvedt 1998). NGOs appear as natural societal responses, while the actors and social conflicts that produce these social realities remain invisible. We cannot help but wonder: why do people from incredibly diverse sociohistorical and cultural settings respond with such similar institutional patterns to state/market failure? Given such failure always existed, in a way, why is the NGO boom such a recent phenomenon? The second underlying cause of the so-called associational revolution appears even more problematic because it grants NGOs a strong normative character. NGOs are treated not as simple organizational

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realities but as key symbolic operators of a distinct ideological field. Their discursive power derives from their almost taken-for-granted equation with plurality: a plurality of actors, voices, interests, representation, participation, responsibilities, and control mechanisms in the public realm and decision-making processes. Plurality, as understood here, is far from provoking fragmentation with undesirable outcomes; on the contrary, it is presumably leading to a more equal social equilibrium, enhancing social consensus among competing actors/interests/voices. Plurality means, in this sense, democracy. When related to the post-communist world, civil society and NGOs as its main or representative reached an axiomatic status. Within the hegemonic analytical framework of Dictatorship vs. Democracy, they acquired both political and moral significance for providing a space for free thought and expression outside the reaches of communist states. And, at the same time, they have managed to rise and significantly contribute to the struggle against authoritarian regimes through political activism. Today, NGOs are celebrated for their vital integrative role in consolidating democracy. Democracy is to be understood as liberal democracy and NGOs as active, concerned citizens reclaiming responsibility for their lives. Liberal democracy is of course a specific political project defining power relations among individuals and groups through a system of institutions, legislations, sanctions, rights, obligations, and distributive, representational, and executive mechanisms. But democracy is not conceived of as one among several other systems of governance. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the pronounced end of history, democracy became a morally sanctioned universal acquis.

Problematizing the Field If civil society became a compelling political slogan propagated both by dissident intellectuals in Eastern Europe and their Western interlocutors and audiences (Hann 1996; Verdery 1996), it acquired an even more powerful demarcation in Serbia. Civil society, often reified as a homogenized collective actor, was not just fighting a “communist monster” but also—or more explicitly—ethnic nationalism. As Catherine Baker stressed: The fall of socialism alone would have exposed Yugoslavs to the same threats that affected other (post)socialist countries after 1989: the end of secure employment and housing; the loss of savings to inflation as the country adjusted

Introduction   |   5

to the free market; the distortion of social inequality as entrepreneurs with connections to the new political elites enriched themselves. In Yugoslavia, these pressures intersected with escalating armed conflict fought on ethnopolitical terms as leaders competed for the resources of the fallen state and mobilized populations by propagating existential fear (2012a: 857).

Indeed, the reform efforts of the last Yugoslav prime minister, the liberal technocrat Ante Marković, to rescue the federation in 1989 and 1990 were thought to be too little and coming too late. Socialist Yugoslavia was founded after the liberation struggle of World War II, led by the partisan National Liberation Army and their allies. After a first short period of applying the soviet political and economic model (1944–1948), the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) took its own particular road to socialism, both in terms of domestic and foreign policies. This shift was marked by the Tito–Stalin split and the expulsion of the Yugoslav Communist Party from the Communist Information Bureau (Cominform) in 1948. The so-called third way implied a more open and flexible regime, combined with political repression and Josip Broz Tito’s personality cult. In terms of governance, SFRY was based on a rather decentralized political system, with the League of Communists gradually dissolving into party national branches. Political fragmentation was fostered after the constitution of 1974, giving greater powers of autonomy to its six republics (Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Macedonia) and, for several scholars, marking the beginning of the end of Yugoslavia (Dimitrijević 1995; Jović 2009; Lampe 2000). On the economic sphere, and from the 1950s onwards, centralization policies gave way to alternative models of modernization. In agriculture, collectivization of land efforts were abandoned in 1953, after low productivity results (Tochitch 1959) and vigorous peasant resistance (Bokovoy, 1998). New agricultural cooperatives were functioning along a stratum of small peasants, cultivating their own land. At the same time, the vast project of industrialization was now to be governed from the bottom up through the self-management system, introduced at the factory level and promising workers’ empowerment. The economic reforms of the 1960s and 1970s further decentralized planning, introducing market socialism through the so-called basic organizations of associated labor—a model that was later expanded beyond companies to public institutions. Finally, SFRY also deployed its own foreign policy strategies. Following Tito’s foundation of the non-aligned movement in

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mid 1950s, together with Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Sukarno of Indonesia, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, and Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Yugoslavia aspired to a more neutral position in the Cold War, keeping economic relations with both poles. Indeed, the country was highly integrated in the Western markets mainly though trade—becoming a Contracting Party of GATT agreements in 1966—and visafree Yugoslav workers had been staffing the growing European industries since the 1960s. Even if inter-republic trade and capital flows were of primary importance (Petak 1989), export was central to several production lines (particularly in Slovenia and Croatia). Together with the growing Adriatic tourism and gastarbajteri (guest workers) remittances, it was fueling Yugoslavia with hard currency that offset potential balance of payments deficits. Such a model of so-called Yugoslav exceptionalism had some admittedly spectacular outcomes. It achieved an impressive reconstruction of and economic take-off in the region after the destruction of World War II, a considerable rise in living standards and educational levels, and the expansion of a consumer culture similar to that of the Western peripheries. Socialist Yugoslavia became, in fact, a role-model and transitologists’s favorite candidate for a successful post-socialist restructuring after the fall of Berlin Wall. However, this system had equally deep inherent contradictions that, in the wake of international political economy shifts, exploded along national lines. SFRY was constantly trying to balance self-management policies targeting the “withering away of the state,” the need for central planning for macro-economic stability, state’s control mechanisms over the economy, and the need of political decentralization to achieve national stability and legitimacy (Horvat 1984; Allcock 2000; Sörensen 2009). By the end of the 1980s, the post-World War II Yugoslav experiment had already lost its legitimacy, both in the political and the economic realm. Its mythical foundational idea of bratstvo i jedinstvo (brotherhood and unity) was in deep crisis with regional political elites questioning the raison d’être of the Yugoslav federation, getting ready to embark on nationalist projects of self-determination (Korošić 1988). The socialist promises of equality and well-being were severely questioned too (Archer, Duda, and Stubbs 2016; Mencinger 1989; Vujović 1995; Županov 1983). Rising unemployment along political and economic exclusion (Woodward 1995a), monetary instability, stunning regional inequalities between the more prosperous north–west and the sluggish south–east, a growing chasm between elites and working class and massive migration1 were all telling signs of reduced social

Introduction   |   7

mobility patterns within a more and more rigid system of class reproduction (Lazić 1987). Indeed, the shifting political economy in the 1980s left Yugoslavia in deep recession. This was a period when Yugoslavia had to respond to the global economic crisis by freezing incomes at a time of growing prices and by applying export-led development and subcontraction. In addition, external debt had become unsustainable. Previously, the inflow of petrodollars after the first oil crisis and the demise of the dollar-gold standard had created favorable conditions for extending credit to many peripheral countries as Yugoslavia. However, monetary restriction and increased protectionism after the second oil crisis made Yugoslavia’s industries expensive and less competitive, trying to balance the rising prices of imported industrial components and raw materials. Re-evaluation of interest rates and loans meant entering into a dangerous debt-trap (Dyker 1990). Living stands fell by thirty percent, worsened by the IMF’s intervention, which imposed strict austerity measures, targeting, as usual, lower state expenditures and devaluation of labor. The federal demands for greater fiscal centralization for regional redistribution was this time met with further economic fragmentation and economic nationalism (Ocić 1983). For Slovenia and Croatia, the way to recovery was equated with secession, whereas Serbia and Montenegro, having under their control the Yugoslav People’s Army, initially claimed to be the defenders of the Yugoslav state. Therefore, while in other parts of Eastern Europe and former Yugoslav republics, anti-communism was to some extent conflated with nationalistic projects, in Serbia nationalism and communism were considered as the two sides of the same coin. Soon, rescuing the federation was translated into the project of Velika Srbija (Great Serbia), and an impressive symbolic production, propaganda, and ideological reinterpretations of history were set in motion for this goal (Čolović 2002; Dragović-Soso 2002). In 1991 Slovenia declared independence, followed by Croatia, Macedonia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina, followed by their immediate international recognition. The Yugoslav wars in Slovenia, Croatia, and particularly Bosnia lasted for five years and were among the most violent ones in the post-World War II era, with mass murders escalating into genocide. Peace after the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords was fragile and the outcomes of international intervention and Bosnia’s institutional solution were heavily questioned (Bougarel, Helms, and Duijzings 2007). Peace in the region was short-lived with war erupting this time in Kosovo, the autonomous province of Serbia,

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after years of repression of the Albanian community. The final act was played by NATO’s decision to bombard Serbia and Montenegro in 1999 and place Kosovo under the control of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), and the socalled peacekeeping Kosovo Force (Sörensen 2009). According to estimations of the total number of casualties over the 1990s—in the midst of ethnic cleansing, war-rapes, massacres, city-sieges, and bombing—around 140,000 people were killed, around two million persons were internally displaced, and even more fled as refugees (Ewa Tabeau 2009). Serbia came out of the wars politically defeated and economically and socially devastated. The total damage of NATO bombing in 1999 alone was estimated at $30 billion (Dinkić 1999), and by 2000, public debt reached 14.17 billion euro, equivalent to 169.3 percent of GDP.2 The humanitarian crisis and the massive influx of refugees from the former-Yugoslav republics had to be managed in conditions of wild pauperization and shortages, in a country that was under ambiguous international sanctions for the best part of the decade (Dimitrijević and Pejić 1995). Sanctions went hand in hand with the development of a full-fledged speculative criminal economy, based on human trafficking and trade or rather smuggling of oil, cigarettes, pharmaceuticals, foreign currency, drugs, and arms (Kaldor 2007; Obradović 2007:50). The 1990s were also a period of “state-sponsored robbing” of social and pension funds, radical redistribution of wealth, and restructuring of social stratification (Lazić 1995), made possible through rent seeking, war profiteering, mafia privatizations, and inflation. The latter, reaching world-record rates in 1994, proved to be an impressive mechanism of wealth expropriation and its allocation to the regime’s loyal subcontractors. “Technically,” as Sörensen describes, “it would function so that a bank’s minimum reserve (as ordered by the National Bank) would be left uncontrolled for a period of time, during which it could trade out some of the reserve to local dealers, who would exchange dinars for Deutschmarks (or other currencies), give some of the cash return as payment to the dealers, and then later trade it back to dinars after a period when inflation would have eroded and balanced out the ‘rent’” (2009:170). From 2001 and the change of the regime, typical post-socialist political, social, and economic neoliberal restructuring gained momentum (Verdery and Burawoy 1999; Hann 2001; Dunn 2004). It was enforced under the neutral label of reforma in view of a desired integration into the European Union (EU). Reform encompassed

Introduction   |   9

almost all aspects of life, and its outcomes included, among others, the end of secure employment and social housing; the end of free education; massive privatizations or liquidations of formerly socialpublic enterprises and rescaling of social security schemata (during only the beginning of the post-socialist transition, between 2002 and 2004, over 1,100 enterprises, employing over 150,000 employees, were privatized, see Ristić 2004); liberalization of capital flows and trade; deregulation and internationalization of financial services and banking, along with rising household debt; scattered foreign investment; growing unemployment, precarity, and poverty. Ironically, the current financial crisis was perceived by political and financial elites as a symptom of reform’s failure: not the direction of the so-called transition to the market, but its very incomplete character, along with an oversize and overspending public sector, was supposedly at the heart of these new Balkan tragedies. As it usually happens with debt crises worldwide, new rounds of austerity measures and new waves of market integration brought more recession, more inequality, and, finally, more debt (Živković 2015). So, how to understand civil society and its organizations within such a post-socialist and post-conflict context? One could start in deconstructing the celebratory slogan of civil society as a political symbol, but to simply assess that such discourse is normative and ideologically biased is certainly not enough. Another direction would be to try and define the multiple meanings of civil society so as to figure out if it corresponds to specific social constellations and then embark on an endless debate about universalisms and particularisms, ethnocentrism and culturally bounded relativisms. Last but not least, we could start by problematizing the usefulness of civil society as an accurate sociological tool. Does this revived concept, with its perplexing historical and theoretical weight, allow us to purchase any analytical gains? Or is it another euphoric catchword, that like “fine old wines can stimulate but they can also make you drunk, lose all sense of discrimination and clarity of purpose” (Kumar 1993: 376)? I decided to treat civil society as a historically grounded empirical question and start with ethnography. Between 2006 and 2010, I spent three years in Serbia trying first to understand what an NGO actually is and does; who are the people engaged within them and why they are there in the first place; what are their feelings, ideas, hopes, and frustrations; what their everyday life looks like. Answering the above questions is not though an end in itself. My interest was rather to understand the relational fields of power around NGOing (how

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they are produced, legitimated, or/and contested), the ways local NGOs took part, affected, and got shaped by wider social reproduction and global transformation processes in this particular part of the world. This mission entails that the qualities and properties of the NGO phenomenon cannot be grasped without their dialectical constitution with global systems of political economy, global trends of state restructuring, and shifting hegemonies after the end of the Cold War. One would be surprised by the general scarcity of such global ethnographies (Burawoy et al. 2000) in a place currently undergoing such tremendous transformations as the Balkans. On the antipodes, just a simple Google search would reveal an abundance of intellectual production on issues dealing with ethnicity, nationalism, religion, minorities, refugees, and borders. Certainly, such works are contributing to the richness of our insights in the Balkan region, but the problem is that they overstress cultural meanings and practices at the expense of more integrated analyses that would take into account questions of regulation, distribution, class, and other structural factors that underlie people’s social lives, not to mention the ways that cultural identities are dialectically wedged with such factors. These gaps appear to the extreme in the literature on exYugoslavia, with the exception of some important research on postwar Bosnia (Jansen 2015; Coles 2007; Bougarel Helms and Duijzings 2007; Stefansson 2010; Selimović 2010). Concerning Serbia, the vast majority of academic focus, both in local and international scholarship, was set to unravel the ethnic wars and understand the so-called irrational upheavals of ethnic nationalisms. Only in the past years did an anthropological interest start to re-emerge to study Serbia’s current political and economic restructuring (Rajkovic 2017; Thelen, Thiemann and Roth 2014). The Yugoslav wars in the 1990s not only monopolized scholars’ attention but, most importantly, their characterization as ethnic led to a production of culturally informed explanatory frameworks for understanding identity-based claims and conflicts. Hence, social divisions or whole social phenomena were primarily conceived of in terms of ethnicity, cultural, and political orientations and values associated with nationalism’s advocates or its democratic opponents. Certainly, this was a dramatic period for this region. Yet, kriza (crisis) did not suddenly appear in the 1990s, nor was it solely linked to ethno-national questions. As we saw, its roots were embedded in the systemic properties of Yugoslavia and its positioning within shifting global political and economic reconfigurations. The whole

Introduction   |   11

trajectory of Yugoslavia can be read as a continuum of multilevel fragmentary and integrating processes, with crisis being more and more evident since the late 1970s. These processes of dispossession were to explode during the violent state dissolution, under sanctions and along the radical wealth redistribution of a criminal war economy with disastrous consequences for the political, economic, and social nexus of the society. The illusions of the promising postsocialist land also collapsed very early after the regime change in 2000, followed this time by a new period of vast “transitional” dispossession, erosion of previous rights/entitlements, skyrocketing inequality—but also, more recently, social unrest, protests, and revolts all around former Yugoslavia (Horvat and Štiks 2015). It is in this turbulent context that the NGO sector emerged. In this research I suggest an analysis of the NGO phenomenon within a framework of historical realism as described by Susana Narotzky and Gavin Smith (2006). This does not just indicate the need to contextualize NGOs within current “transitions.” The context here is not a simple chapter to situate the research-protagonists. Rather, the context is itself a research question; it is a context in-the-making. I understand the global structural properties constituting and enabling everyday life not as faceless abstractions, but embodied by real actors and institutions implicated in concrete power relations. The rise of local NGOs in Serbia did not simply manifest (if they did at all) in an idealist transition from dictatorship to democracy. Neither were they just spectators in the political project of neoliberalism à la Serb. As I will explore in the following chapters, NGOs partook considerably in the ongoing social transformation in numerous ways: by producing labor patterns of a flexible—see precarious—labor power in the flourishing aid industry and offering educational trainings to all sectors needing reform; by endorsing project work and promoting self-empowerment translated as entrepreneurial culture; by providing a social realm for elite-formation processes though the institutionalization of expertise; finally, by actively contributing to state-crafting, building new (dis)articulations between state and citizens. The emerging NGO realities certainly raise questions of responsibility, representation, accountability, and redistribution (material, symbolic, and moral). This book has a double ambition. First, it promises to contribute to a more dynamic understanding of post-Yugoslav social transformations. Shedding light on class-based processes in post-socialist Serbia over the last twenty years is of vital importance in a space overwhelmed by identity-focused studies. However, by doing so I

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do not wish to add just another demarcation line—such as class—in order to add to the plurality of the list of sociocultural cleavages (for example among ethnicities, nationalists, and democrats and so on). Following Eric Wolf (1982, 1998), I argue that we can better understand cultural frameworks, meanings, and significations only within their underlying instrumental, institutional, and ideological logic and within their interdependences with the very material processes through which people try to organize their survival and life projects. NGOs cannot simply be discussed as anti-nationalist and democratic associational revolutions, they have to be analyzed within wider mechanisms of social power, defined by various unequally positioned actors including state institutions, aid donors, and political elites. In fact, a class-informed analysis of NGOs and a close look at these actors’ discourse, practices, and legitimizing strategies can give us more in-depth insights about the cultural divisions cited above, because NGOs are at the same time heavily engaged in the very social construction of such differences and categorizations, actively producing dichotomous frames for reading social realities (exDemocrats vs. Nationalists). The same approach is urgently needed to unpack (in order to politically address) the so-pronounced “nationalist paranoia” (Kalb and Halmai 2011). Such a theoretical and methodological stance means bringing together ethnographic insights and political economy analysis and might be of great significance for understanding a vast array of social phenomena both in their complexity and dynamic trajectories through space and time— hence the second ambition of this book.

Mapping the NGO Field Mapping the field of local NGOs in Serbia appeared to be an extremely complex task, even in a simply descriptive manner. By the time I finished my fieldwork in 2010, there was no single unified register for non-profit associations working within Serbia. After the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the creation of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (including only Serbia and Montenegro until 2006), citizens’ associations could register both at the republican and federal levels. According to the Federal Statistics Office, by 1994 there were 18,132 associations in Serbia and 19,129 by 1999. The term “associational revolution” in Serbia refers to the last two decades, even if the majority of the registered associations were founded during Socialist

Introduction   |   13

Yugoslavia. As available data from the registry show, in 1994 there were 196 new citizens’ associations registered. This number grew to 2,800 by 2001, 7,000 by 2004, and reached 10,500 by 2006 (Paunović 2006: 49). In 2009, the Serbian parliament adopted a new law regarding associations and, when the re-registration process for associations was completed by December 2012, Serbia counted 18,923 registered local associations (excluding sports associations), fortyfive international NGOs (INGOs), and 402 foundations and endowments. According to the Business Registers Agency in 2011, civic associations had 6,572 regular employees and, according to research estimates, around 4,500 casual honorary staff (Paunović 2012). Finally, there was a significant regional imbalance, with the majority of associations being located in bigger cities of central Serbia and Vojvodina, while approximately 11,500 associations were registered in Belgrade alone.3 Numbers, as always, matter. Who does the counting matters, as well as what is conceived as countable and what is left aside. Numbers matter because they provide categorizations, significations, or even explanations; in other words, they tell stories. For example, in various policy discourses (both in Serbia and beyond) the number of citizens’ associations serves for measuring the level of democratization. Policy-making is heavily embedded in a modernist developmental framework of transition, even if it often presents as tailor-made. Transition in post-socialist policy means gradual achievements and the passing through of linear steps or levels in order to reach the final stage of democracy and free markets. In Serbia, one of the last countries left out of the European project (together with Bosnia, Macedonia, and Albania), the ultimate goal was EU integration. In this context, more associations basically mean a stronger democracy. The logic is the following: the more the NGOs, the stronger the civil society; the stronger the civil society, the stronger the democracy; the stronger the democracy, the closer to membership in the EU. Yet, local NGOs did not form out of the blue. In fact, there is an impressive production of national reports on Serbian civil society, along with a few academic works (Stanisavljević 1995; Petrović 1999; Lazić 2005; Kolin 2005; Milivojević 2006; Paunović 2006 and 2012), that account for the deep historical and cultural roots of NGOs in Serbia. Practitioners and scholars are situating NGOs within local cultural traditions and organizational models, historical legal systems and state policies, political legacies and local solidarity patterns and values. By following this approach, we gain a far more

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historically informed analysis, even if the cultural aspect is often left a bit foggy, unpacked, or sometimes essentializing or politically abused (see Chapters 2 and 3). These authors divide the development of the nonprofit sector in Serbia into three historical periods:

A. Village Solidarity and Serbian Liberalism During the first period (whose beginnings are lost in the Ottoman past), the historical conditions for the emergence of the nonprofit sector and voluntarism are to be found in the traditional reciprocal forms of life in the countryside. The most referred-to examples are moba and zadruga. Moba is described as an old Slav folk custom of mutual help, where neighbors and family members voluntarily join collective activities like harvesting a big farm, helping to build a house, preparing a wedding or funeral. Zadruga was a patriarchic socioeconomic organizational system of rural communities based on extended family and clan with common land, property, and herds (for an overview see Novaković 2005). Religious endowments were also organizing educational and charity activities—the Serbian Orthodox Church being particularly influential since the end of nineteenth century (Ruziča 1998). The Jewish burial society Hevra Kadiša was founded as early as 1729. However, the real ancestors of NGOs are to be discovered at the developing scene of funds, heritages, and societies within the Principality of Serbia and later the Kingdom of Serbia. The principality of Serbia, established first as a vassal state within the collapsing Ottoman Empire after the two Serbian uprisings (1804 and 1815) and Napoleon’s defeat (1815), finally became an independent state in 1867 and acquired full international recognition in 1878 with the Treaty of Berlin that ended the Russo-Turkish War. In 1882, the principality was raised to a kingdom under the Obrenović dynasty and lasted until the end of World War I when, along with the State of Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs, it became the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, renamed as Kingdom of Yugoslavia (First Yugoslavia). In 1881, the law on freedom of associations was adopted and numerous associations were registered at the municipality of Belgrade or various ministries, defining their status and working principles. Among them feature the first student association Druzina Mladezi Srpske ( Association of Serbian Youth, 1847); the Serbian cultural association Matica Srpska (1826); numerous important women’s associations like Žensko Društvo (Women’s Society, 1875), Društvo

Introduction   |   15

knjegine Ljubica (Society of Princess Ljubica, 1899), Kolo srpskih sestara (Circle of Serbian sisters, 1903), and later Društvo za prosvećivanje žene i zaštitu njenih prava (Society for women’s enlightenment and protection of their rights, 1919); the humanitarian society Sveti Sava (Saint Sava,1886); and the invalid association Sveti Đorđe (Saint George). This period is considered the origin of liberalism in Serbia (Ress 2006). According to Stanisavljević, “the majority of voluntary organizations were patronized by the royal family while making donations and endowments had become the matters of social status among the newly civil class” [sic] (1995: 97). In parallel, trade unions of the first industrial workers, professional organizations, and agricultural cooperatives emerged, enriching civil society at the turn of the century.

B. Civil Society under Socialism According to the local scholarship, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, established right after the liberation war, brought “a complete reversing in volunteer organizations and a long-lasting discontinuity in civic activities” (Kolin 2005: 134). Paunović (2006) notes that there is no research on associational life during this period. This is unfortunately true—but the reason he gives for such a gap is the impossibility of studying something that does not exist. Not only were the endowments of the previous era nationalized (Avramović 1992), but, as Paunović stresses, there was no classical division of civil society from the political state (2006: 43). These views echo the theories of social vacuum, arguing that under the communist regimes the clear dichotomization between the state and family did not leave any middle ground for institutionalized connections between the private and the public sphere (Wedel 2001: 103). To be fair, Serbian authors do nuance their own totalitarian projections of the past by referring to the famous Yugoslav exceptionalism, in order to explain the existence of a few relatively independent associations (mainly professional organizations such as Advokatska komora Srbije (Bar association of Serbia) and Srpsko lekarsko društvo (Serbian medical society). Actually, the majority of today’s registered NGOs were founded during Socialist Yugoslavia and mainly included three types of organizations: sports and hobby associations, such as football, hunters, and folk groups; professional associations consisting of artists, engineers, lawyers, and writers; and finally, some social humanitarian associations serving mainly the

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needs of their members, such as organizations for the blind, pensioners, paraplegics, etc. However, all the other numerous associations linked directly or indirectly with the socialist political project are either selectively forgotten by this scholarship or discredited on the grounds of a lack of autonomy. The authors assume that no association could operate independent of the state and its parastatal organizations such as Socijalistički Savez Radnog Naroda (The Socialist Alliance of Working People) or Savez Omladine Jugoslavije (Youth Alliance of Yugoslavia). The organizations that did exist were thus considered as poly-nongovernmental or governmental-nongovernmental organizations (GONGOs), as the influence of the Communist Party was evident in their structure, the selection of their management, and the distribution of their finances. As indicated by the law on social organizations and associations of citizens, nonprofits should function within the official ideological regime, either by fostering its priorities or simply by being politically neutral like sports, leisure, and professional groups. Obviously, the above understanding of Socialist Yugoslavia appears quite reductionist. Following an anthropological understanding of the state, it is hard to believe in Weberian iron-cage societies, homogenizing and disciplining their constituencies to the extent of negating individuality. Not to mention that the very notion of individuality (and freedom) should be problematized and politically situated as the central myth of (neo)liberalism (Rose 1999). As I will discuss later in Chapter 3, the ideas of an omnipresent and omnipotent state are more of an ideological construction of their intellectual producers than existing realities of the past. In fact, the roots of today’s NGOs seem much closer to various social movements of contestation/protest and their legacies in the former Yugoslavia than to the royal endowments of the nineteenth century: such as the student movements, women’s organizations dating back to 1920s, and strong feminist or ecological movements, marking various historical periods throughout the existence of SFRY (Stojčić 2009). Stubbs is absolutely right to point out that “the struggle between remembering and forgetting regarding the historical continuities of ‘civil society’ in Croatia [and beyond], takes us to the heart of the political uses and abuses of the concept in the 1990s” (2001: 91). As he reminds us, The “Yugoslav exception” in terms of “civil society” covers at least four different elements, in addition to the most obvious one of socialist self-management, none of which has been researched extensively in terms of their relevance for contemporary debates. The first is the direct experience of

Introduction   |   17

activism during and in the aftermath of the Second World War and, in particular, the formation of Partisan clubs and veterans’ associations which continue to be active today. The second, in part directly linked to the first, is the formation of women’s organisations [sic], initially the Anti-Fascist Front of Women (AFŽ) during the Second World War, and later Active Woman (AŽ) which, whilst formally linked to the Party structure, and increasingly forced into the role of a Communist “mass organization,” did provide specific experiences of organizing for women throughout Yugoslavia (Jancar-Webster 1990). Fourthly, youth organisations [sic] formally linked to the Party became increasingly sites of relatively autonomous actions and positions, notably student groupings. (2001: 93)

C. From the Dissolution of Yugoslavia to EU (pre)Integration During the 1990s, when Croatian civil-society promoters were being labeled as Yugo-nostalgic within the official nationalistic politics of Croatian independence, in Serbia, on the contrary, they were framed as antipatriotic, as part of the anti-Milošević forces. Again, according to Paunović, “the war acted as an impetus for the emergence of new types of associations and civic groups” (n.d.). The first human rights organizations actually appeared in the late 1980s and were linked to wider political developments of particular importance that followed the Helsinki Accords in 1975. Tito signed them as well, including a declaration on the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Although the accords were not binding and, in reality, reaffirmed the established territorial integrity and status quo, they nevertheless provided space for the creation of various NGOs monitoring compliance with human rights principles in the Eastern Bloc, such as the Moscow Helsinki Group and other regional committees or the Helsinki Watch (the future Human Rights Watch). As a result, human rights initiatives emerged in Serbia as early as 1984 with the foundation of the Yugoslav Helsinki committee. This group, initially organized to oppose the trial of six dissidents known as the Belgrade Six, was part of the international Helsinki Federation for Human Rights. Following the legalization of pluralism and as the war escalated, the number of organizations attempting to stop the violence, assist the victims, and protect basic human rights, along with educational and women’s associations, increased significantly. It is these NGOs that played an important role in the October 2000 revolution that forced Milošević, in the face of massive mobilization and

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protests, to accept his electoral defeat by the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (Demokratska Opozicija Srbije, DOS). The direct and indirect political action of these organizations caused them to be the target of severe accusations and, at times, even physical harassment. Widespread conspiracy theories and propaganda, diffused mainly by state media, portrayed local NGOs as anti-Serb national traitors and foreign missionaries/spies. For the nationalist regime, this image of NGOs as the enemy was heavily justified by their foreign aid support. The exact amount of funding directed to them during the 1990s is impossible to account for, as this financing was mostly illegal. Indeed, most donations arrived as cash and stayed outside NGOs’ bank accounts, in order to avoid the Serbian banking system. Legally registering donations would have meant supporting Milošević regime with foreign currency, while risking the actual “evaporation” of the grants due to hyperinflation). Yet, even after donations were long-ago legalized and democracy was established, similar allegations of NGO malpractice could still be heard, reaching a momentum in 2003, when a controversial debate appeared in the weekly magazine Vreme, following Slobodan Antonić’s provocative article “Missionary Intelligentsia in Contemporary Serbia” (2003; for an analysis see Omaljev 2013). Nevertheless, the political changes of 2000 signaled a new era for local NGOs for two main reasons: first, because they left the camp of the political opposition to join the efforts of the newly democratic governments working towards an uspešna tranzicija (successful transition). Of course, this was not all roses, and many informants stressed that the cooperation between the government and NGOs got worse after the assassination of pro-European Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić in 2003 and during the formation of a more conservative government under Vojislav Koštunica’s Democratic Party of Serbia (2004–08). The atmosphere seemed to slightly change again according to the more positive accounts of the next Democratic Party cabinet under Mirko Cvetković (2008–12). A law regulating NGOs was finally adopted in 2009 and a special state bureau, Kаncеlаriјa zа sаrаdnju sа civilnim društvоm (Office for cooperation with the civil society) was formed the following year for further developing cooperation between the government and NGOs. The second reason is related to the aid industry. Since 2000, both old and an impressive number of new local NGOs have been working on democratic consolidation, with the ultimate national goal of EU integration. This was a time of abundant funding for civil-society development programs, channeling aid both to NGO activities and

Introduction   |   19

to their so-called capacity building. Indeed, the establishment of a democratic regime led to the entrance of new donors dealing not so much with humanitarian intervention but with developmental work and European accession. Local NGOs today navigate the social field of foreign aid, comprising a dense network of power relations among various actors: transnational public organizations (e.g., World Bank, UN, and EU agencies), national public development agencies (e.g., United States Agency for International Development [USAID], Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, UK’s Department for International Development), private foundations (e.g., George Soros’s Open Society Foundation, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Robert Bosch Stiftung, Kvinna till Kvinna, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation), financial institutions (e.g., the World Bank, Erste Bank, Raiffeisen Bank), corporations via corporate social responsibility programs (e.g., VIP Mobile, Philip Morris, US Steel Serbia, CocaCola Hellenic), international NGOs (e.g., Save the Children, Mercy Corps, National Endowment for Democracy, Norwegian People’s Aid, Institute for Sustainable Communities, Caritas, America’s Development Foundation, International Relief and Development), foreign embassies, ministries, local and foreign think tanks, national public institutions and agencies, political parties, municipalities, regional and sub-municipal administration units, trade unions, media, universities, churches, and of course “uncivil” society’s mafias (Sampson 2003). The fact that considerable funds were entering Serbia to be absorbed directly by local NGOs, sidelining the state, obviously opened social spaces for new actors to emerge, bearing their own projects, legitimacy strategies, and political ambitions. The decentralization of aid, as I will discuss in the following chapters, incited new alliances and conflicts embedded in local histories and incorporated into global flows of people, knowledge, and resources.

The Aid Industry To understand the new NGO realities that emerged we also need to historically situate them within the global trajectories of the aid industry and its focus on democracy promotion. Since the Marshall Plan and US President Harry S. Truman’s symbolic announcement of the beginning of the “era of development”4 (and of the Cold War) in 1949, development has been part of a modern religion, promising secular salvation and novel mythologies of progress (Perrot,

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Rist, and Sabelli 1992; Rist 1996). Most importantly, the aid industry has been closely following and shaping the shifts of the political economy, broadly speaking. Let’s make a short detour. The golden era of development lasted for almost twenty-five years. Faith in the self-regulated market had significantly weakened following the Great Depression of the 1930s. Although neoclassical economics and monetarism were reemerging around Friedrich von Hayek and the Chicago School of Economics in the 1950s, it was John Maynard Keynes’ theories of full employment, imperfect competition, and the necessity of state regulation over prices, resources, and labor that were gaining momentum within development economics. According to Walt Rostow (1960) and Paul Rosenstein-Rodan’s earlier theory of Big Push (1957), underdeveloped economies needed a generous initial investment (through foreign aid and loans) to kickoff new industries and metaphorically take off. Economic growth would not only help fight poverty but would eventually lead, as a social prerequisite, to democratic regimes.5 Obviously, at a time of huge public investment and when aid was still predominantly a state(s)-to-state transaction, NGOs were not among the major developmental protagonists, although there were plenty of them already organizing mostly humanitarian missions, especially during the decolonization period.6 By the mid-1970s, however, and following the oil crisis, both Fordism in the West and development economics abroad were facing a deep crisis. Eventually, the failing large “white elephant” programs of infrastructure and heavy industry gave way to developmental microprojects, destined to cover people’s “primary needs.”7 A new universal humanism pointed to some vital anthropological minimum that development aid should guarantee (e.g., nutrition, health, housing, clothing, etc.). At the same time, a new type of NGO movement was emerging, criticizing state policies from another perspective but keeping in line with the bio-anthropological postulate: the sans-frontiérisme (Médecins Sans Frontières in 1971, Action Contre la Faim in 1979, Aide Médicale Internationale in 1979, Médecins Du Monde in 1980). These new NGOs signaled the return to emergency operations but this time realized in a hyper-professional way. The main mission was to save the body—with the risk of naturalizing in this way the social (Destexhe 1993). Both trends above had important implications for NGOs. Considered as well placed by being closer to aid recipients and having already much experience in managing microprojects, NGOs were more and more engaged as the implementers of programs.8 Aid was being slowly decentralized while development was

Introduction   |   21

traversing its “lost decade,” featuring the heavy indebtedness and severe structural adjustment policies of the 1980s (Coméliau 1991). The late 1980s/early 1990s saw another major shift within the aid world: a renewed focus on political transitions.9 The emergence and further institutionalization of democratization studies shifted the focus from so-called deterministic macroeconomic structures to the individual agency of political actors (mainly elites) and rational choice theories. The end of the Cold War relieved democracy programs of their previous ideological baggage while adding a vast new clientele for democratic transition. Most importantly, the 1990s witnessed two new entries to the aid scene: the state and the people. Considering the first, and far from some Keynesian restitution, this trend was advocating for the return of some reformed state according to New Public Management currents. From the 2000s, states became even more present in the aid world due to of the growing concerns with securitization and militarization after the events of 9/11 (Duffield 2001, 2007; Fisher and Anderson 2015). Furthermore, according to the UN’s Human Development Report of 1993 (entitled “People’s Participation”), “greater people’s participation is no longer a vague ideology based on the wishful thinking of a few idealists. It has become an imperative—a condition of survival” (UNDP 1993: 99). These calls to re-humanize development led to the massive adoption of new bottom-up methodologies and grassroots projects. Most often, the people were conceived of as a collective social actor self-fulfilled within the frame of civil society, a social realm lying between the family and the state. As often happens with other buzzwords, civil society’s conceptual success derives from its abstract definition, its “promiscuity, polyvalence, and protean incoherence” (Comaroff and Comaroff 2000: 8). As a discourse, it offered a conceptual umbrella for actors stretching over a wide range of political positionings, from anti-capitalist leftist movements and welfare state advocates, to market liberals, corporatists, and conservative Christians.10 The concept itself is part of a Western political-thinking heritage that has its roots within its various philosophical interpretations (e.g., in Ferguson, Hegel, Marx, Tocqueville, Gramsci, and Habermas). Each school of thought is defining the conditions of civil society’s creation, its harmonic or conflictual relations with the state, and its potential political role in the making (or unmaking) of a desirable social order (see Cohen and Arato 1994). As Hann and Dunn remark, no matter how different the approaches, they “assume the universality of modern western notions of … an autonomous agentic

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individual … none of these accounts leaves room for the exploration of alternative forms of social relationship” (1996: 5). Within this new emancipatory discourse, the people were to rediscover their agency at a time when the demise of the Eastern Bloc in 1989 marked civil society’s victorious come back. It was symbolizing a new political culture, a new ideal free of the subjectivity of totalitarianism. Apart from an ideological slogan, civil society acquired sociological weight with the introduction of social capital into aid’s official tool kit. Based on the work of the American Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam, social capital came to signify the mutual ethos of trust and the shared understanding of norms and obligations among citizens, necessary for civic engagement and cooperation through networks of voluntary associations (1993, 2001).11 Its accumulation, as its advocates argue, leads to social integration and harmony, revitalizing in a way American Tocquevillian theories of the 1950s and, more often than not, leaving conflicts and power relations outside their analytical frame (Harriss 2001; Fine 2001; DeFilippis 2001; Portes and Landolt 2000). Shattschneider’s famous metaphor epitomizes very well the biases of such pluralist theories: “the flaw in the pluralist heaven is that the heavenly chorus sings with a strong upper class accent” (Schattschneider 1960: 35). Today, and despite abundant critical accounts (Deler et al. 1998; Ferguson 1998; Comaroff and Comaroff 2000; Kamat 2002; Hilhorst 2003; Bebbington 2004; Hemment 2004; Elyachar 2005; Lewis and Mosse 2006; Heemeryck 2010; Schuller 2012; Petric 2015), civil society is still a development fetish. Considered a panacea to sociopolitical problems—not least economic ones when in the form of social capital (Blim 1990; Rankin 2004; Narotzky and Smith 2006)—civil society has been transformed from an anachronistic idea to a sort of global axiom (Comaroff and Comaroff 2000: 4). Its support through foreign aid, thus, emerges not only as wishful thinking but as pragmatic and technical goal. New aid departments, sections, programs, funding categories, and earmarks were created to undertake this task. Specialized research centers, interest groups, and networks on civil society/NGOs sprang up both within and outside the academic world.12 And a massive number of related academic programs appeared, targeting those seeking to advance their careers in the nonprofit management and administration.13 Programs set locally run under the label of building civil society. Although such titles can be very inclusive, the programs’ targets were mainly restricted to officially registered NGOs and private, so-called free media. Political parties and labor unions were mostly covered

Introduction   |   23

under state- or market-reform projects while social movements or informal groups were either too risky or lacking the necessary structures (bank accounts, boards, audits) to acquire funding.14 Building civil society, in most cases, meant forming local NGOs and raising their capacities. Herein lies the novelty of the democracy promotion framework: NGOs were not just engaged as project implementers, because of their perceived comparative advantages of flexibility and cost-efficiency; NGOs, and particularly local NGOs, became a development project in themselves. Today they are both a means and a goal of development intervention.

Chapter Overview Aid is not just a simple transaction between donors and recipients. It is an arena where numerous multilevel struggles take place between various—and historically contingent—meanings of development, paradigms and ideologies over the distribution of various resources, and the very direction of social change. These struggles are not just solely discursive either. Above all, aid is a system of concrete social practices with real social effects. Here, I am not just referring to the results of microprojects, and this book, for better or for worse, is neither an ethnography of a particular organization nor an evaluation of one civil-society program. From the start, I was interested in several different (yet connected) aspects of wider social transformation that civil society aid has brought about in Serbia since the 1990s. Therefore, this book should be read as an attempt to a global ethnography, opening up wider questions about contemporary realities, power relations, and social change. The book is divided in three parts, each containing two chapters. The first is entitled “Civil Society in the Making.” It addresses civil society as a concrete intervention and targets the more technical (and always political) aspects of such programs—what they actually are and what they actually do. Chapter 1, “Empowerment, Fast-Track,” is a critical glimpse of one training seminar focused on civic engagement and conflict reconciliation. The training, one of hundreds of its kind, reveals current epistemologies of conflict and change within the aid world. I examine how social realities are interpreted as cultural, psychopathological conditions and how the “exit strategy” translates to technologies of the self as a form of social intervention. Finally, I will show how the whole process of fostering civic awareness through contradictory uses of empowerment is

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ultimately translated into entrepreneurial dreams and ventures of project-making. Chapter 2, “NGOing and the Donor Effect,” focuses on processes of technocratization and activism. It discusses the questions of representativity and authenticity that the donor relationship raises, and demonstrates what an NGO is in terms of organizational structures and cultures and what it does via mundane activities of project-making or fundraising. Finally, the chapter invites a reconsideration of the NGOization framework—that is, the assumed de-radicalization of social struggles through the transformation of social movements into NGOs. As I will argue, NGOization in the Serbian context appears rather problematic for several reasons, including overly romanticizing past actions and disregarding claim-making processes and continuities in political positions. The second part of this book is devoted to deconstructing “Politics of Culture.” Because Serbia’s reality was so dominated by the dichotomy Democrats vs. Nationalists/Radicals, retrieving the names of the main political enemies before World War II, the following two chapters embark on unpacking them through the analytical prism of class. Chapter 3, “The ‘Democrats’: Salon NGOs in Belgrade,” focuses on the upscale NGO circle of Belgrade, exploring its sociological profile and political positioning and pointing out its legitimizing identity strategies. As I will argue, NGOs use of practical cosmopolitanism, their culturalized production of the nationalist enemy, and the European democratic self were inseparable from efforts of social positioning within the aid scene and in the emerging political arena after 2000. Furthermore, leaving aside the flat stratification schemata of middle-classness, I will discuss the formation of a local projectariat, trapped within very precarious labor relations of exploitation and moral obligations of do-gooding. The following chapter, “The ‘Nationalists’: Radikali and Privatization,” provides a tentative answer to the omnipresent cultural discussion (produced by the above local NGOs, among others) and spreading fears of a current resurgence of nationalism. By recounting narratives and experiences of privatization processes in the small town of Vojvodina, this chapter contends that support for nationalist political options in Serbia had more to do with classbased experiences of material and symbolic dispossession than with identity quests or cultural predispositions. The rise of the nationalist Radical Party was not a simple result of media manipulation, but it was closely linked to the absence of a critical institutionalized Left.

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The third and final part of the book tackles the policies of “good governance” (the promotion of synergy between state and NGOs), but tries to go beyond a totalizing discourse of the neoliberal dismantling of the state. Chapter 5, “Revitalizing Communities, Decentralizing the State,” is an analysis of a USAID program, aiming to establish local citizens’ councils in order to foster participation and a local civic ethos. Looking at the project’s claims and practices reveals how the seemingly naive “habits of the heart” were in fact translated into a concrete political (and economic) intervention: a state-building project at the grassroots level. I intend to show how messy and complex such an intervention gets when it has to deal, on the one hand, with actors having contradictory projects and interpretations, and, on the other hand, with sociohistorical legacies and embedded social networks built around the public sector. The last chapter, “NGOs vs. State: Clash or Class?”, examines the welfare reform in Serbia, and the push of local NGOs toward service provision, according to New Public Management trends. I take this example to theoretically criticize an overstated and assumed NGO– state clash within the current globalization/neoliberalism framework that tends to homogenize actors and obscure their internal unequal properties. In fact, we gain more analytical purchase if we analyze this dichotomy as an emic construction, linked to class-based processes. Looking through such an angle, the hierarchies of power can instead be drawn between a politically well-connected elite of experts/planners circulating among NGOs, donors, and state agencies, and precarious nonprofit staff and lower-level public servants engaged in provision, culturally stigmatized for their so-called stubborn resistance to reforms.

In the Field As Bate accurately stated, “ethnography is not so much method in the madness, as madness in the method” (1997: 1152). The madness started in February 2006 when I arrived for the first time in a freezing, snow-covered Belgrade. The first thing I did was to start learning Serbo-Croatian. This proved to be a hard task but I strongly believe it was an absolute methodological imperative and my research would have taken different pathways or been completely deprived of many of critical insights were I to have conducted it only in English or with the help of a translator. Learning the language also functioned as a

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symbolic resource, as for certain informants it also signaled some sort of genuine interest and commitment. I started visiting local NGOs in June 2006 with the initial mission of finding a job, internship, or simply to volunteer. However, there are two reasons why this never happened. First, because I never really envisioned making a monograph of one particular organization. I became interested in a more situational analysis that could eventually cover several aspects of the NGO world, and, as a result, my research became by necessity multi-sited. And, second, because after a few interviews with prominent members of NGOs in Belgrade, I became aware of the enormously antagonistic relationship that NGOs held with one another, not only because of the scarce funding available but also because of personal rivalries and different political affiliations. I thus took the risk of remaining unaffiliated. I am sure that this decision has probably deprived me from observing some practices and accessing particular information, but I am also certain that it enabled me to develop a more intimate level of trust with my interlocutors. Despite this limitation, I was still able to observe the mundane routines of these NGOs by meeting people during their working hours in the office. I soon realized also that a considerable part of NGOing was outside of the office, mainly networking and trying to locate various flows of resources, information, funding, partners, and new project ideas. This task was mainly done in coffeehouses, restaurants, conferences, or by visiting the offices of other organizations. In addition to gathering life stories and printed material (brochures, manuals, reports, project proposals, strategic plans, PowerPoint presentations), I was able to participate in various meetings and events organized by the NGOs, ranging from inter- and intra-NGO discussions on the civil sector’s future to public presentations of their project results and international conferences on major political issues such as EU integration and specific policy reforms. Besides visiting almost sixty local NGOs in Belgrade, I also met many people (from lower managers to high-level experts) working for international NGOs (Save the Children, Caritas, America’s Development Foundation, Mercy Corps, International Relief and Development, Norwegian People’s Aid, Freedom House, Institute for Sustainable Communities); donor organizations of all kinds (United Nations Development Programme [UNDP], World Bank, European Agency for Reconstruction, Canadian International Development Agency, USAID, Open Society Foundation); embassies, the municipality of Belgrade, the Serbian Ministry of Labor, Employment, and Social Policy; state agencies (Social Innovation Fund, the Ministry

Introduction   |   27

of European Integration, and the Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit); public Centers of social work [CSW] (Centri za socijalni rad); trade unions of social workers; political parties; think tanks; and numerous freelance trainers, consultants, and academics. Although I also had meetings with expats, my main focus was on the local population staffing the aid industry. I was lucky enough that my research coincided with the last phase of a large USAID program, some aspects of which I present in Chapter 5. This program was particularly important as it was the last of its kind implemented in Serbia; it was a by-the-book civil-society building program. After several pilot visits to different regions, I decided to focus on the autonomous province of Vojvodina, falling under the responsibility of USAID’s implementing partner, America’s Development Foundation, an international NGO with years of experience in democracy promotion. Initially, I gathered ethnographic material by travelling for two months to the municipality of Subotica and Kikinda). I visited the project’s recipients, in their newly established citizens’ councils and warm homes, I hung around in their coffee shops and in the offices of public administrative units (Mesne Zajednice), and I saw the funded activities and met the project’s staff and municipal representatives from the various political parties. I also had the opportunity to pay a short visit to these places after the implementation of the project was terminated, in 2008. The timing of that visit gave me the chance to talk with people that were no longer bounded by employment contracts and were more eager to express their views and reflect on the final outcomes of the project. In Kikinda, I was already conducting a parallel research on neo-nationalism, part of which is presented in Chapter 4. In trying to grasp the reasons for people supporting the nationalist Radical Party, I met many workers, engineers, and pensioners from the two industries of the city, Livnica Ltd and Toza Marković Ltd, as well as journalists, public servants from healthcare institutions, and members of their families. Therefore, because I was already in situ, it just made sense to extend my research in order to include the USAID project. All these meetings were arranged using the snowball method which proved more than effective given the closed development circle; as my informants were saying, “everybody knows everybody.” Out of those meetings, I have eighty-five recorded interviews, lasting in average from one to two hours each. Informal conversations and group meetings are of course impossible to quantify but their qualitative properties were indispensable. Finally, my research was enriched by data purchased through my active participation as

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a trainee in two kinds of training programs during 2010: I participated in numerous educational seminars that the Belgrade NGOs provided to other NGOs, mostly smaller groups or from outside the capital organizations, as a part of the latter’s institutional building. Each course involved one or two days of workshops, organized around topics such as project proposal writing, advocacy, fundraising, and networking. Apart from these capacity-building interventions, I also participated in a one-week seminar in a small town of Vojvodina that had an explicit focus on intercultural dialogue, reconciliation, and youth empowerment. The findings during this week seemed to me very indicative of the general phenomena and tendencies that I wanted to discuss. I decided therefore to present it as an ethnographic whole and to devote a chapter to analyzing the production of specific epistemologies of conflict and change. I will start the anthropological journey to the routes of democracy promotion in Serbia exactly there, in Vojvodina.

Notes  1. According to Ivo Baučić writing in 1972, “With a population of 20,504,516 (figure for 31 March 1971) and a total of 860,000 external migrants, Yugoslavia has an emigration rate of 4.2 percent—i.e., Europe’s highest after Portugal (Portugal 5.7 percent, Italy 3.4 percent).” (1972: 3).  2. Data from Serbian Ministry of Finance:  3. At the time of my research, associations were registered at the Serbian Business Registers Agency. These data are taken from there: D%D0%B0%D1%81%D0%BB%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%BD%D0%B0.aspx (last visited on 22 December 2012).  4. The main concern of that period was the post-war reconstruction of European democracies funded by the Marshall Plan. But what was really new in the mid-twentieth century, in terms of conceptual frameworks, was the notion of underdevelopment. The world is no longer divided between civilized and barbarian but between developed and underdeveloped, implying the possibility of the latter to gradually reach the former. Cold War struggles for influence were being transformed into technological development interventions. The transcript of Truman’s famous speech can be found here: (last accessed 10 September 2013).  5. Modernization development economics were very influenced by the work of theorists such as Seymour Martin Lipset and Daniel Lerner, political sociologists who were arguing about the strong correlations between economic growth and democracy (Lerner 1958; Lipset 1959).  6. NGOs that were already active at that period include Oxfam (1942), Save the Children (1919), Catholic Relief Service (1943), and Cooperative for American Remittances in Europe/CARE (1946). Many more were established later during the decolonization

Introduction   |   29

 7.  8.





13. 14.

period and under the ideological influence of third-worldism, adopting either its Christian version (e.g., Comité catholique contre la faim et pour le développement, 1961), or following a more critical Marxian one (e.g., Frères des Hommes, 1965, or Terres des Hommes, 1963). This approach stemmed out of the International Labour Organization in 1976. For a critique of the concept of needs, see Baudrillard 1981. The evolution of NGOs’ budgets in this period is very telling of such a development. As an indicator, Sylvie Brunel notes that between 1970 and 1990, the funds that NGOs received from public sources for operating programs in the developing countries, representing one-third of their total financial budget, passed from less than $200 million to $2.2 billion (Brunel 1997: 32). As Nicolas Guilhot has discussed in his book The Democracy Makers (2005), this transition paradigm is also closely linked to the “tension between intradisciplinary developments and the evolution of the structural position of academics in the field of policy-making” (2005:102). The emancipatory language of empowerment and human rights, grassroots approaches and social responsibility, were adopted by actors as different as the US State Department, the World Bank, Zapatistas, anti-communist Russian NGOs, think tanks like Freedom House, liberation movements in Maldives, Indian agrarian cooperatives, indigenous movements, Philipp Morris, the UNDP, Rastafarian associations in Trinidad, and Green Peace. His book, Making Democracy Work, sought to understand the regional differences of economic development and institutional performance in Italy since the 1970s. He found that there was a strong correlation between a flourishing civic life and the development of responsive institutions and economic prosperity in the northern part of Italy; the “fate of Mezzogiorno,” on the other hand, is understood in terms of a civic engagement deficit. Instead of horizontal links among citizens, best encapsulated in the form of voluntary associations, Putnam found detrimental strong interpersonal relations based on blood-ties and friendship. Such views echoed Banfield’s views of “amoral familism” (1958), but also Gellner’s repulsion for the “tyranny of the cousins” (1994: 7). For a critique, see Tarrow 1996. Among the most well-known are the Center for Civil Society at the London School of Economics, the International Society for Third Sector Research (ISTR), the Center for Civil Society Studies at Johns Hopkins University, the Program on Nonprofit Organizations at Yale, and the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard. Such are the Executive Program for Nonprofit Leaders at the Stanford Graduate School of Business or the Philanthropy and Nonprofit Organizations at Northwestern University. Exceptions are those social movements participating “in the fight against dictatorship or terrorism.” See for example the case of Otpor! discussed in Chapter 2.

PART I Civil Society in the Making

– Chapter 1 –

Empowerment, Fast-Track

_ Two young travelers are sleeping on a moving train. After a while, one wakes up. “I had a dream,” he says, “that we were in the Balkans … that there were a lot of young people there … a lot of young but frustrated people … but people that were motivated, that wanted to change something.” His enthusiasm starts deflating when he realizes that it was indeed just a dream. His friend, the other traveler, is listening very carefully but suddenly stands up and looks around as the train stops moving. “Wait!” she shouts at him, “That is not a dream! We are in the Balkans! And I can see these people, I can see one … right here! And here! Over here!” Both performers stand up and start pointing at and looking in the eye of each person in the audience every time they shout “here!” They finish by cheering together, “Come, let’s get up!”, accompanied by a warm applause from everybody in the room. The above performance was the inauguration of a one-week training seminar held in a small town in Serbia in 2010, intended to promote civic involvement among young people from the Balkan region. The theatrical sketch, with the trainers as the performers and the trainees as the audience, encapsulated the “needs assessment” of the whole seminar: an assumed spreading apathy and lack of civic engagement in the Balkans. This condition was also implied in a symbolic manner by the photograph on the advertising brochure for the seminar, published and spread via different networks and mailing lists: a large image of the bare feet of a few young people relaxing on a chair next to a magazine—not any magazine though, but a Croatian version of Cosmopolitan promising a glimpse into the secrets of men’s desires. However, the Balkans were not written off as some hopeless land. The organizers were convinced that there were – 33 –

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many willing and energetic young people out there who needed to fully acknowledge their potential, to be motivated, to believe in themselves and obtain relevant skills, and, finally, to get up! After prolonged negotiations with the trainers, they finally accepted my participation in the seminar and I am deeply grateful for that. Throughout the week, I participated in the same activities, exercises, classes, parties, dinners, and strolls as the rest of the group, while also spending some time with the trainers and participants separately. Based on the collected thick data, this chapter seeks to provide an analytical account of what constitutes a civil-society building program. The definition of civic apathy and its opposite, active citizenship, lay within a web of cultural intimacy insights of both trainers and participants—sometimes creating conflicts between them, other times fostering a sense of collective identity or mission. The repertoire of such seminars, on the one hand, generally underline the strong essentialist assumptions still tied to the geographic-cultural category of the Balkans, but also manifest a strong belief that democracy and civic awareness can be translated into concrete skills to be taught and learned. The polysemy of empowerment boosted the motivation for action, but also translated and reduced “change” to entrepreneurial ventures of project management. Such seminars have their own routine structure, methods, jargon, and rules. They are generally composed of three pillars: teambuilding, analysis of the problem at hand, and finally the transfer of knowledge for achieving its resolution. This chapter’s structure follows these steps.

The Actors The seminar was financially and institutionally supported by the Theodor Heuss Kolleg, a program set up by the Robert Bosch Foundation and the MitOst association in order to promote young people’s civic engagement and pay homage to the life and oeuvre of the German politician Theodor Heuss. On its website we learn: With the Theodor Heuss Kolleg, the Robert Bosch Stiftung and the MitOst Association commemorate an exceptional person, whose life’s work promoted understanding and reconciliation between nations. … Democracy was, for him, primarily a way of life and an attitude: The liberty of the people depends on the internal freedom of the individual. To the present day, the Theodor-Heuss-Kolleg has remained committed to this maxim. 1 [emphasis added]

Empowerment, Fast-Track   |   35

The four trainers were students of the Theodor Heuss Kolleg’s school for trainers based in Berlin. As part of their professional training they had already acquired experience by organizing and participating in similar courses in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics. In their late twenties, the trainers shared particular bonds with the Balkans, as they said. Among them, two had Balkan family origins, all held university diplomas in European studies, intercultural business communication, political science, and history related to central and Eastern Europe and all could communicate in a Balkan language. This project was the fulfillment of a year-long plan based on very strong personal motivations. All the trainers were highly enthusiastic, dynamic, and genuinely committed to spreading democratic principles, cultural diversity, and self-motivation. The call for the seminar received almost 430 individual applications. This response represented a kind of proof that there were indeed many de-motivated yet open-minded young people in the Balkans, reinforcing the raison d’être of the seminar. Out of these candidates, only twenty participants were chosen. More than half were youngsters from the former Yugoslavian countries and the rest were from Bulgaria, Romania, and Albania. No one came from Kosovo, as the trainers thought that the country’s recent unilateral declaration of independence in 2008 was too sensitive an issue to deal with and they wanted to avoid high-tempered situations among participants. On the other hand, they deliberately chose people from smaller towns in order to give the opportunity to those who had fewer chances to participate. All the selected participants had to complete an extensive application form explaining their motivations and aspirations for the future. Their educational level was almost identical: except for one, they were all either undergraduate students or recent BA holders, mostly in political science, economics, or business management. More than half of them were already in contact with the NGO circle in their respective towns, either by being parttime employees, members of youth associations, or simple volunteers. This was barely a surprise, given the thousands of realized NGO projects in the former Yugoslav region from the last twenty years, part of the massive push in humanitarian and developmental aid. What was intriguing though was to see how these participants, already engaged in civil society initiatives, accounted for the spread of apathy over the Balkans and what they considered the best practices to overcome this condition.

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What Personality Type Are You? The seminar was hosted in a recently renovated eighteenth-century building, formerly used as a restaurant and textile storage facility. It became the property of an ecological NGO and a volunteer center. This NGO had only one full-time paid employee, a young well-traveled backpacker, and it organized and hosted several activities from language classes to youth exchanges and volunteer camps. Renting the facilities to other associations for similar purposes was a way for the volunteer center to partly fund its own programs. The building’s space was specially adjusted for training courses, workshops, and similar activities. The upper floor was designed as a youth hostel, with dormitories and bathrooms, while the rest of the floors had spacious workrooms with flipcharts and tablet arm chairs for educational activities. There was also a beautiful garden for outdoor activities or simple relaxation. The first part of the training was devoted to standardized “teambuilding” activities (so-called trust games, icebreakers, or energizers). These games had to move the participants quickly through the getting-to-know-each-other phase to create bonds and team spirit within the group, but do so in a “creative” and “active” way. Participants also had to set personal goals and define their expectations of themselves, the other members of the group, and the seminar as a whole. They put these expectations on colorful paper and stuck them on flipcharts hanging on the wall as a visual reminder to be constantly working towards them. People expected the seminar to give them new ideas and skills to help them change things in their society, to be challenged, to practice the English language, to have fun and make friends, and to learn more about other Balkan countries. Despite all these general statements, the particularity of this seminar first came up when people had to state what should not happen during that week. On the cards they noted that there should be no: “political fights,” “talk about history,” “talk about problems between our countries,” “nationalism,” “conflicts because of politics,” “insults because of people’s differences.” Such statements came mostly from the participants from ex-Yugoslavia. For them, it was extremely difficult even to name and articulate the recent conflicts. General terms including “the 1990s,” “before … after” (without naming the reference point), or “the situation,” were used instead of “war” or “ethnic conflict,” revealing how people were still trying to deal with the traumatic past.

Empowerment, Fast-Track   |   37

The participants were instead interested in other issues more directly affecting their life and future plans. In an exercise called “Learning Our Societies,” they presented items symbolizing the impurities of their societies of origin: an envelope with money symbolizing bribing and corruption, a plastic gun referring to ideals of masculinity, tabloid newspapers for low-quality media, a circumscribed anarchy “A” indicating a lack of respect for the law, a credit card criticizing new consumerism, and a plastic bag pointing at the lack of environmental consciousness. However, what seemed to be the beginning of a fruitful analysis of current social phenomena in the region was very quickly disrupted by the methods and rational of the seminar. First, the tight scheduling of sessions favored brainstorming rather than conversation and debate, despite the wish of the participants to have more time to express their thoughts and ideas. Second, this exercise had indeed very little to do with learning these societies but was instead part of standardized “intercultural dialogue” tool kit for so-called “peace-building and reconciliation” missions.2 This seminar was, after all, addressing a post-conflict region that was perceived to be the most fragile melting pot of conflicting nationalism in Europe. Identifying conflict as “ethnic” and explaining nationalism through an essentialist understanding of culture pointed to so-called cultural rapprochement as a conflictresolution technique. The trainer organizing this session explained that the items the participants brought could represent any Balkan country. People can live peacefully together if they know more about their neighbors. Even if the Balkans are in many perspectives a very heterogeneous area (ethnically, politically, culturally), and these differences can be the cause of conflict, they also share numerous similarities. He concluded, “We, the Balkans, forget how similar we are.” Culture and cultural differences, abstracted from the politics built around them, risked being reified as the cause of conflicts. After these first sessions, the trainers had organized a surprise: they announced we would play a game. More than just a creative way to enjoy the evening, the game turned out to be a sort of experiment, bringing to mind the human behavioral projects of the 1970s. The trainers gathered us in a room to announce the rules of the game. It was very simple: we had sixty-six minutes to successfully carry out the thirty tasks that they had written on a board. The trainers wouldn’t participate but they would be around to observe and verify when tasks were accomplished. The tasks included, among others, painting all our cheeks, jumping all together for three minutes, imitating an animal as a group for three minutes, covering

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one person completely with toilet paper, organizing a theatrical play, writing a song, making a rope out of clothes and stretching it from the attic to the garden, shaking hands with everybody, having two people do seventy push-ups, and so on. When the timer started, everybody started discussing in small groups how to organize all of these tasks. At one point one participant stood up and started shouting in order to get everyone’s attention. He suggested, before splitting up, to deal first with the collective tasks. We all agreed that made sense. Then he asked who would like to do this or that task and smaller groups were formed with particular missions. During the following hour, everybody was running like crazy in and out of the hostel, clearly enjoying themselves. The trainers were following us, observing, taking notes, and checking the tasks. After sixty-six minutes exactly, every task on the list were accomplished and, as a reward, there were drinks and food to celebrate the victory. The next morning the atmosphere was not as cheerful. On the contrary, when the trainers called us for the first session of the day they looked quite skeptical. Once everyone had sat in a circle, they announced that it was time to do an evaluation of the last night’s game. The trainer leading this session explained: It was a game but also an opportunity for us [the trainers] to see how you work together, how you solve problems together. We assume that all of you had a role in this game. We’d like [you] to ask yourself: think about your role. What happened yesterday? Reflect more about that … what kind of person you are maybe? It is time to talk openly to each other. Let’s do it in an open circle, like Alcoholics Anonymous do! [laughter from the participants] So, how did you organize yesterday? [emphasis added]

The participants started narrating funny anecdotes, emphasizing how they all contributed to the goal, but the trainer kept interrupting them to insist they focus on the “how did it happen” question. He decided to start the conversation he wanted to provoke by commenting that at one point he heard Ivan, one of the participants, shouting: Ivan: Well, I thought to shout so that nobody leaves the room and we can organize the first ten minutes. Trainer A: So, you were all happy that somebody took an initiative like that? Like some leader for example?

Somebody started laughing, commenting that, “This is a Balkan thing!” Everybody started laughing as well, recognizing the irony in his tone. The trainer asks again:

Empowerment, Fast-Track   |   39

Trainer A: But, was there someone that felt … suppressed? Somebody that did not feel like an individual? Participant: No, we did not feel like that. Trainer A: Well … OK.

The following pause in the conversation created a very uncomfortable atmosphere. People couldn’t understand in the beginning what the trainer meant by “role” or “type of person” but slowly this confusion gave way to nervousness. One girl stood up rather upset: Maya: You know, it’s not that we need leadership if that’s what you mean, something like a dictator! It’s true that it would be better that we all sit down and discuss how we do things. I do not usually do anything like that, but ok, it was just a game! Marinko: We did not think of all these … it was a game and we had fun! Trainer A: Is it easier when somebody gives you a role or a task? Or is it more difficult? Robi: It’s tough when you take responsibility. However, I did not see Ivan as a leader … more maybe as some coordinator. He never said “you do this, you do that.” Nobody told anybody what to do. We all agreed. Trainer A: So, you all liked your tasks? Nobody was frustrated? Uncomfortable? You, Vesna, you were wrapped with paper because they said you were the shortest … was it ok? Vesna: Yes, I found it normal so we use less paper and it would be faster. I very much enjoyed the game. Trainer A: Let’s think of all these items you brought from the Balkans. Which ones did you find in this group, in this game? Participant: It was great that we all did something together. We did not consider it an obstacle because we are from different countries if that’s what you mean … Trainer B: Yes, but here is a society, it is part of a system. And you all bring something from your societies here …

As this discussion was not very clear, the participants started asking the trainers to comment on what they saw as observers. They wanted to know what their impressions were, what were they writing in their notebooks, what happened in other seminars they had organized. At first, the trainers refused to comment because, as they said, this was not their job and different people do things

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differently. Finally, after lots of pressure, the trainers decided to make some remarks: Trainer A: Ok … I’ve seen the same game five or seven times and this issue of leader was very interesting for me. It was the first time I saw someone taking the role of the leader or coordinator. In the other games, the group somehow organized itself, without one. We [the trainers] discussed that yesterday. For us it was pretty new. Maybe it was normal for you to have a coordinator but for us it was a surprise. We know there is another way to do it without having a leader/coordinator … Trainer B: I think there is something very special about this group; it’s very different from others because there is this enthusiasm, this power, this laughing, and this loudness. This is something I really liked. You were just having fun here. However, in the end of the game, I would be asking myself what is success all about? Is it to reach the goal or is it to make all feel comfortable in their roles? Is it the process or the aim that matters more? Sometimes it is difficult to see which idea is better from the one that is louder; and how about people that do not have a loud voice?

The participants started reacting to these comments but the lead trainer said that they did not want the discussion to focus on these comments, that they were just to give the participants questions to think about and take home. He closed the session by noting: I am also from the Balkans, we all are in some way, and this game reminded me totally of the Balkan societies. Many things are normal here. It’s normal if you have a loud voice that you can coordinate. I’d like to relax now and think about other contexts, other ideas … or what would be ideal … thank you all for your participation!

The game had formally two goals. On one hand, it was part of a team-building task trying to create proximity, friendship bonds, self-development, and communication skills. On the other hand, the trainers, having in their tool kit the prefabricated categories of “roles” and “personality types,” considered it a test to morally assess the existing organizational culture of the group. In this particular case, the answer to the question “What was your role?” was determining who fit the roles of leader or follower. These kinds of labels for categorizing human behavior are extremely popular within management studies and training addressing mainly the corporate sector. Drawing on behavioral and style theories, and using tests and indicators mostly developed between the 1920s and late 1970s,3 these psychometric analyses promise today, as before in their applied use, efficiency, motivation, high productivity, and harmonic working relations within formal organizations.

Empowerment, Fast-Track   |   41

Quotes of Geertz’s definitions of culture are omnipresent in managerial books, which acknowledge that, besides formal institutional structures, deeper webs of shared meanings and informal social relations are equally important if we are to understand organizations. Yet, the use of culture in these texts is somewhat distorted, used to signify a sort of glue that guarantees cohesion or consensus.4 As Susan Write points out, In organizational studies literature which also uses Geertz, often only one, supposedly consensual definition of the situation is given. Culture has turned from being something an organization is into something an organization has, and from being a process embedded in context to an objectified tool of management control. The use of the term culture itself becomes ideological (Wright 1994: 4).

When generic categories, such as types or personalities, are transferred to the development sector, they are never used in some universal ahistorical way, but always within the specific context and history of the place to be developed. The categories of leaders and followers were thus not indicators of some preemptive universal type of human behavior—the trainers embedded these personality types within what they were constantly referring to as the “Balkans,” The Balkans are not just a geographical region of southern Europe, they also carry, as any label does, a whole set of cultural predispositions (Todorova 1997). Viewed through the lens of orientalism, of so-called “communist legacies” and the “primitive” atrocities of the recent conflicts, the Balkans came to be synonymous with people in need of “Big Men,” whether that was somebody like Tito, Tuđman, and Milošević, or the next populist leader intent on manipulating its electorate. Apart from these very widespread stereotypes, which are fed more strongly by the ascription of local or foreign others than by self-description, the thesis of “charismatic leaders” was also part of scholarly repertoires trying to account for the violent breakup of Yugoslavia and the grassroots support of nationalism. The trainers’ assertion that “we are all from the Balkans” worked as a claim to local knowledge. It was precisely this in-between identity, between Europe and the Balkans, that was enabling them to advance allegations of what Michael Herzfeld called the “cultural intimacy” of the participants: the recognition of those aspects of a cultural identity that are considered a source of external embarrassment but that nevertheless provide insiders with their assurance of common sociality, the familiarity with the bases of power that may at one moment assure the disenfranchised a degree of

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creative irreverence and at the next moment reinforce the effectiveness of intimidation (2005: 3).

The fact that they were similar, yet not the same, set the ground for the implied criticism of the group’s cultural dispositions toward authoritarianism instead of democracy. What was initially perceived as a game developing so-called value-free skills—like organizational or decision-making skills—was converted to a search for the very political culture of the Balkans, in other words, to the very production of Balkan-ness. The evaluation of the game was verifying in the praxis this stereotype: the presence of a loud leader of the Balkans and a bunch of followers who did not realize their subordination, or even worse, perceived it as normal. The participants had not only arrived at this seminar as de facto Balkanites, they were also becoming Balkanites through the reproduction of such representations.

The Clouds of the Balkans … The next day’s mission was to define the “clouds of the Balkans,” those common problems in the region that became the highest preoccupation for young people. The participants voted for the top three: the education system, pollution, and collective indifference. They were then separated into three groups to discuss the above topics. I joined the third group on indifference, because in my opinion that was the underlying issue and probably the reason for the whole seminar. Both trainers and participants agreed that the most threatening phenomenon in the region, particularly visible among young people, was probably the widespread apathy. Etymologically, apathy implies a condition of no passions, no motivation, no will for involvement. Apathy means disconnection from social networks, isolation, and introversion. They all stressed that people in the Balkans lack civil courage and are totally indifferent to the common interest of their own societies. They do not seem to care about their neighboring countries either. Evidence was to be found in the personal narrations of the participants, in their own experiences of apathy in their countries. What were the reasons given for a phenomenon that seemed to reach the limits of pathology? The first set of arguments had to do with information. People are apathetic, as participants stressed, because they do not know any other way to be; nobody informed them about the ongoing activities of various associations. Civic engagement, they

Empowerment, Fast-Track   |   43

noted, is almost never mediatized in the Balkans, or, when it is, it has negative connotations. The participants stressed that NGOs are regarded more like money launderers and that the civic initiatives that emerged during the war were framed as national treason rather than as solidarity actions. Therefore, either people in their societies lack relevant information or they are misinformed and manipulated by yellow journalism. “But is it a lack of knowing or rather a lack of willing?” asked someone from the group. He argued that today’s Balkan societies are very individualistic. People are too busy trying to build their careers and seek individual profits. They do not see any purpose in voluntarism, and if you work for no remuneration, “they think you are a weirdo.” At the same time, even when people recognize that there is a common good, they have learned to wait for somebody else to serve it for them, which is, in most cases they described, the state. After all, they continued, the communist education system was, deliberately or not, creating passive citizens deprived of the ability of critical thinking. The Balkans, they advanced, are indeed very young democracies. People haven’t yet realized that, in this new political system (democracy), it is not the state but its citizens that should govern. Thus, there is nobody else to “wait for” anymore. According to the participants, therefore, spreading apathy stems from both capitalist individualistic logic and communist legacies, but also from disappointment and loss of hope for a better future. Similar but, this time, decontextualized allegations are already flourishing within the democracy and development literature. In regards to the West, the alarm has been raised since the mid-1990s. As Lester Salamon, the John Hopkins guru of civil society, warned: The new spectre [sic] which is haunting the developed world is not that of the proletariat, which Karl Marx called to our attention some 150 years ago. Rather, it is the lonely bowler, as described by Robert D. Putnam in his book Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community [sic]—the alienated individual cut off from his or her social roots, lacking bonds of trust and reciprocity, and forced to function in a universe of all against all without those “habits of the heart” as Alexis de Tocqueville called them, which make human existence tolerable. (Salamon 2001: 36)

The transitologists, on the other hand, have embraced a version of history which casts the former Eastern Bloc as home to passive subjects of socialism. However, as the sociologist Anna Krasteva put it, apathy is not some communist heritage; on the contrary, it’s a post-communism invention (see also Chapter 5). Krasteva, referring to the Bulgarian case, notes that:

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Engagement was not a right, but a duty. Men and women, intellectuals and workers, adults and youth, all had to participate. … The communist individual was engaged, not because he freely chose to do so, but because he did not have the freedom to disengage.” (Krasteva 2009; my translation)

Although the Yugoslav case was quite different in terms of control and prohibitions, people were engaged in various civic activities since their childhood. Apart from the Communist Party or workers’ syndicates, there were youth and women associations like Snaga Žena (Women’s Power), the Union of Pioneers of Yugoslavia or the Socialist Alliance of the Working People of Yugoslavia. Other organizations had a social component, such as alliances of blind and disabled persons and pensioners’ associations. There were also scientific and professional associations like the Medical Society, the Lawyers Chamber, the Writers’ Club, and the Philosophy Club, not to mention highly political social movements such as student and feminist organizations (see the Introduction). Apart from the above attempts to historicize apathy, there is hardly any other sociohistorical context in which to embed indifference. One cannot help but wonder how yesterday’s overly passionate and bellicose highlanders of the Balkans (as Balkanites were popularly portrayed in the early media accounts of the wars) have suddenly become today’s passive and selfish individuals. How does a presumed social isolation come to be despite all of the photos of families and friends that the participants presented with pride? Interestingly, this spreading apathy was mostly attributed to youth that had never experienced communism. And even if someone accepts the number of local NGOs in the region as an indicator of participation, as donors are accustomed to do, trying to recognize in this organizational form familiar and idealistic forms of civil society, Steven Sampson would argue that you would eventually find too many NGOs in the Balkan, thus questioning the accusation of apathy (Sampson 2004). The focus instead, more often than not, was on psychopathological understandings of the Balkan self. After a lively discussion, the seminar participants concluded that Balkan people fear individual distinction, either because there is a social pressure for people to remain “average,” or because they find it more comfortable to belong to some anonymous mass; Balkan people, they concluded, are pessimistic by nature. They do not believe there is a better future for them, but acknowledging that it could be worse stops them from complaining about their current well-being. Balkan people never take risks because they do not really like change. Even when new realities emerge to their own detriment, they prefer to adjust

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themselves rather than to fight for change. The bottom line, all participants agreed, is that what the Balkan people really miss is self-esteem. Only someone that believes in his own capacity and potential can eventually embrace challenges and achieve success. Without self-esteem there is no self-respect or self-confidence, and thus no self-actualization.

… and How to Get Rid of Them Having defined the reasons of indifference, the next session was devoted to finding solutions. A big flipchart was already in the room with few lines written on it: “Keep in mind: Democracy is not something you lay back and watch. It is something you have to fight for every day!” Participants once again brainstormed around the topic of civic engagement and produced enough words to put on colorful papers and then again on the wall. They wrote “active citizen,” “responsibility,” “change,” “courage,” “advocacy,” “public discussions,” and “sustainability,” among others. One of the trainers gave us a few examples of the third sector in Germany. He talked about voluntary, social, and political involvement, associations like churches and sport clubs, monitoring of elections, fire brigade volunteers, and self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous. Then, another trainer took the leading role and continued, using the allinclusive first plural person: We have heard some examples from Germany; now let’s see about our situation here in the Balkans. It’s about two simple words: power and responsibility. So, what is the most common reaction here to an outcome that we did not expect? — This is not my fault! We find excuses and retreat from responsibility. We either blame somebody else, or we justify the outcome, we think that nothing could be done. Why do we do this? It is very natural reaction because we want to avoid punishment or exposition. However, these two behaviors close the options for change. The question is: will I give power to myself or others? The most important concept here is self-empowerment. This philosophy came from the States, from the corporate sector as all things do in the USA, but it helps if you adopt it as an attitude in your everyday life. The idea is that there is an event, then your reaction, and together these two make the outcome. So, the outcome is half your contribution, this means you are responsible for it. Taking responsibility for something means giving power to yourselves. Power comes from you and goes to you. Responsibility makes us not dependent on other people; it enlarges your area of control. Now, you have to decide: am I to take control of the situation or others? [emphasis added]

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Once again, the distinction between the West and the Balkans was made explicit, yet it was another concept occupying the center of this discussion: the idea of empowerment. Empowerment, both as a means to an end and as an end in itself, has also become a buzzword in the development discourse since the mid-1990s. Its recent popularity, similar to other all-encompassing concepts, derives from its semantic ambiguity, because in most cases a predefinition of what constitutes “power” is nonexistent. Without trying to craft the genealogy of a concept, I would like to briefly mention three of its main deployments in the last fifty years by very different social actors in very different historical, political, and institutional contexts: Paolo Freire’s version, the corporate version, and the developmental version. In the late 1960s and 1970s, empowerment was a constituting part of the radical leftist discourse of the new social movements. Feminist, black power, and civil rights activists considered empowerment a political and transformative idea that challenged hegemonic structures of class, gender, and race. Paulo Freire’s critical pedagogy was very influential, as the empowerment of the oppressed was conditioned upon their own “conscientization.” Only their critical understanding of the terms of their own oppression and the translation of that knowledge to action—praxis—could bring an end to their “culture of silence”: “The oppressed must be their own example in the struggle for their redemption.” (Freire 2000: 54) During the 1980s, empowerment was introduced to the new managerial language and policies in Britain and the United States. Besides the well-known efforts of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan to dismantle state institutions so as to fight bureaucracies and give power back to the people, the 1980s and 1990s witnessed major restructuring strategies in the corporate sector. Firms had to overcome the deep recession of the 1970s and 1980s, while at the same time they needed to become more efficient in the face of intensified international competition. Managers were advised to no longer bear the parental responsibility for their employees but to empower them by creating a common sense of ownership and responsibility. Yet, as Wendy James has correctly asserted, empowerment is not delegation. It is about making the most of people’s potential. “It is not clear that the devolution (shedding?) of responsibility from the center always goes with a relinquishing of real control over resources; in fact, it is a way of cutting down on costs” (James 1999: 17). Indeed, layoffs resulting from “re-engineering” affected not only blue-collar workers but also a large proportion of white-collar positions, as empowerment implied leaner and flatter managerial

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structures.5 It equally acted as an impressive tool for reconsidering the so-called unprofitable, traditional, and old-fashioned class relations of exploitation and subordination in the workplace. According to business manuals, the trouble lays in “the perceived difference in people’s positions that hangs over from the old hierarchical mind-set and assumptions. That perceived division between “superior” and “subordinate” is no longer very useful in business organizations. In fact, it works directly counter to success. Success today depends on team effort” (Blanchard et al. 2001: 29). Advocating for ownership was conceived as a “major shift in thinking—almost a lobotomy,” as it seemingly offered “a revolution to the rulers.” However, this concept of ownership was far away from horizontal class relations and common control of means of production. Rather this ownership had to do with the sharing of responsibility among hierarchically positioned actors. Finally, in the late 1980s/early 1990s, empowerment became the new sexy catchphrase of development policies. While during the 1970s and in the context of the third world, it was understood as the gaining of control of resources by the “undeveloped” so that they could achieve their own development (Wright 1994: 159), today’s practices of empowerment are stripped of the original revolutionary content because they seem to have taken the relational and structural understanding of “power” out of the game all together. Within the aid frame, power is often used in the way Talcott Parsons defined in his sociology of structural functionalism: as a relation that both parts gain, failing thus to explain key aspects of social conflict and change (Giddens 1968). Power is seen as infinitely expansible and, as a result, “when the cake is expanding and empowerment is vocality, questions of quantum and distribution [of power] are more easily fudged. The zero-sum view of power is more likely to be found among those competing for some” (Cheater 1999: 6). Indeed, mostly linked to strategies for poverty alleviation, entrepreneurialism, or mainstream gender equality, empowerment programs like microcredit schemes, lifelong learning programs, and self-help initiatives promise the social inclusion of the marginalized. Yet, according to a considerable number of critical accounts, such programs can finally have quite disempowering effects, resulting in exclusion, inequality, and domination (Rowlands 1998; Moore 2001; Henkel and Stirrat 2001; Kothari 2002; Parpart 2002; Miraftab 2005; Cornwall and Brock 2005, among others). More often than not, instead of questioning the very structural conditions of marginality, they provide moral authority and legitimacy (along with

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a do-gooding feeling) to hegemonic governance (both political and economic); instead of building collective claims, they devolve responsibility. “Ironically,” as Cornwall and Brock point out, “the feminist emphasis on the politics of the personal has been only too readily taken up in the service of individualism” (2005: 1046). During the seminar, empowerment was drawing upon an interesting mélange of the above definitions, gluing techniques of the self with particular collective actions. The inspiration for the concept was taken out of the repertoires of corporate consultants and taught in universities. At the same time, the loud call to “get up” and the constant references to civil courage, activism, and engagement were giving a dynamic and even liberational twist. The confusion and contradiction were particularly noticeable in the seminar because there was one participant constantly coming up with very different ideas than the rest of the team. Miroslav was a twenty-six-year-old IT student, part of leftist activist movements in his hometown. The narration of his engagement and actions as part of various local and international groups, like student movements, anti-globalization groups, the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, sounded either like alien experiences or were deemed too risky by the rest of the group. His marginality could be seen from the very first days, when his suggestion for topics of discussion were either laughed at or never made it through the voting process. Themes like “the structural roots of nationalism,” “what is authority,” and “what society we want to build” were considered too theoretical, romantic, or just boring. In the end, Miroslav was the only participant that remained outside of the follow-up activities because he couldn’t find a group to fit in. The message was clear: there is no point in losing constructive energy in blaming something that does not depend on you. Some things always stay out of control. It is evident that empowerment conceived in such narrow terms can never be utilized in a counter-hegemonic project. Within these limits, the focus was first placed heavily on the development of the self. Throughout the seminar, the participants were urged to discover themselves via various so-called “analyze me” exercises, including statements of expectations, daily personal diaries, and meditation. Everyone had to dive into the inner parts of their minds and souls, think what makes them happy and what they dislike, think of their skills and successful experiences. They had to decide whether they wanted to stay in their “comfort zone,” or take a risk and dare to enter the “panic zone”: “If you want to get to the panic zone, you have to challenge yourself. You have to say I want to change! To alter completely!”

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But once you decide to give power to yourself, once you are ready to assume responsibility for your life, what is it that you really do? What are your options for action? The answer to these questions came from the last part of the seminar: projects. The trainers stressed that this was not a seminar that simply inspires some abstract civic motivation. The Theodor Heuss Kolleg had entrusted them with a small budget to fund youngsters’ first projects and learn by practice the meaning of being an active citizen. Interestingly, the trainers neither explained nor did the participants ask what actually constitutes a project. Everybody knew what the term meant because, no matter what mission the donor community in the Balkans set, their aid was delivered through standard project work (I will discuss project-making in more detail in the following chapter). The first stage of project work was for everyone to define their main goal. After some self-reflecting “dreaming time” on the floor, everyone noted down on three pieces of colorful paper his/her interests, skills, ideas about making a project. They were then asked to stick them on their bodies/clothes and get ready to go to the “marketplace” to “sell” themselves. As projects are supposed to be collective work, the participants had to mingle in the room (symbolizing the marketplace), advertise themselves, and convince the others of the merits of their own project in order to find project partners. This exercise had a double goal. It would help them find common ground for future project-making, while teaching them at the same time practical marketing skills on how to promote oneself. The self was becoming a short of mini-corporation. During the last two days of the seminar the participants were working on their projects in groups, with one of the trainers acting as a mentor. The topics were various, dealing with minority rights, environmental awareness, antidiscrimination at high schools, and again, fighting indifference in their hometowns. They got templates and tips on how to write their own project proposals and spent hours trying to define the problem they would address, mainstream project categories such as goals, vision and mission, their target group, their methods, the time schedule, and public relation strategies in order to advertise their future actions and, if possible, fundraise. Finally, they learned how to write down a proper budget for a project, and at the end of the day all the groups presented their plans to each other with immense enthusiasm which culminated in big applause and an even bigger farewell party lasting till dawn.

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Some Food for Thought Unfortunately, my account stops here because the scheduled activities of the participants couldn’t fit in the time frame of my fieldwork. Yet, albeit the missing follow-up (most seminars do not even have any), the material presented here offer us rich insights into what “building civil society” means and what it actually does. The aim of this chapter is not to evaluate this seminar. I cannot say if it was successful or not, or whether it really brought the desired change through the mini-projects of the participants. I honestly hope it did and that all of those twenty inspiring people found ways to really improve their lives and “get up” for their rights and more. Instead, what I intended to stress through reviewing this seminar is that empowerment is after all a power relation in itself. Therefore, we should also be asking who empowers whom, how, for what reason, to which ends, in the name of whom, and what is it that empowerment does in practice? This week-long seminar was funded up by an intervention donor to awaken youngsters from the post-conflict Balkans. Its raison d’être was to fight the widespread indifference to the common good. By bringing participants from different countries together, its first aim was to promote so-called intercultural dialogue as a form of reconciliation strategy: the aim is to de-other the “other” through his/ her interpretation of the familiar; knowledge of the “other” appears, thus, as an antidote to conflicts. Yet, the constant celebration of commonalities between Balkan peoples as a means for cultural rapprochement can risk sometimes twisted outcomes. Bringing to light similarities among societies in order to prevent future conflicts or denounce previous ones might simultaneously lead to reifying the cause of conflict: that is, difference itself. A more structural understanding of the conflicts would emphasize not some recent rediscovery of difference per se, but the culturalization and ideologization of difference, further used for varying political and nationalistic ends since the 1980s. Similarly, the condition of apathy was not really unpacked either. It was never embedded in specific sociohistorical trajectories of a particular moment and space. There were no references whatsoever to ethnic wars, economic deprivation, citizenship-making, state formation, or the current European Union integration processes. Several times, the participants would point to negative phenomena in their societies, such as consumerism, corruption, the yellow press, domestic violence, or the lack of environmental consciousness. However,

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what could have evolved into a fruitful analysis of current social phenomena in the region was very quickly disrupted because of the seminar’s methods and tight schedule. Throughout the week, quick brainstorming was favored to the detriment of extended discussions, despite the wishes of the participants to have more time to express their thoughts and ideas. Ironically, every time an idea was brought up and there was no time to discuss it, it was written down on a flipchart hanging from the wall, entitled “the parking place.” Deprived of context, apathy had, therefore, almost no materiality but was instead considered as a psychopathological condition of individuals drawing on their “culture”—a Balkan culture that was floating in space and time, despite halfhearted attempts to give some historical wrapping by referring to generic communist legacies and capitalist individualism. Apathy was deeply rooted in the Balkan self, one of low self-esteem and inherent pessimism; one that gives space for loud leaders and intimidated followers to emerge; one that prefers resignation from responsibility and deploys cover-your-ass strategies to avoid blame. Having tracked and localized the “Balkan clouds” in the improper subjectivity of the Balkan self, the solution couldn’t be other than empowering this same self. The trainers used a mix of radical leftist emancipation discourse from the 1960s and 1970s, managerial techniques for promoting entrepreneurialism and productivity, and spiritual enhancements for success and happiness. Shama notes that: Whether used as a strategy to engender feminist social transformation, to enable a Freirean liberatory struggle against oppression, to establish a Gandhian order of moral self-rule, or to solve poverty and reduce big government through neoliberal market emphases, empowerment has the overall goal of shaping certain kinds of subjects and remaking society (see also Cruikshank, 1999). The disparate ideological framings of empowerment rest on the active participation of subordinated peoples in the project of governance to make it more equitable, just, participatory, and efficient. Even though neoliberal approaches focus more on individual entrepreneurialism and de-emphasize the dialectical relationship between self and society and between the individual and the collective, which is precisely what counterhegemonic frames highlight, they all view technologies of the self as a form of social intervention. Both counter-hegemonic and hegemonic initiatives of empowerment seek to mold behavior toward certain ends and are, therefore, governmental projects. (Sharma 2008: 22, emphasis in the original)

The seminar was indeed a form of social intervention in the terrain of self-formation. It did encourage and seemed to actually teach the individuals how to enhance their self-esteem, to become

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entrepreneurial, and take responsibility. More than that, while focusing on the individual, it attempted to create a collective actor, one that will not only seek personal success and satisfaction but will show civic courage and will advocate for change. Ideally, this would happen through the NGO sector, equipped with all the organizational hierarchies, funding opportunities, but also normative baggage that such a label carries. This program, thus, was also demarcating the form and the possibilities of the action itself. By stressing this, I am not arguing against how powerful donors impose their Western agendas on powerless locals. Realities are always messier than abstract dichotomies and are always full of contradictions. Agendas are more often than not negotiated, accommodated, or translated at different levels and by all actors engaged in the world of the project. For example, in the training seminar I described, the discovery of the Balkan personhood was a co-product of the trainers’ and participants’ cultural categories. The trainers’ assessment of Balkan political and organizational culture in the initial phase of the seminar created conflicts between them and the participants, because the latter felt insulted by being reduced to the category of “the shepherd’s sheep.” However, once they stepped out of the category of “ordinary Balkan people,” they started producing the very same discourse they were denouncing before. When analyzing the apathy phenomenon in their respective societies, they were not talking about themselves. Their narratives did not start with “we here do that” but rather stressed that “people here are such.” In fact, their very selection and presence in such a seminar was proving de facto their distinction. At the same time, the same discursive debate around the negative features of Balkan-ness could also be used positively to denounce a cultural imperialism of the West. One of the trainers described Western donors in a written text as missionaries that treated the Balkan people like pupils and wanted to transfer a Western model of civil society. Why, she asks, should the East follow their advice, lifestyle, and values? Who is the one to prescribe the right path? The trainers not only felt like they were not playing a part in some hegemonic westernizing effort to alter the Balkans, but they were strongly opposing such imperialism. They rightly denounced the cultural inequalities that aid entails and actually aspired for the grassroots rise of citizens to stand by their own views of development. However, project-making and NGOing were portrayed as a universally applicable, efficient, and even creative way to reach change. All agree to that: the Bosch Foundation Program for democracy

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promotion in the world; its funding of the Theodor Heuss Kolleg, teaching young trainers who in turn teach others in need; the trainers, who intended to establish themselves as a “brand,” as they said, by creating local leadership that would in turn function as their respective local networks; and, finally, the participants, who aspired to form new grassroots NGOs who will in turn develop their own projects. The latter left the workshop full of hopes, dreams, and desires. They felt they had taken advantage of an opportunity that had never been presented to them before. And that was probably true. They got the chance to gain entry to the project world, a world that may offer them in the future both material and symbolic gains; a world that as we shall see later on, is a pretty closed one, not every self-responsible individual can pass over its threshold without the relevant social network and technocratic capital needed. Yet, the NGO world is definitely not a world with endless possibilities as some may envision it. The above critique of cultural imperialism can be in fact counterproductive. The problem arises from understanding civil society in purely cultural terms (values, lifestyle, and organizational culture), from using the misleading analytical frame of homogenous groups like West/East, from leaving unquestioned the wider political economy of the aid industry. Such an approach would a priori problematize the medium that delivers the message, that is, the strict limits and power relations inherent to project-making itself. The underlying logic in such training is that activism equates with project-making. Projects grow out of responsibility. Responsibility brings power. But this is a metaphysical idea of power that is everywhere and nowhere, that does not have scales nor relational properties. What was definitely missing from the seminar was in fact a clear will and commitment to address structural power, and a related reluctance to define social change. Such an attempt would mean questioning and surpassing the analytical level of microprojects, articulating the “Balkan clouds” as global hegemonic processes of societal reproduction, in order to open up a horizon of alternatives.

Notes  1. (last accessed May 2010).  2. The year 2008 was established as the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue by the European Parliament and Council, and just after that, the United Nations pronounced 2010 as the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures.

54   |   Democracy Struggles  3. See Jung’s typological theories published in 1921, the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator published in 1962, the Belbin Team Inventory of 1981, and Kurt Lewin’s 1939 work on leadership styles and performance.  4. Such is the definition, for example, of the popular book of Deal and Kennedy on corporate culture (Deal and Kennedy 2000), which stands on the antipodes of anthropological definitions of culture as both integrative and fragmentative, contested and always embedded with unequal power relations and interests.  5. In several manuals for business leaders, the authors wonder why the sudden talk about handing power over to employees. Here is one of the answers provided: “In the nineties, every responsive American organization is learning how to live with leaner staffing and flatter structures. The ‘answer’ represented by empowerment is one most leaders are desperately seeking. Some companies started their restructuring a decade or more earlier and are well into an empowerment strategy for getting the efficiency they were originally looking for. The most conspicuous of the big ones is General Electric, which sold off businesses and reduced the payroll by 100,000 employees between 1980 and 1990 while doubling profits during the same period!” (Carroll 1994: 2)

– Chapter 2 –

NGOing and the Donor-Effect

_ Training seminars, such as the one presented in the previous chapter, have been flourishing in Serbia since the early 2000s, following the fall of the socialist regime and the massive influx of foreign donors. Hundreds of people have experienced such rites of passage in the local NGO world, and many have staffed the aid industry or managed to create their own local associations. This chapter seeks to understand the complexity of the donor relationship. First, it will address the anxieties that it produces both in the NGOs and in their donors around issues of legitimacy. And second, it will focus on the microcosm of NGOing in order to explore the implications of donors’ funding on the standardization of associational life. Indeed, on the one hand, in a context of general mistrust toward NGOs and widespread conspiracy theories, NGOs’ absolute dependency on aid funds raised questions of authenticity. Donors’ preoccupations were, on the other hand, tied to questions of representativity and practical issues of aid delivery. As I will argue, the donor-effect entailed an overarching—and at times overwhelming—professionalization and bureaucratization, but this was a result of both exogenous and endogenous forces. No matter the motivations, NGOing and projectmaking deeply depoliticize and de-radicalize social struggle, yet, as I will conclude, the conceptual frame of “NGOization” is not adequate to capture the complexity of such processes.

Questions of Authenticity NGOs’ political involvement in fighting the Milošević regime in the 1990s was at that time a response to both material and symbolic – 55 –

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dispossession, and, according to its advocates, the only exit from the so-called nationalist paranoia. NGOs were referred to as a safe place, a refuge, or an island where people could feel normal; a place where they did not need to explain to others all the time what for them was taken for granted. Participation was not just a means to an end; it was much more than that: a value in itself, a vital personal need, because non-engagement would simply signify a negation of the self as such (Baiocchi 2009). And a powerful “anti-depression strategy:” In 1993 we were kicked in sanctions and inflation. And there was a very chaotic situation because people did not know how to live with sanctions. At least 1/3 of trips in Serbia they did with help of donkeys. There were no buses, trains, no transportation. There was such a lack of all kinds of energy. I remember an example from eastern Serbia, there were people paid to help other people to be pushed into the bus!!! You know, like in India, like in Bangladesh. Really from being in the first world we fell [to] the third in a matter of years. And people in the beginning were very shocked with this development. But at the same time, one of the really exit strategies was the creation of NGOs. Because of this huge need to respond to this impossible situation. You have an intensive flourishing of these organizations. Of course, this is in all former Yugoslavia. People found that organizing themselves, with this form of togetherness it would be easier to cope with the situation.

Many people narrate stories of this period with loud voices, yet with a clear, underlying touch of nostalgia. For Anna, a project manager, “these were the worst of times, these were the best of times:” 1 To many it looked like tilting at windmills, since human rights were perceived as a rotten import from the decayed West, and as the kind of rhetoric which had been used to punish and blackmail innocent Serbs. … The center [NGO] was initially quartered in a small room in the Hotel Yugoslavia. Its executives were sketching the first projects on the oldest PC you can imagine. The center could not be reached easily by phone. Sometimes the setting resembled an old black-and-white movie, where you had a smart and skillful private eye sitting in a dark small office, rather than an independent institute for human rights. … It was like a small spaceship—you stepped in and all of a sudden different laws applied. … All who thought differently and who did not fear to show it were continually exposed to threats, violence, and humiliation. However, the people working with the center did not want to succumb, you could see that. They did not want to settle. Settle for anything and you are doomed—that was the motto.

However, many informants confessed that this was not just a story of romantic memories and that they had often experienced accusations, summarized under the labels of national traitors, spies,

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or international puppets. For most of the people I met, the 1990s were a time when one had to risk his/her life to work for an NGO. However, the Milošević regime was not that heavily repressive toward NGOs—with the great exception of blatantly political movements, such as the provocative youth movement, Otpor!, or Women in Black and other human rights NGOs that were verbally and physically attacked, arrested, and seriously harassed, both in the capital and in the countryside, particularly in 1999–2000. The main target for the regime were the oppositional political forces, such as the new democratic parties.2 Still, during the 1990s, externally funded NGOs were the target of severe state propaganda, reaching its peak during the NATO bombing and the last months of the previous regime. Apart from using the media to spread propaganda, financial controls were the most common tactic to constrain NGO work and get hold of international aid funds. This was admittedly a quiet clever strategy given it was legally justified: at the time, NGOs had illegal bank accounts abroad and they were receiving the donor funds in cash, coming mostly in suitcases from Budapest so that they wouldn’t pass through the Serbian banking system. Using the banking system would mean reinforcing the regime with foreign currency, which was incredibly valuable at that time. More importantly, considering the inflation of that period, any donation converted to dinar would simply become extinct in just a few days. Framing repression in legal terms, the state could also maintain a facade of pluralism, because, despite the existence of elections and a multiparty system, there were autonomous organizations openly criticizing the state, yet being allowed to operate freely, as in any free and democratic society. This card could always be played, not only when the regime’s legitimacy was questioned within the country, but also in various negotiations with the international community. These police raids were so frequent in the late 1990s that they became part of regular NGO life: “So they entered, closed the office, put some charges … that’s all. Next week we open again” (personal interview with NGO director, October 2006). Allegations of national treason based on suspicious funding were therefore extremely common and would mess up people’s activities, but they were easily dismissed internally (within NGOs): the accusations were coming from presumed manipulated crowds or from the local nationalist “others,” fostering at the same time a collective identity of “democracy makers” (see Chapter 3). However, leaving conspiracy theories aside, the totality of the donor relationship—similar to the prestation totale of the Maussian gift—was still an uneasy topic

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to discuss almost ten years after the political change. Even if, after 2001, nationalist accusations were downplayed (or at least were not so openly made), they had been counterbalanced by the growing international critical voices focusing particularly on the “color revolutions” and the role of NGO movements. Some, usually from a more normative democratic stand, raised alarm over the packaging and exporting of revolutions as democracy modules, as the outcomes of the civil upsurges are as unpredictable as a poker game (Beissinger 2006). Others were openly putting a finger on neocolonial aspects of NGOs and democracy promotion (Hours 2002). In Serbia, the stigma of being a democratic import and widespread suspicion were not irrelevant concerns to local NGOs. However, the discussion was limited to the absolute economic dependence of NGOs from donors and the fears of economic survival, particularly in an era of donor withdrawal. As a project manager once told me cynically, “If we [NGOs] are traitors because we have foreign funding, then so is the state!” During one interview, the head of the civil society department in a prominent Belgrade NGO labeled himself as an “aid junky,” and several others would agree, but such statements were always accompanied by the recognition of genuine local democratic spirit. As he continued, “We are Serbia’s civil society. There is no question about that. We are just a paid civil society. Serbia was not a case of democratic import as in Africa, where Americans go as missionaries to teach democratic values; although they tried.” Seen through the lens of external donor intervention, NGO actors felt the need to stress their local roots and continuities. As Marek Mikuš has well described, many local NGOs have spent significant energy to establish relationships of trust with local communities through socially and culturally ascribing their actions in the local historical trajectories and imaginaries (2015a). Similarly, as I have mentioned in the Introduction, a short history of the NGO sector in Serbia appeared in numerous publications and reports as a necessary indicator for the sector’s authenticity. Roots and traces of the NGO sector are now to be traced to the distant past, back to solidarity structures in the countryside and to philanthropic royal and religious societies and heritages of the nineteenth century. Branka Petrović made this very explicit: Nongovernmental organizations are a constituting part of the tradition of this land and together with endowments and village moba [communal help actions], they are the originators of the nonprofit sector and voluntary work here. They are not a fabrication of the New World Order. … We did not take the term “nongovernmental organization” from others and it is not a

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synonym for something that is anti-government. … The term “nongovernmental organization” was used for the first time in 1874, in the paper Glas Javnosti [Voice of the Public]. (Petrović 1999, my translation)

Of course, no one negated external factors in the development of NGOs in Serbia. Yet, they emphasized that the question was not whether there was a civil society in Serbia, but how to develop it. “If you do not have internal civil democratic energy, you will not be able to do anything with all the money of the world,” Voja told me, a political scientist and former staff member of the Open Society Institute. He stressed that the electoral defeat of Milošević was confirmation that there was a civil society and that NGOs contributed to the peaceful political changes without external intervention. In a similar effort to be discharged from semi-colonial allegations, some NGO leaders were arguing that donors did not come to implant or create them from scratch, but in fact, it was the NGOs themselves that were trying to attract donors’ attention. The massive turnover of foreign donors was considered the fruit of their own labor to lobby for donors’ intervention. It was the result of their effort to fulfill some moral responsibility to save Serbia: Until 1996, there were almost no donors here. And very few were operating from abroad. There was in fact nobody in the country. Some sporadic grants were coming from Germany, France, and the USA, like the NED [National Endowment for Democracy], but all was very poor and scarce. I remember I started traveling to Washington regularly from 1994, because the Soros Foundation has an office there. And I was visiting the Congress, and the Senate, and foundations, and all kind of institutions. To pressure and to scream and to try to convince that there is something in this country, and it is really civic and it deserves to be supported, be it NGOs, independent media. And I was always saying, look the Soros Foundation is all alone [in Serbia] and it’s unhealthy to monopolize the donor scene; that we might become crazy at one point and start behaving as a politburo! I do not think Soros liked this statement very much! But I was so desperate. I was trying from different angles to send the message; you must come here and help this scene to develop. I met the most important congressmen and senators and their Helsinki committee and [people] from their ministries and even from their national security council—and of course tons of people from American NGOs. … It was very hard, but it happened. Because there was a picture created about Serbia by the [foreign] media that Serbia is a dead-end and everything you can expect is dark and conservative and horrible. And it was almost impossible to get out. I knew that this is never a white or black story, because it is never like that. (NGO director, personal interview, November 2006)

It’s true that until mid-1990s only a handful of donor organizations and foreign NGOs were operating in Serbia, and those that

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did were mostly oriented toward humanitarian relief and refugee assistance. Important NGO figures were constantly lobbying for donors’ intervention, yet, for an important segment of people, giving too much importance to the political implications of external funding was somehow minimizing their own efforts. Such feelings sometimes reached the levels of moral or intellectual censorship, most evident in the absent or very controversial discussions around Otpor!’s international support; tackling this subject would require Otpor! to open Pandora’s Box. Founded in Belgrade in October 1998 by a small group of students, Otpor! was about to lead what was called “the last democratic revolution in Europe” and the overthrow of Slobodan Milošević. Undoubtedly, a movement of 70,000 members and 130 branches could not help but be full of internal contradictions and gather extremely diversified supporters, both socially, politically, and ideologically. Ilić (2000) concludes that Otpor! itself was by no means a black-andwhite story but a popular movement that wavered between Europe and re-traditionalization, supported by members that strayed from egalitarian anti-communists to pro-Europeans with clero-nationalist leanings. Naumović (2006, 2007) has characterized Otpor! as a “postmodern Faust” (see also Marković 2001): on the one hand it was built on a Serbian populist tradition while at the same time was aspiring to be a cultural Serbian avant-garde; on the other hand, it did not hesitate to combine an enlightenment’s appeal to reason and “awakening” with romantic turbulent emotions, declarative “civicness” with tactical nationalism, effective leftist symbolism with traditionalist rightist rhetoric, a neo-liberal economic program and a neo-corporate social project, an orientalist discourse in discrediting political enemies and calls for universal human rights in criticizing repression against itself, or, finally, an ironic, even cynical attitude towards national values and institutions with a nationalist-populist pathos. (Naumović, 2006: 150)3 In fact, looking into Otpor!’s trajectories reveal information that clarifies the movements’ actions as much as it further mystifies them. Both its leaders and activists were insisting that their movement received some funds solely from the Serbian diaspora and thus nobody could accuse them of being traitors or foreign missionaries. Of course, the majority of Otpor!’s activists thought that this was actually the case, though, as Ilić notes, no conversation could take place on such issues because that would be considered an offence against some kind of tacit internal censorship (Ilić 2000). It is today widely known that Otpor! received a great amount of funds from

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various protagonists of global democracy promotion: notably the Open Society Fund of the Soros Foundation, Freedom House, the National Endowment for Democracy and the International Republican Institute, the last two directly funded from the US State Department, in order to organize its activities and produce its materials. The US democracy-building operation in Serbia (targeting mainly local NGOs, media, and social movements) was funded by congressional appropriations of around $10 million for 1999 and $31 million for 2000 (Dobbs 2000). Accounts on Otpor!’s contradictions and its various standardized strategies of crafting revolutions (see last part of this chapter) were received mostly negatively. Naumović’s explanatory model of “imported” or “electoral revolutions” (2006, 2007) was severely attacked by another Serbian anthropologist, Zagorka Golubović, herself deeply engaged in the pro-democratic block in Serbia (see Chapter 3). With the self-ascribed authority of being a witness and an activist herself, Golubović accused the author of being ideologically and politically biased, aligned with narratives “made in the USA” (2007). After 2000, several of Otpor!’s leaders were proudly sharing their methods with activists of other places in order to start revolutions through the establishment of a non-governmental training center called CANVAS (Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies). Yet Naumović’s critique of standardization was received by Golubović as an effort to morally delegitimize Otpor! as a grassroots movement by affirming that “social movements are incapable to organize resistance to dictatorial regimes” and that “nothing successful can come out of individual or collective action outside the centers of power and so it isn’t even worth trying” (Golubović 2007). Naumović’s work was treated not only as an example of scientific inconsistency but, most importantly, as a disgrace to modern democracy and as a personal insult. I have witnessed numerous similar public reactions throughout my fieldwork during conferences and book presentations. Yet, acknowledging such aspects by no means makes Otpor! a foreign-orchestrated movement; on the contrary, a serious study would reveal that it was deeply embedded within the legacies, trajectories, and experiences of former popular and student pro-democratic protests in the Yugoslav region. Otpor! drew heavily upon deep residual resentments of the population toward the Milošević regime’s abuse of political power, widespread corruption, and limited economic opportunities for the youth. I completely agree with the emphasis on the local ownership of these uprisings—omnipresent both in

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academic (e.g., Bunce and Wolchik 2006, 2009, 2011) as well as in the emic discourse of NGO activists—there is no such a thing as a pure export/import of ideas, models, practices. However, I cannot help but wonder why a more encompassing understanding was, more often than not, equated to a conspiracy theory and was thus easily dismissed as a whole. Indeed, more structural interpretations of these movements were dismissed either on the grounds of theoretical and methodological skepticisms—namely the fear of structures, hence the overemphasized actor-oriented approaches—or because of the normative questioning of the interpreter’s real democratic credentials. Taking up a critical global approach was often equated to geopolitical interests, to total local domination, or simply to the CIA. Ideas, models, and practices (among other things) are grounded in particular contexts by particular actors that are constantly negotiating them, no question about it. However, these ideas, models, and practices are obviously not traveling with the wind, as hegemonic logic and practices are always at stake. Aren’t the color revolutions embedded in the context of shifting hegemonies after the end of the Cold War? Aren’t there democracy promotion policies and theories at the very heart of these very transformations? Isn’t the uprising of people connected to skyrocketing socio-economic inequalities structurally connected to global capitalist developments and its production of peripheries? Without this wider political economy frame, NGOs and color revolutions seem like flat traveling models that took shape in events (not processes) authored by a handful of activists or foreign democracy consultants. Defining NGOs as a mere export product, imposed by a monolithic and powerful development apparatus, deprives local actors of any agency, reducing them to passive receivers of norms and templates. As Voja stressed, all the money in the world cannot make a difference by itself. This is absolutely true. However, it is also important not to reduce donors’ role to that of mere financial support. After all, in many cases, donors give the funds and also get to choose the thematic repertoire of the funded projects, sometimes having little to do with local needs and priorities. Funds do not come as unconditional gifts. Aid has an underlying governmental logic that can only be revealed if we analyze the direction of the reforms that NGOs promote (see Chapters 5 and 6), pay attention to the class processes they entail (Chapters 3 and 4), and analyze the particular modes of knowledge production and action that they promote (this chapter).

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Questions of Representativity Whereas local NGOs’ anxieties stemmed from the need to affirm themselves as genuine and independent social actors, donors’ preoccupations had to do more with the need to fund organizations representing the local civil society. Within the mainstream developmental discourse, NGOs’ legitimacy mainly derives from an assumed representativity of civil society and citizens’ common interests. The model of participatory democracy they promote resides in exactly that claim, suggesting a form of complementarity or substitution of the traditional political field of representation through political parties and elected parliaments (Ottaway and Carothers 2000). However, local NGOs in Serbia had neither pretentions nor ambitions to do so. As they said, “We do not represent civil society, we ARE civil society” (personal interview, October 2006). It was, instead, donors who insisted on reproducing an ideal of local representation through their project procedures. In certain cases, such claims of NGO inclusiveness and representativity were linked to attempts to create a particular civil society to be consulted for the needs of a program. An example of this was the production of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP). Its adoption back in 2003 was considered a high national priority because it was a precondition for further financial World Bank support. The World Bank stipulated that civil society be included in planning the strategy, leading to the establishment of the Civil Society Advisory Committee (CSAC) by eleven NGOs representing different vulnerable groups. The contribution of CSAC in the strategy formulation was applauded by donors, as it introduced a so-called human rights–based approach, and also managed to include refugees and “internally displaced persons” as additional beneficiary groups. Again, people tell a different story in private, suggesting that the top-down approach obstructed any genuine dialogue between government and NGOs. Each side criticized the other for a lack of capacity, good will, and motivation for real collaboration, as well as for just trying to make a good impression on the donors. A similar critique found its way into an external evaluation of the PRSP, commissioned by United Nations Development Programme: If the participation of “civil society” is reduced to the squeezing of multiple voices through a funnel of a single committee to government, many other voices are silenced. In this way, civil society can be made innocuous (because anodyne), and at the same time government can claim to have listened to the “official” views of civil society. The risk for the Civil Society Advisory

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Committee is that it might provide a convenient and uncritical forum for consultation with government, and a cover of legitimacy, particularly if it claims to represent civil society. (Allen 2005: 16)

Many scholars have provided similar insights emphasizing the often-manipulated use of civil society for the production of local knowledge, legitimizing various ends (Cooke and Kothari, 2001; Mosse 1996). What does “local” stand for, to start with (see Ferguson 1998; Mohan and Stokke 2000; Green 2000)? During my fieldwork, I met lots of people employed by donor organizations that, despite official discourses, were very much aware of and worried by this reality. As a donor-director lamented, “Citizens in Serbia do not know what civil society organizations are. They really do not have a clue. And that’s partly our fault.” He explained that Serbian civil society is not perfect either. There is a lot of egoism among NGOs that inhibit cooperation, while their accelerating donor-driven character makes his job even more difficult. We mostly work with NGOs. They are not perfect but somebody has to do the job. Advantages are that there is a number of people [in the NGO sector] that are very educated, very experienced, a lot of young people full of new ideas, very skilled in IT, languages, series of skills that people in governmental bodies do not have. … As a donor you have to find the most capable people to trust for the implementation of your programs. Do you know what stress is that? People think “Ok, you are a donor!” Big deal! But it’s a job like all others. I have to travel all the time, find grantees, monitor all these people, report to my own bosses. And we do not call them grantees but partners, because you know we want them equal. But in the end of the day, you need to spend the money. This sounds funny maybe to you, but it is a huge stress. The worst thing for a donor organization is to return unspent money. So, NGOs are the best and more reliable partners. They have learned their job very well, they have great operational skills and how to say, we speak the same language. In the end of the day we should all be happy.

If NGO representativity appears problematic, then their legitimacy as interpreted by their donors appears mostly technical. Their credentials are the highly developed operational skills they have accumulated while working almost exclusively for donor-funded projects for the last twenty years. The art of NGOing became an important kind of technocratic capital that, considering the massive presence of aid donors throughout the whole region during the ongoing EU integration process, made NGOs an established and professionally distinct social actor. Project-making, fundraising, and particular organizational models accounted for mundane practices that made local NGOs seem (to their donors) to be “pioneers

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of modern NGOism” (TASCO 2010). In fact, and until maybe very recently, NGOs had the monopoly of such skills. The best managers were to be found in NGOs, despite the fact that all those techniques and logistics originated elsewhere in the private sector. Let’s analyze such competencies in order to understand their implications in defining and managing social struggle.

Project-Making, or Keep It Simple Stupid! NGOs are set to bring about social change. Donors, when publishing a call for projects, define the direction of that change. They also denote the means to achieve it: projects (Sampson 1996). Undoubtedly, the medium is part of the message. Project-making presupposes an underlying logic of thinking and doing, a conceptual framework that co-produces the acquired knowledge and thus the very outcome of the intervention. Deeply rooted in the philosophical thinking of the Renaissance,4 a project appears as a rational way to organize action in a new temporal perspective, to move from idea to action, structuring the various stages in that process. Temporality has much to do with the desired shrinking of time between what is called input and output. Projects are a particular kind of intervention that are results-oriented instead of process-oriented. The goal is to provide its “stakeholders”—be it donors, implementers or “beneficiaries/target groups”—with quick and tangible results of the planned actions. This is not a recent development. Already by the early 1970s, microprojects gained great popularity as they came to be considered more efficient than large development programs. What has been intensified however is the decentralization of aid (from state to non-state actors) and the transformation of project-making into a standardized professional expertise. Most NGO projects usually last one year. For results to be attained in such short time, the goals and design of the projects have to be set accordingly. In the project world, this approach is called a logical frame or “logframe” (Gasper 1997). First developed by the Pentagon and then adopted by USAID in the 1960s, logframes eventually spread to all sectors and became a must-have skill for any organization applying for project funding.5 The most commonly used projectmaking manual in Serbia is the translation of the Logical Framework Approach (LFA) Handbook published by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), supported by the consulting company Samset and Stokkeland, in 1990. Looking closely at

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the LFA, one cannot help but notice the overemphasized dimension of rationality. This is not only evident in the way projects set indicators to gain knowledge of some objectified empirical reality, but also in the way they unquestionably presuppose systematic linkages between various elements, for example, cause–effect relationships and future predictions to minimize risks. By doing so, logframes are considered not only a simple way to reach a goal, but as the most logical and thus efficient and risk-free way to do so. This underlying logic is called the results chain or the project matrix. The handbook authors explain: We assume that: if the inputs are available, then the activities will take place. If the activities take place, then the outputs will be produced. If the outputs are produced, then the purpose will be achieved. In the long run this will contribute to the fulfillment of the goal. … The uncertainties of the process are explained by assumptions at each level. These are outside the direct control of the project, but have to be fulfilled for the development process to succeed. (Norad 1999: 9)

The first step of the LFA is to identify the problem that a project seeks to address by designing a so-called problem tree. The focus problem is to be placed in the middle of the tree-schema, while “the substantial and direct causes” are underneath it on the tree’s roots, and “the substantial and direct effects” are above it on the tree’s leaves (Norad 1999: 33, emphasis in the original). Once the empty boxes are filled in, the model should be checked for clarity, logic, sufficiency, and simplicity. The following step is transforming the problem tree into an “objectives tree.” Every cause–effect relationship needs to become a means–end relationship. The limits and real logic of the LFA are evident here, as the causes of a problem should be restricted to ones that can be addressed through the particular actions of the project. Their structural properties are never part of the cause–effect frame and thus never appear in the objectives list. The manuals’ authors instead are suggesting that unrealistic objectives should be deleted and, if the causes of the problem are not easy to target through the project, they should be reworked: “Your credibility is increased if your organization does not want to save the world” (Kosztolanyi 1997: 16). After all, the objectives have to be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-scaled. In similar ways, a project should have a defined goal, purpose, output, activity, input, and of course indicators to measure the results. Apart from the budget, it should contain a stakeholders’ analysis, a cost-benefit analysis, a portfolio analysis, and a gap analysis

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or a force field analysis to identify “driving forces” and “hindering forces” that can affect the project’s implementation. These analyses are asserted through the use of specific techniques, like for example, the very popular SWOT tool credited to the Harvard Business School Policy Unit. By identifying the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats of involved stakeholders, institutions, and activities, the project-makers are supposed to make the best strategic choices and ensure the success of the project. It becomes clear that project making implies a particular project-thinking. It entails an endless list of indexes and categorizations linked to each other with objectified ties. These ties create a network of “logical” assumptions that enable the project-maker to make predictions and plan the outcomes of his actions using game theory and risk management tools. Not only are social realities oversimplified in order to fit into the checkboxes of such techniques, but the project logframe defines which kind of questions can be asked and how they are asked. In doing so, the LFA is not just “a general analytic tool [that] is policy-neutral” (Norad 1999: 5). It is, on the contrary, producing epistemologies of knowledge and change, shaping the way social problems are defined and addressed. The advice of numerous bestselling NGO manuals is summarized in one of their words: KISS—Keep It Simple Stupid!

Get the Money Project writing has become an art in itself, and thousands of trainings have been delivered to transmit this skill. However, once put on paper, a project needs to be funded. Therefore, the next art to be mastered is the one of marketing and fundraising. Various manuals again exist for such a purpose; the most widely used ones belong to a series of handbooks published by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies, a very active institute in democracy promotion in Eastern Europe, translated into Serbian with the support of another global democracy-maker, Freedom House. As it is noted in the introduction of the marketing manual, as societies in central and Eastern Europe continue to change and are incorporated into the capitalist entrepreneurship, NGOs will have to use marketing if they want to progress (Bucko 1997: 5). NGOs are supposed to accept the entrepreneurial logic of the market, analyze the competitive environment in which they operate, and be prepared to market themselves. In order to be successful organizations, they need to develop a marketing plan and construct and promote the NGO’s image through

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marketing campaigns, advertising, publications, events, and happenings. The strategy is a classic: “In order for your product to effectively enter the market, people have to understand that they need it!” (Bucko 1997: 19). There is an interesting difference, at least in a discursive level, between the planning phase of a project and the practice of its promotion. Whereas the first phase is full of technocratic tools and jargon that ensure the rationality and thus efficiency of the project, the tone of the given advice is totally altered when addressing ways of fundraising. Giving money has to satisfy the needs of the donor who, apart from a business person or a director of an organization, is a human being, with personal interests and strong and weak sides (Ledvinova 1997). Hence, no need for more logframes or jargon but rather for real performance skills: “Avoid using too much jargon. Do not lose yourselves in scientific theory! … Appeal to the recipient’s positive feelings and sympathies, use more emotions than dry statistics. Do not forget, you are asking for a gift” (Ledvinova 1997: 13, 24). Manuals even suggest behavioral patterns for the fundraiserdonor encounter. The former should be confident and natural, have a slobodni stil (free style), follow the normal social norms, be friendly, smile, and be cooperative: Try to be as loose as you can. Talk about the weather, family, holidays, and common things. You need the donor to be ready for you … do not run and lose the purpose of your meeting. … Try to be short, precise, and convincing. It is important that you keep this phase of your presentation under three minutes. Do not try to explain all at once. Leave the donor time to ask questions. … Try to make questions with Yes/No answers and avoid questions like “What do you think about … ” … Support the donor’s feeling that he is co-author of your project; even when he says something that you already know, do not tell him immediately. [In the end] look the donor directly in the eyes and ask for his financial support. You have the right to do it and your organization deserves this support. The donor is waiting for this question and he is afraid of it as much as you are. It is not easier being asked than to ask. Ask for an equal relation!!! Ask for specific thing or program!!! But, what is most important, ASK!!!” (Ledvinova 1997: 28−30, emphasis in the original)

Reading NGO handbooks and participating in several projectmaking trainings, one forgets the initial content of the planned actions. Processes of commodification are very strong and, often, the very sustainability of small NGOs depend heavily on their ability to navigate an arena of ruthless competition. NGOs use tools directly dispatched from the private sector, while notions such as efficiency, input/output, clients, innovation, contracts, and services are

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more and more dominant in their official and everyday discourse. However, it is important to stress that commodification by no means equals dis-embeddedness. On the contrary the NGO economy (as with all economies) is deeply inscribed in a labyrinth of both horizontal and vertical social relationships of all kinds. Admittedly, besides marketing capacities, the most important resource is social networks and access to information (Mikuš 2015a); this is the arena of the most severe competition, one also fostered by the staff mobility between NGOs and donors, as well as by the “nationalization” of donors’ former international staff. The bigger the commodification pressures are, the more intense the social embeddedness of the project market.

Becoming an NGO Although informal groups appear in donors’ official lists of eligible recipients, the reality is that only formally registered associations are considered trustworthy for donations. By December 2011, 16,130 citizens’ associations were officially registered in Serbia. However not all of them are locally perceived as, or “deserve to be called,” NGOs. Srđan, a forty-year-old vice-director of an NGO in Belgrade, explains to me why: NGOs are citizens’ associations [asocijacije građana] but not all citizens’ associations are NGOs. For example, you have football clubs and fishermengroups registered as citizens’ associations, but these groups care only about themselves, not the public common good. On the other side, there are a lot of social associations, like for disabled people or blind people that could be, or are in the process of becoming, an NGO because otherwise they cannot survive. You know, before they were in the national budget, now they have to apply for projects to donors. They have these communist structures [assemblages] and in organizational terms there is a chaos, nobody knows what is really happening, what is their mission. Now they need to be an NGO, to have clear management structures and strategic goals. You know, to enter the market they need a new culture of work [kultura rada].

Srđan made clear that if an association wants to be labeled as an NGO, it has “to become” one by acquiring a “modern” and “strong organizational culture” (Wright 1994). Indeed, NGO management has since the beginning of the 1990s become a science in itself with an astonishing number of publications, scholars, practitioners, and even university departments and master degrees devoted to it.6 Worldwide, NGOs seek to formalize their “grassroots”

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activities—interestingly or ironically—in an era that, as David Lewis has rightly pointed out, “the private sector is rediscovering the positive values of ‘amateurism,’ the value of participatory management and leadership, the importance of ‘flatter’ organizational structures and the need for organizational learning systems” (Lewis 2007: 192). After examining the best practice models, it is clear that, once again, the commercial enterprise acquires a paradigmatic status. All NGOs should have a defined mission statement and a dynamic strategic plan, defining their vision, mission, and value-orientations, their stakeholders, the SMART strategic goals and time-scaled actions to achieve them within a period of three to five years. Good NGO governance mainly implies, first, a system of transparency through systematic reporting and auditing, and second, the separation of oversight and executive functions through the establishment of (non-paid) independent boards. Direct democracy models are considered rigid and slow (if not communist!). Members’ assemblies, the argument goes, creates confusion over who actually governs, but also entails dangers of misappropriation of rights and privileges, encouraging behaviors of despotic control or even corruption (Wyatt 2004). At most of the NGOs I visited, my interlocutors admitted that they had indeed produced a strategic plan, but once it was written, it was just “left in the drawer,” only to be used when applying for projects. On the other hand, the establishment of independent boards was not just a formality, a simple bureaucratic procedure to do and then forget. It most often implied the reconfiguration of power arrangements and the escalation of internal conflicts within local NGOs that maintained very paternalistic hierarchical structures—the founding director functioning as a sort of owner, literally referring to the NGO as “moja” (mine). Finally, in practice, professionalization came together with undesired and overwhelming bureaucratization. This reality was criticized even by the most prominent advocates of NGO managerial skills. Marija, one the most well-known capacity-building trainers in Serbia, expressed her fears about the future of the NGO sector: This is how we live. This is the problem with the sector. You know all the time you have deadlines, all the time, when you tick one deadline there is another one waiting at your door. You can see that [she points toward a huge time schedule on the wall for February and March, full with notes and post-its]. It is an exhausting job. And it is our everyday life. It is something that unfortunately cannot change. This is the way things are. … If you are successful, you cannot behave without structures and procedures. Success introduces

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bureaucracy. And this is something that people who started spontaneously and committed couldn’t even imagine doing. They were in the streets and all of the sudden they have papers and timesheets and reports. Some of the people just cannot deal with this and they give up. It is a difficult kind of work. Sometimes I feel that the way we work now … and we have to do it, we have to have auditing, to obey deadlines, to write projects, but then, where is the fun? This is a stress; it will kill the sector in the long term.

Such fears were very widespread, but, even if certain aspects of professionalism were counterproductive, they were also considered a passport to enter the aid world. Donors’ demands and expectations are not necessarily coercive but certainly disciplinary (Alvaré 2010). Even when an entrepreneurial organizational culture was not directly conditional to the donation, it was common knowledge that it is highly valued, even as a simple symbolic demonstration of competence and liability. At the same time, on the ground, formal and informal modes of operation intertwined and transformed each other, showing that donor–NGO relations are neither monolithic nor unidirectional, and that local agents cannot be reduced to passive receivers or, at best, to a locus of resistance (Grillo and Stirrat 1997). Even disciplinary audit systems can be used, as Hilhorst (2003) has shown, as a device to negotiate mutual accountabilities. Socalled “invisible boards” or “board-games” (Tandon 1995) were also a common practice to meet legal and symbolic requirements. Sometimes, they involved the transfer of the NGO director, often the founder or veteran, to serve on the board for a certain period of time, until he/she recruits and establishes the appropriate board and then to return to the management of the NGO as an executive director and chair of the board. Organizational isomorphism seemed to result both from exogenous constraints and from endogenous forces. The theory of neo-institutionalism can be of help in order to understand this logic (Powell 2007). Neo-institutionalists long ago questioned Weber’s iron cage of rationality and argued that the persistence and change of organizational structures is driven less by rational demands of efficiency and competition and more by legitimacy quests and political power races with other organizations, fostered often through ceremonial procedures (DiMaggio and Powell 1983, R. Scott 2001). Against functionalist explanations, they stressed that “the formal structures of many organizations in postindustrial society dramatically reflect the myths of their institutional environments instead of the demands of their work activities (Meyer and Rowan 1977: 341). The NGOs’ everyday routines are full of practices that can be regarded as secular

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rituals (Moore and Myerhoff 1977). From writing a project proposal to organizing highly mediatized conferences for report presentations, NGOs use particular ritualized strategies, symbols, gestures, and ceremonial practices, tailored to an audience they have to convince every time (Lister 2003, see also Harper 2000). Certainly, ceremonial or symbolic does not mean inconsequential. Yet, as critics have rightly pointed out, early accounts of neoinstitutionalism lack a global analytical frame and a theory of power (Lister 2003, Mangi 2009). The legitimacy game is not orchestrated among equally positioned actors within a disinterested and uncontextualized organizational field. Conditionality plays an important role in organizational isomorphism revealing direct pressures of a hegemonic and disciplinary nature. However, to analyze homogenization as pure donor-driven tendency would be a mistake. NGOs themselves put a lot of effort in building such skills and such an image, convincing their interlocutors not only of their moral values of doing good but also of their competence and managerial expertise. The gains were both symbolic and material as NGOs placed their technocratic skills in the market: prominent NGOs were often subcontracted by public agencies or ministries in order to manage big intra-sectorial projects involving complex and over-bureaucratic partnerships. Smaller NGOs, running as half private/half nonprofit firms, were offering upon request capacity building trainings for other NGOs, policemen, school professors, personnel of ministries or municipalities, staff of social work centers, private companies, syndicates, and youth groups. Once trainees, they became professional trainers for basically anyone who wanted to be incorporated into the aid industry. In any case, the accumulation of specific technocratic capital consolidated the NGO sector in a social landscape of immense donor intervention and neoliberal reform, in the context of the EU’s eastern enlargement (Mikuš 2015b).

To Conclude, NGOization? The global diffusion of development interventions, donors’ demands for efficiency and reliability, along with NGOs’ own efforts to be legitimate aid partners, have resulted in the standardization and technocratization of associational life. Everyday life in an NGO seems like a typically stressful working day in the office. Project-making, more often than not, implied very precarious labor patterns, insecurity, and distress (see Chapter 3). Yet people’s complaints did not just

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refer to their current working conditions and rhythms. There was a comparative dimension in their discourses, sometimes a dramatic change to their daily lives. Ivana, program director of a Belgrade NGO, expressed to me her worries: When I compare this period now from what we had before 2000, I could say that we somehow lost that activism … maybe this is normal, I do not know. Maybe that wasn’t normal, that time, you know, when you had to risk your life to work in an NGO. But then you had the feeling that you work for something really important for society, for the country, for people, and you were ready to risk many things to achieve that. … And [now] there is not that much dedication. Now you work at your project professionally, as you would work in any other business. … Many of those activist NGOs, including ours, now skipped to educational programs, capacity building, and education for unemployed women, which we would never have thought of. We lost our activism.

Ivana’s colleague, Branko, executive director of another wellknown Belgrade NGO laments in a similar way: That’s another issue, maybe not right to say … but NGOs like us, nice and smart clean men, people that speak good English and write good projects, we are paid civil society. We are full-time civil society. We are not volunteers. It’s our job. So, here, do all of us believe in it [in a greater cause]? Well, we have fifty full-time employees. Maybe ten believe, maybe five. I mean maybe they work here as they would work for some oil company for example.

In the academic literature, the transformation of activist movements to donor-funded professional NGOs has been referred to as the NGOization of social struggle, and numerous scholars have provided excellent analysis of ethnographic examples worldwide (Alvarez 1999; Jad 2004 and 2007; Kamat 2002; Lang 1997. For the exYugoslav region, see Stubbs 1997 and 2007a and 2007b; Aida Bagić 2004; Fagan and Ostojιć 2008). The conclusion of this chapter could easily be the following: in Serbia, donors’ conditionalities and the development of a technocratic managerial expertise have deeply standardized or even at times alienated the pro-democracy movements of the 1990s. Yet, the NGOization frame does not fit comfortably in the Serbian context. There is a general need to problematize and contextualize further this concept because its analytical categories (activism vs. professionalism) can sometimes be reifying and rigid. First, the NGOization frame often contains a tendency to idealize and romanticize the past; analytically, constructing an activist past appears quite problematic, considering that the emic category of an activist was quite an

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ambiguous and polyvalent concept in people’s accounts. Whatever one’s field of action (running educational programs or drafting future laws), being part of the anti-Milošević bloc meant earning the title of a dissident. Their very physical presence, the fact of staying in Serbia and not fleeing the country during the ethnic wars or NATO bombing, was of great symbolic distinction as well. It often raised new questions of authenticity, drawing sensitive lines between presumed genuine actors of the third sector, and those who, upon return, as the argument goes, enjoyed the ready-made achievements of the former. Second, both today and back in the 1990s, the division between movement work and NGOing was blurry: movements can also acquire very standardized structures and professional NGOs can also simultaneously engage in new activist actions (Alvarez 2009). Today, we know, for example, that, despite activists’ insistence on the spontaneous and leaderless character of the movement (Ilić 2000), in reality, Otpor! had a pretty solid hierarchical structure that would have made even political parties jealous: an analytical team and various departments such as international, financial, political, research, press, and marketing. Its human resource center had trained thousands of activists all around the country through a series of seminars on non-violent action (Sharp 1973), PR techniques, and fearcontrol7. Otpor!’s trajectory after 2000 is even more interesting for our discussion. It became the NGOization case par excellence when a few members of its leadership created the Center for Applied Non Violent Actions and Strategies (CANVAS), crafting what is thought to be the best export product in Serbia: revolutions (Popović 2001; Popović, Milivojević ,and Djinović 2006). The question here is not movement vs. projects: CANVAS’s mission is the very projectization of movements, the production of a revolution template and its global diffusion. Through numerous trainings in and outside Serbia, Gene Sharp’s non-violent strategies spread like wildfire, first to youth groups in Georgia (Kmara), then to Ukraine (Pora) and Kyrgyzstan (Kelkel), contributing to the so-called color revolutions. CANVAS not only embraced and actually accommodated the revolutionary discourse but deeply de-politicized and de-radicalized it: first through discarding its content (the idea behind a revolution becomes irrelevant); and second, by urging the professionalization of dissent.8 At the same time, during the last months of my fieldwork, the discourse of activism was again gaining ground, gaining sympathizers among NGOs and donors alike. This time it was pointing to a particular campaign mode of NGOing—advocacy—and new funding was available, such as the $27.5 million USAID program called Civil

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Society Advocacy Initiative, implemented in Serbia by the American NGO Institute for Sustainable Communities. The advice was clear: If you are in the process of creating relationships with decision-makers, the decision to make a demonstration intending to protest against the government, mayors, local government in general, can get you away from them. Here [in Serbia] demonstrations are mainly associated with those that are “against,” while demonstrations can be organized with the aim of raising awareness of an issue (the etymology of the concept would be “publicly showing your views”). … Such demonstrations even can improve our relationships with the decision-makers. (Građanske Inicijative 2009: 95)

Advocacy, far from confrontational politics, seemed to be another standardized way to canalize or manage social conflict. Indeed, the majority of more mainstream NGOs saw no reason for more militant activism. On the contrary, many of their directors or senior staff admitted that such practices seriously damage the public image of the NGOs as a sector, by creating a very aggressive and anti-governmental guise that did not match their democratic ethos. Many even implied that certain militant activists, such as those dealing with war crimes, were openly provocative simply to justify their own existence and need for funding. For the majority of my interlocutors, radical action is needed only when radical change is needed, and in Serbia, as they contended, this time had long passed: now, there was democracy—not perfect, but still. Militant NGOs had to understand that and move forward, adapt, change their mission, or just disappear. The new task should not be another constitutional change or revolution but modernization through reforms and EU integration. So, to what extent has NGOization led to an assumed move towards conservativeness of the social struggle through professionalization (Lang 1997)? It is true that within the NGO circle, there are many critical voices, coming mostly from a group of women’s and human rights’ NGOs in Belgrade. They claimed that the majority of nonprofits have become either apolitical and technocratic, or too political, because they seemed to collaborate very close with the government. Fagan and Ostojic have similarly stressed that civil society aid in Serbia has resulted in a sharp division between an institutionalized NGO sector, building governance and state capacity, and a political civil society of human rights–advocacy NGOs, focusing on ethnic wars, transitional justice, and “facing the past” initiatives (2008). Yet, engaging in state reforms is as political as demanding accountability for war crimes. In reality, both institutionalized NGOs and the political civil society were very close to political parties (see

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Chapter 5), the first supporting the Democratic Party of Boris Tadić, and the latter working together with the Liberal Democratic Party of Ceda Jovanović. The real issue here is not who is political and who isn’t but the kind of radical and counter-hegemonic logic that political action requires. Obviously, funded projects have limited repertoires: first, because no mainstream donor would fund a counter-hegemonic organization, and, second, due to the inherent limitations of projectmaking—the social problems addressed in project-making have to be the ones that can actually be tackled by project-making too. 9 Many times, as we shall also see in Chapter 5, the kind of standardized solutions that projects can offer lead to a certain standardization of the very problems to be solved. Certainly, social conflict is managed through such NGO entrepreneurial ventures as projectmaking, which define the questions that can be asked and those that cannot be. In the NGOs I observed, at best, social critique was limited to the suggestion of social-democratic reforms to cushion painful post-socialist restructuring. Only in two cases (in the cultural and feminist sectors) did I observe serious dilemmas and anxieties surrounding de-radicalization, where the donor-compromise was tied to either questions of everyday material survival or to a depressing sense of TINA (There Is No Alternative) fatigue. The majority of NGOs thus were not the transformation of some radical redistributive movement of the past. They were not former activists that, captured within project work, lost their counter-hegemonic character. The political struggles of the 1990s did target constitutional and economic changes: people working for NGOs were fighting for liberal democracy and capitalism. Today, their political orientations remain the same. EU integration, stripped from its unequal properties, was the ultimate goal of their modernization project, namely the liberal sanitation of the corrupted state and market. As we shall see in the next two chapters, such a goal and its discontents were seen as an overtly cultural, if not existential, issue, limiting and taming even further the horizons of dissent.

Notes  1. Cited within a marketing brochure entitled “Balkan Struggles for Democracy,” issued by the donor organization Olof Palme International Center.

NGOing and the Donor Effect   |   77  2. There was a series of murder attempts against a well-known writer, Vuk Drašković, leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) and main political challenger of Milošević. The situation was very tumultuous even within the ruling Socialist Party. In August 2000, Ivan Stambolić, a former official of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, president of the Republic of Serbia until Milošević took over in 1987 and a potential candidate against him, was murdered.  3. For a more nuanced anthropological discussion of youth in the post-Otpor! era and the “politics of disappointment,” see Greenberg 2014.  4. Searching for a definition of “project,” I found the following one in the EU tool kit on project management for youth activities: “The word ‘project’ was first used in or around the sixteenth century and derives from the Latin projicere (= throw forward). The Latin root thus suggests movement, a trajectory, a certain relationship with space and time. … Historically, the word and concept were first used by architects. … We should rethink the term ‘project’ and see it as a concept which serves to organize action.” (Vilder, Abrignani, and Gomes 2000: 28, emphasis in original).  5. I am grateful to Steven Sampson for bringing this to my attention.  6. There is a huge debate, with a lot of criticism as well, on how to (and to which extent) accommodate the corporate ethics within a value-driven nonprofit organization. While some stress the dangers of an over-bureaucratization of NGOs, others argue that the business models are on the contrary too simplistic and unsophisticated for the complex needs of an NGO that has to manage a more diverse constituency (Anheier 2000).  7. See “Gene Sharp in Serbia,” Peace Magazine, October–December 2003. Retrieved 10 April 2018.  8. In an interview given to Tina Rosenberg for Foreign Policy in 2011, one of Otpor!’s former leaders affirmed, “Our product is a lifestyle. The movement isn’t about the issues. It’s about my identity.” Successful professional revolutionaries should combine “Leninist intensity with the skills of a Washington lobbyist” (Cohen 2000) and master corporate branding as a tool to “make politics cool and sexy” (Traynor 2005, Dobbs 2000). Revolution is transformed into a technical strategic blueprint, claiming universal applicability. That is why CANVAS considers its “mission [as] educational, not political.”  9. Questions of NGOization might be very relevant when analyzing a very recent wave of left-wing organizations, often funded by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation (RLF). Unfortunately, these groups are beyond the scope of my research, which ended in June 2010, that is, the same year when the RLF’s opened its branch for Southeast Europe in Belgrade (

PART II The Politics of Culture

– Chapter 3 –

The “Democrats” Salon NGOs in Belgrade

_ Arriving in the center of Belgrade back in 2006, one had very little visual track of the violent dissolution of Yugoslavia. Far from the front lines of the war and the well-mediatized images of war-torn towns and villages, particularly in Bosnia and Croatia, no ethnic conflict took place in the capital city during the 1990s. Apart from a few, albeit imposing, bombed buildings left to crumble−either because of economic discomfort or strategically as a reminder of NATO’s military aggression in 1999−the very center of Belgrade was full of foreign bank offices, fashion boutiques, cultural centers, smart restaurants, and crowded fancy coffee places. The above elements, far from implying some kind of newly established prosperity (as inequality had in fact skyrocketed) hinted to trends of financialization, gentrification, and consumerism. But even if white humanitarian jeeps were not hitting the streets anymore, paying closer attention to the urban scenery could reveal the existence of the many developmental organizations in the city. Just having a walk in the center, one could not help but notice the numerous yet discreet metallic signs of an NGO, an international organization, a private foundation, an EU project, a development agency, or some consultancy firm displayed at the entrance of almost every other building. In this chapter I focus on the upscale Belgrade community of local nonprofits—that is, of the “salon NGOs,” as a few informants cynically called themselves. It is important to clarify from the start that my attempt to highlight some aspects of this NGO scene by no means implies the existence of a homogenous, harmonically collaborative and unified sector. On the contrary, even the very process of categorization appears extremely complex, given both the more – 81 –

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visible differences between organizations (size, budget, variety of missions and proclaimed goals, number of personnel. and constant shifts of the above throughout time) and the personalized rivalries and antagonistic encounters resulting from the incredibly high competition over scarce funds, strategic partners, prestige, and reputation. However, talking and spending time with NGO staff, I realized that there was a very strong self-identification among them, a very loud “WE, the NGO sector HERE,” based on strong cultural assumptions, claim-making, and a similar sociological profile, among other identifiers. In the following pages, I explore how this NGO circle helped to establish a field of relationships in which particular cultural sets framed historical trajectories, class-based processes, and political projects. First. I will try to unpack the politics of culture: the enacted practical cosmopolitanism of NGOs legitimizing a particular distribution of material and symbolic resources via exclusionary strategies of social differentiation. And, second, against apolitical readings of middle-class stratification, I will focus on the emergence of an urban “projectariat” (Baker 2012b), trapped within a net of moral obligations and unequal and precarious conditions of labor.

The Doxa of Europe and Cosmopolitan Belongings No doubt, NGOs in Serbia, like elsewhere in the developing world (and beyond) took advantage of the new forms of governance promoted by a booming development industry: a more diffused and decentralized governance adapted to a more organic democracy where the major actors would be NGOs, business corporations, and various interest groups, along with a reformed and minimized state (Green Paper 2000). Yet, Belgrade NGOs were not only implementers of aid but also a constituting part of its hegemonic ideology: democracy and Europe. Indeed, Belgrade NGOs, both during the 1990s and in the 2000s, were the strongest advocates of EU integration. The discursive construct of Europe was conceived as the heart of so-called democratic modern and civilized societies; democracy, as many informants stressed, was after all a European idea and could be achieved only through European integration. These two concepts not only reinforced one another but it also became impossible for them to discursively exist separately. Most of the times, they were treated interchangeably: if Europe is by definition democratic and democracy outside the Europe Union is conceived as unthinkable,

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then the two notions become tautological. Actually, NGOs do not solely perceive themselves as its advocates. They feel as bodily incarnations of democracy itself. If demos [the people], in the form of active civic engagement, is the cornerstone of the democratic ideal, then NGOs, by nature embody democracy. Joining the family of democratic Europe is intrinsically a political project. However, little if any debate existed about both democracy as a polity or the European Union as an institutional, political, and— always forgotten—economic field. The proclaimed importance, superiority, and morality attributed to these ideas and projects were not justified on the basis of a rich definition and argumentation. They were instead constructed, on the one hand, through an index of categorizations based on associational thinking (Friedman 2018): Europe was supposedly equating freedom, multiculturalism and ethnic tolerance, open-mindedness; and, on the other hand, through the production of a constant threat of disorder that any other political option would bring along. The time span of my fieldwork was a politically turbulent period regarding foreign policy and territorial issues, the peak being the dissolution of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro in 2008, and the proclamation of Kosovo’s independence in the same year. In this context, Europe served as a structuring discourse (Omaljev 2013), defining political camps through a re-articulation of the us/them divisions of the Milošević era. There was a constant struggle as to where Serbia should look for support (be it in the West or the East) and a produced atmosphere of fear over the possibility of another rise of nationalism, of another period of international isolation, of another wave of pauperization in case Serbia turned toward Russia instead of Europe. Fear was taken to its limits during elections. These took up an extended period of time given the fact that in Serbia there were eight parliamentary and presidential elections and one referendum held from the regime change in 2000 until I left the field in spring 2010. Two posters of a prominent NGO’s “get out and vote” campaign come to mind. The first was portraying a dining table with a ballot box on an empty plate. The slogan accompanying the picture was Šta glasaš, to i jedeš (what you vote is what you eat), hinting at the possibility of poverty, inflation, and isolation in the case of Tomislav Nikolić, at the time the head of the nationalist Serbian Radical Party, winning the presidency in 2008. The second had an even more explicit message: a young man with a kid on his shoulders facing a human wall of policemen holding up their riot shields. The text reads: “If not Europe, then What?” with the last word’s font implying

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a word written with blood. The answer to this question comes on the bottom part of the poster: a list of the years Milošević ruled from 1990 to 1999, jumping to 13 March 2003, the date of the assassination of Zoran Đinđić, leader of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia that succeeded Milošević and a local incarnation of European and democratic ethos. If not Europe, represented by the Democratic Party’s candidacy of Boris Tadić, then terrorism, violence, aggression, and repression. Europe for upscale Belgrade NGOs was thus very close to what Bourdieu called a doxa, that is, society’s taken-for-granted and incontestable truths (Bourdieu 1977). It is a constructed version of reality so naturalized that it appears to be the only version of reality. This process of naturalization usually leads to the transformation of social worlds into self-evident essentialisms and thus limits the array of the thinkable and sayable. This is not to suggest that conflictual discourses are eradicated. On the contrary, doxa, as a kind of implicit and unchallenged knowledge, enables different opinions to take place, but the debate itself is based on the doxa’s foundations. For example, there were rigorous debates on several reforms dictated for EU ascension (electoral codes, constitution amendments, penal code, welfare policies, etc.), but never a real conversation about the European Union as a system of governance itself. European democracy was a discours sans adversaires [debate without opposition], as the process of naturalization incorporated a historical forgetting of its “undemocratic origins” (Laughland 1998). The discourse of Europe and democracy “goes without saying because it comes without saying” (Bourdieu 1977: 167). It was a politically correct discourse par excellence. In fact, this doxa was so powerful because it functioned as a claim to a cultural background. Europe and democracy, instead of a pure political system defining rights and obligations between citizens and states, operated as an identity project. Let’s examine a telling vignette. Back in 2010, I joined a training course on European youth policies organized by a well-known Belgrade NGO. The course took place in the reception hall of the municipality of Belgrade that was arranged as a typical training space with chairs in circles, flipcharts, and decorative colorful posters with printed mottos in large type calling for: “inclusion,” “equality,” “for active European citizenship,” “tolerance,” and “solidarity.” One of participants’ tasks was to wander around the city center in order to find traces of what could be a European citizenship. The team I belonged to thought that, because I was a European citizen myself, it would be a good idea

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to present the comparative advantages I formally enjoyed: opportunities to work within the EU, unrestricted mobility, recognition of equal university degrees, access to health care with the European social security card. and so on. However, when the team presented their findings, the forty-year-old trainer, Jelena, felt insulted and started passionately arguing about her own European identity: So what are you implying? That because I live here I am not European? Please! This is really insulting. I am already European, both geographically and culturally. European citizenship is not a simple passport. It does not have to do with that. It’s about culture and values, like freedom, democracy, equality, tolerance, activism. I feel European right here today; because I am entitled to.

This moment was an interesting breakthrough that urged a wider debate about the different senses of belonging and their articulations, and at the same time it provided a very illustrative discourse of urban NGOs’ self-identifications. The trainer continued: When people for example come and ask me where I am from, I first say I come from Novi Sad and I am very proud of my great city! Then I say I come from Vojvodina, my region. Then I say Europe and then earth! This means real cosmopolitan. People have to learn about their European backgrounds. It takes time. A hundred years ago, they were saying, I am a Serb. Then, they learned to say, I am a Yugoslav. I am completely sure that our grandchildren will say, I am a European.

Indeed, such trainings were enhancing such an identity-learning process. The violent break-up of Yugoslavia was often analyzed in terms of an identity crisis, as a period of confusion and insecurity where “a powerless and disoriented individual tries to find refuge and sanctuary in some powerful identity. first and foremost the nation, both as ethnicity and ideological concept” (Kovačević 2005). The stability and prosperity of the Balkan region was seen as conditional to EU integration. Yet, Europe, as in Jelena’s view, was not strictly confined into the strict limits of European Union. NGOs were actually advocating a “return to Europe” because they were already European. The 1990s, and not the socialist era, were conceived of as a dramatic rupture in their biographies which they now intended to bridge in order to come back to the European democratic family and normality. It is obvious that if political positioning is open to critique and debate, identities and cultural belonging appear more self-evident and difficult to contest. Cosmopolitanism and the idea of a citizen of the world were actually concepts widely used in the Belgrade NGO circle and in the

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wider public sphere of intellectual debate. I understand thus that cosmopolitanism was an emic category describing acts of identity. As Jonathan Friedman has argued, “The origin of cultural elements is only significant when socially recognized as such.” He suggests that: A cosmopolitan is not primarily one who constantly travels the world, but one who identifies with it in opposition to his own locality. That is why so many working-class border-crossers in the world are so blatantly innocent of such an identity. They are less interested in celebrating their border crossing than in avoiding precisely the borders which are so deadly dangerous in their lives.” (Friedman 2004: 67)

In philosophy, cosmopolitanism carries a normative dimension both in the political and ethical realm. It is praised as a moral ethos, whose loyalties to an abstract humanity can liberate individuals from oppressive local affiliations and restrictions of social norms (Nussbaum 2011). Yet, in our ethnographic example, it had nothing to do with an assumed emergence of de-territorialized identities, nor with hybrid cultural formations and bricolage, as globalization scholars would have imagined (Hannerz 1996; Appadurai 1996; Pollock et al. 2000). Although deracination was, in fact, an accusation coming from more anti-liberal voices, supporting a patriotic political view of Serbia’s past and present, for Jelena, građaniin sveta (citizen of the world) meant all but rootless. The trainer emphatically underlined her identity affiliations jumping from a subnational to a supranational scale. It is important to mention here that, within a general orientalist discourse of the Balkans (Todorova 1997), there are particular “nesting orientalisms” (Bakić-Hayden 1995) and different proclaimed levels of European-ness and Balkan-ness, both within and among republics and states (Vojnić 1995; Živković 1998). The regional identification with Vojvodina, in our example, carries an implicit claim to Western civilization, as the river Danube is often considered a civilizational boundary used to divide the areas that were formerly part of the modern Austro-Hungarian monarchy (Vojvodina) from those formerly ruled by the backward Ottoman Empire. Similarly, the idea of urbanity as a discursive practice of identification and distinction was extremely dominant in my fieldwork in Belgrade (see also Chapter 4). This was not only because ethnic identification in the city, as the informants insisted, was irrelevant, but mostly because in the city live kulturni ljudi: cultured and good-mannered urban people (see Jansen 2005). Kultura in this semantic context stood for bon gout [good taste] in cultural artifacts, sensibility, and aesthetics,

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good manners, and personal refinement. Cultural competence was functioning as a classification criterion that ensured integration, distinction, and of course social exclusion (Gordy 1999; Jansen 2005; Spasić 2006; Simić 2010; Živković 2011). As Bourdieu has extensively argued, “to the socially recognized hierarchy of the arts, and within each of them, of genres, schools. or periods, corresponds a social hierarchy of the consumers” (Bourdieu 1984: 1). Taking, therefore, such cultural claims at face value would be a mistake. Instead we need to ground the specific meanings that terms such as kultura and cosmopolitanism took in the political production of us/them dichotomies and the ways they have long served as “potent discursive weapons in the struggle for various kinds of power in Serbia” (Petrović-Trifunović and Spasić 2014: 165−166; also Spasić and Cvetičanin 2013). Following such logic, Stef Jansen’s work on urban anti-nationalist activists in the 1990s understands cosmopolitanism as a rhetorical resource in the struggle for hegemony between different elements of belonging (Jansen 2008). In a period when nationalist discourse was predominant and succeeded in transforming its various articulations into a “moment,” cosmopolitanism, conceptualized as a disposition of openness toward the “other,” was deployed in an attempt to express opposition to the Milosević regime; to denounce the ethnic conflict but also create continuity with what was perceived as a cosmopolitan past. Similarly NGO informants, many of whom could have been considered an anti-nationalist block in the 1990s, often made references to some cosmopolitan past, the famous “Yugoslav exception,” always in direct juxtaposition to what they referred to as the following period of provincial nationalism, isolation, and stigmatization from the world. A pre-war cosmopolitan past had nothing to do with a celebration of official Yugoslav multiculturalism, incarnated through the omnipresent slogan of Bratstvo-Jedinstvo (Brotherhood and Unity). And it was even further from the universalism of former socialist internationalism, which had political and socio-economic rather than cultural preoccupations. Instead, it was rather an acknowledgment of the Yugoslavs’ contribution to the European cultural production through music, films, or performing arts; their Western European consumption trends; and most importantly, their past unrestricted mobility with their famous “red passport.” Cosmopolitanism, similarly to European-ness was, thus, based on a feeling of entitlement: NGO staff did not have to invent it but rather, as they said, preserve it. It was not even necessarily linked to the above lived experiences of the socialist past, because many

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informants were too young to have such memories directly from personal practices. On the contrary, for them spatial (and social) mobility was made possible through their involvement with the NGO world, the visa regime being partially abolished as recently as 2009. What was most important about such identifications was being perceived as having “freedom from social belonging [national/ethnic in this case] rather than a special sort of [elitist] belonging” (Calhoun 2003). In reality, they were tagged on particular social and class dispositions drawing the boundary between the self and the other in terms of cultural competence, urbanity, and lifestyle (Jansen 2005; Spasić 2006; Simić 2010; Živković 2011; see also Chapter 5).

On Civic Deficits and Other Deficiencies At first glance, such cosmopolitanism seemed mostly oriented toward a past that, as Jansen points out, was “only special in retrospect, in the face of nationalist segregation” (Jansen 2008: 80). However, there were equally important future-oriented aspects of such identifications that we need to address. Particularly for the local NGOs, such appeals to cosmopolitanism were not just part of an identity quest, or solely a discursive mechanism to cope with their violent biographical discontinuities. Discourses have a tactical polyvalence and are deployed as a strategic resource for certain ends (Foucault 1990). Inspired thus from Michael Herzfeld’s concept of practical orientalism (2005: 134),1 we could understand the construction of such worldviews as an example of practical cosmopolitanism, underlining NGOs’ agency and tactical power. In this circle, people were constantly juggling between different identifications so as to maximize their capital within various scales of power relations and among various hierarchically positioned audiences. Practical cosmopolitanism was offering them an “entitled” and “natural” proximity to some abstract European political community, but it was simultaneously bringing them closer to donors as well-placed brokers (Mosse and Lewis 2006) or courtiers du development (Bierschenk and Olivier de Sardan 1993; Blundo 1995; Bierschenk, Chauveau and Olivier de Sardan 2000), translating and acting upon different rationalities, interests, and meanings. The cosmopolitanism of the NGOs indeed seemed politically motivated. As I will present in this section, practiced in their professional encounters, these discourses were simultaneously constructing a very culturally essentialized analysis of Serbia’s past and present, and reproducing the need for NGOs’

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international support and intervention. As cultural identity came to be recognized as a major form of capital for a “successful transition,”2 NGOs consolidated themselves as the social actor of change. The narratives of informants when discussing the history of the NGO sector in Serbia are very telling. The paradigm of the so-called belated transition and heavily culturalizing arguments were widely used to describe and explain NGOs’ mission, gains, and shortcomings after 1990. The origins of this explanatory frame go back to the 1990s, when some prominent anti-nationalist researchers in Belgrade, themselves personally engaged in the development of the local NGO sector, started looking for the obstacles to the development of a civil society in Serbia. The most representative example is the research project carried out in 1994, entitled “Suppressed Civil Society,” funded by the Soros Foundation of Yugoslavia and the British Council. Vukašin Pavlović, a professor of political science in Belgrade and a proclaimed civil-society expert, argued that Serbia is characterized by a nedostatak/deficit civiliteta, that is, a civil deficit (Pavlović 1995): as part of the Ottoman Empire, Serbia stayed outside of the main processes that enabled liberal ideas and thus the development of civil society—namely the Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment, and Protestant ethics (Pavlović 1995: 251−255; Grupa Autora 1994) . It is interesting how the Ottoman Empire so often seems to be the victim of ahistoric and often contradictory accounts, either presented as a monolithic system of slavery that had frozen progress, or it was celebrated for the legal pluralism and tolerance of the perceived multicultural and cosmopolitan order of the millet system (Karpat 2012). In this case, Serbia had to defend itself from the Turkish occupation by withdrawing into itself and preserving isolated village self-governments, being forced to resort to ethnic homogenization in the form of enhanced solidarity of its members, solidifying the basis of traditional society. This was manifest in close ties within families and the kinship (tribal) structure, with heavy reliance on primary groups, ethnic ones, apart from the family, and reduced significance of professional groups and political organizations, thanks to belated modernization [sic]. (Golubović 2004: 89)

Other European societies were seen as already functioning as capitalist market economies, but Serbia was characterized until World War II as an agricultural “autarkical economy,” with a nonexistent division of labor and the persistence of “warrior-tribal cultural patterns” (Lazić 2003, Pesić 2006), including “pre-modern” models of social organization such as the zadruga or zadružna porodica (extended

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family), that “disabled cultural emancipation in terms of secularization and rationalization” (Pesić 2006: 292). Again, whereas in another context zadruga was used as an example of Serbian communitarian ethos, proving to donors that local NGOs have deep historical origins, now it was seen as a conservative structure, hindering horizontal relations of democratic citizenship. In any case, even if the agricultural economy had been integrated into global trade systems and modernity, as Allcock argued, had reached the Balkans via the village (2002), the “belated transition” thesis equated ruralness with “a provincial lifestyle and consciousness, xenophobia, authoritarianism, collectivist spirit, fatalism, homogenization and egalitarianism, militarism, mysticism, epic view of the past, heroic ethics, oral communication, underestimation of women and children, religious view of the world, superstitions” (Pantić 1995: 78). In such communities, as Stojković stresses, it would be illusionary to search for elements of civil society. Even within the urban spaces, such as Belgrade, Kragujevać, and Niš, that he characterized as oases of modernity (1995), the great exodus of the rural population toward urban settings had brought about a ruralization of the cities (Kostić 1969) and the emergence of peasant urbanites (Simić 1973), peasantindustrial workers seen as a “half-breed status” category of people living between the town and the village and “never managing to adjust completely to the conditions of urban and industrial way of life” (Golubović 2004: 90). Finally, the anti-colonial revolution was seen as, at best, a “rural-bourgeois” one; the dominant ruling class was not an urban bourgeoisie, “but a commercial bourgeoisie with rural origins, whose economic, social, and political views did not provide an appropriate environment for economic and political modernization (Gredelj 1995: 224−225). In fact it provided a loš start (bad start). This modernization narrative then moves to the following period of the socialist Second Yugoslavia, raising additional issues of state control and of penalization of dissent. Authors insist on the impossibility of a real independent civil society during this period. Suppression was exercised from above, but most importantly, they add, there wasn’t a will to self-organize from below either. Stanisavljević summarizes well this argument. The new socialist state, wanted to take the responsibility for economical, political, social, and even private life of its citizens. Individual freedom and free association were banished as useless and dangerous remnants of the past, and the state developed a universal system of education, health protection, children and social welfare, culture and recreation. … The uniform system of social insurance

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led to the higher living standards and social security of citizens than ever before, but it has also unified their need and reduced possible initiatives and demands for changes. The people’s interest in self-organizing and activity always diminishes when the state and institutions take in their hands the entire care for the human being and prevent him from deciding for himself. This “imposed’ infantile position of Yugoslav citizens prevented “grassroots” initiative and changes in society. Uniformity and universally designed programs of social policy caused deep and long-lasting economic crisis at the beginning of the 80 [sic]. (Stanisavljević 1995: 97)

Scholars stressed that the problem was in fact a much deeper civilizational one, and included a syndrome of totalitarian collectivism and an overall perceived lack of social differentiation (Pesić 2006). Tito’s socialism might have had some modernizing effects but did not manage to escape from the old “egalitarian syndrome.” This idea of sameness, of “equal stomachs” and “equal-to-nothingness” citizens in front of an omnipotent state, was not only referring to material equality but was undermining the very idea of personhood being special. Sameness or egalitarianism was thus equated to antiintellectualism and anti-liberalism (Pantić 1995: 80−81), while the ideal social order should be based on a civil society embracing individualism, social differentiation, and thus stratification. After such a reading of the Serbian past, the rise of nationalism in the late 1980s and 1990s comes as a logical sequence: class was substituted by nation and traditionalism, and authoritarian communism merged into yet another version of primitive collectivism. “It’s no wonder,” the argument concludes, that Serbs fell prey to some nationalist paranoia because they were predisposed in a way to such thinking: People become accustomed to suppress their own needs and interests in the name of collective demands (of a group, or the party/state, or their own nation), and to form an authoritarian/nondemocratic frame of mind. The integration of society’s members became more important than self-integration within personality structures which liberate individuals from their own contradictions and ambiguities, enabling them to grow as mature personalities (Golubović 1999: 29).

At this point we have reached the deeper cultural roots of civil deficits: the Serbian “authoritarian personality.”3 This type is characterized by “a Manichean conception of the world”; it legitimizes subordination and homogenization, because of its own weakness and insecurity (Golubović 2004: 93); it is also charged with traditionalism, a state of structural unresponsiveness to change in a frame where “stagnation means something worse than the mere absence

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of progress—it implies retrogression” (Pavlović 2004: 166). As the anthropologist Zagorka Golubović argued, this behavioral and cultural pattern is so dominant that “the concept of ‘citizen’—as the embodiment of a free personality in political terms— … is still more a fiction than a reality because people liberate themselves with a great difficulty from the authoritarian mentality” (Golubović 1999: 30). However, as the term “suppressed civil society” implies, the above authors were not completely pessimistic. On the face of the emerging NGO sector in the 1990s, Pavlović recognized the existence of “isolated islands of civility” (Pavlović 1995: 247). Pantić mentions the existence of three Serbias: the first rural and pre-modern, the second half-urban, half-rural, and half-modern, and the third represented by some postmodern, educated, urban, and democratically oriented new generation.4 It is there, in the third Serbia, where he saw the core of civil society (Pantić 1995: 96). Similarly, Gredelj also referred to the category of the enlightened, the few promoters of liberal and individualistic identities that aggressive neo-traditionalism strive to marginalize, Satanize, and socially destroy (Gredelj 1995: 226−227). The above argumentation was not just some forgotten intellectual production, as selective elements of it were commonly picked up by NGO actors when asked to reflect on local NGO trajectories. Actually, many people were even automatically narrating them, as for the last fifteen years they had been frequently producing publications and reports for their donors on the development of the NGO sector in Serbia, its organizational capacities, and the difficulties it faced. These reports were not for local consumption but were specifically addressing an international audience: the current and potential donors or partners of local NGOs. Within these reports, and apart from the macro-economic and institutional deficits that structure Serbian reality (domains where other sectors are supposed to intervene, the market and the state respectively), culture appears as the main barrier of democratic consolidation. By defining the social nature of their contemporaneity as one in need of cultural change, NGOs were simultaneously pointing to the type of intervention required—the change of the so-called current value orientation system—and to the best-situated actor to assume it: modern, socially progressive, entrepreneurial, and innovative local NGOs (TASCO 2010), perceived within the developmental circle as the “cultural infrastructure for society,” as “the sector of the future.”5 NGOs did not simply enjoy some moral capital from doing good, they also became moral and cultural entrepreneurs, assuming a constitutive role in the economy of ethical distribution (Bourdarias 2003).

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Of course, Belgrade NGOs often admitted to their own elitist character, and even referred to themselves as “salon NGOs.” However, this did not seem to pose any real problem to their perception of a democratic civil society. Indeed, as we have seen before, the problem of democratic consolidation and modernization was considered to be the very lack of social differentiation. NGOs were explicitly aspiring to and enabling through their projects the formation of a new political, economic, and cultural elite in Serbia, through various initiatives to enhance youth leadership, educational seminars on modern political and entrepreneurial skills, training for the youth organizations of political parties, among others. Their view of cosmopolitan globalization was far from Thomas Friedman’s celebratory, excited observation that the world is flat—on the contrary, the problem in Serbia was supposedly this very flatness, the lack of this educated and enlightened elite that would be the carrier of modernity and progress, educating Kant’s immature others. This desired rise of social differentiation was always presented in cultural terms and never as a class-structured project. Questions of inequality and power relations were once again evicted from the debate as within the aforementioned politically correct discourses, lost between essentialized and deterministic dichotomies. As Bogdanović claims, epitomizing this position, “It is very possible that soon we will not be talking anymore but for a peasant and a citizen, or even better, for a cosmopolitan and a provincial; all the other distinctions will fade away with time” (Hatziprodromidis 1998: 89).

The Riddle of the “Middle Class” So, who were these “islands of democracy”? Despite numerous projects to spread the idea and structures of civil society beyond the main cities of the country (see Chapter 5), the growth of the NGO sector, according to the Serbian Business Registers Agency, remained an urban phenomenon.6 In the 1990s, the most prominent and professional local NGOs were founded in Belgrade (with some newer ones and spin-offs after 2000), with their headquarters in the three neighborhoods of the aid world: the first is Dorćol in the oldest part of Belgrade (Stari Grad)—right in the very heart of the city—where NGOs and international organizations were featured on almost every other street. The second is the wealthy suburb of Dedinje, featuring its own Hajd Park (as in Hyde Park in London), full of the embassies and villas of diplomats, the local political class, and

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the plutocracy. Finally, the third neighborhood covers the area from the high-traffic boulevard Kneza Miloša, a district where the main governmental departments and ministries are located along with major foreign embassies (including the Canadian and the US), to the temple of Sveti Sava in Vračar. Between the embassies, ministries, and NGOs, several restaurants and coffeehouses served as meeting points of formally dressed people, both expatriates and locals, discussing future plans and seeking potential partners. What would, in another setting, look like a financial district full of rushing financial brokers in fine suits appeared here to be the rushing brokers of a booming development industry. Within the aid scene, people knew each other very well, sometimes amounting to a love/hate relationship. As an emblematic figure among the aid scene told me, “If there is someone working in NGOs [that] I do not know about, it means he or she is not important!” Among the NGO staff, we can delineate three generations that usually correspond to different positions within the organizations. The first generation, sometimes euphemistically called the Vet(eran) s, was composed of people around fifty-five years or older, often the founding fathers and directors of their NGO, and board members of other NGOs and development agencies. Some of them were also public figures, appearing on primetime TV shows and in the press to discuss hot topics of the political agenda. The second generation was composed of people aged from thirty to fifty years old. This group mostly occupied positions of middle management or, having capitalized on their previous professional NGO-experience, had established a new organization, becoming their own boss. In the third generation belonged mainly young students and recent graduates holding low-level and precarious administrative jobs, or working on a voluntary base, aspiring for future employment.7 Also, as confirmed by various statistical studies of local “meta-NGOs” (Stubbs 2007a), the non-profit sector was predominantly a female one (NGO Policy Group 2001: 21; Građanske Inicijative 2005: 30; Lazić 2005: 83). The participation of women was even greater in Belgrade organizations, a fact that shouldn’t take us by surprise given the strong feminist movement of the previous decades and the decisive role that women’s initiatives played in the anti-war movement and in the initial creation of the NGO sector in Serbia (Blagojević 1998). Belgrade NGO employees did earn higher incomes compared to the country’s standards.8 During the chaos of the 1990s, this difference was clearly visible, also keeping in mind that at that time NGOs were paid in foreign currency and thus did not have to cope with

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the astronomic hyperinflation of the local currency. Yet, in the 2000s, they did not enjoy the same privileges, as many donors had left the country and funds had become scarce. NGO staff still had aboveaverage incomes but they faced greater instability because their remittances were calculated on project-by-project basis. It happened that even the most prominent NGOs had unpaid staff for several weeks or even months at a time, waiting for the next project to begin. And even if they were managing to be sustainable or profitable— usually from assuming short-term consulting roles alongside their NGO job—they were by no means part of the economic elite of the country. On the contrary, much of their power and status derived from their high social capital (Bourdieu 1986), including a network of support and recognition from various local and international actors such as mayors and MPs, ministers and party leaders, businessmen, influential journalists, bureaucrats, ambassadors and diplomats, Eurocrats, foreign consultants, international NGO and donor directors. Actually, for some people, the very formation of voluntary associations was seen as an investment strategy that would enlarge their field of possibilities in the short or long term. Several of my informants affirmed that they had established their NGO in order to first get connected, and then decide how to advance their careers in the private or public sector. These social connections were far from institutionalized. On the contrary, they remained extremely unofficial and were mostly based on friendship ties and, to Gellner’s surprise, kinship (both real and symbolic through kumstvo [godparenthood]), with NGOs sometimes running as a sort of family business.9 In any case, far from cross-cutting social cleavages or embodying Tocqueville’s purportedly classless aspects of the American civil society, Belgrade NGOs recruited mostly highly educated professionals. Whereas NGO staff often liked to emphasize the diversity of the third sector by telling stories where diplomats, experts, and housewives all used to gather in some NGO office in the 1990s, their personal biographies reveal a not-so-all-encompassing image. The vast majority of the NGO staff I met were typical middle-strata professionals and could be considered as a “middle-class faction” (Mikuš 2015a): teachers, sociologists, bureaucrats, psychologists, lawyers, economists, artists, and journalists. Many of them had institutional backgrounds, working in the past for the state administration, while others were part of the local intelligentsia, whether as dissidents of the old regime, cultural elites, or professors in academia. Given their professional trajectories, it is obvious that their level of education

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was extremely high compared to the national average, as was that of at least one of their parents.10 The percentage of parents with a high level of education appeared so elevated that the sociologist Mladen Lazić analyzes the Belgrade NGO sector not simply as a channel for social reproduction, but as a way for intergenerational maintenance of a middle-class position (2005). For this particular reading of class-based Yugoslavia, education was a crucial denominator in social differentiation: socialism’s middle class was to be based on organizational and cultural capital, accumulated by non-autonomous experts and low-level managers.11 Indeed, the NGO sector in the 1990s and 2000s served as “an alternative coping mechanism, mitigating de-professionalization and impoverishment” (NGO Policy Group 2001: 23; Lazić 2005: 79−80) while further preventing an already massive brain drain. As Ana, a forty-five-year-old NGO program manager, explained, “NGOs are not only about democracy and development. It is also a good way to fight unemployment.” Of course, within such an uncertain context as the 1990s, there were several examples of social mobility closely linked with post-conflict economies. Such was the case of Jovan, for example, a forty-five-year-old project coordinator of a big international project. Jovan comes from a small town on the Serbo-Croatian border and his parents were working on the shop floor of the industrial sector of the region. He explains: I started working in my hometown in 1998 for a Dutch NGO on post-conflict resolution projects. Before, I was in the army for four years, from’91 to ’95. I joined the army when I was only seventeen and after that, when it [the war] finished, I fled to Greece and worked there on a boat for two years. I was completely messed up. You know the war is a bad thing, plus we lost the war. But we had some guns, we stole it and bought some passports and left for Greece. With nothing. And then when I came back to Croatia, I met some people and they told me how come you do not work with NGOs? As a translator, because in Greece I’ve learned English. So I started with the NGOs like this, by accident. Lots of people did the same, worked as translators, drivers, or guides in the beginning. Afterwards I came to Serbia and made a mission here, with the same NGO. In the meanwhile, I was advancing in the organization in the high level. Afterwards, I worked for an Italian consulting company hired by EAR [European Agency for Reconstruction] in 2002 to help refugees and IDPs [internally displaced persons] with economic integration. I also scanned Serbia with them for three months. Then we went to Germany as an advisory group for an ECHO [European Community Humanitarian Office] project … during this project, I started working at the municipal level, because the idea was to deliver the packages directly to beneficiaries according to the lists of the ministry of social affairs. I met a lot of

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people of all sectors and, after all this experience, I started my own NGO. I am running today this USAID project since 2003.

The trajectory of Jovan shows that in some cases NGOs did serve as an intergenerational social ladder, occasionally providing unexpected opportunities to those previously excluded. However, stories of drivers and translators that went on to become chiefs of missions are not as common as the shared thinking around NGOs would like them to be, and are rather scarce among people born and raised outside the capital. Unfortunately, in most studies on NGOs, classrelated aspects of the analysis are restricted to the affirmation of NGOs’ middle-class position as highly educated stručnjaci (experts), together with the new private businessmen and white collar salaried employees. Yet, besides empiricist observations, the definition of class as an analytical and historical category is usually absent. The use of “middle class” appears even more problematic, because its lack of a sociological (and unquantified) meaning goes against an immense polyphony and decades-long debate in both Marxian and Weberian sociological traditions (Wacquant 1991). This problem is far from confined to NGO analysis, but it is, on the contrary, linked to a particular local tradition of sociological production focusing on social stratification. Such studies, spanning from the 1970s until today (Popović et al. 1977, 1987 and 1991; Lazić 1994 and 2011; Vujović 1995; Novaković 2007; Cvetičanin and Popescu 2011; Cvetičanin, Nedeljković and Krstić 2012; Petrović 2013), are predominantly based on expansive surveys offering valuable and rich empirical data. Despite the considerable methodological problems inherent to such research (e.g., methodological individualism, lack of dynamism, logical deductions), they reveal inequality patterns and social differentiation both during the socialist and postsocialist era: they point, among others, to the closed systems of intergenerational mobility since the 1960s, to the transformation of public managerial power to private ownership, or to widening inequalities during the 1990s. There are several criteria that scholars use in order to grasp the above, such as material well-being (indicators on income, quality of housing, property, neighborhood, food quality, etc.) education level, and social power or influence (e.g., information on party or union membership and other formal and informal social networks). These are then combined with occupational positions in a rather empiricist division of labor (depending on the examined era: public and private managers, politicians, farmers, experts, large and small

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entrepreneurs, skilled and unskilled workers, clerks, self-employed, etc.), in order to produce theoretical classes and sub-classes, such as the farmers, the lower, middle, and upper class. Finally, some studies also include so-called value-orientation indicators (examining ideological affiliations and political cultures such as political and economic liberalism, authoritarianism, tolerance, statism, etc.), while other studies try to sketch class-based cultural maps (based, for example, on taste for cultural products), inspired by Bourdieu’s social theory. No matter their value, there are at least three major shortcomings of the above sociological production: first, the uncritical equating of the concept of class with that of location/layer (položaj/slojevi) and the normative assumption of their particular interests; second, the lack of any explanatory character of correlations; and, third, the rather reductionist definition of culture. To be sure, there are few scholars that do provide operationalizations of class that are not conceptual reifications. For example, Lazić and Cvejić (2004) argue that classes (and their subgroups) are groups of individuals that share similar living conditions and have different positions (različita mesta) in the reproduction of social relations. For instance, the middle class during socialism is understood as a state-controlled group, having as a mission the transfer of commands from the nomenklatura to the rest of the society and the production and dissemination of professional and technical knowledge (Lazić 1987, 2011; Lazić and Cvejić 2011). Classes, the authors stress, form a social hierarchy and have, potentially, conflicting relationships. However, the actual data analysis builds on normative assumptions and pre-defined roles. During the transitional years, the middle class appears as a natural advocate of democracy and free market and ought to have an expected set of liberal value orientations. Actually, the fact that survey results do not confirm such strong pro-market beliefs come somewhat as a disappointment: such a “value dissonance” is held responsible for (among other things) the instability of the new social system, because it purportedly inhibits the normalization of capitalist relations and the implementation of the desired reforms (Lazić 2011: 249–254). The analysis cannot escape from the familiar schema of gradual stratification either. As Vera Vratuša has, rightly I believe, pointed out, the adjective “different” (različita) refers more to the continuous hierarchy of positions and the way that they quantitatively differ from each other, rather than in the inherent conflicting interests and antagonistic relationships between them (Vratuša 2013: 53).12

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To sum up, class in these readings is more often than not deprived from its radical meaning, often used as a given preemptive category and not as a historical/relational one. At the same time, there is an over-stressing of cultural orientations, taste, and values. This is not problematic per se, but it is often done using a rather reductionist deployment of Bourdieu’s cultural capital, without taking into consideration class-based dispositions: class and culture appear as two separate indicators occasionally brought together by a set of flat correlations. Yet, we need to remember, first, that there is a field of social forces that has enabled the signification/hierarchization of these values and tastes; and second, that classes are not given entities but a result of struggle, a struggle both over class-making and between the classes (Thompson 1963; Wacquant 1991; Carrier and Kalb 2015). What is class without class conflict anyway? As Don Kalb has stressed, “The imagery of society as consisting of individuals seen as falling within either the category of the poor, the middle class, or the wealthy can only be meant to NOT talk about class, to NOT engage in a vision of social relations and their possible antagonisms or contradictions over time—because that is what capital and class, as concepts, were supposed to do” (Kalb 2014: 160, emphasis in original).

Flexibility or Precarity? If we are to adopt a relational class-based approach, we cannot really talk about NGOs as some abstract new middle class, maybe not even as a social subject. That would mean overlooking the harsh hierarchies within and among NGOs, based on relations of appropriation and exploitation inherent to the aid industry. The truth is that, despite expectations, the process of radical social restructuring, called transition after 2000, brought privileges only to a small minority of NGO employees that got included in the decision-making process of the economic and political reforms. These people were characterized by a particular flexibility and mobility, floating between the public and nonprofit sector, either by occasionally occupying governmental positions or by keeping a consultancy role (see Chapter 6). Others became renowned civil-society experts within the aid sector and/or something like successful freelance providers or entrepreneurs. Not everybody had this level of professional career but many aspired to reach it one day.

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The younger employees I met within the Belgrade NGOs particularly fell into this category. They were less than thirty years old but were feeling at the top of their game. Their descriptions of their jobs were full of discursive adrenaline. They were stressing how much they hated dull office jobs where you had to sit in a room from 9 am to 5 pm, even if, sometimes, they were actually working from 9 am until 9 pm. Their frequent traveling (mostly within Serbia or the Balkans), meeting new people, meeting foreigners, and even the frenetic rhythms of NGO work were met with great enthusiasm. Not to mention that it paid—or promised to pay—comparatively well (almost double that made by many of their underpaid friends working for the minimum wage of 200–300 euros per month), and offered some sense of creativity and moral satisfaction from doing good. Flexibility was celebrated as a way of life and working in an NGO sounded like a paid adventure. However, for the vast majority of NGO staff (usually mid-level project managers) flexibility in late 2000s instead meant precarity, linked to the inherent short-term character of project work. Indeed, as critical scholars have long urged us, we always have to ask “whose flexibility?” Studying the informalization and flexibilization of production, they have argued that, in the same production chain, “what is flexible in one case, at a particular place and time, can be perfectly inflexible in another social and spatial context” (Hadjimichalis and Vaiou 1990: 80); and whereas for some groups flexibility might be beneficial, for others it certainly brings constraints and inequalities (Dunn 2004; Mollona 2009; Kofti 2016). Can we take this debate to the aid industry? I believe there is a desperate need to do so if we are to better grasp the political economy of aid. As I stressed in the introduction, the amazing growth of NGOs isn’t only linked to local associational revolutions or to donors’ policy shifts toward civil society support in the 1990s. It was also the result of decentralization, privatization, and outsourcing of humanitarian and developmental aid toward nonprofits. NGOs, as subcontractors, are most commonly celebrated for their flexibility: far from state bureaucratic fatigue, they allegedly offer adaptability, rapidity, and efficacy in their interventions; they can be created, intervene, and get dissolved as and when a need emerges. For the donors this obviously has several advantages. Subcontracting does not only promise to save time and money (although both can be debatable). It might also mean saving the donors from the responsibility of their interventions: flexibility in terms of outsourcing aid delivery can certainly entail flexibility in accountability.

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For the NGO staff, positively defined flexibility was just a flat word in their project proposals, advertising the NGO comparative advantages for attracting funding. In their everyday realities, however, flexibility equated to precarity and instability. Indeed, as we saw in Chapter 2, NGO work was almost exclusively based on project-making. Projects usually lasted one year and many of my informants stressed that they had not secured funding for next year.13 Financial dependency, anxieties, and insecurity only grew more pronounced as many donors began preparing their exit strategies or had already shut down their missions. As Ivan, an international NGO director told me, aid goes East, as it “follows the market of problems.” He sarcastically added, I have to say [laughs], there is no war, no new humanitarian crises! We have a big regional program now with Bosnia and Montenegro and as a joke we are talking to each other, lets provoke a small war, not a big one, no one has to die! Let’s just shoot [at] each other and call media and then the money will come again!

Within a very competitive project market, NGOs were hostages of donors’ funds, their conditionalities, and repertoires. Busy daily schedules, apart from administrative tasks, meetings, and project activities, included a constant search for calls for projects, inside information, and strategic alliances for future funding opportunities. While implementing one project, one had to already start writing a proposal for a new one. Many people admitted that fundraising was actually the biggest and most difficult part of their job; it was the most time and energy consuming, while, at the same time, it created a discrepancy between paid and not-paid jobs. “Surplus value,” as Virno has argued, “is no longer [not only I would nuance] extracted from labor materialized in a product, it [also] resides in the discrepancy between paid and unpaid work—the idle time of the mind that keeps enriching, unacknowledged the fruits of immaterial labor” (Virno 2004: 12). The ambiguity between a task and its remuneration was even more perplexing when dealing with volunteers, mostly students or recent graduates. Whereas I by no means questioned their moral motivations, their engagement in NGOs was not solely a disinterested action or a simple expression of their “habits of the heart.” In general, actions of solidarity and reciprocity usually manifested in informal friendship and kinship networks, as severe socio-economic conditions did not leave much time and space for people to engage in charities and volunteering. For most of the volunteers I talked to,

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volunteering meant a kind of apprenticeship, an internship, if not some “necessary exploitation” (at the time there was no law in Serbia regulating volunteer work). But it was an exploitation for which they felt thankful because there were so many young people looking to become volunteers. There was no fixed timespan for this internship but “the more you are around, the more you get to know people” and thus the closer you were to becoming the right candidate for some promised job opening, whenever the opportunity would arise. I vividly remember the dilemma of a girl in her early twenties that had been accepted for a one-year MA program in the UK with a full scholarship. She nevertheless decided to sacrifice her studies, stay in Belgrade, and continue her internship at one prominent NGO. She feared that, if she had left for a year, she would have been “forgotten” and would lose the possible opportunity to be employed there. She said that she probably wouldn’t have been able to return, not even as a volunteer, given the growing competition. In addition to the crowded field of volunteers, most regular and casual staff were also under-employed and many were obligated to have second or third jobs to cover their life expenses. An abundant supply of fast small credit (usually 1,000 euros) from the booming banking sector was often covering in-between-project needs, adding financial expropriation to labor exploitation (Lapavitsas 2009). In many cases, an NGO would have three to five full-time staff and a long list of “external partners” that were ready to join the NGO if and when a relevant-to-their-expertise project would get funded. However, due to taxation, short contracts and piecework were “not cheap enough” either, and many times remuneration was squeezed under honorary-authorship payments. No matter the deal, the NGOs had to additionally pay for these partners income tax (20 percent), pension contribution (22 percent), and, if they were unemployed, social security (12.3 percent).14 In other cases, many casual workers were pushed to officially register as self-employed, slobodnjaci or frilenseri, in order to be meet low NGO budgets as service-providers and thus be preferably selected as “partners”): in the absence of a law fully standardizing this kind of job, freelancers would be the ones required to pay the taxes and, in order to get by, they would often chose not to pay for their own social security. Cutting on expenses in such ways was of primary importance, because, in lots of project funding, mundane administrative work was not remunerated; neither were functional expenses, like paying rent and bills for the NGO premises. NGOs were suffering from this constant insecurity and stress to cover the imbalances. Even minor

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unexpected incidents, such as the breakdown of a van for example, could derail a project’s budget and many times staff had to chip in for keeping their work on schedule. This is why there are some standard commonly used secrets for writing a budget, such as overpricing certain services or inventing phantom needs: You need to have at least 20 percent for contingency, in case there is some problem, you need to always have something small. So you would put, for example, lots of money for stationery. It’s where you can save easily money for other stuff, like electricity, telephone bills. The money you put all in the pot, because you desperately needed them. But you cannot exaggerate either. The budgets need to be realistic, but if anything, they have to be juggled around on the ground.

Obviously, hectic schedules, tension, and financial insecurity might not seem like a dream job. Many employees did not consider NGOs as their desired professional destination but rather as a transitional path to career fulfillment. Some NGO leaders recognized a dangerous trend in this transformation. Sonja, a fifty-year-old director lamented that, “The problem is that everyone wants to take something from the sector, nobody wants to give. Some want to take the money and run. Others are here to network and obtain a sphere of influence. A lot of time I hear people [saying] ‘Oh, I established this NGO to get started and then we will see.’” Such was the case of Aleksandar, for example, the director of a newer NGO in his late thirties. He established his new NGO with some former NGO colleagues with the mutual understanding that until 2010, that is for the first five years of the organization, they would commit to working on NGO projects: Then we will see. … if things go good, I’m thinking to open my business company. You know, the situation here is very different than the one in the States. There [in the US], people with better education are usually in business. But you cannot do it here because of the monopolies. Also, for example, I want to start a business, but there are still a million restrictions. There is no strategy for small and medium enterprises. I know lots of people with the same preoccupations. So we are in the NGOs because we think our market is closed, there are still monopolies.

Either way, whether choosing to pursue an NGO career or planning to invest in other professional markets, the social networks and practical skills accumulated within the NGO world promise to serve as a passport for social mobility within and beyond national borders and professional sectors. Future careers, apart from development, politics, and business, even include military missions. Lots of NGO

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employees, particularly those with experience in US NGOs, have been recruited as “foreign civilians” by private military contractors in Iraq or Afghanistan (Brown 2010). But how often was the promise of social mobility realized? During my research, I did meet people that had moved to other sectors, but this was not always a result of free will or an attempt at career advancement. The exit from the NGOs often resulted from the very hierarchical structures of the sector that rarely left margins for internal professional mobility and promotion. This was particularly true for the employees that, as they often complained, were stuck somewhere in middle management with no prospects of advancement; establishing a new spin-off NGO was a very risky decision to take as donor funds were scarce, while at the same time internal NGO advancement seemed impossible because “you can just never pass the vet(eran)s!” As Katarina, a thirty-three-year-old project manager, said one day, “This is not an egalitarian world. It is a big mess. Very little is respected. It is all about what will work. It is not ethics.” People like Katarina would do a little bit of everything in the organization. Although she officially had specific working hours, she also had to be available or on call all the time. And because her boss also had other jobs during the day, this would mean dragging Katrina into the office around 5 pm and staying until late. Almost always, deadlines of project-calls meant pulling an all-nighter. They also meant having to deal with huge meetings full of conflicts and stress where “people were literally falling apart.” People like Katarina would have minimum input on the actual conceptual design but it would be them trying to reconcile different modes of thinking and doing, for example. abstract ideas about artistic works and the rigid demands and criteria of a project application. And all this while trying not to insult anyone. Despite physical fatigue, the moral dimension of doing good often legitimized labor exploitation. Many times, I saw people on the verge of quitting their jobs but they kept struggling; in addition to material concerns like losing one’s salary, there was also a strong moral obligation keeping them in the NGO, an obligation toward the mission of their job and a deeper need to be included in the NGO brotherhood. Tanja, a thirty-five-year-old project manager, was one who eventually did leave her job and migrated to the UK. As she explained, The most important [thing] was not so much your skills. The most important [thing] was to show dedication. Even more. Sacrifice! I felt that! I really did! So many times I wanted to quit. And you felt, “If I leave, I would be

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abandoning the CAUSE.” You really feel sucked in. So, if you go, you become disloyal, you feel your heart is wrong! … And then, if you go, [it means] “you are not one of us.” And I was already feeling an outsider, I tried so much to be accepted. [There was] this fear to be disloyal. Even when I was very involved, when I did not dare leave Belgrade even for a weekend … I felt, if I leave what they [the board, colleagues] will think? It’d be like I’m a bad person, not thinking about the big picture, about the real problems.

Indeed, for many informants it was very difficult to defend their labor rights or even openly complain about their working conditions without feeling somewhat guilty. Guilty because they knew that their exploitation had some social benefit for society writ-large, but also because there was a strong shared understanding that today’s difficulties and sacrifices could not be compared with those of the 1990s, when the founders/directors/senior staff had to face impossible situations. There was a clear generational division in the internal hierarchies of NGOs: “If you haven’t been through that hard time, you couldn’t know what a problem is.” Showing sacrifice meant showing solidarity, reacting meant being spoiled or self-interested. As Tanja concluded, “Leave and you turn into a kind of monster.”

Concluding Remarks This chapter was intended to shed light on various aspects of the upscale NGO circle in Belgrade. It tried to schematically sketch a sociological profile of its staff, tease out elements of their self-identification, and understand its uses and effects in the new political transformations of Serbia. Despite an ideal representation of NGOs as a locus of social diversity and heterogeneity, NGO members and staff in the capital had very similar social trajectories: middle-strata professional backgrounds and family origins, higher education, above-median income, strong social networks, and similar socialization patterns. Scholars have approached them as a part of a new post-socialist middle class or as a channel for intergenerational middle-class reproduction. Yet, most of the times, authors constructed quantified categories based on empirical correlations from survey data, without having an operational definition of class. The middle class was, more often than not, understood as a detached layer of social stratification, deprived of any relational character or power struggle. It rather obscured, under a homogenizing and deradicalized label, the rigid hierarchies and actual class-based processes taking place within NGOs.

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On the one hand, and as I will present in greater detail in Chapter 6, the “salon NGO” sector can be seen as a mechanism for elite formation. This should not be mistakenly misunderstood: it does not mean that NGOs were some sort of new elite. It rather points out that, for arguably a small group, the NGO model of social organization was being extensively used as a springboard to political power at the state or supra-state governance level. This group was characterized by an intense mobility between government cabinets, embassies, academia, international organizations, and local NGOs, often carrying a legitimizing expertise in transition reforms. On the other hand, and in parallel, NGOs defined a social milieu for producing a highly professional—yet extremely precarious—projectariat (Baker 2012b). As I have discussed, the vast majority of the NGO staff were neither hyper-mobile nor particularly privileged (and far from wealthy!) as the mainstream social imaginary would want them to be. They were, instead, exhausted, stressed, and often underpaid (at times unpaid) administrative workers with very uncertain futures, stuck within exploitative working situations and moral obligations and dilemmas. We might want to argue that NGOs generally functioned more as buffer zone preventing downward social mobility rather than as a fast track to wealth and power. In any case, generalized and worldwide precarity does not simply refer to labor casualization or under-employment. It also includes the latter’s emotional and material effects in creating generally insecure life conditions and destabilizing social identities, as people cannot formulate a coherent and meaningful sense of their lives and futures. Such realities were far from new, as precarious labor already existed in socialist Yugoslavia, concerning more unskilled workers (Suvin 2012; Woodward 1995a). However, these realities can effectively challenge the post-socialist analytical framework urging us to look for wider global explanatory frames, without of course ignoring the path dependencies and historical particularities of each society. Yet, despite fragmentation, animosities, and internal inequalities, there was a loud “WE the NGOs here” feeling. Stef Jansen’s earlier study of anti-nationalist movements in Zagreb and Belgrade from 1996 to 1998, showed that the activists involved were characterized by a sense of “protective individualism” (Jansen 2005: 33). As one of his informants pointed out, “It will be very hard or even impossible for you to find something in common between those people, apart from resistance to nationalism. … Now we have very little, if anything, like a new collective identity. There are only individuals, like myself, who try and preserve their little microcosm, and who would

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do anything not to end up in a new collective identity.” (Jansen 2005: 30, emphasis in the original). It is interesting to see how many of my interlocutors that belonged to these same anti-nationalist movements were constructing, ten years after, a collective identity of a democratic European family. This self-reflective attempt relied on particular elements, a sort of symbolic capital, conveying distinction to its carriers: democratic multicultural ethos, European values, urban kultura, and cosmopolitan belonging. Of course, identities are not fixed and biographical accounts are always an exercise of introspection, an ongoing process of identification where people try to reconstruct a posteriori their life trajectories through the lens of the present, as they engage in a perpetual performance of selfhood (Herzfeld 1988). Political and moral commitment to the European project, emphasis on cultural European roots, and cosmopolitanism were all tied together in an effort to create a meaningful narrative of past experiences and feelings, and also to position oneself in the social context and struggles of transition. As I have argued, the construction of such an identity allowed for the production of particular frames for understanding historical, political, and socio-economic trajectories. These frames were deeply embedded in culturalist and essentialized ascriptions, forming Manichean personality types and stigmatizing whole social groups as carriers of civilizational syndromes. Therefore, historical phenomena such as the establishment of socialist Yugoslavia and its violent dissolution via nationalist wars were understood not as an outcome of various multi-scale social struggles, but through the deployment of normative dichotomies bearing particular cultural values: democrats/ nationalists, modernist/traditionalist, individualists/collectivists, urban/peasants, cultured/uncultured people. Such indexes based on associational thinking were used in practice in order to serve various emerging ends. Practical cosmopolitanism was politically motivated and belonged to the NGO toolkit for politically consolidating themselves as stakeholders of democracy. On the one hand, it provided a source of NGO distinction, because the category of the “other” or the “enemy” was constructed by juxtaposition to a proclaimed enlightened self. On the other hand, performed in written texts and professional encounters, it was also used to convince NGO donors of the need for their societal intervention: their contribution to the development of a new European/democratic mental infrastructure in a so-called culturally contaminated society. NGOs were indeed the strongest advocates of the doxa of Europe, with EU integration understood as a deeply modernization

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project. For those endorsing transition paradigms, they represented a needed hope for the future, dynamic “islands of democracy,” and seeds of an emerging civil society. In any case, transitologists would not have to wait much longer for the desired social outcomes. If precarity is the condition defining labor patterns in Western capitalism in the early twenty-first century, then the working experiences of NGO staff (along with so many others) were ironically selling a successful transition. The post-socialist world was finally catching up with the West.

Notes  1. Herzfeld coined the term “practical orientalism” in his effort to rework Said’s toolkit through a more agent-oriented lens: “Practical orientalism is the translation of hegemonic ideology into everyday practice so that it infiltrates the habitual spaces of ordinary experience. … For unless we can appreciate how the discourse of cultural difference enters the encompassing realm of everyday sociality and sensual habit … we shall never know why people are moved to follow the extraordinarily uncompelling abstract principles of national and transnational identity” (2005: 134).  2. That was the title of a round table organized by the NGO European Movement.  3. Anthropologists were very much engaged in the construction of this thesis, relying on earlier works on national character such as Jovan Cvijić’s accounts of basic psychic types (Cvijić 1918). Its most polemic and antinationalist advocate was Zagorka Golubović, a dissident of the leftist Praxis group and current emeritus professor in the anthropology department at the University of Belgrade. For a critical account on the anthropological production in Serbia, see Mihăilescu, Iliev, and Naumović 2008.  4. For other uses of the “third Serbia,” see Spasić and Petrović 2013.  5. “NGO—the Sector of the Future” was the title of a support program for local NGOs.  6. Approximately 11,500 out of 18,923 associations are registered in Belgrade alone. See %BD%D0%B0.aspx last visited on 22/12/2012.  7. As I did not conduct a survey, I cannot provide hard numbers to back the profile of this particular NGO group in Belgrade. What I present here is based more on my own estimates and on the deduction of hard data from national surveys on the NGO sector in Serbia as cited in my text.  8. According to the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia, the average net salary in Serbia as of November 2011 totaled RSD 38,363 (around EUR 374). It is slightly higher for the city of Belgrade. Within NGOs, the salaries for regular staff (not including honoraria or piecework) ranged from EUR 400 to 2,000, depending on the job position and the donor.  9. Gellner believed that civil society is based on modern, liberal, and individualist conditions and was thus liberated from the “tyranny of the cousins” (Gellner 1995: 33). 10. In a national survey conducted in 2004 about the NGO sector, the sociologist Mladen Lazić found that almost 80 percent of his sample had fifteen years or more of formal education, including students, whereas the same educational level reached just 17.8 percent of the total population (Lazić 2005: 84). Lazić also found that almost

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12. 13. 14.

50 percent of his national NGO sample had parents with higher education, a fact that is far from reflecting demographic features of Serbian society amounting at 11.8 percent (Lazić 2005: 88). Paradoxically, small private entrepreneurs (sitni preduzetnici) were not only excluded from the socialist middle class but were by definition considered as an out-of-system category (vansistemska kategorija) in a theoretical social model that did not account for property during socialism (Lazić 2011: 234−238). Lazić also claims that more than 30 percent of the NGO activists in leading positions nationwide were old members of the Communist Party (Lazić 2005: 97). Such a fact, yet, is heavily inconclusive: first, because Lazić came up with this finding by deduction (personal communication); and second, because a Party membership card was often almost obligatory for people occupying higher institutional positions or served as a sort of passport for social ascension. Even so, because of such political and family backgrounds, several well-known NGO leaders have been sometimes accused by tabloids of being a “red bourgeoisie” (same slogan as in May ’68 protests), although they belong to the social or liberal democratic block of the political arena. For a different approach to class, pointing at relations of appropriation in the Yugoslav context, see Suvin 2012. A survey conducted by the Belgrade NGO Civic Initiatives in 2004 showed that as many as 63 percent of organizations of their sample had not managed to secure the funds needed for their work in 2005 (Civic Initiatives 2005: 64).

– Chapter 4 –

The “Nationalists” Radikali and Privatization

_ In late February 2008, the Serbian Minister of Economy Mladen Dinkić, part of the neoliberal ex-NGO party G17+, stated that Serbia was once again “descending into collective madness.” The social unrest that followed the proclamation of Kosovo’s independence after nine years of UN rule, and the reaction of the Serbian political elites, led many local and foreign analysts to the same conclusion: nationalism was back. Various “Kosovo is Serbia” rallies, peaceful and violent, culminated in a big protest in Belgrade on 26 February 2008. Organized by all the main parliamentary parties (except from the small Liberal Democratic Party and other minority parties), the protest escalated overnight into street riots. In the midst of shops being looted, cars being burned, and embassies damaged, 150 people were injured and one person was killed. Major international media were portraying Serbs as militant nationalists and their protests were said to echo the Milošević era.1 Domestically, however, many tolerated or even agreed with the comment by the Minister of Infrastructure Velimir Ilić (coming from the conservative New Serbia party) on these events, that “smashing a few embassy windows is a ‘democratic’ response to these countries’ act of robbing us of fifteen percent of our territory … they have to be taught that this is democracy as well.” These events were considered the climax of a revival of nationalist sentiments. The main evidence presented to support such an argument is based on electoral results. Since the first parliamentary elections in 2003, following the 2000 regime change, the nationalist Serbian Radical Party (Srpska Radikalna Stranka/SRS) consolidated itself as the main political force in the country.2 In the 2004 – 110 –

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presidential elections, SRS candidate Tomislav Nikolić gathered 45.4 percent of the votes and was marginally defeated by the Democrat Boris Tadić who won 53.24 percent of the votes. Because the SRS never won a majority of parliamentary seats, the multi-party coalitions consisting of the so-called democratic parties prevented it from forming a government. However, despite being in opposition at the national level, the Radicals achieved a widespread victory during the local elections of 2004. The majority of municipalities that had been under the leadership of the democratic parties since 1996 came under control of SRS, prompting both local and foreign media to report on a resurgence of nationalism in the country. Various assaults on the minority population since the beginning of the 2000s added to the widespread panic, which culminated in 2003 with the murder of Zoran Djindjić, the pro-reformist prime minister who had ordered Slobodan Milošević’s extradition to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.3 The subsequent fall of the government over the Kosovo issue and a dirty political campaign ahead of the elections in May 2008 resulted in a highly homogenized and essentialized image of a radically nationalist society or, at best, the representation of Serbia, once again, as a deeply divided society. This split was not only interpreted in political terms, as, for example, between parties with different political programs. Serbs were said to be radically polarized between two axes of identity: a modern and progressive European identity proclaimed by the pro-democratic block, For a European Serbia, pleading for EU integration versus a traditionalist, nationalist identity leading to a potential international isolation similar to that of the 1990s. The elections of 2008 were portrayed as the moment when Serbs should have decided who they are. It was seen as the critical time to choose camps and affirm cultural and political orientations. As Naumović (2005) demonstrates, narratives on Serbian disunity and their political instrumentalization have historically been popular both in everyday and political discourse. In the previous chapter, I focused on the construction of the Democrats and I have showed how cultural dichotomies were in fact part of concrete power struggles, such as NGOs’ legitimacy strategies. In this chapter, I will address the other pole of the binary frame, the Nationalists. I will try to deconstruct this omnipresent culture-talk by looking at discourses, practices, and power relations that structure the everyday life of supporters of the Serbian Radical Party. The concept of class is a useful analytical tool in this regard, as it helps to historicize

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culturally framed struggles and ground them in the particular political and economic processes that constitute Serbia’s social reality of so-called transition to a free market and liberal democracy. Nationalism, I will argue, gains its supporters from a wide spectrum of society, ranging from elites to underclasses, not because of a predominance of national identity over social differentiation. Rather nationalism appeals in different ways and for different reasons to disparate social groups, for example as a powerful discourse for maintaining the political capital of elites or a frame for working class inclusion in response to unequal social transformations. The same can also be argued for the morally circumscribed pro-Western democracy movement.

Nationalism and Culture-Talk An enormous amount of literature has been produced by prominent scholars on the dissolution of Yugoslavia, ethnic war, and the politics of nationalism during the 1990s. Whereas the dissolution of Yugoslavia is most commonly attributed to structural, systemic issues going back to the 1970s, the ethnic violence and extreme radicalization in the 1990s are mostly explained as the outcome of human agency. Many scholars agree that socialist Yugoslavia was destined to break up because of the nature of Yugoslav institutions and the decentralized political system of the 1974 constitution, which basically transferred political power along the lines of the six national republics (Dimitrijević 1995; Jović 2009; Lampe 2000; Hayden 1992). The unequal economic development among and within these republics, provinces, and urban–rural settlements, the harsh economic crisis, and the increased unemployment of the 1980s, along with the changing positions of the West vis-à-vis Yugoslavia during the Cold War, were also major factors that rendered the federation unsustainable (Ocić 1983; Jerosvek et al. 1986; Korošić 1988; Allcock 2000; Sekelj 1990; Woodward 1995a, 1995b). In contrast, the rise of nationalism and the ethnic wars of the 1990s are often analyzed either through a prism of cultural determinism or as an outcome of the agency of particular individuals and their manipulative abilities, and not as structural phenomena that a more systemic analysis would have revealed. Initial mainstream journalistic attempts understood the Yugoslav conflict through pre-modern, tribal, ethnic hatreds, and the rise of mythical theories of a seething cauldron. Hate among ethnicities was said to have always been

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there but it remained frozen under communism, only to be released by the dissolution of Yugoslavia (for a critique see Brubaker 1998; Naumović 1999a and 1999b). Then scholars mostly focused on the political leaders of the Yugoslav republics. The latter appeared as powerful, charismatic personas—in Weberian terms—who achieved the massive support of their constituencies through the clever use of populist rhetoric and a tight control over national media (Milošević 2000; Thompson 1994). But the question remains: how such a conjectural phenomenon—the takeover of particular positions by particular people at particular moments—fits into the specific historical context? A very welcome effort to seriously tackle this question is found in The Myth of Ethnic War by V. P. Gagnon Jr. (2004). Gagnon convincingly argues that political elites played the card of nationalism at the very moment of social unrest after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The goal was not actually to mobilize people, but rather to demobilize them, particularly those that demanded democratic change. By mastering identity politics, national elites managed to either secure their political power or at least gain some time in order to convert state into private property, before any democratic control of this process was institutionalized. At the same time, a powerful culturally based framework was produced both within and outside the country that would supposedly reveal the true deep roots of nationalism among ordinary people. These new frameworks supplanted earlier produced sociological knowledge, demonstrating that Yugoslav grievances (at least until the late 1980s) had mostly socio-economic rather than culturally framed roots. Many native anti-nationalist scholars, public figures, and NGOs, after rediscovering ethnological theories of the 1920s and 1950s and having appropriated statistical data from historical archives, were looking for nationalism’s roots in the countryside, the so-called bastion of Milošević support. The peasantry was attributed specific socio-psychological characteristics such as emotional instability, vengefulness, primitivism, collectivism, and irrationality (Živković 1998). These cultural essentialisms were subsequently served as an explanation for the war and violence in Yugoslavia.4 In a way, it was as if “people got what they deserved.” As Dević has pointed out, previous sociological knowledge was to be erased, when “neoprimodialist accounts jammed the space of knowledge. … The operations of ethnic cleansing and ethnic homogenization have served to force into oblivion not just the non-existence of inter-ethnic animosities in the daily life of socialism but also the layers of social and political discontent and powerlessness that severely hindered

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the possibilities for ordinary people to resist the top-down ethnonationalist mobilization” (2016: 33). Such attempts of Karakterologije (characterologies) were revived and became very widespread in the late 1980s and 1990s (Krizmanics 2013), but received strong criticism from surprisingly few scholars. More structural readings would in fact easily denounce widespread cultural determinisms. For example, through the frame of rural– urban symbiotic economy and situational peasantry, Schierup (1992) analyzed the 1990s as a period of deepening economic crisis when people primarily engaged in subsistence agricultural production in order to subsidize their incomes. Re-traditionalization, mainly referring to the reactivation of clan and kin solidarities and the resurgence of nationalist ideologies, could be explained through processes of economic modernization (Allcock 2002), state building, institutional violence, and resistance strategies (Bougarel 1999), thus giving historicity and agency back to these personality caricatures. However, the above essentialist semantic patterns became very popular in everyday interactions and intellectual debates, such as those around Druga Srbija (Other or Second Serbia) (Čolović and Mimica 1992), used by a loose group of liberal anti-nationalist intellectuals in the 1990s to advocate for a new moral and cultural space (Gordy 1999; Prošić-Dvornić 2000; Jansen 2005; Naumović 1999 and 2005; Živković 2011; Ribić 2005; Omaljev 2013). According to them, the battle did not only take place at the military frontlines, nor was it solely fought with guns. War was also carried at the very heart of the country through the moral grounds of Kultura (culture). Indeed, the cultural contamination was a widespread theme used to describe the 1990s:5 The whole cultural space in our region has been polluted for years—militant aggressivity of nationalism has been deliberately compounded with the aggressiveness of trash, kitsch, and bad taste, leading to the decay of criteria and value systems, which were replaced by populist, neopatriarchal, and xenophobic ingredients. Kings of demagogy became controllers of kitsch, using it as a powerful political weapon in transforming a citizen into an uncritical voter [sic]. (Belgrade Circle)6

The proclaimed war on culture, the argument goes, involved the deliberate murder of the cities. For the members of the anti-nationalist block, such as the urban sociologist Sreten Vujović or the former mayor of Belgrade (1982–1986) and dissident Bogdan Bogdanović, world history is a history of the people of the city, as intelligence and self-consciousness represent an urban and not a rural mode

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of understanding social realities (Hatziprodromidis 1998). The rise and fall of civilizations depend on a perpetual Manichean struggle between those who love the cities and those who hate them, namely the peasants (seljaci). The destruction of Osijek, Vukovar, Mostar, Sarajevo, and Dubrovnik during the recent wars was thus seen as part of panicked souls’ “disastrous rage toward anything civic, and so, toward the complex semantic series of the mind, ethics, language, taste, style cities … for somebody that cannot surrender to the rules of urbanity, it is easier for him to destroy it” (Hatziprodromidis 1998, my translation). What seemed even more unbearable than the countryside was the so-called ruralization of the cities, the massive migration of peasants—the so-called došljaci (newcomers)—that half-peasant/halfurban were supposedly unable to fit in the urban mentality and lifestyle and were thus responsible for the cultural falloff of the cities (Jansen 2005). Marko Živković gives us an excellent account of the moral debate around Kultura in 1994–1995. He describes a conference held in Belgrade and organized by the prominent Belgrade NGO Democratic Center in March 1995, entitled “Culture as Means of Self-Defense of Society and Individuals.” Here is a part of one presentation: From the half-world of the [criminal] underground, from the provincial suburbs, from the twilight of metropolis, from the hell of war—there emerged the riders of the cultural apocalypse. More precisely: the white-collar criminals, the hard currency rentiers, the war profiteers, and the dangerous, criminal types—the mafiosi. More or less everything that was objectionable in spiritual and moral terms appeared at the very center of the degraded reality. Like some formless and terrifying shadows, the new primitives accompany the times of crisis, anxiety, fear, and emptiness. There, one can begin the story of their spiritual poverty, of the nature of their raw strength, which is far from either culture or cultivation, removed both from emancipation and education. One could actually end that story on the note about the vitality of primitivism, bolstered by the zurle i talambaši of the newly composed culture were it not for the fact that the folkloric spirit and the neorural primitivity have nested in the urban environments as well. … It makes almost no sense to discuss the easily recognizable “axiology” of the world that feels at home in the junkyard of kitsch. … Immoderation, bad taste, grandomania, and arrogance are marks of their lifestyle. A style without style. The refinement of the newly composed rich is laughable and caricatural. Full pockets, empty souls. (Živković 1998: 30−31)7

Accounts accusing the peasantry of the nationalist evil were produced by foreign scholars as well. An illustrative example is the regionally renown British scholar Sabrina Ramet, a political scientist

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that has extensively wrote on the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the ethnic wars to such an extent as to be considered an expert in this area. Ramet’s article Nationalism and the “Idiocy” of the Countryside (1996) does not fall in the pit of eternal cultural characteristics. Her differentiations between the city and the village have to do with aspects of sociality. Her argument goes as follows: the village has only local concerns and because of its perceived homogeneity it seems intolerant to every foreign intrusion, though “this phenomenon has only been partly attenuated by the spread of television.” Countryside’s idiocy is also a result of some acceptance of a “moral consensus of rules.” The city due to heterogeneity is more cosmopolitan, more civic, less ethnic and less oriented toward “the community and its political aspect.” The city’s heterogeneity encourages social tolerance while the countryside tends to lean toward “social ignorance and unconscious intolerance.” Traditionally, in the village you learn how to be a good national, whereas in the city you become a good citizen. After such analyses the conclusion does not catch us by surprise: “The countryside is the true heart of nationalism.” Ramet does not explain these correlations and antithetic schemata. Taking them for granted and as self-evident truths, she goes on to explain why nationalism prevailed in Serbia: because the rural sector and thus its values remain significant in Serbia due to its late start in experiencing economic development (similar to local accounts of “late modernization,” see Chapter 3). To support her argument, she provides statistical demographic data on the decreasing—when it should be increasing—urban population in the nineteenth century, on the almost nonexistent industrial development, on the levels of illiteracy, and on the absence of a local aristocracy that would make “significant difference for the further political and social evolution of Serbia.” We learn that, even in the houses of the lords, tables, chairs, and tableware were nonexistent. Even in the palace, people were eating with a “metal dish and wooden spoons.” As the argument continues, despite Tito’s attempts to modernize the country and destroy countryside values through policies of secularism, industrialization, and self-management, peasants prevailed again; and because the dominant mood of countryside is resentment (of the city) and rural populism is a syndrome, nationalism found great support in the countryside “that seeks to make the nation into its own image. Turn it into a village!” That’s why, Ramet concludes, political mobilization of the countryside is oriented toward chauvinism. Of course, she does not neglect the fact that, in addition to nationalist traditionalists and anti-state peasants, Milošević

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was also supported by a part of the local intelligentsia in the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SANU), but she charges them with anti-intellectualism. All in all, she states that the point of her article is to show an alternative to the common Western view that all troubles in the region are due to bad politicians and “to suggest that a more complex depiction may be necessary.” Indeed, now more than ever. To summarize, despite considerable contributions to the understanding of Yugoslavian nationalism, there are two gaps. First, much of the literature is elite-centered. In the worst cases, the impression one gets is that the whole conflict is the result of Josip Broz Tito’s death and Slobodan Milošević’s, Franjo Tuđman’s, and Alija Izetbegović’s personal interests and political strategies. At best, the actors in the conflict are entire social groups, mainly political and economic elites along with intellectuals (Dević 1998). Scholars like Naumović stress that apart from official nationalism and the instrumentalization of tradition by several political groups, there was a spontaneous popular nationalism linked to the crisis of the economy and of state legitimacy, anti-communist sentiments, and the dissatisfaction of Serbian people with their status inside Yugoslavia (Naumović 1999b). However, in most of the studies the focus on elite social actors makes the rest of the people somewhat disappear. If present, they are usually reduced to the status of the victim, the passive and manipulated individual or the culturally essentialized peasant. By paying too little attention to what actually attracts different people to nationalism, many scholars tend to fall into the tautological trap of explaining identity politics and nationalism by some identity crisis that came from the fall of communism (Michnik 1991; Pavlović 2006; Wachtel 1998). The literature thus does not satisfy the search for an explanation of why such a large number of people endorsed nationalism, back in the 1990s and still today. This brings us to the problem that the research focus of the existing nationalism literature ranges from the 1980s until the late 1990s. Apparently, the fall of the Milošević regime and the late consolidation of democracy in 2000 signified the end of nationalism’s domination and the beginning of the desired transition to the free market. Even though there are important works in the literature on neo-nationalism (Gingrich and Banks 2005; Ost 2005), to my knowledge, there are no systematic attempts to explore the so-called revival of nationalism in Serbia after 2000. Bridging the gap since 2000, this chapter examines through the lens of class collected data on supporters of the Serbian Radical Party in the city of Kikinda, in the autonomous region of Vojvodina. Anthropological analysis

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of class-based experiences can help us grasp the multiple ways in which macro-economic and institutional transformations were negotiated and embedded in everyday life and the meanings attributed to new socio-political realities, along with the various frames of social identification and claim-making.

A “Greater Serbia”? Various NGOs reporting on the political situation in Serbia have tried to sketch a social profile of the electoral base of the SRS. Most often, its supporters are located in rural areas, have elementary-level education, if any, and are generally considered to be from the lowest strata of society. In addition to those hard data points, there are also researches on so-called value-orientations, based on standardized public opinion polls. A research project conducted in 2005 by one of the most prominent Serbian NGOs, the Center for Free Elections and Democracy (CeSID), informs us that: The multiple regressive analyses of predictors of social attitudes and value orientations with the variables of latent party preferences enabled us to establish the cultural-value pattern, or the rift between the liberal-democratic block and social-national block. We have established that the liberal-democratic block is mostly characterized with the trust into the legislative and executive power (government, Parliament), pro-Western orientation, and conformism. On the other hand, the social-national block is mostly characterized by the trust into police, army, and Serbian Orthodox Church; mistrust into efficiency of democracy, egalitarianism, anti-Western orientation, patriarchy, intellectual closeness, lack of motivation for achievement, motives of love and friendship; they are also more of hedonistic orientation [sic]. (Mihailović 2005)

Similarly, another prominent Serbian NGO, the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, insists that nationalism is still dominant in contemporary Serbia because there never was a real break with the past: As far as the past is concerned, it has been given rationalizations of its own— ranging from the denial of crimes committed and of the existence of the Greater Serbia project to putting all the blame on the Communist regime. Military defeat and the absence of an account of what happened in the past decade, the refusal to abandon the Greater Serbia program, an identity crisis, and overall frustration have revived traditional conservatism. The bases of Serbian conservatism are: an absolute lack of economic reflection and commitment to economic progress, an absence of political pluralism; democracy

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confused with anarchy and xenophobia. Given that such a value system runs counter to the contemporary achievements of European societies, every new government will face the same basic dilemma: for or against Europe. (undated)

My data do not fit comfortably to the above prescriptions. First, the municipality of Kikinda, situated in the North Banat district, is not a typical rural area of the Vojvodina region. On the contrary, agricultural production and subsistence farming was going hand in hand with intensive industrial planning. Kikinda was, in fact, the second most important industrial center in the former Yugoslavia, after Maribor in Slovenia. During that time, the city hosted an everincreasing number of factories, along with plant workers and residential blocks. Its industrial production of everything from clay, steel, construction materials, chemicals, oil and gas, processed metal, and machinery for motor vehicles, targeted both local and foreign markets. Second, my informants were mainly middle-aged engineers and highly skilled workers, along with administrative employees in the municipal public services and industrial sector. Their level of education ranged from university degrees to technical school diplomas. They were entirely unlike the stereotypical image often portrayed of nationalist, uneducated farmers or blue-collar workers. Finally, Kikinda is one of the many ethnically mixed cities of Vojvodina. According to the statistical office of the Republic of Serbia, of the 67,000 inhabitants of the municipality of Kikinda, around 12,000 belong to non-Serbian ethnic groups, with Hungarians being the largest minority group. Despite rising ethnic conflicts and discrimination in some regions of the country, Kikinda was always seen as a place of tolerance and peaceful co-existence between different ethnic and religious groups. In 2003, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) awarded the municipality the “Most Tolerant City” prize, a title also very indicative of the culture/rights orientation that drives certain development policies. Most Radikali (SRS supporters) I met were self-declared patriots or nationalists, although internal consistency of these terms should not be taken for granted. Some even identified themselves as communists, a statement that in other cases could appear paradoxical but not so much in Serbia. This is first because the political and economic structuring of Yugoslavia was to a certain extent based on, and reproduced through, national and ethnic fragmentation. Second, during the 1990s, communist ideology and nationalist projects started to unite. At the time, the main clash between Slobodan Milošević’s Socialist Party and Vojislav Šešelj’s Radical Party was

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over who was more patriotic and thus more capable of rescuing the nation. To illustrate this political and ideological marriage, Ðurić (2002: 35) quotes the secretary of the trade union Nezavisnost who commented on the industrial workers protest in Belgrade in 1990, who were addressed by President Milošević: “We came to the rally as workers, and left as Serbs.” Indeed, the above conjunction is far more complex than it initially seems and demands extended research in order to avoid misleading generalizations. For example, Goran Musić’s study of the working class strikes in the 1980s, shows that labor mobilizations were built more around class-based demands for redistribution of social wealth, bigger enterprise autonomy, and less state bureaucracy, rather than national issues (2016). It is a fact that many of the supporters of the SRS come from the ranks of the former Socialist Party of Serbia, a trend particularly noticeable after the 2000 political changes and the extradition of Milošević’ to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague in order to face war-crimes charges. My informants, all ethnic Serbs, strongly affirmed their national identity. The discourse of victimhood was very prevalent in their narratives, providing a kind of moral satisfaction for their military defeat. They did not deny that ethnic massacres had actually taken place. However, they saw the wars of the 1990s more as a legitimate way of preventing Yugoslavia’s dissolution than as a way to create the mythical Velika Srbija (Greater Serbia) that would include the entire Serbian nation under a sovereign and ethnically homogenous state. It is also interesting to stress their passionate attitudes toward the issue of Kosovo. Angry opposition to Kosovo’s proclamation of independence was not unique to SRS supporters. All of the main political forces in Serbia were strongly positioned against this development and the loss of what they calculated as “one-third of Serbian territory.” Undoubtedly, Kosovo has its dominant place in the cultural myths of Serbian-ness, as it is thought to be the heart of Serbian civilization. But the popular reaction to its secession was not about Kosovo per se or about identity loss. Almost all of my informants were convinced that Kosovo was lost ten years prior, some even discreetly hoped for this story to finish as soon as possible, one way or another. And even if there were, at least, constitutional parallels between Kosovo and Vojvodina, because they shared the same status of autonomous providence, the majority of my informants were not really afraid that Vojvodina could have the same destiny. Their fears had more to do with everyday problems than with a potential war in the far south of the country. The only actor that actually emphasized

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the hypothetical similarities of Vojvodina and Kosovo was Vojslav Koštunica, the leader of the Democratic Party of Serbia. It was actually this party that, during the 2008 electoral campaign, proved to be the most prominent carrier of nationalist propaganda. For its pre-election campaign, it even used a campaign poster portraying Vojvodina as separated from the rest of Serbia, with the logo “It’s not a joke.” The SRS’s campaign was more moderate, addressing their messages to the whole constituency and not only targeting ethnic Serbs. It seems more probable that the reactions to Kosovo’s proclaimed independence were more related to a widespread feeling of injustice at the hands of the international community. For many people I met, the status of Kosovo, which had been under the control of UN forces and administration, should have been resolved through an agreement between the two parties involved and then approved by the UN Security Council. Kosovo’s proclaimed independence should not have been met with unilateral recognitions. I was told that all felt disappointed and angry with the international community which, after the economic sanctions of the 1990s and the NATO bombing, continued to mistreat them. After all, in their imaginary, Kosovo represented the last symbol of “normality” since the dismantling of Yugoslavia, and as the territory disintegrated further, so did their lives. To sum up, social realities are far more complex than the stereotypical dualities like those produced by NGOs and the pro-democratic political block. The schematic cleavages between the nationalist Radicals and the Democrats, rural and urban, non-educated/unmannered and kulturni, traditionalists and progressives, are abstract analytical concepts that did not reflect the present preoccupations of ordinary people. Their power lies in their normative dimension and their ability to construct social difference. It is a phenomenon of othering falling into the category of internal nesting orientalizations after 1989 (Buchowski 2006; Kideckel 2002). Therefore, instead of indexing people in categories, it is more important to analyze those interfaces between them, where people constantly negotiate their multiple identities based on the very material and symbolic processes that structure their lives and define their choices and limits.

If Not “Identity,” Then What? So why do people support the SRS if they do not fit into the ultra-nationalist script, or at least share some of the same ideas and

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attitudes toward the national issues as do many Democrats? Why did the Radikali come to power at the municipal level in Kikinda among numerous other cities in 2004? One would expect that after the political changes of 2000, the residents of Kikinda would have wanted to consolidate the pro-democratic orientation that they had possessed since 1996, when they first voted for the democratic opposition coalition during the Milošević regime. I argue that their current political preferences are closely related to their class-based experiences during the last twenty years of socio-economic transformation in the context of global market integration. By arguing so, I am by no means implying that Serbia just came out of some kind of isolation created by a self-sufficient regime. Such a claim would not be historically accurate. Yugoslavia was always part of an already globalized system. Socialist Yugoslavia was well integrated into international trade and labor markets, also receiving a lot of military assistance and loans from the West (by the early 1980s foreign debt reached almost US$20 billion). Therefore, the change in the last twenty years was not a sudden opening of the country’s markets or a fundamental change of the economic logic of society. These were still based on the same accumulation processes as under the previous system of market socialism. What changed though was the regulatory system of redistribution and ownership, along with a wider decentralization of capital accumulation processes on the global level (Friedman 2003). The result of the conjunction of the two processes had been vast socio-economic dispossession and precariousness, particularly experienced by those working in social and state enterprises. In such a historical context, the SRS managed to capitalize on people’s disappointment, aggression, and fear in order to accumulate political power. As Ivan Krastev rightly argues, “The Central European paradox is that the rise of populism is an outcome not of the failures but of the successes of post-communist liberalism” (2007: 58). However, the rise of the SRS was not just a result of extreme populism and well-orchestrated manipulation. Arguing that would mean once again falling into the sender-receiver scenario that was used for the analysis of the 1990s. On the contrary, the success of the Radicals lay in a rather well-thought-out political choice of its supporters for whom, for different reasons, the SRS represented the only political option that they could identify with, in the absence of a politically and institutionally organized left.

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Self-Management After the split with Joseph Stalin in 1948 and an initial nationalization of the domestic means of production, Yugoslavia’s leaders started building their own Yugoslav road to socialism. Considering themselves the true Marxists, unlike the Soviets, they based their developmental policy on the system of self-management. The masterminds of this system, people like Milovan Djilas, Edvard Kardelj, and Boris Kidrič, envisioned the creation of a third road between centralized socialist planning and the market economy. Based on the division between productive and unproductive labor, the Yugoslav economic system established the enterprise as its fundamental unit. The first step was to abolish state property by bringing it under social ownership. This meant that property, as the phrase goes, “belonged to everybody and nobody” and was supposed to be administrated by elected working councils at the level of each firm. Workers, being the legitimate base of the whole societal model, had, at least formally, the right to vote for their representatives, fix regulations, manage accounting, and decide on enterprise plans, the distribution of profits, and the definition of wages. Although the whole system did not derive from a grassroots initiative but was more of a revolution from above, it was considered a step toward real participatory democracy. Passing through different phases from the 1950s to the 1980s (Mencinger 1989 and 1991), the ideal of self-management took its final form in the 1974 Associated Labor Act. According to Marx’s vision of “associated socialism,” the self-governed enterprises transformed into associated labor organizations through the mechanisms of social contracts and self-management agreements. On the road to achieve so-called integral self-management, understood as the withering away of the state, public administration and social services were also de-nationalized. From then on, non-market goods were to be distributed at the community level, the municipal level, through “free labor exchange … based on negotiation between the ‘consumers and the executors’ of public services such as schools, medical facilities, municipal services, etc. … The negotiator is not the state but the self-management interest community. Revenue is not collected in the form of taxes, but in the form of contributions from the income of enterprises and the salaries of the employees” (Šmidovnik 1991: 29). Of course, as with any other applied ideology, self-management had its real existing version. The literature provides a lot of—sometimes contradictory—discussion on the dysfunction of the system

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(Madzar 1990; Horvat, Marković and Supek 1975; Horvat 1982; Dekleva and Simmie 1991; Lydall 1989; Allcock 2000). Its main critics stress that Yugoslavia and its “republics of producers” (Woodward 1995a) enjoyed only a façade of autonomy because the Communist Party could indirectly control the firms through the appointment of directors and decrees on production policies. Therefore, there was a fundamental contradiction between the normative principles of self-governance and the absence of political pluralism and free market regulations. Besides, the system itself was considered one of the main reasons for the deep economic crisis of the 1980s (and the final disintegration of Yugoslavia by the early 1990s). This thesis is explained primarily by the ambiguous status of property rights in socially owned organizations, the presumedly selfish stance of workers always opting for higher wages rather than new investments, the degree of decentralization of the associative labor system that proved to be too bureaucratic, and, finally, self-management was considered as “a political obstacle to change in macroeconomic policy because it was the means to shift the locus of bargaining over wages and jobs to the level of the firm or lower” (Woodward 1995a: 329), rather than to the state level (as was the case in Poland). As Allcock has argued, this also had as an outcome the hyper-fragmentation and disintegration of the working class, to the detriment of its dynamic mobilization: Self-management was able to tolerate these expressions of dissent, while acting to subvert class organization in opposition. … Here we see the real political interest of the self-management system. It actually institutionalized a structure of vertical segmentation. Horizontal organization (the aggregation of class-based interest into political action) was subverted by the encapsulation of segments of the workforce into their own place of employment. (2000: 300)

Most of my informants who used to work or are still working at the two main firms in Kikinda, Toza Marković Ltd (clay construction products) and Livnica Ltd (metal industry), seem to acknowledge the above situation: “Self-management was not real socialism although everything seemed to be as described in the party’s manifesto.” They often pointed to internal inequalities, hierarchical structures, and exclusions on the shop floor, be it around gender, education or skills, origins or seniority, which challenged the homogenous images of a socialist working class (see Archer and Musić 2017). The impressive number of strikes in the 1980s is very indicative of the workers’ discontent and disillusionment. However, memories of such work

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experiences are often reinterpreted in the face of new economic realities; they take on new forms and meanings.

The First Wave of Privatization Already in the early 1990s, when the first wave of privatization took place under the liberal reforms of Ante Marković, self-management was often used as part of a very different argument. It may not have worked well in practice but it was thought to have thoroughly prepared society for a smooth passage to capitalism. Such a thesis was, for different reasons, supported both by transitologists and some workers. For the former, the indirectly controlled market economy and the quasi-laissez-faire system in Yugoslavia would render the consolidation of capitalism an easier task than in the majority of the Soviet-style planned communist countries. For the workers, privatization of the socially owned enterprises meant the conversion of self-management rights to property rights (Uvalić 1997). My main informant, Milica, is sixty years old. She is married to a teacher and helps her two kids with their studies in Novi Sad. She was born in Kikinda, where her family moved from Croatia after World War II. When she finished high school, she wanted to study chemical engineering but the Livnica factory offered her a scholarship to study metallurgy on the condition she would work there afterward. She did not have much choice as she also had to help her parents and sisters by supplementing the family income. Hence, she left for Belgrade where she finished her studies and then worked for Livnica until 2006. I asked her about her recollection of the reforms in the early 1990s: In late 1980s the reformists came to power [Ante Marković’s federal government]. The country was in deep crisis but of course we couldn’t guess what was coming next. He started the privatization of public enterprises, but do not be confused. This was not what we call privatization today. No no, Marković was a reformist but still a Communist! In communism we were saying “property belongs to nobody and everybody” but the workers were always in the center of the system, you know the self-management. So privatization meant that public companies started giving shares to us. That was just … normal. I mean, the enterprise is ours; we built it with our hands all those years. Who should have taken the shares if not us? That’s how it should be. Today we are screwed, but who cares.

Even before their recognition as stakeholders in the firms, and despite the negative features of real existing self-management, there

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was a widespread feeling of ownership among the workers of the firm. When the federal government announced the Privatization Act and the free distribution or sale of companies’ shares to insiders, they felt they were the only legitimate receivers. Uvalić (2001) notes that there was such a strong shared feeling of enthusiasm that, until 1994, almost 80 percent of the workers owned shares in their respective firms. But the halcyon days did not last long. Branko has a very similar background to Milica. He came from Dalmatia to study electrical engineering in Belgrade and then was employed in Kikinda in the Toza Marković firm. After some years he acquired a relatively good position as director of a small department of the factory. But despite his position, his experiences with the first privatization wave do not differ much from those of lower-ranking workers. The problem was, OK, we are owners, some of us took shares for free, others they bought them with a very big discount and we could repay them like in five years, I do not remember clearly. But what to do with them? Afterward, the management board was full of bankers. In the end one day I received a phone call from the bank to come to receive my money. “What money?” I said. “The money from the shares you are selling.” But I was never asked whether I even wanted to sell them.

Milica, confirming Branko’s story, added, At first they gave the shares [to Toza workers] but then they were forcing them to sell them in order to keep their job. Also, it wasn’t exactly that they could choose whom to sell them to [they had to sell them to the management]. So they did, but at the time we couldn’t realize that our kids wouldn’t have work afterwards. In Livnica they also wanted the workers to sell their shares. But they couldn’t force us since we had bought them. In Toza they were given for free, at least in the beginning. But in vain, after two years of hyperinflation, they were just useless papers. You see, the situation was so bad … I remember that the day that we used to receive our monthly salary check, I had to call my husband to leave his job and come to the factory to take the check so he could go directly to the supermarket and buy goods. There was not a minute to spare since some hours later maybe it wouldn’t be worth a dinar.

In 1993, hyperinflation reached the astronomical rate of 352,459,275,105,195 percent and prices in 1994 rose 62 percent a day, 2 percent an hour (Dinkić 1995: 39–40). This was not only due to the enormous state budget deficit following the ethnic wars and economic sanctions; it was also an orchestrated tactic by the government to expropriate people of the hard currency of their personal

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savings (Dinkić 1995). Inflation was in fact a brilliant mechanism for wealth redistribution. The shares owned by the workers were losing their value because there was only an annual re-evaluation of their worth. And even if inflation would normally be an ally of the employees because they could buy shares and pay-off unpaid shares for extremely small prices, the general pauperization of the population and informal negotiations resulted in the accumulation of wealth in the hands of management—a process familiar from other post-communist countries. Finally, in 1994, after a demand by the Democratic Party to re-evaluate privatized property, the government annulled the privatization in 87 percent of the transformed enterprises. This had two consequences. First, the worth of shares became so high that many people had to renounce their subscription of unpaid shares (Uvalić 2001: 2). Second, those self-managed firms whose privatization was re-evaluated were either nationalized or started operating on a “mixed property” status (Lazić and Sekelj 1997: 1065). The workers were given shares but a big number of shares went to state-controlled banks, because most of the enterprises were in great debt and the banks were recapitalizing them with credit. As a result, bankers became key members of the new managing boards while at the same time the previous working councils were abolished. As Karim Madjad points out, “The workers were recognized a customary right they did not have [a partial residual ownership], but denied a customary right they had arguably acquired over time [a right to self-management]” (2000: 21).

The Second Wave of Privatization Milica worked at Livnica until 2006, when the privatization of the company was already complete. She was told that there was a surplus of experts. Because she was the most experienced, she was asked to stay but her salary would be reduced by one-third. As she said, this was the greatest humiliation she had ever lived through and she decided to go into early retirement at the age of fifty-eight and receive a tiny pension of approximately 250 euros. According to her, the new foreign owners are to blame. The ’90s was a very confusing period … nobody expected a war and all these difficulties. I thought it would last some months. It lasted ten years! Plus the bombing … those bastards destroyed our country … but we were still

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waiting afterward for their investments. I mean, the factories were dead, lots of people were not even paid. … People believed it would be better after the 5th of October [2000]. Everybody thought that there would be a lot of money and so, a lot of them also took credit … and now look. Livnica had 5,000 workers; now it has 2,000. … You cannot understand what Livnica was for this city. You had to live it! Every day at 3 [pm] the city was shaken by sirens. It meant the end of the work shift at Livnica. And then, thousands of bikes were taking over the town! It was amazing! We also had our own buses to transfer workers from the surrounding villages. All this is gone now. … All happened when they sold our country to foreigners. Slovenians and French bought it and they kicked people out. … I do not know, it was not paradise before but at least nobody was fired, at least not officially. I remember in the very beginning of the ’90s they were also sending us on forced vacation. They did not need us or they couldn’t afford us and for some months we did not go to work but we were paid some part of our normal salary. I did not understand at the time what was happening. It was such a shame. We were all waiting for a phone call to go back to work; some were never called back but at least they needed all the engineers … shame. Afterwards we were working more or less like before since the factory was producing mines for the wars. At least back then we were at war, I did not complain about these things, we had to support our nation. What’s the excuse now?

Milica’s former colleague, Ivan, a skilled worker in automatics and nearing his fifties, sheds light on another part of the story, that of global market integration: The first thing CIMOS [the Slovenian firm that bought part of Livnica] did was to shut down the department making pipes because Kamnik [another CIMOS subsidiary company operating in Kamnik, Slovenia] was also producing pipes. So in that way they wouldn’t have competition! It also happened elsewhere. You are waiting for foreigners to come and they shut down the firms. You wait for more jobs and you do not have any. Then we knew what “free market” is! … They also had some social plan. It was not obligatory but people said better to take something now than be kicked out later. And it was right. And people here are very insecure about everything, they went through a lot. So a lot saw a chance to take 200 euro for every working year and go. The prices went up so high and everybody owes to banks, others have to pay for their kids to go to university. Yes, [you did not have] freedom, but there were no 1,000 euro fees with a 200 euro salary!

Bogdan, a forty-two-year-old nurse at the psychiatric clinic of Kikinda, recounted: Last month at a workshop a doctor at the clinic was asking me to estimate the percentage of people in depression. I answered, “Who isn’t?” So many people lost everything; they lost families in the war, their jobs, and dignity. If you go and see how the French [part of Livnica was bought by the French company Le Belier] work, disgusting. It’s a slavery society. So many hours and no

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rights. There aren’t even real sick leaves as there used to be. If you take one, they think you are faking illness and they cut a percentage from your salary. And the healthcare … OK, now it is better, they are renovating. But it is with EU money. And every now and then we have to go to these seminars organized by EU projects, as if it makes us smarter to have a signed paper. When Toza, Livnica, and Naftagas were strong, they were giving a lot of money for healthcare and hospital equipment, we even had a thirteenth paycheck sometimes! Now you go to the private pharmacy, the pills cost 500 dinars but I know normally it’s 400. So you have to look for the one with the best price. This would never happen in socialism. But that’s the philosophy now, take it or leave it, if you do not want to work, there are myriads of others! There are no syndicates. There cannot be syndicates in a capitalist society!

The social and economic deprivation following the liberalization of the economy, the privatization of state property, and the integration into global markets in post-communist countries are well-known phenomena. It is important to understand that all those people are supporting the same political party −the nationalist Serbian Radical Party—even if they come from different walks of life. Many of them have attended universities or technical colleges and were employed in different sectors—factories, hospitals, schools, municipal administration. The majority of my informants were still active, others had to retire earlier than expected. Their ages range between forty and sixty. I do not want to generalize by saying that the SRS appeals more to this generation: I have seen numerous pre-election gatherings where there were mostly male supporters between twenty and thirty years old. Yet I have chosen to focus on middle-aged people, mainly because this generation could reflect on their living standards in a comparative manner as they had personally experienced the social transformation of the last twenty years. What all these people had in common was the degradation of their living standards and the experience of rising social insecurity during the two decades. In saying that, I am not only referring to those that literally lost their jobs during the restructuring of the industries, although their number is considerable and unemployment was very high. The industrial sector in Kikinda was not only important for the people working there, Toza Marković and Livnica were also at the heart of community life. In addition to providing employment, they were part of the system of self-regulation, financing hospitals, schools, scholarships, the local services at the social work centers, festivities, and numerous other cultural and athletic activities. The loss of these services affected the entire population. People were disillusioned by the promised democratic prosperity, disappointed by all the political options in government and by

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politics in general (Spasić 2005); they were also materially dispossessed. The material, moreover, is always symbolic: most people experienced the socio-economic transformations in recent history as a personal humiliation and a loss of their dignity. They often said that from first world they quickly became third world, having lost their pride along with their workers’ rights. They paralleled Serbia to Africa, the latter symbolizing poverty and underdevelopment, and they always compared their current situation with the participative democracy of the past, be it in some aspects real and in others to some extent definitely imaginary. Democracy for them today was translated as a rising gap between winners and losers in social stratification. It meant the loss of people’s political will through the transnationalization of their state, which, they argued, was obliged to follow the political and economic adjustment policies of the international community to the detriment of their own common interests and needs. In this case, the blame no longer targeted the Slovenians and Croatians that had in their minds betrayed Yugoslavia and its principle of brotherhood and unity. The enemy, the absolute “other,” was now the obscure powers of the international community and their cosmopolitan, local political puppets that were paraded daily in the economic scandal stories. So, they decided to vote them down.

The Radical Party In the eight years preceding my research, four parliamentary elections (2000, 2003, 2007, and 2008) and five presidential ones (two in 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2007) were held in Serbia. Because none of the parties managed to gain an absolute majority in the parliament, all the above-mentioned governments were coalitions, usually made up of three to four parties. It is noteworthy that all possible combinations had been tried, as conservative, center-right, liberal, social democratic, and ex-communist parties had collaborated with each other at least once, with the exception of the Serbian Radical Party. Such a high turnover of governments could be a sign of great political instability in the country. However, the political and economic program of each one of them was exactly the same: EU integration and harsh economic adjustment that was thought to be the only available option for Serbia to “catch up”; any debate or questioning of such policies was considered an anti-democratic obstacle to its European normalization (see Chapter 3). Interestingly enough, during the last three coalition cabinets, it was exactly the same people managing

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the Ministry of Economy. They belonged to the G17+ Party, a former NGO that gathered economic experts. Under the slogan “Expertise Above Politics,” they presented their neo-liberal policies as an antipolitical project, merely providing technical expertise. Hence, the difference between left and right became increasingly blurred. It was in this political environment, where people’s discontent could not find a way out, that the SRS, having hands clean of the corruption scandals and unpopular reforms, became a significant political force (Spasić 2005). But is it a challenge from the right or from the left? In its official presentation, SRS promotes itself as a typical right-wing party. Its main goals, as featured in party documents, are a return of the monarchy, citizens’ freedoms and rights, the reduction and decentralization of public administration, and the establishment of a market economy. The SRS was founded in 1991 under the leadership of Vojslav Šešelj as the political expression of the Cetnik movement and it claimed the heritage of the Radical Party founded by Nikola Pašić in 1881. Therefore it is historically perceived as an anti-communist party because many of its members were prosecuted and exiled under communism, and because they see themselves as part of the “struggle against communist authoritarianism.” Nevertheless, the collaboration of Šešelj’s party with the Milošević regime in the 1990s, both at the governmental level and in organizing paramilitary forces during the war, blurred their anticommunist image. In addition, after Milošević’s extradition, many supporters of his Socialist Party shifted to the SRS. Thus, in order to keep its newcomers, the SRS almost entirely abandoned its anticommunist discourse. In the absence of an alternative left-wing option, the SRS was the one party that offered a severe critique of global capitalism and liberal democracy. The party’s main theme was resisting the sellingout of the country, by which they referred both to the transnationalization of state policies and to the expropriation of the country’s wealth by local tycoons and international multinationals. According to this discourse, Serbs were no longer the sovereign determinant of their state because policies were not driven by national interest but by conditionalities set by the international community in order to secure foreign aid and EU integration. Worse than that, they were not even left with the freedom to administer their own justice. The establishment of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague proved this point for them. Even for people who were against Milošević, this trial merely represented a show of force that could only humiliate the Serbian nation. The Serbian

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Radical Party leader, Vojslav Šešelj, who was also facing accusations of war crimes, provided a symbol of heroic resistance, even though most of my interlocutors considered him guilty of the crimes being charged. At the same time, the local political elite were accused of corruption and of pursuing a program of wild liberalism through the privatization of public enterprises according to their own interests and the imperatives of multinationals. Radicals instead pointed to the: class stratification between the countries of [the] super developed and undeveloped world. Fundamental social contradictions of [Western] countries are successfully overcome by high average living standard they achieve by more intensive robbery of economically poor nations and states, grabbing their natural raw resources or by hiring the cheapest possible working labor. This is not achieved by the process of realization of the concept of free market that is regularly proclaimed, but establishing the monopoly without scruple, by financial speculations, and by usurer loans, but mostly by corrupting the local political teams in power. (Šešelj undated)

The distinction in the nationalist narrative between victims (Serbs) and exploiters (foreigners), even when it was characterized as a class conflict, was in fact highly problematic in that it obscured the internal power relations within each group under the homogenized label of the nation. The SRS did not actually oppose the core values of capitalism but rather the way these were implemented in the Serbian productive system. Nevertheless, its constant references to workers’ rights, social security, and anti-corruption as priorities, together with a strong state that would guarantee people’s well-being, were appealing to many Serbs. As David Ost (2005) similarly argued about the Polish liberals, Serbian democratic parties acknowledged economic problems but suggested political solutions, namely EU integration. In contrast, the Radicals criticized the logic of “become indebted and sell out,” and advocated for the reopening of factories, fighting unemployment and corruption, improving social care, and supporting the youth and pensioners. In short, they provided a familiar frame of identification where ordinary people’s needs and interests could be addressed. As one informant put it, “the Radicals are one of us.”

Closing Remarks This chapter has questioned the polarized image of Serbian society. Though local and Western media present Serbia as a frustrated society stuck in between a democratic European identity and a

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return to traditionalism and nationalistic values, anthropological research can shed light on just how this picture becomes constructed. The rise of the SRS does not necessarily mean that its supporters practice ethnic exclusiveness or are ready for another ethnic war in Kosovo. After all, the party that used the most nationalistic rhetoric at the pre-election campaign in May 2008 was not the SRS, but rather the conservative Democratic Party of Serbia of former prime minister Vojslav Koštunica. Its electoral results were disastrous. Nationalism is not just another identity, new or revived, filling the vacuum after the collapse of communism. Nor can it be reduced to a simple political myth with strong manipulative incentives. Nationalism is both discourse and practice, the one constituting the other. Most important, it has to be approached as a structural phenomenon, part of systemic processes of the longue durée (long duration). The questions demanding analysis are how and why nationalism rises and falls in particular moments in history. In such a quest, class-based experiences and the way they are interpreted and framed help us understand people’s political choices. Indeed, the rise of nationalism in Serbia after 2000 cannot be explained without seriously considering the social transformations of the previous twenty years: the introduction of a capitalist market economy and post-socialist state-building processes along with the global decentralization of capital accumulation. Building on increasing popular frustration and social insecurity as well as on the diminishing popular legitimacy of state elites, populist nationalism provided a dynamic frame within which people with divergent trajectories and class-based experiences could identify their needs, express their fears and agonies, structure their claims, and build strategies of resistance. Contrary to dominant representations, its supporters were not exclusively uneducated farmers, and research is urgently needed in order to unpack these groups’ political standings, if such representations are confirmed. Apart from political elites and the intellectuals surrounding them, the SRS appealed to a large part of the working class population, both blue- and whitecollar workers and professionals, because it provided explanations for their material and symbolic dispossession. But apart from that, it also promised solutions to their problems, based on social rights and welfare. In the absence of an organized left, Radicals provided the most serious critique of global capitalist restructuring while thirdway democratic parties promoted liberalism and EU integration as an unquestioned necessity. After all, while President Boris Tadić was advocating a return to Europe that would appease the concerns of

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the liberal elites, it was the SRS’s promise of a return to normality that resonated most with ordinary people’s desire to reverse the increasing insecurity and economic deprivation they had experienced since the 1990s.8

Notes A previous version of this chapter has been published as “Nationalism versus European Belonging: The Usefulness of “Class” in Reading Through “Identity Dilemmas” in Contemporary Serbia.” FOCAAL 55: 74–89 (2009); and “‘Nationalism is Back!’”: Radikali and Privatization Processes in Serbia. In Headlines of Nation, Subtext of Class, ed. Don Kalb and Gabor Halmai, 37–56. New York: Berghahn Books (2011). I am grateful to Gabor Halmai, Don Kalb, and George Baca for inspiring discussion and comments, and Luisa Steur for proofreading this publication.  1. See, for example, html#cnnSTCText or,9171,1738406,00. html, last accessed 20/08/2008.  2. In the 2003 parliamentary elections, the Serbian Radical Party came to first place with 27.61 percent of the votes, followed by Democratic Party of Serbia (17.72 percent) and Democratic Party (12.58 percent). In 2007, the SRS took 32.4 percent, DP 25.6 percent, and DPS 18.8 percent. In May 2008, SRS took 29.45 percent, DPS 11.60 percent, and coalition of DS, G17+, and other minor parties 38.4 percent of the votes (data from the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia: Just a few months after the 2008 elections, there was a major split within the SRS, and a new party was born under the leadership of Tomislav Nikolić, the Srpska Napredna Stranka (Serbian Progressive Party). The so-called naprednjaci actually came to power in 2012, but this period exceeds my research framework.  3. Djindjić’s assassination not only represented the fragile nature of the newly established democratic state but also created a particular political dichotomy. By associating those held responsible for his assassination with a non-reproductive criminal clan structure and “by highlighting the private, nuclear-family, and personal-affective aspects of Djindjić’s death, media representations created a discursive dichotomy with political consequences: they constructed a break between two contrasting images, each linking a type of state to a form of gendered kinship. Authoritarian/ nationalist was separated from and contrasted with democratic, European, and postauthoritarian” (Greenberg 2006: 130).  4. On this issue, see Živković 1998. The best-known example in this genre is the work of the Croatian-American sociologist Stjepan Meštrović, who developed a theory of “social character” based on his ethno-geographic analysis of the region (Mestrović, Letica and Goreta 1993). Following another Croatian-American sociologist of the ’50s, Dinko Tomašić, he traces the causes of the Yugoslav wars as some eternal clash between the belligerent dinaric pastoralists of the mountains (associated with Serbs and Montenegrins) and the peaceful, tolerant cultivators of the lowlands (associated with Croats). Of course, these typologies could also take completely different contents depending on the positioning of their producer. For example, in a different argument, the highlanders could come to signify proud, brave, insubmissive, and insubordinate people. This schema of opposed personality types was also reproduced

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 6.  7.


when describing internal distinctions within one ethnic group, for example between the “cosmopolitan-peasants” of flat Vojvodina that “lean on the Fruška Gora with their feet in the Danube and they see to the ends of Europe” and the peasant Serbs of mountainous Bosnia that “see nothing but the mountains up to their noses”; and finally between the peasants and the urbanites as in totalizing and culturally defined homogenous groups (Živković 1998). One of the most well-known and active Belgrade NGO devoted to fight this cultural downgrade is the Center for Cultural Decontamination. According to one of its founders, “the first time that the concept of decontamination became public was during the student demonstrations of 1996–1997 in Belgrade. The students came to the center of the city where Milošević’s socialists held a counter-rally and the students ‘decontaminated’ the city from the counter-rally by cleaning the streets with soap” (quoted in Jovanović Weiss and Kulić 2001). The struggle for hegemony in the cultural field was of too much importance to be left to the hands of a marginalized cultural elite. After the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995 that put an end to the ethnic wars in Bosnia, the critique of un-culturedness was appropriated by the Milošević regime. It was a time when Milošević turned into a great guarantor of peace. The Ministry of Culture proclaimed 1995 as the Year of Culture, holding campaigns of cultural polishing under the motto Lepše je sa kulturom (It’s Nicer with Culture). Finally, a similar campaign was transmitted by the state TV channel RTS under the title Nije teško biti fin (It’s Not Difficult to Be Refined). This time, it was organized by the first so-called democratic government after the fall of Milošević regime in 2000. Interestingly, the “culture wars” continued well into 2000s. This time, it was the turn of more conservative voices (such as Slobodan Antonić’s “Kulturni rat u Srbiji,” 2008) to set the frame of the debate, accusing the liberal intelligentsia of arrogance and elitism. For a critique, see Spasić and Petrović 2013. Post-scriptum: In October 2008, twenty-one MPs of the SRS split off to form a new party, the Srpska Napredna Stranka (Serbian Progressive Party), leaving behind a hard nationalist core in the SRS. In 2012, Naprednjaci came to power with 24 percent of the vote, forming a government with a coalition around the Socialist Party and the United Regions of Serbia (having G17+ at its core). The SRS took only 4.61 percent of the vote, failing to pass the census. The same holds for the ultra-right group, Dveri, taking 4.33 percent. The fact that Naprednjaci, having a more social-oriented campaign, prevailed over ultra-nationalists Radikali, confirms in some way the conclusions of my research. In the last elections of 2014, the Progressive Party got 48.35 percent, Radicals 2.01 percent, and Dveri 3.58 percent. New research is needed to analyze these emerging political realities.

PART III Good Governance

– Chapter 5 –

Revitalizing Communities, Decentralizing the State

_ Partly in response to criticisms of traditional, top-down approaches to democratization that deal with state institutional reform and national policies, large US NGOs initiated development programs in Serbia using the so-called community-based approach. They did so under the auspices of the Community Revitalization through Democratic Action (CRDA), a project that started in the summer of 2001—just a few months after the electoral overthrow of Milošević and the so-called Bulldozer Revolution, and two years after the NATO bombing. Funded by USAID, the largest democracy-donor in the region (USAID 1996), its main goal was to foster democratic activism at the grassroots level, ultimately by creating a dense network of new local NGOs beyond metropolitan spaces. As we saw in the previous chapters, civil society organizations were a predominantly urban phenomenon whereas the countryside was considered the heart of conservatism and nationalism (see Chapters 3 and 4). This program was precisely targeting these problematic areas. Following mainstream democracy-aid scripts, new local NGOs would contribute to more democratic “good governance” and better service of the common good, through their synergy with the local state structures. NGOs, that is, were both the means and the goal of this intervention. This chapter is based on data collected during the last phase of CRDA, and after the implementation of CRDA in two urban and rural communities in the autonomous providence of Vojvodina in 2007 and 2008. My primary focus here is not on depicting its success and failures, which are better known in the development circle as lessons learned. Rather, I’m interested in a grounded analysis of the project’s underlying logic and concrete practices; in other words, – 139 –

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in what democratization actually does, how discourses and policies embodied in the Western imaginary are applied, contested, transformed, and appropriated in a socio-historical context of different trajectories. My aim is to go beyond some locally confined understanding of embeddedness, by situating NGO formations and aid within wider global processes of structural transformations: namely, within the political project of neoliberalism (Wacquant 2012). CRDA was presented as a civil society project, designed to revitalize local communities through boosting or creating particular types of associational life. However, as I will show in the following pages, its actors— sometimes more or less intentionally—were actually reconfiguring existing structures of power relations built around the public sector. CRDA was far more consequential than the type of democracy trainings that produced (or not) empowered subjectivities, as described in Chapter 1. It was a concrete political (and economic) intervention: a state-building project at the grassroots level. After all, according to the program’s donor, “Democracy is a form of governance, not a philosophy club” (USAID 2000: 23).

The Habits of the Heart CRDA was one of the most ambitious programs of its kind in terms of level of funding, territorial coverage, and duration. Following the internal restructuring of USAID in the mid-1990s along cost-effectiveness lines (Brown 2006: 6), the project was outsourced to five highly professional US NGOs: America’s Development Foundation (ADF), Mercy Corps International, International Relief and Development, Cooperative Housing Foundation, and Agricultural Cooperatives Development International/Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance, covering the whole territory of Serbia except Kosovo and metropolitan Belgrade. These implementing partners received $200 million in order to conceptualize and realize a five-year plan that would ultimately build and consolidate participative democracy in post-conflict Serbia. The municipalities of Vojvodina where I conducted fieldwork from 2007 to 2008, Kikinda and Subotica, were under the responsibility of the ADF) a large US nonprofit with headquarters in Virginia. ADF was established in 1980 and had been repeatedly supported financially by US government contracts (either through USAID or other programs such as the National Endowment for Democracy). Initially

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engaged mostly in food aid and agricultural-production programs, ADF shifted its focus in late 1980s toward free election technical assistance and voter education, realizing projects in Central America and the Philippines, among others. For the previous decade, it had specialized in democracy projects and community mobilization in post-conflict situations around the world, in places ranging from Angola, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Haiti, Iraq, and Egypt.1 CRDA was running under the USAID’s Democratic Governance mandate, and specifically, addressing the strategic objective of “increased, better-informed citizen participation in political and economic decision-making.” On the program’s expansive website, the underlying principles and methodology are described as follows: It is a civil society program that uses community development activities to build trust between different ethnic and religious groups, to demonstrate the value of citizen participation, to support grassroots democratic action, and to bring immediate improvement in people’s living conditions. … The CRDA Program was therefore designed to focus on heavy community participation and rapid results. It is a citizen-driven program wherein local communities organize themselves and decide on priority development projects that they wish to implement.2

CRDA was branded as an innovative and thinking-outside-ofthe-box solution—but a solution to which problem? As in any other development project, it was based on a prior needs assessment that examined the local context of intervention, clarifying the “deficiencies of current performance.” The analysis of the field claimed authority (and legitimacy) from an acquired local knowledge. After targeting the needs, the assessment moved on to defining relevant solutions and suggesting appropriate mechanisms to achieve the desirable outcomes. This is a standardized phase of a project no matter how contradictory it might appear to the existence of packaged solutions that travel around the globe and respond in the same way to extremely different socio-historical contexts. CRDA was itself one of these ready-made remedies because it was previously implemented in a smaller scale in Lebanon, and afterwards found its way to Iraq. In fact, not only do we witness identical traveling projects but also standardized models of project sequences. This is very characteristic of USAID’s democratic interventions following its triptych of sequential steps: revolt, revolution, standardization. Although, some general solutions, such as free elections, are not in principle contested, standardization seems less viable when the local problem is understood in cultural terms. The definition of

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Serbia as in need of democracy depended on a particular regime of representation (Escobar 2011). Serbia, part of the family of new democracies since 2000, was identified as a “fragile state” with a ruined economy due to the ethnic wars and the destructive decade of the 1990s. Serbia also fell under the category of having a weak civil society (Milivojević 2006, NGO Policy Group 2001). Civic activities were said to be almost absent outside the main cities, thus the democratic regime was lacking its very foundations. As I have noted earlier, within a post-socialist context, it was generally believed that an overgrown public sphere from almost fifty years of Yugoslav-style socialism had almost suppressed the needed private space for civic initiatives. USAID points out that “the historical legacy of centralized power has created a culture where people are not accustomed to taking local action” (Czajkowska et al. 2005: 18, my emphasis). All the numerous associations linked directly or indirectly with the socialist political project (e.g., women’s groups, self-management structures, war-veteran clubs, professional groups, and youth associations) were selectively overlooked or discredited on the grounds of lacking autonomy (Stubbs 2001). In other words, it was thought that Serbian people suffer from some kind of (once again) learned helplessness. As I discussed in Chapter 1, civic apathy as an explanatory framework was the protagonist of many democracy project scripts, and one of the problems that aid was supposed to solve, trying to cultivate what de Tocqueville called the “habits of the heart” (USAID 1994, 31). CRDA had, thus, as a stated goal of the creation of a new political subjectivity: a modern and democratic citizen-model with rich associational life, “the development of a culture characterized by self-help initiatives” (Czajkowska et al. 2005: 18), as opposed to the presumed culture of dependency of the communist era.

The Democratic Kick-Off When USAID announced the bid for the grantees of the CRDA program, it received a large number of applications from well-established and highly professional NGOs in the democracy-assistance sector. These NGOs had to suggest an action-model, yet, without knowing in advance for which part of Serbia they were applying, try to match it with generic proposals/templates accounting for the diversity of Serbian regions in terms of historical background, economic patterns of production and consumption, ethnic or religious diversity, political structures, and so on. ADF learned that it would

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implement the project in Vojvodina at the time when USAID announced the CRDA’s winning grantees. This news came as a great relief to its local staff because they perceived Vojvodina as the “easiest” Serbian region for development work: First, because it was thought to have comparatively fewer economic problems: 84 percent of its 21,500 square kilometers consists of flat arable and fertile land, that would supposedly be favored by the shift of the regional economic policy toward agriculture-for-export production and tourism. And, second, because, as we saw in previous chapters, its people supposedly had a more modern mentality. Following popular narratives of nesting orientalisms (Bakić-Hayden 1995), Vojvodina was considered more civilized and pro-democratic because, prior to its integration into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1918, it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and not the presumed culturally backward Ottoman Empire. Leaving cultural stereotypes aside, since 1974, with the exception of Milošević’s highly centralized rule, Vojvodina enjoyed extensive rights of self-rule deriving from its political status as an autonomous province within the Republic of Serbia (the same status as Kosovo used to have). Thus, it had a more decentralized administration, its own separate budget, and its own regional parliament. In 2001 ADF identified and started working within 120 local communities in fourteen different municipalities. The notion of community has of course a historical background of its own. Already in the 1970s there was a vivid theoretical debate about the representation of identity-politics in communities in the United States, accompanied by a harsh scholarly critique (mostly coming from feminists and post-structural theorists) on the disciplinary qualities of this idea and its role in reproducing inequalities. Scholars have pointed to the exclusionary, racist, and sexist character that community entails along with a legitimizing discourse of social hierarchies inherent in capitalist reproduction processes. Within the development sector, the idea of community development that had been very popular within the colonies in the 1950s and 1960s reached rural Britain in the 1970s after the independence of the colonies via the return of colonial staff, to be exported again through development missions worldwide (Wright 1992: 16; Chambers 1994). To date, and within the development literature, there are many severe critical accounts of community participation, and its conceptual ancestor Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) of rural development programs (Mosse 1995; Green 2000; Cooke and Kothari 2001; Mohan and Stokke 2000; Cornwall and Pratt 2003 and 2011; Richards

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1995; Cleaver 1999; Taylor 2007 and 2010; Shaw and Mayo 2016). Yet, despite such heavily judgmental insights, the “romance of community” (Joseph 2002) and the moral imperative of participation kept returning, with no less persistence within the development industry. CRDA was clearly built on that conceptual participatory tool kit, yet ADF’s use of community did not carry such moral/symbolic connotations and was simply equated spatially with the lowest-level administrative unit of Mesna Zajednica. Although emphasizing citizen initiative, CRDA implementers provided the initial impetus. ADF gave responsibility for mobilization and outreach to a specialized team of twenty-five people called Community Mobilization Specialists (hereafter to be called mobilizers). ADF provided them with extensive training courses on technologies of participation, community organizing, facilitation, and mobilization skills, delivered mostly by foreign NGOs like the Colorado-based organization Natural Capitalism Solutions, the facilitators’ collective Zhaba from Budapest, teams from the Word Bank, and invited expert-trainers from the US, Holland, and Egypt. Apart from one of the two unit directors, all of the mobilizers were native Serb citizens and many had either origins in or strong connections with various regions in Vojvodina. Aged between thirty-five and fifty, these community-development experts had previous professional experience within the aid world, whether by working in international NGOs in the former Yugoslav region (or having founded their own NGO), or through delivering training courses and doing freelance consultancy work for various clients. The majority of them had also worked at some point in public companies and municipalities in Vojvodina either as lawyers, managers, or reform experts, while others were running their own private firms. ADF’s mobilizers convened so-called open citizen meetings in all the affected communities in order to present the project, define the community’s priorities, and help the citizens to elect a council with their representatives—called Grupa za Razvoj (development group). These open town meetings, apart from a method to solicit participation, were supposed to be democracy courses in themselves. Socalled alternative methods for decision-making and group meetings were introduced through standardized facilitation and decisionmaking models (such as Owen’s “Open Space Technology”3 and “Dot-mocracy,” a technique of prioritizing issues through cumulative voting). As one of the mobilizers commented, “You do not debate much but it’s very effective, direct democracy. In two minutes you have priorities.”

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These new councils were usually composed of around ten to fifteen volunteers, who would decide and prioritize the needs of their community. Those needs would then be formulated under a project model that would be in turn funded by USAID. The councils were also responsible for contributing 25 percent matching funds, confirming in that way “that the community was really committed to the project and took ownership of it.”4 The ultimate goal of ADF was to transform these informal councils into officially-registered NGOs. As civic actions were channeled into NGO project work, sustainability was measured by the ability to procure external funding. That is the reason why these councils received various training, ranging from theoretical seminars on civil society, tolerance, and democratic values to more technical training in project proposal writing, project management, strategic planning, fundraising, advocacy, and communication skills. Overall, by using the “carrot” of funds for the satisfaction of some basic needs, ADF designed an alternative way of delivering aid while aspiring to simultaneously create an ideal type of grassroots civic activism: new local NGOs. It was precisely because of these newly established local councils that CRDA was branded by USAID as “a civil society program and not simply [as] a community development activity”.5

“An Elephant in the Greenhouse”: The Conflicts around Mesna Zajednica By the end of CRDA program in 2007, ADF was reporting to USAID its success: 1,035 projects were developed and implemented; the selected communities contributed more than $30 million as matching resources, reaching 60 percent of total project expenses; 1,382,282 people in twenty-six municipalities were beneficiaries; 248,273 people directly participated in CRDA activities; 128,975 months of employment were created; 1,500 citizens participated in Local Economic Development (LED) strategy planning processes; capacity building had been provided to 175 citizens’ community and cluster committees with 4,396 members; a network of Community Development Associations (the previously informal community councils) had been established with an official membership of 1,500 citizens; 39 health centers and clinics, 5 hospitals, 85 schools and 32 kindergartens had been renovated or equipped; 400 open-citizens’ meetings had organized, where more than 37,000 people had participated in decision-making processes.6

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From ADF’s final report, it is clearly evident that numbers count. Results have to be tangible and quantified according to predefined indicators so as to be presented in long reports justifying to the donor the proper and effective use of the allocated money. When the CRDA project was completed in 2007, it was archived as a successful democracy program and continued on its journey to other to-be-revitalized places. As one of the mobilizers sarcastically told me, “You can find a lot of success stories on the USAID website, so, if you want to see smiling faces saying thanks to the American people, check that.” Obviously, there is usually a big difference between how a project is officially presented, and how various groups have experienced and interpreted what happened. Let’s see some aspects of this difference. As one could expect, the new councils, the main mechanisms of the program, were not introduced in a virgin field. Even though CRDA claimed that it had introduced local communities to new ways of thinking because local people were purportedly “not accustomed to taking local action” (Czajkowska et al. 2005: 18), factors other than a collective citizen identity already organized social life. These included ethnic lines, kinship ties, religion, political party affiliation, and farmers’ cooperatives. Despite such solidarity patterns, Socialist Yugoslavia, and particularly Vojvodina, also had a strong tradition of decentralization and participation patterns. One of its aspects was the system of Mesna Zajednica (MZ). MZs are a community organ at the lowest level of local self-governance, a territorial and administrative sub-unit of the municipality. Usually there is one MZ representing every village and one for every neighborhood in the cities. Elections at the MZ level are held every four years where the Sekretar (Secretary) and the MZ board are elected by the residents through proportional representation. Except for the secretary, who most of the time receives a salary from the municipality, the rest of the MZ members are volunteers. MZs should represent the collective interests of their residents and deal with community problems. During the wars of the 1990s, apart from administrative roles, they were also responsible of distributing humanitarian aid and organizing civil and military defense. Every MZ develops its five-year plan (mainly containing communal infrastructure tasks) and, in order to realize it, establishes a collective fund financed by a monthly local tax (samodoprinos), usually 1 to 3 percent of the MZ residents’ salaries. When CRDA started operating in the region, a question arose: what kind of position should be taken regarding the MZs? According to ADF’s mobilizers, the MZs did not meet the criteria of CRDA’s

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civic engagement because they were considered to be communist and old-fashion structures, and completely dependent on the municipal administration. ADF: This structure [MZ] stayed more or less as in Tito’s time. It was the only mechanism that people knew. It works even today more or less. This is an ordinary group of women, of veterans from the Second World War, some activists, some socialists … Me: Are they elected? ADF: No, it belongs to them! [laughter] Seriously now, some of them yes, but it is more like a custom. I mean, they are nice people, they are not so ugly! But we used to say that no normal people want to be part of it [the MZ]! This is an old communist structure. Me: They have responsibilities? ADF: Now no. But in those days, they had some jobs, delegated from the municipality, some Red Cross issues, refugees, supplies with food … MZs now depend on the man in the municipality. They are just running for his cigarettes …

Indeed the MZs today are surely dysfunctional, but the causes are rather historical and socio-economic. Serbia is a post-conflict country, where ten years of war and conflicts, economic embargo, inflation, migration and refugee flows, NATO bombing, an authoritarian state, and today’s severe economic crisis weakened community life alongside civic and political participation. Most importantly, MZs lost much of their power after 1990 following the re-centralization policies of Milošević’s Socialist Party, while at the same time having to assist with the massive influx of war refugees from the other former Yugoslav republics (Bubalo-Živković, 2001; Ilić, 2001). Besides, at the national level, Vojvodina and Kosovo lost the levels of selfgovernance that made of them autonomous provinces according to the decentralized constitution of 1974. At the local level, the political power and even the local voluntary taxes that constituted the MZs’ budget were transferred under the auspices of the municipal administrations. Despite the democratic changes of 2000, the MZs never reacquired their old status and entitlements. Against this historical background, ADF decided to finish with the past and, instead of including MZs in the project, they sidelined them. ADF equally undermined (initially) the few existing local NGOs. Of course NGOs were not considered communist ghosts, but ironically, too modern and professional. Ana, ADF’s mobilizer,

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admitted that, “local NGOs were not even encouraged to participate at first. We had to form a group of ordinary citizens; in NGOs, people were considered as extraordinary, we did not want professional activists.” Many of the mobilizers commented that this attitude proved to be a very big mistake by USAID because, on the one hand, it was sending confusing messages to the people and, on the other, it deprived CRDA of valuable local input and skills that the NGO members had collected through their extensive engagement in their communities. The CRDA project was aggressively and urgently challenging the balances of local networks, an intention that could not be understood by people engaged in local NGOs or MZs. As Živko, an ex-local NGO activist, metaphorically described, it was “like an elephant entering a glass greenhouse. Whatever was worthy here, they [USAID] took it and broke it.” The area of coverage of each Grupa za Razvoj (group for development) created by CRDA was identical to the one of the MZ. Plus, both structures had the same tasks. These included not only restorations and small infrastructure works but also, most importantly, representing the citizens and negotiating on behalf of the community with the municipality. However, the fact that Grupe za Razvoj got hold of the economic capital and decision-making roles over responsibilities that were previously handled by the MZs generated an unprecedented conflict between them. The MZs found themselves dependent on CRDA’s councils for realizing their actions—even though the latter had no legal rights, they possessed the funds. The conflict was not only focused on the USAID’s financial resources. For ADF’s mobilizers, the problem was caused by a widespread love for leadership (ljubav za vođstvo): Me: This conflict was between MZs and Grupe za Razvoj? ADF: Yes, all against all. It was a conflict for leadership I think. Maybe money. But first about leadership. That is what is important in Serbia, not money. Especially if you analyze and see that everybody in the MZs are working there for free. They are all volunteers! There is no such similar thing, nowhere in the world. It does not matter if he does not have money, he is the leader! The crisis was getting bigger and bigger till it exploded. What’s going to be from now on, I don’t know what to tell you.

However, looking closer on the ground reveals that the conflict had much deeper origins and implications, as it erupted from the very restructuring of local political power and of the ways that livelihoods were organized for accessing resources. On the one hand, MZs

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still represented a legitimate structure of power in people’s perceptions. Questions of accountability and legitimacy often arose when the MZs, as locally and formally elected organs, claimed to be the only legitimate actors to express the common interest and represent the local community, whereas new councils were thought to be accountable only to USAID. Many people within the MZs felt dispossessed, not so much by their loss of decision-making power, which was extremely limited anyway. Instead, they felt patronized and symbolically isolated. Željko, a fifty-five-year-old ex-MZ member from Kikinda, apparently irritated, explained: The Americans wanted to start from zero even though in Vojvodina there is a big tradition of community engagement and MZs had a significant role in the villages. But they thought that MZs are part of the government without having even a “d” of democracy … CRDA groups [Grupe za Razvoj] are doing the same things we have on papers. We just do not have the money to realize them.

On the other hand, people felt they had to defend (da brane) the MZs because of the very entanglement of official state structures with local (and often unequal) relations of mutuality and obligation. Indeed, everyday life in an MZ revealed that bureaucratic work and personal (often clientelistic) networks were interwoven into a social ensemble of meaningful relationships that blurred the boundaries between public and private spheres. Just by spending some time at the MZ premises, one could capture the ambiguous and overlapping roles of MZ members, who, apart from being local officials of various kinds, were also somebody’s family, members of a political party and of an ethnic community, somebody’s neighbor or client. People passed by the MZ office in order to complain about the sewage or a hole in the asphalt in their street, to sort out a dispute with their neighbor, to ask for information or obtain some administrative documents, to enlist for heating benefits, or simply very often just to have a coffee and gossip. People maintained paradoxical engagements with such institutions that may at times demand discipline and control while providing a realm for entitlements, rights, and appeals (Jansen 2009). The resolutions to this MZ–CRDA conflict depended on the local dynamics of each community. We could generally draw two scenarios. In more urban communities, where the proximity to the municipality had disempowered the MZs, there was ultimately a fusion of CRDA councils and MZ structures. In the town of Kikinda, for example, the conflict was resolved when the mobilizers finally accepted MZ

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members into the new councils. In most cases, at least the secretary of the local MZ was included, while, in others, the overlap was more extensive. As Žarko, an MZ member and—at the same time—Grupa za Razvoj leader in Kikinda, sarcastically said to me, In Serbia we say, if you cannot win your enemy, make him your friend! In our town, depending on the project, different stakeholders were included in Grupe za Razvoj. For example, if the project is about school reparation, the head principal was there; if it [the project] was about reproductive health, the director of the hospital [was there]. But generally, the six to seven regular members were the same MZ members.

In various rural settlements, however, CRDA reconfigured the established power relations—yet by using the existing structures, i.e., the MZs. In the case of some villages in Subotica, the new councils turned out to be leading local organizations, visible in the public sphere and thus recognized by the residents as more important than the MZs. Many of them, capitalizing on the success of the CRDAfunded projects, developed political ambitions and started to seek political power. Those councils, after the first year of CRDA, were transformed into political parties under the label Citizens’ Movement (Pokret Građana), started their own political campaign and indeed most of them won the leading role within their MZs at the upcoming local elections. Through the agitation around such conflicts, CRDA managed to enhance some local engagement in the community. However, this participation was judged by local ADF staff as being too politicized to be characterized as civic. These developments were in fact nowhere to be found in official reports because losing the normative label of “civic actions” would mean losing the eligibility to be funded by CRDA. To make matters worse, after the end of the CRDA program, very few of these new councils remained active as newly established NGOs. In the towns of Kikinda and Subotica, the civic legacy of CRDA continued, but in a quite dormant state, with no ongoing activities, and sometimes run by people that had been engaged in project work prior to CRDA. In most of rural communities, not only did I not find any of the newly established NGOs existing after the end of CRDA, but also the political party Citizens’ Movements (the transformed CRDA councils) had also dissolved. Overall, very few councils remained active as NGOs (although some in other communities were admittedly very successful). Most became part of municipal bodies and others remained as one-manshow NGOs for attracting (together with the municipality) projects

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that demanded private/public partnerships. Why this an apparent failure of sustainability?

Too Much Carrot, Too Little Stick? Among virtually all the ADF mobilizers, there was a widespread and profound feeling of disappointment regarding the failure to achieve their primary goal of enhancement of a democratic culture. Two main explanations by informants were often given for such a failure: first, the constraints of project work with its administrative requirements; and, second, the perceived incapacity of local communities to understand the real mission of CRDA. Although an internal audit report was explicit in expressing some serious reservations about CRDA’s implementation by observing that, “CRDA has developed an overriding emphasis on projects over process,” whereas “the projects are only supposed to be a means toward that end” (Czajkowska et al. 2005: 4−5, 20−21), the mobilizers stressed instead that a mistaken focus lay at the very heart of CRDA’s design. To begin with, CRDA included a quick start-up phase: this period was described as a frenetic rally of ninety days where ADF’s mobilizers had to do research on communities, identify where they would work, hold open town meetings, establish local councils, help people define their priorities, train the council’s members, design at least one project, procure the logistical requirements and implement it, and this simultaneously in sixty communities! CRDA was supposed to be a kind of a political shock-therapy: on the one hand, the speed required was intended to prevent an operational or bureaucratic slowdown; on the other hand, it would prevent the floundering of the democratic movement after 2000, whereas by rapidly alleviating suffering, it would “buy some time for implementation of major policy reforms at the national level.”7 In practice though, quick start proved counter-effective, because mobilizers had so little time to familiarize themselves with the communities of their intervention and, at the same time, it created a certain competition and a sense of urgency among communities that started to fear that they could be left out if they did not manage to follow the deadlines. As a result, everyone had to cut corners in order to meet the extremely short-term goals and actually spent much time later on correcting their mistakes. As many a mobilizer once told me, “If you need results you make results,” or “in order to have quick start you had to squeeze the idea, it’s always like that.

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In the sector there is a rule, copy something and you’ll be fine. In the third sector, that’s the rule, copy everything, paste, not invent! Use whatever is already available.” This rule, born from hasty decisions and pressured demands on time, explains the similarity of projects implemented within this first phase of CRDA and the quiet acceptance of the MZs-councils merger, or the partisan politicization of certain councils. After all, a major goal for all people involved was to deliver—that is—to spend the money. In the development industry, there is no bigger failure and no greater embarrassment than for a grantee to send the money back to its donor. Such an event would entail a direct loss of credibility and indicate a lack of professionalism. Problems stretched beyond this initial operational phase, as conflicts arose between administrative levels and between groups with different responsibilities. Tensions were evident among the mobilizers as well, particularly between people using a more managerial approach and others with more activist inspirations. The first group included supporters of the mainstream development tool of Logical Framework Analyses (see Chapter 2). These mobilizers had a firm belief that there are systematic and causal logical linkages among various social elements that enable the project-maker to make predictions and plan the outcomes of his actions by using game theory and risk management tools (Chapter 2). “If you were to follow the Yellow Bible,” as some mobilizers were saying (a book with yellow cover that included action plans, guidelines, and expected results), “you knew that all would work properly.” For others, though, this very Yellow Bible was the source of their alienation. Their concerns were linked to the very pathology of project-oriented methods: the focus on fast and tangible results and the quantification of participation. Sonja, a forty-year-old ADF mobilizer shared with me her frustrations: There were a lot of people who were really enthusiastic. Such enthusiasm! … For the first time this was a possibility to achieve your ideas. So it was a good powerful engine in the beginning. It was a good idea. I say idea because unfortunately I’m not so happy with the results. The CM [community mobilization] component was a bit lost because it’s not so tangible. USAID, like other donors, did not have the right hands to catch it. They want tangible results. They want boxes, to tick them. Because engineers and economic development staff, they are not so sensitive or sensible about relations. It’s really technical, “Aha you’ll give us [US$] 20,000, or you will dig this hole.” With societal changes, it cannot go so fast, it’s not so obvious. It was easier for them when they were monitoring to focus [on] counting councils, the “trees” [not the “forest”]. USAID is not the only case; it’s always like that

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with donors. And I want to understand it, because they have to justify the money the American people gave here. We were really working on changes from the root; we educated people in new ways of thinking. It takes time and you cannot measure the results after one year of education. It takes five years, ten. … And this program was great in idea but too much immediateresult focused. Tangible results, it’s difficult, you will most likely lose focus on things that are not so visible. Maybe it was a good experience for me too, because I was far away very idealistic before!

Sonja and some of her colleagues felt that they failed as mobilizers because—trapped between deadlines, budgets, and innumerable reports—they missed their primary target: the focus on people. Such accounts openly pointed to project-based alienation but also contained seeds of self-critique. For example, as the mobilizers often said, “We were holding too much of carrot and too little stick,” a phrase quite indicative of the internal hierarchies of project-making (as one has to hold the stick while the other has to chase a carrot). Why the need of a carrot, one might ask? For many mobilizers, the patronizing answer to this question was also part of the explanation of the CRDA’s failure. Many seemed convinced that the locals never understood the real mission of CRDA (and thus their own needs?). Various explanations included the “stagnant and depressive mentality” of Vojvodinians, a geo-cultural ascription invoking the topographical flatness of the Vojvodina plain,8 the Balkan inclination toward laziness and cheating (the famous “Balkan business”), the “mentalities that belonged to the old socialist structure,” or some generic human inclination toward power/leadership and money. The locals were said to be interested only in the financial carrot. As the mobilizers’ argument goes, locals could not realize that, for better or for worse, CRDA was not a straightforward development project and they were thus not mature enough to understand the virtues of civic participation and NGOing. As one mobilizer said, epitomizing such views, “CRDA was a college lesson of democracy. And here we are in kindergarten.”

The Quest for Sustainability In fact, the mobilizers’ laments about people’s expectations were correct. People’s very material needs were at the core of the beneficiaries’ expectations from CRDA. It was exactly the failure of this task that created local disappointment. For the residents of Subotica and Kikinda, the more positive aspects of CRDA were

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tied to American funding for basic equipment and reconstruction of community infrastructure such as schools, roads, clinics, ambulance centers, along with the support of local production structures after 2003, when USAID (probably for reasons linked to both local grievances and to parallel municipal reforms on economic decentralization) decided to emphasize more on local economic development. Many citizens could not see any point to training sessions and tutorials about democracy, civil society, strategic planning. and PR techniques. As Darko, a fifty-five-year-old council member from Kikinda, explained: It is their [ADF mobilizers’] job to train. They love it. But for us … is it necessary for you to have training in swimming if you are living in the desert? We had to do it. But, people learn something when they need to know it. But that’s it. We are not kids to learn and learn. And why? … Democracy is this, civil society is that, over and over again. At least we did not have to pass exams! Seriously now, sometimes this was bit insulting, we are not children. Sometimes you couldn’t tell if they knew where they are. Yugoslavia is not Africa.

In a situation of economic dispossession and widespread pauperization, even minor infrastructure projects made little sense to the inhabitants because they offered no real solution to their economic and employment problems. Marko, a forty-five-year-old who had recently become a farmer after being a former cook in a bankrupt social enterprise near Subotica, explained: When ADF came here, we told them, “Why do not you finance economic programs?” Because if we have strong companies people will have work and then [the companies] will in their turn fix the roads and streets and schools and everything. It was like that always. But the program was conceived [of] in another way: the Americans would fix what they had destroyed [through bombing] and like that, they would compensate the state by fixing roads, streets, and schools.

Of course, Marko, based on his own lived experience of Yugoslav market socialism, had a very particular idea about what a company is and should do, namely care about the general well-being of communities. Nevertheless, and far from some communist-driven apathy, most Vojvodinians were puzzled because their own priorities focused on more material and subsistence issues, such as unemployment and everyday survival. Abstract civic engagement was not part of people’s immediate concerns (see also Taylor 2010). Members of these new local councils were, in fact, quite pragmatic, managing to co-opt USAID’s discourse and mechanisms. Because participation

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was just a quantifiable frame of negotiation for ticking eligibilityboxes, as one member of these local councils said, There were always enough people. I’ve heard earlier that the Americans are watching … and if there are not a lot of people coming they could take the community out of CRDA. And you know, this program was very attractive to us because we were expecting money, and Americans give us money. And then I gathered those people in the meetings a bit more carefully. Then they [the Americans] said that every following year, every meeting should have more people than the previous one. And because I live here with the people more than twenty years, I know how to do it. So, the first meeting had 100 people, the second one 200, the third 300, and the last 400 people [sic].

However, when participation concerns became more grounded in organizational structures (e.g., in new councils) and started marginalizing the MZ system, the situation, as we saw, became far more complex and strained. Far from pointing to big egos or lust for power, the informal mergers between MZ and councils or the occasional politicization of the latter was part of local people’s efforts to access various resources and guarantee their provision in the future as well. Žarko, member of both the MZ and CRDA council in Kikinda explained: [ADF] couldn’t have avoided people from MZs because those are the people who are active here. Where will we find completely new people now? Out in the streets? And those that are already here, to tell them that they have to leave? These people have been here from before because they are interested in their community and its development. And they are going to stay here after CRDA leaves. [my emphasis]

In rural settlements, MZs were even more important because they were the only administrative structure in the community. Marko, MZ secretary of a village in Subotica and former member of the new local Pokret, was explaining to me why their CRDA council decided to transform itself into a political party. As he stressed: We stayed in this village because we want to make it a better place. And if you want to accept some responsibilities, this means you need some power [moć]. Maybe I have some nice ideas, I could say I want this and that, but if I do not do it, who will? In vain … and from the beginning, we knew CRDA would leave. Then what? Being in authority is more useful than in an NGO.

However, this Pokret-experiment did not last long. After CRDA shut down its operations in 2007, most of those new parties ceased to exist. Marko continued unfolding the trajectories of this group:

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Pokret does not exist anymore because after CRDA left … I do not know why … we all divided into different political parties, but in some sense, we did not split. The people from Pokret are still present at the leadership of the MZ, but are part of different parties, like the Democratic Union of Croats in Vojvodina, the Democratic Party, the G17+. You know, you cannot find resources when you do not have a specific influence on some parties. NGOs have the smallest influence. We could remain an NGO, but how could we find resources? Maybe because of that, unconsciously, we split. If you do not know people from the local administration, you can search for resources for months, they will listen to you, oh, those people always listen to everything, but when it comes to material support … so if I want to do something, I have to be theirs [to belong to their political party].

The above former council was indeed absorbed by different political parties. Most of the time, party affiliation had nothing to do with concrete political and ideological programs but was determined along ethnic lines (minority parties) and in relation to the political constellation at the municipal and government levels. Political parties and their local representatives functioned as a kind of local broker. Most of the times, they did not directly control resources but provided access to those who control them (Boissevain 1974). They provided contacts and veze (links) for fulfilling both individual and collective agendas. When a communal problem arose, all MZ members, regardless of party affiliation, tried to pull strings within their political networks in order to find a solution. These clientelistic networks were considered by their members as mutually beneficial even if they were built among actors occupying very asymmetrically stratified positions, whereas sometimes engagement in patronage relations of this kind was not a matter of choice. Political parties were not just a channel of resource allocation or of access to or control over information. Even when there was no actual exchange taking place, they offer an affective safety net: You know that you cannot do anything if you are not a member of an existing party. Because they watch each other’s backs, they take care of each other, all of them, the Radicals, the Democrats, in all levels; from the local to the highest. … If you want change, you need to be part of it. That’s the price.

It is important to understand patronage as complementary to official institutional forms rather than as simple evidence of corruption and opportunism, as mainstream development frames would argue. Anthropologists and sociologists have a long tradition of analyzing such social relations, initially in peasant and Mediterranean societies (Mintz and Wolf 1950; Campbell, 1964), and have long ago criticized views that perceived clientelism as a cultural remnant of some

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pre-modern past, or as a local dysfunction within badly accommodated (and often externally-led) modernization processes in underor less-developed places (for a debate, see Wolf 1966; Kapferer 1976; Gellner and Waterbury 1977; Schmidt, 1977; Mouzelis 1978; Eisenstadt 1984). The strong insistence of people on preserving and actually competing for the control of the MZs revealed the need to analyze these structures with more scrutiny than the CRDA assessments and my own initial assumptions. Adopting an anthropological gaze is necessary in order to create distance from the normative epithets attached to MZs such as corrupted, dysfunctional, and partisan, as well as to unravel conventional—yet prevailing—analytical dichotomies such as state/non-state or public/private (see also Chapter 6). Therefore, instead of misinterpreting them as neglected administrative remnants of the past, MZs have to be treated as social microcosms where both private and common interests were interrelated and embedded within actual administrative work, intimate relations of friendship, and networks of patronage. MZs were in fact a locus of struggle. A I mentioned, the above conflicts and solutions around MZs were not mentioned in any official report. Even if for the local people in the communities they appeared quite normal, they actually made most of the ADF staff feel quite uncomfortable. First, because the new councils should serve as apolitical springboards to civic engagement, and second, because so-called partitokratija [particracy] was perceived by the mobilizers as signifying a lack of democracy or even modernization. In fact, it was quite impressive to see the double standards that USAID had regarding understandings of politicization: officially, the enmeshment of CRDA structures into local political life was not acceptable, and USAID always insisted on its impartiality and distance form partisan politics, “We do civil society, not politics.” While it is true that USAID wanted to establish a clear-cut separation from its previous more overtly politicized missions (e.g., the Office of Transition Initiatives),9 which had directed funds to anti-Milošević forces (Cook and Spalatin 2002), in reality, there was certainly a political color to the CRDA program. In the post-Milošević period, following the rise of the nationalist Serbian Radical Party in numerous municipalities after the local elections of 2004 (see Chapter 4), USAID unofficially forbid involving the Radicals with the CRDA program. This decision obviously impeded the ADF’s job, because, in most cases, the 25 percent of co-financing that was conditional for the funded projects was to be raised from the municipal budget. The mobilizers had to be creative

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and find alternative paths for the money to reach their communities: the municipality would fund the MZs for some virtual activity and the MZs would in turn use the grant to provide the co-financing for CRDA. Despite USAID’s ambiguities around the meanings of political intervention, lots of ADF’s local mobilizers had their own political agendas too. When CRDA started in 2001, ADF hired as a consulting group the Belgrade NGO G17+. Back then, G17+ was a promising neoliberal think tank which turned into a political party of experts in 2002 and held key governmental positions regarding financial and economic policy until 2014. The result was that many people in ADF were engaged in party politics, while among them, after the parliamentary elections in 2003, there were even two members of parliament, including the deputy minister of labor employment and social policy. By the time I finished my research, many mobilizers had already or were planning to embark on political careers, most often at the municipal level. A small group of mobilizers had even more radical political projects. For them, CRDA had nothing to do with building civil society. They believed that USAID’s hidden or unwritten goal was to destroy the remnant Milošević’s structures at the grassroots level by cleansing the MZ, that, as a Yugoslav self-management structure, used to provide a public realm for citizen participation and an entry point for political advancement through the channels of the Communist Party (Simmie and Hale 1978). Zoran and Miloš were very explicit about their assumed roles. Over few coffees at the historic hotel Moskva in downtown Belgrade, they explained to me what they thought to be the essence of CRDA: Zoran: The real meaning of CRDA program, what it had to do, sociologically, was to take and destroy all oligarchic structures on the grassroots, those that existed in small places, in villages and MZs. Milošević was overturned, but his people and structures stayed down. [CRDA’s] assignment was to destroy these structures from the bottom and to provoke a total conflict. They chose those municipalities that could handle this and without any training they said do this, this, and this. I knew what I was doing, but a big number of my colleagues did not. Me: You mean that the conflict between MZs and Grupe za Razvoj was intentionally made? Miloš: CRDA, it’s nowhere written, but yes, it’s a program to create conflict on the grassroots and to destroy structures. … The Americans [ADF’s managers] did not know what was going on. They were coming here [as]

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chiefs who had no idea what was happening, just saying, come on let’s do something [fund local projects] … But CRDA is designed to make conflict on purpose. It’s not made to create democratization. In order to get from oligarchy to democracy you need time. While this time is lasting, you have to make “cuts” on the grassroots.

For Zoran and Miloš, the conflict that erupted in the local communities between MZs and new councils was not a side effect of CRDA. It was their own intentional strategy, even if it had some uncontrollable outcomes, as they said, namely the rise of Serbian Radical Party. According to them, CRDA did fail but not because the increased civic energy and new local councils were not sustained after the end of the project when they were registered as new NGOs. The problem was, instead, that CRDA was not political enough. Even though they deliberately created local conflict through carrotand-stick policy, they had no knowledge or direction as for how to manage and finally resolve the crisis and achieve their goals: Miloš: We tried to put out fire with gasoline. When you start a conflict, you need to know how to manage it. In fact, we created such a conflict that all that we were building during the ’90s [democratic coalitions] just exploded, destroyed, and now the radicals came in power. It blew up in our face.

According to Zoran and Miloš, the only people who could have helped were those coming from the old democratic networks of the 1990s, but they stressed that ADF chose in the end to hire younger people with less experience but who spoke English well and were familiar with project work. These people had more technocratic rationalities and a more depoliticizing understanding of CRDA’s mission. These were the people “playing democracy.”

Some Concluding Remarks A simple reflection on the concrete operations of CRDA reveals how even the best-intentioned people were often caught in a paradox of trying to build bottom-up civic engagement through a standardized top-down method. For the local communities, CRDA was always perceived to be an outsider initiative. As Žarko concluded, Why should we [local residents] be happy? You [USAID] came to us; you asked us if we want money, we answered “Yes.” It’s up to you. It is clear. Why to be so happy. It’s your project. You wrote the project for us, instead of us. So what happened? OK we have a new school, heating … but why should we be so excited because you want to spend your money? It’s your job.

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CRDA was indeed a ready-made template for solving problems of perceived democratic deficit by cultivating the habits of the heart. It seems to me that, in a way, the standardization and global circulation of packaged solutions (such as CRDA) and the technocratization and depolitization of neoliberal state-restructuring have also prompted a sort of universalization in the understanding of local problems, such as their culturalization (the problem is always the local culture). That is, we might be witnessing a circular self-reproducing process: the kind of technical repertoires that development agencies have at their disposal are critical to the definition of the very problem (and not the other way around), which has in turn reinforced the professionalization and technocratization of the interventions themselves. The diagnosis of democratic deficit was based on a definition of Serbian civil society as weak. As the argument goes, NGOs were not numerous and influential outside metropolitan Belgrade because of some habitus of civic apathy, caused by the so-called communist legacy of state-dependency. CRDA thus was conceived of as a mechanism to boost participation, even if it used the carrot of aid funds for local projects. But, if CRDA was indeed responding to local needs for participation, why the need for a carrot and stick to begin with? Participation remained mainly a concern external to local communities. Nevertheless, all the actors involved in the CRDA project—ADF’s mobilizers, MZs, Grupe za Razvoj, etc.—operated with participation as the main category for measuring their achievement of goals and for negotiating with each other. “Playing democracy,” though, even when framed with the most technocratic terms, was still a political agency of considerable weight. As I have shown in this chapter, the CRDA’s main political function in the first post-Milošević years was nothing less than a particular restructuring of the state. To build a strong civil society meant to disperse and decentralize elected bodies and state power so that certain functions could devolve to the private NGO sector or non-representative groups. In the process, the stigmatizing of the MZs as an outof-date, dysfunctional institution was intended to challenge a system of social organization ideally built around public structures of power. The conflicts that arose around questions of legitimacy and representation, around different understandings of what and who is the state, were treated as cultural pathologies (e.g., Balkan culture), not as different political options. The epithet communist was not referring to a political societal project but to a culture of dependency. At the same time, and ironically, the dense social networks structuring social reproduction were not understood as Putnam’s (and the World

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Bank’s) celebrated social capital, but were seen negatively as relations of patronage and clientelism, impeding democracy. The axiom of neoliberal non-dependency and freedom was never questioned or problematized either, or, worse, it was selectively projected on certain groups, the beneficiaries (new councils, MZs) and not others, the donors/implementers (USAID, ADF’s staff). Unpacking such essentialisms means grasping people’s paradoxical engagements with state institutions even in “phantom limb” situations where most of state security and welfare functions have all but dissolved, as they were primarily connected with the workplace (Thelen and Read 2007).10 MZs persisted to exist and maintain their legitimacy, but this was not due to some Yugo-nostalgia or state-cult. On the contrary, people were blaming the state all the time for their current dispossession, but this critique referred to the central state and the government/political elite, demanding transparency, better organization, and intervention. These citizens who viewed state structures through the prism of entitlements and rights, and those who refused to dismantle or sideline these entitlements and rights in favor of future (and always volatile) NGO projects, were not apathetic or culturally resistant to change. MZs were defended because they provided an intimate public sphere where the state is personalized and is expected to care for its citizens, transforming everyday personal problems into public interests. As Stef Jansen argued about the post-Yugoslav context, “oppressed, normalised [sic], and disciplined by state practices, people may also desire the state, appeal to it—and in that way, continually call it into existence. … The most interesting line of analysis, perhaps, lies in the very contradictions that run through such experiences: cynicism and hope, detachment and investment, rejection and appeal” (Jansen 2009: 58−59). To be sure, I do not claim that the aid industry has some kind of anti-state mission, and I firmly believe that producing analytical dichotomies such as NGOs/state inhibits rather than reveals the complexity of social realities (see next chapter). Actually, and parallel to civil society programs, hundreds of development aid projects were targeting state institutions, and this with a considerably bigger budget than the one destined for NGOs. Such efforts of reforming state bodies were most often dressed up as simply technocratic, and became thus naturalized (Ferguson 1990). Yet, the state is never a neutral player among many others (namely the market and civil society—and the same stands for them), as the good governance frame would like it to be. It is rather a site of political struggle over socio-economic regulation and entitlements among unequally

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structurally positioned social actors. The whole conception of CRDA and the exaltation of self-help NGO initiatives were thus revealing a particular political positioning vis à vis the role that the state should acquire in the newly established democracy. We can then re-interpret CRDA as essentially a project of neoliberal state-craft, targeting the creation of an enabling rather than a providing state (Gilbert 2005). And such a goal can never be an apolitical one.

Notes This chapter has been published almost in its current form as “The Habits of the Heart: Grassroots “Revitalization” and State Transformations in Serbia.” In Cultures of Doing Good: Anthropologists and NGOs, ed. Amanda Lashaw, Steven Sampson, and Christian Vannier, 56–74. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press. I am grateful to Steven Sampson and Christian Vannier for their thorough review. Some parts also appear in “Democracy Building in Serbia: The NGO effect.” Southeastern Europe 33(1): 26-47, 2009. I am grateful to Keith Brown for his fruitful comments and revision.  1. See, last accessed August 2008.  2. See, last accessed August 2008.  3. See  4. Seev, last accessed August 2008.  5. See, last accessed August 2008.  6. See, last accessed October 2016.  7. See, last accessed August 2008.  8. Interestingly, in other narratives of the same informants that I mentioned before, Vojvodina was the region with the most modern mentality.  9. The previous program of USAID’s Office for Transition Initiatives, USAID’s “gazela” as it was often internally called, was mostly seen as a political intervention of the US in Serbian national affairs by working too closely with the local governments that were run by the oppositional parties before the fall of Milošević. USAID was not the only donor organization showing political favoritism. The majority of donors were collaborating—often under the table—only with the so-called democratic forces of Serbia during the 1990s, sometimes even when distribution of humanitarian aid was concerned. Such was the case for example for the EU’s program Energy for Democracy, providing energy only to municipalities where residents had elected governments from the so-called democratic parties. 10. For a counter-argument on expanding social welfare in Serbia, see Thelen, Thiemann, and Roth 2014.

– Chapter 6 –

NGOs vs. State Clash or Class?

_ No doubt, scholars’ reasoning of the role of NGOs in the arena of global governance is far from univocal: it depends not only on the discipline, traditions, and methodological approaches but also, most importantly, on the very ideological orientations and political positionings of the scholars themselves. Therefore, authors as different as Lester M. Salamon (1994) and Robert W. Cox (1999) have welcomed the virtues of civil society. From a liberal perspective, the NGO boom represented the upsurge of an active citizenry; civil society was taking its revenge (Badie 1998: 50). Stimulated by a communication revolution and equipped with Putnam’s social capital (2000), it was finally liberated from the specters of the corporate state. More left-wing, neo-Gramscian supporters and altermondialistes (alter-globalists) saw in NGOs forms of social resistance and rising social movements, ready to radically challenge capitalist relations of domination. Both approaches share an idealistic view of NGOs as organizations representing some kind of hope for the future. At the same time, a growing number of studies have taken a more critical stance toward them. In the most radical version, they are treated as a neo-comprador elite (Hearn 2007), a bourgeoisie in the service of neoliberalism or imperialism (Petras and Veltmeyer 2001; Hours 2002, Centre tricontinental 1998; Qassoum 2002), or as “mendicant orders of Empire” (Hardt and Negri 2001: 36). No matter how different, the majority of the above approaches are based on an analytical schema of society where on the one side stands the state and on the other nonstate actors. They presuppose a dichotomy between homogenous sectors and most often a conflicting relationship between them. Sovereignty, and where it resides, – 163 –

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seems to be the main question while the main answer can be summarized as the following: globalization and/or neoliberalism reduces the power of the state. NGOs as the carriers/promoters of globalization contribute to this erosion of sovereignty, for better or for worse. Indeed, a close look at the majority of the projects implemented by NGOs in Serbia (and elsewhere) could perhaps foster the argument that they are the key actors in the proliferation of neoliberal governmentality (Burchell, Gordon and Miller 1991; Barry, Osborne, and Rose 1996; Larner 2000): NGOs do play an important role in social reproduction by deploying particular technologies and biopolitics with their concrete projects. Few NGOs still deal with humanitarian assistance; they are now engaged in mainly two domains: the making of the free market (by developing small and medium enterprises, corporate responsibility ethics, unemployment programs and counselling, or agricultural reform, for example) and state building (through restructuring local administration, welfare provision, or training thousands of civil servants). Such technologies constitute normalizing social practices that structure the possible field of actions of others and possibly influence the generation of particular subjectivities. Schuller has labeled such a role as “gluing globalization” (2009), reminding us that, as Peck has argued, neoliberalism’s “diffusion is carried not simply by faceless structural forces but also by such structurally positioned agents” (2004: 399). However, in most cases, the dichotomy state/NGOs is not seriously challenged, and neoliberalism or globalization remains a concept that often stays undefined and all-encompassing (Clarke 2008, Peck and Tickell 2002; Peck 2004). Fortunately, since Fisher’s (1997) call for an ethnographic approach, many anthropologists have produced more subtle and refined analyses of NGO–state encounters. In fact, the assumption that neither the state nor the civil society is monolithic but maintain a more complicated, interpenetrating relationship would be a starting point or even a given for most anthropologists. As Timothy Mitchell has rightly emphasized, “the elusiveness of the state–society boundary needs to be taken seriously, not as a problem of conceptual precision but as a clue to the nature of the phenomenon” (1991: 78). The abundant literature on the anthropology of the state, bureaucracies, and organizations offer us extremely useful analytical tools for such a task (Herzfeld 1993; Bate 1997; Friedman 2003; Abélès 2005; Sharma and Gupta 2006; Dunn 2008). The work of Mitchell is important in that it problematizes the dominant image that the state maintains as an entity autonomous from society. He has urged

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scholars to treat it instead as an essentially sociocultural and empirical phenomenon, and has stressed that “the task of a critique of the state is not just to reject such metaphysics, but to explain how it has been possible to produce this practical yet ghost-like effect. What is it about modern society, as a particular form of social and economic order that has made possible the apparent autonomy of the state as a free-standing entity?” (1991: 91). Abrams has put our attention on the “the state idea” (1988), treating it as an ideological project, while Ferguson and Gupta (2002) have also argued that states are not just bureaucratic apparatuses but powerful sites of symbolic and cultural production. We should therefore ask through which images, imagined topographies, metaphors, and representational practices have states come to be understood as a concrete, all-encompassing reality? How do they secure their legitimacy? How do they naturalize their authority? What is a state-effect? However, sometimes, in an attempt to humanize and deconstruct rigid bureaucratic images, there is a tendency to overemphasize the imaginary and ideocratic dimensions of the state—and this, to the detriment of a more processual and relational understanding (Trouillot 2001). We might, therefore, be falling into the opposite trap: by unpacking the state and looking for ghost-effects, we might lose sight of it altogether; we might be focusing too heavily on discourse, culture, and representations, rather than on concrete historical practices and power struggles (Jessop 1990). It is precisely these later arguments that I am interested in here. Taking as an ethnographic window the welfare reform in Serbia, I argue that, instead of a much-presumed class between the state and NGOs, we should instead turn to the analytical prism of class. Besides analyzing the rescaling of welfare in terms of sectors with specific characteristics and duties (the public sector/the NGO third sector), we can trace for example, on the one hand, the formation of a circulating elite of experts, implementing the same political project via both sectors; and, on the other hand, the stigmatization and precarization of the working class in service provision, again circulating between the two sectors. The NGO/state dichotomy, I will argue, serves indeed as a brilliant frame for privatizing—denying—political responsibility for bringing inequality. Questioning this given representation of society is thus of primary importance. In our case, this analytical dichotomy should be, in fact, an integral part of the research object. First of all because it tends to essentialize social structures and obscure, rather than reveal, social relations of power. But most importantly because it is deployed not only by academic

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scholars but by the ethnographic subjects themselves in order to stigmatize certain practices and valorize others. The questions we have to ask, therefore, are: Who deploys this state vs. NGO distinction, when, in the name of who, and to what ends?

Welfare Mix, Synergy, and Innovation On March 2012, Serbia was finally granted the status of a candidate country for accession into the European Union. Even though the most mediatized negotiations for EU integration since 2001 seemed to concern the Kosovo question and the full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the country had been undergoing a process of express state-building in order to meet the requirements of the 1992 Maastricht Treaty for potential members. Accordingly, after the fall of Milošević in 2000, the attention and priorities of aid shifted as well, from standard humanitarian assistance and civil society development to the reform of the market and the state. NGOs lost the monopoly of donors’ trust, whereas state bureaucracies, services, institutions, agencies, and public servants became the main target group of development operations. Indeed, all political groups in government from 2001 to 2010 have been advocating for democratization, a.k.a. harmonization with the famous Acquis Communautaire of the EU. Democracy, far from a relationship between the government and the demos, was evaluated by the levels of its institutionalization. The introduction of capitalist economic models for the urgent restructuring of the state and markets were dressed in the depoliticized and technocratic discourse of reforms. Reforma was propagated for all sectors and designated concrete political interventions of “rendering technical”, that is, it “identified an arena of intervention, bounded it, dissected it, and devised corrective measures to produce desirable results” (Li 2007: 123). Since 2000 (and even before), new laws have been adopted, strategies drafted, mechanisms designed, capacity training delivered, projects piloted, and innovations produced, concerning the constitution, judicial system, fiscal policy, trade, capital movements liberalization, education, pension models, police regulations, social allowances, minority right, electoral legislation, health insurance, local government administration, and so on. Reform should be fast but serious, aligned to EU standards but relatively cheap, deep but also smooth and certainly democratic. Ultimately, reform

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should change who people are and how they feel about themselves and their society. The institutional and policy changes, and to a great extent the direction they take (at least in policy) under the vigilant eye of the European Commission, were indeed a strict conditionality not only for further EU accession but also for further support from all major international aid donors and creditors alike. The concept that provided the framework of such reforms was so-called good governance (see UNDP 1997). Although the definition of good governance varies according to different international agencies, this emphasis points to at least two trends in the global policy discourse. The first has to do with the new importance and role ascribed to the state: political liberalization programs since the late 1990s moved away from earlier policies dismantling the state. Today’s debate about good governance “is less about jettisoning state institutions than improving and reforming” them; it is about “shrinking but not rolling back” the state (Weiss 2000: 803). For instance, leaving aside former “shrinking smartly” programs, the World Bank’s World Development Report of 1997, entitled The State in a Changing World, brings a state’s responsiveness back into the picture, yet in the role of facilitator or regulator. Furthermore, the post-9/11 political climate and the War on Terror were translated, within the aid sector, into an immense preoccupation with security and militarization of aid, strengthening the so-called security-development nexus (Duffield 2001 and 2007; Thede 2013; Howell and Lind 2009). Because violence was mostly associated with state failure, security was conditioned to the reform of these very fragile states (Carothers and Gramont 2013). Second, good governance discourse and policies indicate a paradigm shift from government to governance, revealing the increasing interest accorded to the third sector. The majority of international organizations have now adopted a multi-centric vision of a globalized world where governance comes to design a more vague and complex multi-actor network for social steering. This new paradigm has grown out of a supposed realism that, according to this view, an ideal sovereign state “no longer fits the times”; but it also carries a normative dimension—it is “good”—because its considered more pluralistic and thus more empowering and democratic: good governance implies the creation and fostering of synergy among public institutions, civil society, and the business sector. This rapprochement is judged as essential in order to achieve good management of public affairs, reduce high levels of corruption, guarantee political and social stability, and enable or empower the individual citizen-consumer.

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The welfare system reform is a field where both state and donors’ policies insist on such a partnership between the state and the local NGOs. At first sight, the new policy discourse seems to have moved away from harsh New Public Management concepts. Keywords such as partnership, public sector values, and democracy are used more often than contracts, efficacy, and competition respectively. However, the goal remains the same and it informs both internal restructuring and external outreach. On the one hand, following general trends on welfare reform in other countries (Minogue, Poidano, and Hulme 1998; Robinson 1997; Stubbs 2003; Clarke et al. 2007; Deacon and Stubbs 2007), it is judged essential to introduce market mechanisms like managerial capacities, flexibility, and competition so as to foster a performance-oriented culture for the public institutions. On the other hand, the partial privatization of social services (either by business companies or NGOs) is encouraged so as to make public institutions more competent and raise the quality of the provided services. Officially, this process is referred to as decentralization, a concept with more neutral connotations than, for example, privatization. Decentralization, as the argument goes, should almost by default lead to greater participation, which in its turn will naturally lead to the democratization of society. This idealistic model, called welfare pluralism, is a mixed system “where,” as the assistant minister of labor and social policy explains, “all sectors [public, private, NGOs] would have a balanced status, that is equal coordinative and executive functions. The market would represent the only regulator of their position” (Brkić 2002: 81; see also Matković 2006, ex-minister of social affairs). The orthodoxy of the market rationale behind idealistic visions of participation was evident in the understandings of many key people who I met at the ministry of social policy. Vesna, another assistant minister in her late thirties, could not have been clearer: If society is reformed, then people will have more money, it’s all about money. Then they will have different needs, they will try to look for different services for them. For example, maybe, you do not want to go to a [public] Center for Social Work all the time and for your own comfort you prefer to pay for a service and stay home. These alternatives will evolve as soon as there is a demand for this. It’s about developing this social market. For me, everything is about the market. The state shouldn’t have any monopoly. Without competition there is no quality and choice. … Our main issue is decentralization. NGOs should be the main partners in this process. We try to push people toward that sector. Lots of people are now opening NGOs, it’s a market. They see there is a demand there so they do it, and they should! [sic]

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An important step toward such decentralization was taken in 2003, when the Serbian government, supported by the European Agency for Reconstruction (the EU’s implementing agency in Serbia), the government of the Kingdom of Norway, and the government of Great Britain, founded the Social Innovation Fund (SIF) within the ministry of labor, employment, and social policy. The mission of this so-called transitory agency, technically supported by UNDP, was to finance pilot welfare projects based on the collaboration of NGOs with public Centers for Social Work (CSWs) or other state institutions. This formula would provide a mechanism that would guarantee stakeholders their right to choose among available social services. Zoran, the program manager of SIF, explained to me the reform plan: SIF is funding annual programs. They are implemented by CSWs in partnership with NGOs. This partnership aims at building trust between them, and it is also necessary that they work together, because from the analysis it is obvious that the CSWs cannot do it themselves. And they shouldn’t! Some services are better if they are implemented by NGOs. It is much cheaper and NGOs are better placed to handle and, if necessary, adopt different beneficiaries. They do not need to follow protocols, they can establish themselves and disappear in one day if necessary. … In the 2000s, a new form of NGOs had emerged. They were mainly initiated by donors’ money entering the country for humanitarian programs. Those were dealing with specific issues like Roma people, IDPs, and refugees … you know every time issues became popular. But these people acquired huge knowledge and experience and when humanitarian donors left, they founded their own professional NGOs. So we want to involve them. We try to work as much as we can with the local government that is supposed to organize several services, some daycare centers for children, people with disabilities, the elderly, youth clubs, homecare, shelter houses, and drop-in centers for violence victims. These are those community-based services that are to be developed at the local level. What is typical is that municipality gives money to the CSWs to do this. We want to change this pattern so that we have more NGOs delivering these services. … In this way we will have a more decentralized and democratic welfare system. People should start taking care of themselves and clients would be able to choose what they need.

In Serbia almost 90 percent of welfare expenditures come from the republic’s budget. These, in addition to from health insurance and pensions, cover a set of cash allowances (targeted to poor individuals and families, children, persons with disabilities, the elderly) and a number of social services provided by the CSWs (whose network covers the whole Serbian territory), residential institutions, and foster care. Indeed, during the 1990s the social security system

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literally collapsed, payments either stopped or were made irregularly because the cashier lanes were emptied. Social services at the time were heavily, if not exclusively, dependent on international humanitarian aid, as was the supply of healthcare institutions with equipment and medicine, legal aid, and psycho-social counseling, soup kitchens and refugee camps. By 2003, the debts toward the beneficiaries of social protection were settled using donor funds but the economic crisis starting in 2009 and new austerity agreements between Serbia and the IMF made CSW funding shrink further. Despite economic turmoil during this period, a set of new laws and strategies have been adapted regulating social entitlements and services (such as the law on financial support for families adopted in 2002, the poverty reduction strategy paper in 2003, the law on social care and provision of social security for citizens in 2005 and 2011, along with various amendments and national strategies for Roma, refugees, and disabled persons). All these policies made an urgent call for the so-called rationalization of the central budget, encouraging public-private partnership. SIF’s mission was to push precisely such decentralization on the ground in order to fight the assumed lack of efficacy, innovation. and flexibility of public institutions, and avoid long term and multigenerational dependence on the existing welfare system, deemed to be outdated and paternalistic. Within the last years, hundreds of socalled social innovation projects have been funded and implemented in local communities through this mechanism, and many training seminars for the service staff have been delivered both within and outside the country.

“When Others See War. I See Too Much Connection” If we try to understand this social transformation by applying analytical tools such as the state/NGOs dichotomy, we very easily arrive at simplistic explanations: in the era of globalization or neoliberalism, the nation-state is no longer capable of or should not represent its citizens’ interests and ensure their well-being as it did in the past. Sub-national and transnational actors (NGOs can be both at the same time) are more and more assuming functions that undermine states’ sovereignty and territoriality (Sassen 1996; Strange 1996). However, using the NGO/state dichotomy within such a black and white framework does not represent a historically informed analysis. Such a totalizing discourse of the “neoliberal dismantling of state” creates

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a decontextualized analysis that cannot account for “unequal neoliberalisms” or grasp socio-historical complexities in time and space (Peck and Tickell 2002; Clarke 2008). At the same time, it presupposes the existence in the past of a powerful sovereign state that has now ceased to exist or is about to vanish. Obviously, such a view reproduces an ideal type of state. An etatization of society where the state is omnipresent never occurred, as no state has ever succeeded in exercising absolute control over its subjects and borders. As Henri Mendras put it right in “Le ‘mal de Bodin’” (1999), “it is probable that the golden age of sovereignty never existed. Sovereignty is imaginary and fragile” (Mendras 1999). In any case, rigidly dichotomous analytical frameworks always carry the same risk: by raising newness to the level of an axiom, they tend to create some kind of historical rupture, between the glorious welfare times and post-Fordism, for example, while they fail to acknowledge historical continuities necessary for understanding social change and transformation (Baca 2005). Anthropology has offered many insights on welfare reform, including various studies in post-communist countries, with an emphasis on persisting family/ ethnic/religious ties and patronage networks in social security arrangements, that have sufficiently challenged both the rhetoric of the omnipresent state in socialism and the singular division between public/private, state/nonstate, and formal/informal types of social provision (Haney 2000; Thelen and Read 2007; Read 2007; Thelen, Thierman, and Roth 2014). By understanding, therefore, the scaling back of welfare as devolution, we reify the state before the so-called era of globalization as a singular and homologous institution based on popular sovereignty, while forgetting the underlying disciplinary rationale of welfare since the late 1800s, intended to regulate les classes dangereuses (the dangerous working classes) at every given historical moment (Ewald 1986; Piven and Cloward 1971). Today, the state, far from being some kind of victim of globalization, is the main promoter of its own decline. Linda Weiss has discussed such a myth of a supposedly powerless state by emphasizing the political construction of its helplessness. She ironically asks, “w\Why then has the idea of the powerless state seemed so persuasive to so many?” (1998: 192). She goes on arguing that states today adapt rather than decline and that they emerge as “catalytic” states consolidating national and regional networks of trade and investment (Weiss 1998; see also Wade 1996). If local NGOs in Serbia were contributing or facilitating the withdrawal of the welfare state by trying to become alternative service

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providers, planners, consultants, or evaluators of the reform, the Serbian Ministry of Social Affairs not only did not seem threatened but, on the contrary, was encouraging such development through its policies, projects, and mechanisms. The partial privatization of welfare was recognized as profitable by the Serbian state itself. But observing an alliance between state and NGOs in implementing the same political project is not enough. The state, as Gramsci, Poulantzas, and more recently Jessop remind us, is itself a social relation, a locus where the political struggle of various social forces takes place in every given historical moment. The assumed neutrality of state operations and the rhetoric of common interest are illusionary, “general will is always asymmetrical, marginalizing, or defining some interests at the same time as it privileges other” (Jessop 1990: 342). After all, the new welfare policies in Serbia were not promoted by any state institution. And not all NGOs would embrace them. Reform was a top-down policy, strict conditionality for EU integration, more aid, and more credit. Instead of evoking an abstract state/ NGO alliance, we should more precisely refer to high-ranking professionals within those central state institutions on the higher level of the state hierarchy, such as within the Ministry of Social Affairs and various policy planning agencies, as well as within the most established and highly professional NGOs in Belgrade engaged in project monitoring, evaluation, policy-making, and consultancy around social issues. Drawing this line lets us get a better grasp of the power differentiations and indeed the class divisions not just between state institutions and NGOs but also within them. The conceptual schema of state/NGOs becomes more problematic when one realizes that quite often it was the same group of people floating between influential NGOs, higher state institutions, and donors’ organizations. As an informant told me, “When others see war, I see too much connection.” This group of people shared the characteristics that I have described in Chapter 3, because most of them came from that same Serbian democratic family: higher education and income, urban middle-strata origins, dense social influential networks, privileged access to resources and information, technocratic capital and reform expertise, and practical cosmopolitanism. While they enjoyed the legitimacy and the cultural status of belonging to some independent civil society, they constantly moved through state and non-state institutions. It is in this interface that we can trace elite-formation processes. As we will see later on, workers in lower-level state institutions, like the public CSWs, and local NGOs involved in actual service provision or project implementation (that

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is, the vast majority of them) held totally different positions, interests, and understandings toward the direction of welfare reform.

Hop On, Hop Off: The Struggle for Political Power Indeed, since the first government was formed after the political changes in 2001, a substantial number of prominent NGO figures received high-level governmental appointments, covering, for example, top positions in the ministries of education, foreign affairs, social affairs, and economics (Orlović 2002), in different state agencies (like the poverty reduction office, the EU integration office, the Social Innovation Fund), and various embassies around the world. These transfers or “cross-overs” (Lewis 2008) were not permanent or even long-term ones. On the contrary, there has been an increased circulation among well-established NGOs, private foundations, donor organizations, government offices, and ministerial seats. The eventual formation of a new government or the end of a development project usually prompted an exodus from state institutions toward the NGO sector, only until the right time arrived for a comeback. While floating between the political class and international organizations, these people were almost always keeping their own NGO as a kind of refuge, for material resources, prestige, and moral legitimacy. Most of these experts maintained very close connections with almost all the major democratic parties, either by being officially party members or just unofficially by belonging to and frequenting their circles. The epitome of such NGO-party proximity was probably the transformation of the prominent NGO G17+ into a political party. The social movement Otpor!’s leadership also transformed itself after 2000 into an NGO and later became a political party in 2003. After failing to pass the 5 percent census at the parliamentary elections of 2003 by getting only 1.6 percent of the total vote, most of its members were incorporated into the—at that time—ruling Democratic Party. The proclaimed technocratic G17+ had far more successful trajectories. Founded in 1997 as an NGO of economic experts and having great support from donor organizations, it was persistently lobbying for capitalist economic reforms. Many of its members joined the Demokratska Opozicije Srbija (Democratic Opposition of Serbia, DOS) and the first government coalition in 2001. G17+’s board president Miroljub Labus (professor at the University of Belgrade with

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professional experience in the federal government of Yugoslavia, World Bank, UNDP, and National Bank of Serbia) took up the position of Deputy Prime Minister of Yugoslavia and Minister for International Economic Relations, while G17+’s Executive Director Mlađan Dinkić became the Governor of the National Bank of Serbia from 2000 to 2003. In December 2002, G17+ transformed from a thinktank NGO into a fully-fledged political party promoting market reforms, their legitimizing electoral slogan being Stručnost ispred politike (Expertise Above Politics). Despite poor electoral results and the loss of its popularity, G17+’s real politics kept them part of every coalition government from 2001 to the summer of 2013 (the last years as an alliance with smaller groups called United Serbia), holding key positions such as the governor of the National Bank of Serbia, the Ministry of Finance, or the Minister of Economy and Regional Development.1 A part of the explanation for proximity between NGOs and political parties is to be found in the absence of clear limits during the formative period of NGOs and political parties after the introduction of a multi-party system in 1990, and in the new opportunities that an emerging aid intervention had created locally. The anti-Milošević movement had no clear internal lines defining its constituencies. On the contrary, limits were admittedly very blurry if they could be drawn at all. All informants shared the view that during the 1990s there was a big overlapping of people between oppositional parties and NGOs. Even if tensions were always there, there was a common understanding of a collective goal. Many said that they all belonged to a diversified and fluid democratic movement rather than to concrete organizations. Indeed, both parties and NGOs were, in a way, arenas for political activism with leaky borders. Being in an NGO did not mean not having political ambitions, just as being in a party did not necessarily mean that you did. Lazar, an NGO director and ex-member of the government cabinet explained: At first I was involved in youth politics; I was member of one political party, a student branch of that political party. It’s an interesting development … you can meet lots of people who are currently or used to be NGO activists and before they all started in politics. NGOs became a kind of refuge for those who were not satisfied with their involvement or their success in political parties. Kind of [a] substitute. … This happened in the ’90s. They were in the oppositional parties and then they found that NGOs were more productive. And for some, more profitable. I personally found it more exciting and more intellectually inspiring. From my experience, similar with many others story probably … we were in the ’90s somehow “pets” of the international

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community [laughter]. We were totally funded by them. We had opportunities to be educated; we had grants … for me it was important the opportunity to travel, [to] travel abroad to participate to international events; I spent three months in Norway for example. That was not possible for my friends who remained just in political parties. On the other hand of course when they came to power they became rich! [laughter] … During the ’90s the oppositional parties struggled in such a difficult situation, they faced huge problems and big number of people just left them. [They left from] these parties that were not successful, you know party politics is tough. And parties in the ’90s were forced to make so many compromises because of the economic and political situation under Milošević regime. So many compromises. … Political parties in the ’90s were tough and still are. And well educated and sophisticated people just couldn’t bear all this. So many compromises, so low intellectual level in the parties, so low level of discussion, just pure fight for power. People couldn’t survive there. That’s party politics, only the strongest survive! And those still interested in public issues, founded NGOs as a safety net.

Many people like Lazar chose the NGO path for political initiatives in the 1990s after being disappointed from the oppositional parties’ “immaturity” and “stupidity.” The party leaders couldn’t realize their serious mission but instead were consuming themselves in pointless and egocentric self-destruction: not only did they fail to grasp the moment during the contentious years 1996−1997 when people were taking over the streets, but even in 2000 they were thinking of running for election in four separate groups. Still many NGO leaders felt the responsibility to bring them to their senses. As a wellknown NGO director, very much implicated in this project, told me: They (political parties) constantly needed baby-sitting! We were making surveys for them all the time, to grasp the political climate, the readiness or not of the citizens. In the opinion polls of 1999, we found that the most unpopular actor to the citizens was first the ruling regime, the socialist and radical party, second the state media, and third the opposition parties. They were on the edge of losing the people, we had to pressure them so much to leave their egos aside and unite. We did that through the “Task Force” … it was important that they were told seriously that either they went together or they would never defeat Milošević.2

Others ended up in NGOs in the 1990s after failing to establish their own new political parties. For those who always had political ambitions but just couldn’t succeed in establishing themselves in the extremely polarized political arena, or they did not want to compromise, NGOs were the next best option. Such is the story of Mirko: First you have to understand the situation under [the] Milošević regime. It was not totally totalitarian. They wanted to have opposition, but small and

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weak. And for ten years in opposition you only had few good people because it was impossible, useless. You cannot do much but you stand as a plant in Milošević room. So lot of good people left … I was even making a party, social-democratic party but then secret services at the time were very strong. And they moved too much people from my party. Because Milošević then was trying to transform the communist party into a social-democratic one. And we were the obstacle. We had difficult fights with underground policemen. … I also left, and went to NGO sector, which at that time was flourishing. It was really among the highest quality NGO sectors in Eastern Europe.

Such politicized transfers continued to take place after 2000 and became the topic of debate among the NGO staff. For many, going back and forward between NGOs and government was understood as strategic movements in the fight for political power: “It’s a way of avoiding the rules, and playing the game to obtain benefits, not only financial ones, but also ego satisfaction.” For Lazar, all this was very simple, “Well, you know the problem is, these things are happening because you always have other chairs where you can sit! So if you have a problem with your party or its values or their decisions you can go to an NGO, or make your own. Then later if you sort it out you can just go back. That’s very common to the Serbian reality.” Indeed, the former president Boris Tadić established an NGO when he couldn’t play a more active role within the Democratic Party, when Dragoljub Mićunović and Zoran Đinđić had taken over control of the party. Čedomir Jovanović did the same when he was expelled from the Democratic Party and before he established his own political party, the Liberal Democratic Party. Zoran Živković also founded his new NGO Millenijum when he stepped down from the prime minister’s chair and the leadership of the Democratic Party before the presidential elections in 2004. In these cases, the NGOs served as a kind of a safe haven, a surviving place between two political decisions, a place where “you can have some contacts and still be active, get some rest but not stay totally out of public scene.” Such fluidity did not only concern individual choices. Another popular trend was that of political parties establishing their own NGOs. The reasons were twofold. On the one hand, this is a way to influence the wider public through civic initiatives and communication with the media. On the other, through NGO projects, parties could finance some of their own activities and needs. This was happening already in the 1990s, when some NGOs functioned as a channel to donate funds to the oppositional parties’ pre-electoral campaigns. This was a moment when aid was almost exclusively targeting NGOs and parties did not—at least not openly until the late

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1990s—receive aid and money from abroad (Spoerri 2015). Today, as well, almost all political parties have their GONGOs (governmentorganized non-governmental organizations) and ministries even create their own NGOs in order to virtually collaborate with them for some project demanding state-NGO partnership. Finally, for many others, NGOs were never part of some secondary career plan. They deliberately joined them in the 1990s, because NGO engagement was seen as a sort of informal diplomacy during a period of international embargo and official diplomatic isolation. Of course, diplomatic processes concerning conflict-resolution and peace agreements were constantly taking place within a structuration of changing power differentials and negotiating actors (for example, Slobodan Milošević went from a belligerent dictator to Clinton’s guarantor of peace during the Dayton Peace Accords that ended the war in Bosnia). Under sanctions, regular meetings and bilateral cooperation were officially frozen in Serbia; however, the situation was completely different within the flourishing NGO sector. Interestingly, the discourse of NGOs substituting for the state was constantly repeated as an emic rationalization of that period. It was impressive that even not so well-established professionals in NGOs considered themselves as “kind of diplomats.” Their narrations paint the atmosphere of that period in a very illustrative way: There are some unique things in Serbia. In the ’90s we were under sanctions. And civil society was the only part of society who was communicating with the international community … and civil society was replacing for the international communication an entire society, the government. For example. in January 2000 [before the fall of Milošević] I was invited in Sweden for some meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs there for Central and Eastern Europe. The same guy later in the same year, in November [after the fall of Milošević and the formation of the new democratic government] had a meeting with the President of Serbia and Montenegro Vojislav Koštunica. So I was his contact in January because I was the only one, and who I was at the time? Someone working in an NGO which had five employees and some projects and computers. But I was Serbia for him! The only Serbia he could reach! So that was the case, the civil society replacing the government, I think it never happened before.

Many hoped that such a role would continue to be valid or should and would even be reinforced after 2000. Very indicative of such a desire is an article entitled “NGOs and Informal Diplomacy,” published in the English-language journal Policy Advocate by the local NGO Management Center. The article appeared on the first page of the very first edition of the journal that had as its mission to help

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its readers “learn about the NGO issues in the former communist world, their development strategies, and the directions for a constructive involvement of foreign organizations and donors.” Written in January 2000, ten months before the fall of the Milošević regime, it was expressing the dilemmas and insecurities of the local Belgrade NGOs about their future role after the democratic changes. The author was wondering, “What will be the diplomatic future of the NGO sector?” For those NGOs that will not decide to turn into state departments (!), he delineated two options: either they will be downgraded to simple service providers or they will be able to maintain their status and diplomatic activities even after the full European integration and stabilization of their country, creating thus a “particular social tradition in southeastern Europe.” For the latter to happen: It would be advisable for the Council of Europe to start developing specific mechanisms for cooperation with southeastern NGOs as distinct actors. … [This] is just what the region’s NGOs need to fully express the diplomatic potential that their experience has endowed them with. … NGOs would have to be reckoned with in diplomatic relations as either equals to the government or as necessary helpers and facilitators in order for social processes underway in their countries to unfold transparently and smoothly.

The article ends by stressing the historical relevance of such a development: The dilemma about the diplomatic role and future of southeastern European NGOs is more than just a part of the existential question for the NGOs. It is an inseparable part of the question whether the region will finally see something new and positive, something that will be able to establish a historic precedent in subjecting political power to social control that is internationally coordinated, yet locally authentic, and genuine—a key part of the classic idea of European federalism thus being applied in the continent’s most troublesome region.

Such anxiety was referring to the definition of these people’s roles in a new setting of political crystallization within a democratic regime; it was about politically redeeming their shares as stakeholders in democracy. The political ambitions of this part of the NGO sector were already evident well ahead the constitutional reforms but their aspirations and pleas to their donors to establish them as a kind of parallel diplomacy did not become reality after the regime change. On the contrary, aid shifted its focus from civil society development to state building—and so did they. But even when they joined the government, they did not self-identify with it. Janka is

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thirty-five years old and was one of the people on the move. When asked about her professional trajectory, she said: I was working for an international NGO at first and I had the opportunity to travel to Washington and Africa, meet and talk to people. I acquired firsthand knowledge of poverty related issues. So when the government invited me I joined them. But there is nothing political in that. I joined them because I was expert on such projects and I could show and help them draft policies. I did not join any political party. I’m not a member of a political party. That was strict business relations, expertise … a lot of NGO people were transferred to the government. But it was a reasonable development. Serbia is a very small country and during the wars there was a huge brain drain. So there are only a few people with real capacities to implement reforms, and in general you do not find them in state institutions. These people are so unwilling to change, they do not have modern education and how to say it, they work in the … communist style!

Such NGO-state transfers represented something of an embarrassment to NGOs’ donors advocating the mainstream view that NGOs are politically neutral grassroots platforms for citizen aspiration, from which mission-driven individuals seeking social change spring into action. Lots of donors and experts referred to this reality as an anomaly or a symptom of a young immature democracy and very few counter-argued that such transfers are actually the norm in countries such as the US or France to start with. However, for people like Janka, this anomaly was justified in terms of expertise, in a country that is after all not perceived as normal. The idea that the most competent and professional people were in NGOs and the most rigid, communist-style and old-fashioned people were in state institutions was very widespread in this circle. This discourse was quite dominant despite the large number of state cadres trained in the West during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, such as the few older people I met in ministries, trained by the World Bank and the IMF. But, even if the best experts were to be found in NGOs, this was not simply because of the experience and skills that the NGO world provided them with; it was also because lots of these hop-on, hop-off people already had a professional background in institutions during the 1980s and they eventually joined the NGO sector during the 1990s because of the socio-economic deprivation and the negative selection of cadres during Milošević’s rule. NGOs were a way to economically survive and to get access to a professional career. Their transfers to state institutions after 2000 were not expressed as a quest for political power. As they say, politics is a dirty job; it corrupts people. Joining the government, as they stressed, meant

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business, offering their expertise according to the spirit of good governance. But expertise is not simply a skill, just as welfare is not charity. All these experts were involved in the allocation of resources within a regulated system of property rights. Welfare regimes are redistributive mechanisms and social contracts between labor and state. The power of expertise lies precisely in its entitlement to create criteria for validating knowledge. First, it presupposes an objectified and measurable world, and then it defines reified categories, needs, and levels of deservingness. Indeed, far from some neutral technocratic knowledge, expertise is a particular way of speaking about a particular way of knowing—even including a performative aspect. But most importantly, “expertise is not only a relationship between a special kind of person and a special kind of thing. It is also a relationship between at least two types of people: experts and laities” (Carr 2010: 22). The circulating policy experts in Serbia created such a dichotomy and intentionally maintained it. This is why their constant movement was not framed as a choice; simply the pool of available talent did not seem big enough and there was a perceived need for them to intervene. “Because,” as the former minister of social policy and a current NGO expert told me, “if we were waiting from the bottom, we would wait 2,000 years!”

Stigmatizing Reform “Resistance” The state/NGO dichotomy where the first is evil and the last virtuous, is not displayed only by some scholars as part of their analytical repertory. It was also an emic account in my field, an abstraction that took life and meaning when used by the informants themselves. But if, as we saw above, the gap between state and NGOs was not such a clear one after all, one cannot help but wonder why these circulating experts strongly deployed a very negative discourse against the state? First, we need to clarify that none of them had any kind of anarchist ideals, no one was dreaming of a stateless society. On the contrary, their projects were directly involved in the state-building project: the creation and empowerment of a liberal regulatory state. NGO staff were not opposing the idea of the state as the latter was conceived either as a historical given or as a naturalized independent variable serving the common good. What they stood against were its malfunctions. And because these were never questioned according to historical and structural causes but by essentialized corruption

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and so-called communist cultural legacies, anti-state grouchiness did not represent any kind of threat. So, what’s all the fuss about? Vesna, assistant minister, continued her narration by offering some explanations for the slow pace of the welfare reform implementation: The biggest problem is with the reform of CSWs. I think the biggest problem is management. In CSWs, you have professionals and experts like social workers, physiologists, educationists. etc. [who] are doing a great job. But they have no idea about management. What if you have an excellent professional who has never heard of strategic plan before? Is it going to work? No! CSWs do not have such skills. These people need to be trained to raise their capacities. And project management is in fact a very simple thing. Now with all these projects from UNDP, blah blah, management became something mythical! As if it is so difficult and complicated. It is just rational. With good management there is less bureaucracy! People in Doms [public residential institutions for vulnerable groups], if you go ask them, just what is their “goal,”3 they will not know what to say. They do not even know what a “goal” is! It’s so basic! It’s the standards of a project circle management! It’s so simple and does not require any money for it. It’s important for young people to enter these institutions. How to reform a person who is fifty years old? Impossible … either way, people from the institutions have to reform now with the de-institutionalization process. All those people should be retrained in order to provide other services, like … some could be part of the mobile teams. But on the one hand they are afraid of unemployment and on the other hand they do not do anything! They only learned to wait! They should think ahead and prepare themselves to follow the changes. It’s their responsibility to get ready. They shouldn’t just stand and wait; they should develop their skills according to the needs of the market.

Actually, this pejorative discourse about state employees was deployed by people working in all levels and sectors. Ivan, director of a big international NGO active in social planning, summarizes a widely shared view: Practically there is a common element in all public institutions, not only in CSWs but also schools, primary healthcare centers … wherever you go at the local level, people are still very frustrated and even intimidated by the reform and what is going on. The state has started the process of reform but it is not always transparent and clearly presented. And people have this transitional syndrome, we are in transition, we were supposed to be a long time ago but we have started now. So people in CSWs are very much afraid of what will be done, will they keep their jobs? If yes, what it will look like? They constantly complain that they are overloaded and they are! But because they still keep their old type of work. We held lots of trainings to inform them first what reform is all about, and now we provide direct technical assistance by an external consultant. We try to enable them to grasp and accept the reform. But they are still reluctant to say ,“We will survive this, we will

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work,” because they are still afraid, “Oh god how will I manage?” I understand this. During university studies, you learn a lot of theories at an abstract level, a bunch of information is loaded onto your brain and no one teaches you how actual work is done. Unfortunately almost everywhere, 90 percent of their time was spent sitting behind their desk, waiting for customers to come to them! And even if they were supposed to go do fieldwork, they did not! Just sitting there and sitting. It is this communist culture; you only wait for everything to happen. If not, well, it just did not! How can we now change people’s mentality? They need to be modernized. But the average age is now forty, fifty, sixty, so they think, “God I just want to go to my peaceful retirement, I do not want to be reformed, I want to finish my job in the same way as I started it!”

A caricature of CSW employees was constructed both in technical and in psychological/cultural terms. These people were said to have a transitional syndrome and a fear of their own incapacities. Those fears were based on very pragmatic insecurities, like losing one’s job, but people were said to be scared only because they cannot fully understand and embrace the reform, and not because the reform includes a potential downsizing of available jobs because of “expert surplus.” As the discourse goes, CSW employees were unfortunately middle-aged and difficult to train. They were equipped with parochial knowledge of old-style universities. They had no management skills. Actually, it was not only the quality of their knowledge that posed problems but their mentality itself: of sitting and waiting “from cradle to grave.” The only solution seemed to be some kind of generational revolution where young people with modern cultures would automatically bring some kind of re-genesis. Not so surprisingly perhaps, a similar discourse was sometimes deployed for more grassroot NGOs, working directly as service providers. Back in the 1990s, during the ethnic wars and international sanctions, humanitarian NGOs supported by international donors were basically the only actors providing social care, substituting the insolvent CSWs. However, after 2000, the humanitarian crisis moved toward the east and so did the disaster-relief donors, leaving lots of newly established local NGOs in crisis. At the same time, and throughout the country, there were a big number of—sometimes dormant—nonprofit organizations, created during socialist times, with an explicit social character: associations for the blind, disabled, orphans, paraplegic persons, etc. These citizens’ associations (asocijacije građana), as I mentioned in Chapter 2, were usually excluded from the normative category of modern NGOs. Yet, their territorial coverage, extensive experience, and embeddedness in local

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communities were assets valued as too important for the desired welfare reform, desperately needing service nonprofits to fulfill the “welfare mix” demands. At the time of my fieldwork, none of the above organizations in social provision really supported liberalization policies promoted by NGOs in policy planning and consultancy. On the contrary, they wanted their services to be incorporated into the central budget, in order to secure their sustainability because funding had become scarce. Branko, a former NGO expert working as advisor in the ministry of social policy, commented on such a development with a profound disappointment: Here, it’s not like in other eastern countries in the 1990s where NGOs were really liberal, advocating privatization of welfare. Here it is more about welfare mix and … well, to tell you the truth, [local] NGOs here are retrograde. They want to become part of the budget, because they are afraid that they will not have any funds of their own. That’s the easy way. But then, what will be their motivation? If they know that money will come anyhow, there is no pressure to be qualitative or innovative. What will be the driving force? How will they be independent of the state if they are financially dependent on it? I do not know. I’m very skeptical of these NGO attitudes. This is not so much here in Belgrade but in the small towns. People there are not so open-minded, they do not see their interest. There is still this communist style; they want to depend on the state. The state should give some money perhaps, but as a donor amongst others and only to a certain extent. Like the Norwegian government for example. They say: so we have 20 million, we want to do that. Then there is call for proposals, selection of NGOs; you give them money, they give you what you need, thanks, bye! That’s it, we do our job, they do theirs. If it is like that ok. If not, you just give money, but what do you take in exchange? NGOs will eventually become like CSWs.

The power of such narratives lies in their capacity to create differentiation. The discourse of experts fostered the opposing schema of state/civil society division by constructing a very characteristic image of the state: as a parochial almost pre-modern institution, lacking competent human resources and expertise, having embraced some communist culture of dependency and helplessness; sometimes nationalistic, deeply corrupted and unethical, heavily bureaucratic, and malfunctioning; and to sum up, as an inefficient structure, unable to protect and serve its citizens and the common good. Such a representation, be it close or not to reality, certainly had one effect: it created and legitimized the need of experts’ intervention, because the latter were conceived as the absolute “other” of the state. They were educated and skilled, cost effective and professional, efficient

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and flexible, moral and cosmopolitan, and really democratic. There was a moral dimension in their self-identification, their actions being framed as above opportunist political games and self-interests. Their professional intervention for the reform of society was understood as a vital moral duty. However this stigmatization of the state, as we have seen, did not apply to all its institutions: the ministries are reform’s allies after all, whereas the public servants within CSWs and public residential institutions were the ones to blame for not understanding and implementing it. The same alienation was also attributed to more grassroot NGOs in service provision because of their unreasonable demand to be incorporated into the national welfare program, so as to secure the services they provide and their own existence. What we are witnessing here, among others, was an attempt to discredit secure labor because of an assumed culture of dependency that it brings along. It is interesting to note that, similar to the policy-planning level, but to a much lesser extent, there was also a fluidity of people between organizations in provision (CSWs and grassroot NGOs). Sometimes, especially outside Belgrade, it was the same public employees of CSWs that established or worked in a local NGO at the same time on project-basis during or after work hours for some extra income. One of the goals of the newly established SIF was to make these two actors work together. As a member of its evaluation team noted, SIF’s collaborative projects had some positive influence in the local communities, not only through the concrete initiatives of provided social services but through establishing such new public/private partnerships: That was the change induced through SIF. That change was more than the change of lives of target groups. It was a good idea. In some ways, in the beginning, it was something like a forced marriage. You (a public institution) find some NGO just to get the money. But as it was developing it appeared that NGOs were not passive. They insisted being involved in activities and in a lot of cases CSWs accepted them as real partners.

As stated, SIF was not about improving people’s lives. How could it be anyway, considering the one-year time frame of the funded projects? SIF was a mechanism preparing the ground for decentralization and privatization of social provision by introducing new actors, the local NGOs. Even though many people working for SIF mentioned an initial competitiveness between service NGOs and public institutions and a negative reception of such imposed partnership (mostly coming from the public institutions), I couldn’t really trace such a

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trend on the ground. In some cases, there was some kind of subtle animosity over debates about what and who is a real expert. The most widespread criticism, coming from social workers in CSWs, was that SIF projects and NGOs’ style of work were good but they couldn’t—or were not meant—to bring real change. Dejan, a fiftyyear-old sociologist at the central CSW in Belgrade, explained: NGOs have particular projects. You take 2000, then what? We cannot still compare our work with theirs. They do not have long-term motivations. NGOs do not want to do basic projects now. Basic projects are a lot of problem now. You have to understand my view. Everything that is happening is good. NGOs are good. I do not think badly about them. But they do not do real research and they have to consent. Pure conformism for projects. They came in and deal with individual problems. But that’s not a real topic. A real topic is how to reform the whole system. To go out. We have this NGO here working on [ethnic] mediation. But if you go outside you have hundreds of other Roma, nobody want to implement these projects to them. They do not want to see the real problem. If you are in CSW you have to take care of the whole population. You cannot just choose what you want.

In the CSWs I visited in Belgrade the social workers did not see any real threat coming from their partner NGOs. As they were saying, “Serbia is a big market of problems, so there is [a] job for all,” or “Nobody can do all parts of the job, each one has a different segment.” Social workers believed that NGOs were in fact necessary for filling the gaps, for covering areas that CSWs did not have the capacity or the time to cover, such as some supplementary foster care services, or psychological counseling and awareness campaigns at hospitals. They also acknowledged that their work could be complementary, because NGOs were more flexible and could adapt and respond very fast to urgent situations compared to state institutions that have much more rigid structures, having to follow protocols and time-consuming procedures. Far from cultural stubbornness and physiological frustration, CSWs’ “resistance” had much more to do with a struggle over their own working conditions, low salaries, lack of basic equipment (such as laptops, mobile phones, and cars), insurance schemes, and internal changes, related to newly introduced regimes of supervision, bureaucratization, and the shift of power toward new regional centers created and fostered through current EU regionalization policies. What both service NGOs and CSWs shared was a demand for sustainability and security both for their jobs and for the services they provided. According to the new social policy, these social services would now be organized by the local municipalities who will

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have in turn to fundraise in order to finance them, given that there is no fiscal decentralization in place. That is why both CSWs and NGOs were disappointed from SIF’s underlying logic. Marija, a psychologist working for a local NGO that got SIF funding for a oneyear project, explained to me what she saw as an absurdity in this mechanism: They [SIF] want fast results. We did the impact assessment in ONE year, ONE, it is ridiculous! And there is no continuity. I mean every year they go through their list [of the submitted-for-funding projects], “Hmmm this is a bad project, this is a good one but not for Serbia, this is too good. Hmmm let’s find something innovative now! Something new!” They are addicted to “innovation.” And instead of piloting the good program in other areas or places they go to Sweden to find out about new services which cannot even fit our society. So, when the project is finished, it just stops.

Her vision for the NGO she is working in was to become something like a public-private agency for foster care, financed by the state budget so as to ensure that the services provided become permanent. “After all,” as she continued, “the state is the one responsible for citizens’ welfare,” a clear political stand translated in the policy language as cultural stubbornness, fear-syndrome, or mental incapacity to understand and embrace reform.

Closing Remarks Similar to other localities of development intervention, a neoliberal governmentality was a political reasoning deployed in Serbia through numerous NGO projects. After all, aid is an exercise of power, which operates in a “disciplinary” mode (Gould 2004). However, this development does not presuppose a simplified clash between state and nonstate actors where the state is globalization’s victim and the NGOs its substitute. Even when focusing on welfare restructuring, a terrain where state withdrawal is the most evident and has created severe hardships for many people in the region, the NGO/state dichotomy cannot grasp the ongoing transformative processes on the ground, reifying at the same time both NGOs and the state as singular entities with clearly defined boundaries and modalities. This chapter has focused on deconstructing the state/NGO dichotomy revealing that its modernist and normative categories are more of claims and programs than truths. It has tried to problematize this analytical boundary by tracing cross-sectorial practices of real social actors. David Lewis studying similar cases concludes:

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At one level it is a merely a conceptual boundary, an idea that helps to map out the complex landscape of organizational life and the shifting institutional relationships of the neoliberal policy terrain. As such, it is highly artificial, since in the real world of organizations people constantly carry ideas, relationships, and practices with them as they travel across from one side to the other, as they change job, develop alliances or operate simultaneously in both sectors. … But, at another level, people may experience the boundary as very real, where the “rules of the game”—in terms of cultures, norms, and laws—vary between sectors (2008:138).

Building on such analytical insights, I wanted to bring power further into the equation. I argued that looking at the state/NGO dichotomy through class, rather than as an overstated clash, helps us draw different lines of power differentiation: not between abstract sectors but between cross-sectorial expert elites and service workers. Janine Wedel in her recent work has named power networks “flex-nets,” comprised of people coming “from a limited circle of players who interact with each other in multiple roles over time, both inside and outside government, to achieve mutual goals” (2009: 16). The trajectories of these “flexions,” their strategies of legitimacy, and resources of power do not only inform us about localized patterns of welfare reform but of a wider process of societal restructuring enhanced through new forms of transnational clientelism, in a region so heavily dependent on conditional aid and credit. But what does such discursive construction actually do in practice? The state/NGO clash, far from being an accurate analytical tool, was itself a partisan discourse, part of a particular liberal political thinking. This narrative dichotomy constituted a prominent emic rationalization deployed by policy planners and experts in order to stigmatize outdated and narrow-minded state institutions and valorize modern NGO practices. Discrediting secure employment and state-provided services, under the foggy label of decentralization,4 was the first step in preparing the ground for a franchise state (Wood 1997), legitimizing privatization and outsourcing to both business and non-profit actors. The struggle over these ongoing processes of societal restructuring was, once again, predominantly discussed in terms subjectivity and cultural transformation. This time, the problem was not the uncultured peasants and nationalists we discussed in Chapters 3 and 4. Public servants’ job stability was now to be blamed for their socalled dependency-working culture and their syndrome of spoiled kids (razmažena deca). The unemployed were also said to part of the problem because, being left without jobs for so long, they “have

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turned to flea markets and are no longer interested in returning to factories” (Golubović 2002). For the advocates of the new ethos, this was the moment to take a leap of faith: “We will have to change our habits, our attitude to life. And of course we will have to change our attitude toward work. … I feel that we will have to struggle for some time to learn how to work” (Golubović 2002). Hard work, in this frame, was a positive label attached to abstract NGOing, saluted as the supposed incarnation of entrepreneurial and self-responsible citizens. In this policy frame, the generic type of flexible (see precarious) NGOs were in theory fulfilling some modern European standards. If security means laziness, NGOs financial freedom from the state (in reality dependency to donors) should mean motivation for work, innovation, success. If only, grassroot NGOs could realize this and stop stubbornly aspiring to the public budget! In the new mental geography emerging within capitalist transformations and dispossessions, “people caught in the structural framework which they cannot really influence, are not people with problems but are themselves the problems” (Buchowski 2006: 468). Along with Michal Buchowski, we cannot help but wonder: How did it happen that after decades of a common historical experience with real socialism in Eastern Europe that some people have been able to curtail “bad habits” within them, and others have not? Is not it a paradox that the members of the Communist nomenclature who should have been imbued most with elements of the old system’s habitus, proved to be one of the quickest in switching to the new symbolic system, in mastering “civilizational competence”? (2006: 470).

Notes An earlier version of this chapter has been published as “NGOs and the State: Clash or Class?” In Democracies at Large: NGOs, Political Foundations, Think Tanks and International Organizations ed. Boris Petric, 169–190. New York: Palgrave (2012). I am grateful to Boris Petric for the vivid discussions at EHESS in Marseille and for organizing this publication. Some parts also appear in “Democracy Building in Serbia: The NGO effect.” Southeastern Europe. 33(1): 26–47 (2009).  1. In the elections of 2003, G17+ received 11.5 percent of the vote, in 2007 6.82 percent, and in 2012, as inside the coalition United Regions of Serbia, received 5.49 percent. In 2012, a period when this party was looking for political survival, it formed a coalition government with Aleksandar Vučić’s Serbian Progressive Party and Ivica Dačić’s Socialist Party (plus PUPS-JS). Many supporters viewed this as a betrayal of liberal goals and ideology. In 2013, its leader and Minister of Finance and Economy Mlađan

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Dinkić was sacked by PM Dačić, in a cabinet reshuffle intended to prevent earlier elections. United Regions of Serbia ceased to exist in 2015.  2. The Task Force was an action team of an initiative called the Bratislava Process, created during a conference in Bratislava in the summer of 1999, under the auspices of the EastWest Institute and the Slovak Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The conference’s title was “The Future of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in the Context of the Post-War Reconstruction” and it was a very important venue where representatives of opposition parties, trade unions, independent media, and NGOs came together in an attempt to unify and create what was named a democratic Community for Change in Serbia. The Task Force’s role was to advise the local political leaders, but also to gain real partners abroad. As it stressed, “It is necessary to provide them [the Serbian democratic movement] urgently not only with moral and political but more importantly with financial assistance. This assistance has to be quick and unbureaucratic in order to have an immediate effect” (EastWest Institute, 1999).  3. Vesna refers here to standard categories of strategic planning, like “mission,” “vision,” and “goals,” all being a kind of common-sense in the NGO world.  4. Of course, decentralization is not a magical panacea and even its strongest advocates express their reserves. The former minister of social affairs was right to worry that decentralization can be caught in a ping-pong game between the national and municipal level while it can also entail a shift of responsibility for unpopular adjustment to the local level while decreasing budget deficits at the central level (Matković 2006).


_ Democracy is a particular political, philosophical, and ideological project. Yet the meanings it takes on the ground, the actors it mobilizes, and the processes it legitimizes are historically contingent. The overarching ambition of this book has been to explore the democratization efforts of the aid industry by grounding them in a very specific historical context: post-conflict and post-socialist Serbia. I focused on their so-called civil society component—what is democracy without the demos after all? By the end of the Cold War, civil society—and NGOs as its main carriers—had acquired moral integrity. First, because of its political activism and dynamic contribution to overthrowing authoritarian and dictatorial regimes. And second, because of its ideal equation with morally charged plurality, tolerance, participation, and synergy. It was these last properties that brought civil society, again, to the center of the post-socialist transition scripts, this time as a vital part of democracy’s consolidation after the so-called revolutions. As Bate has put it, ethnography is a particular way of doing but also a very particular way of thinking and writing (1997: 1151). In a way, it is a particular way of looking at the social world. The paradigm is one of problematizing, and certainly, sometimes, asking the right questions is more difficult than answering them. Anthropologically unpacking the normative discourse of civil society and of the associational revolution is of primary importance. However, approaching them solely as an axiomatic slogan or as a particular political rhetoric is not enough. This book, thus, embarked on exploring the political economy of civil society, the global social field of struggles among various state and nonstate actors over material and symbolic resources. In such a frame, the NGO-phenomenon has been addressed historically, tracing continuities and transformations; processually, following an understanding of organizations not as things but as political processes of organizing; and relationally, by – 190 –

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articulating the links, junctions, and power interplays between state and civil society, class and culture, global and local. In fact, an underlying logic of power runs throughout this book: it enables us to go beyond tracing and describing the above processes and relationships. It helps us understand them in order to ultimately explain them. As Wolf was saying, We must move beyond Geertz’s “experience-near” understandings to analytical concepts that allow us to set what we know about X against what we know about Y, in pursuit of explanation. This means that I subscribe to a basically realist position. I think that the world is real, that these realities affect what humans do and that what humans do affects the world, and that we can come to understand the whys and wherefores of this relationship.” (1990: 587)

Understanding the NGO world means inevitably exploring the politics of aid. The mushrooming of NGOs worldwide is closely linked to a general trend of decentralization of aid-funding since the 1970s, directly targeting NGOs and often sidelining state institutions. NGOs were praised for their comparative advantages of flexibility and cost efficiency in delivering aid. Yet today, their role is considered more political than simple project implementers. They are seen as a vital part of democratic good governance, understood as a schematic societal triptych where each stakeholder (state, market, and civil society) has its own obligations and concerns. In the young post-communist democracies as Serbia, the civil society component had to be developed in the cities or even built in the countryside through hundreds of funded programs and training seminars. Establishing or educating local NGOs became a development project in itself. The first part of the book explored various questions arising from the donor relationship. Tackling such questions by no means implies arguing for a scenario of democratic import. Quite the contrary, as I insisted, NGOs have deep historical roots in previous protest movements and were already organizing anti-military and solidarity actions well before the democracy donors flooded the region. Yet, in the aftermath of harsh propaganda and the stigma of national treason, the donor relationship became somewhat of a taboo and efforts to account for its workings were either reduced to financial exchange or were often locally censored altogether, provoking feelings of discomfort, insult, or even anger. The situational analysis of the empowerment training in Chapter 1 and the insights to the art of NGOing in Chapter 2 showed that having a donor means so

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much more than being financially dependent. More often than not, donors came to define the repertoire of NGOs’ projects according to their own perceptions of local needs and the desired directions of social change. At the same time, civil society funding implied particular processes of subjectification, particular modes of thinking, and particular patterns of action. The only valid ideas were the ones addressed in a project form, expressed in a logical frame, and measured by quantifiable indicators. The only valid projects were those proposed by officially registered NGOs, with strategic plans, financial accounts, boards, and regular audits. The only successful NGOs were those that mastered fundraising, equipped both with technical marketing skills and with the necessary social capital. Project-making and NGOing are ways to address, manage, or even tame social conflict. Its inherent limitations did not allow for much radical action, albeit the intentions of some of their implementers. Besides, empowerment in the aid tool kit did not necessarily entail transformative politics. Influenced by the private sector’s managerial doctrines, it rather informed entrepreneurial fantasies where active citizens, having fought the assumed specter of societal apathy, would meet each other as partners at the project market of problems. For the majority of established NGOs, though, the main problem of professionalism and standardization seemed to be the introduced bureaucracy rather than deradicalization. As many stressed, the revolutionary moment was over, now it was time for stabilization and reforms for achieving the goal of EU integration. EU integration was, in that period, the proclaimed mission of all the so-called democratic forces of Serbia. NGOs were in fact its strongest advocates. Europe and democracy were used tautologically, because the first was related to series of normative indexes, based on associational thinking. Europe meant tolerance, cosmopolitanism, progress. For NGOs, EU integration was the essential modernization project. It did not simply entail the transfiguration of institutions and the liberalization of capital flows and trade, the dispossessions brought along though the process being thought as a necessary—but transient—evil. Most importantly, joining the EU was considered a hope for cultural resurrection in a society presumably culturally contaminated by provincial, nationalist, and kitsch ethos and taste. NGOs were indeed protagonists in building a particular social field where certain cultural frames became hegemonic explanatory paradigms for societal shortfalls, within a normative and linear understanding of modernity. Interestingly, the mass production of

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culture-talk by scholars studying the break-up of Yugoslavia met locally produced narratives of “bad start,” “belated modernization,” and “suppressed civil society,” often leaving more historical and structural interpretations to fall into oblivion. NGOs, either as part of intellectual debates or in their mundane rationalizations, practiced, I dare say, a culture of culturalization, obsessed with a constant depicting and understanding of the “other” in a culturally essentializing and homogenizing manner. The other in my field was to be found on the face of particular social actors, existing or imaginary: the communists, the peasants (or half-peasants), the nationalists, or the public servants. The psychological syndromes and civic deficits attributed to these others were signs of pathologizing (opposite) political positions but also a way to positively (explicitly or implicitly) define the self, by negatively depicting the enemy. This immense focus put on culture did not imply—or at least was not limited to—a kind of identity quest. It was not filling some existential identity gap, an emotional vacuum after the collapse of communism, as some would argue. Rather it had more to do with class-oriented processes, strategies, practices, and mechanisms around which life projects were organized and maintained. As I have persistently argued, class in this research is not some independent variable building empiricist correlations between stratification and cultural behaviors. It is a tool that actually enriches the conceptualization of culturally framed phenomena. Not only does it deconstruct and historicize them, but most importantly, it helps us draw the whole web of power ties and interdependences between unequally situated actors. An understanding of the dialectics of class and culture should then better inform us of the new transnational hierarchies shaping Serbian realities. View through such lens, the Radikali supporters of the nationalist party in Kikinda need to be also understood in the face of new material and symbolic dispossessions that have shocked the post-socialist world over the past twenty years, brought (among others) by the unfair privatizations of capitalist transitions, both in its wild and socalled human-face version. The social workers in the public Centers for Social Work in Belgrade and their so-called culturally stubborn resistance to welfare reforms has to be seen in relation to the political project of actual existing neoliberalism, namely, the stigmatization and shrinking of secure labor and the wider structural reengineering toward a market-conforming state (Wacquant 2012). Finally, the loudly proclaimed democratic morals of Belgrade NGOs cannot be disconnected from the massive presence of the aid industry in the

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region and their projects of humanitarian intervention, democracy promotion, and EU integration. As I have argued, the deployment of a politically correct discourse and the performance of practical cosmopolitanism served as a symbolic capital of distinction. NGOs’ self-reflection around values of tolerance, multiculturalism, and inclusive identity, was systematically producing exclusionary narratives of social differentiation. Yet, it also facilitated the establishment of NGOs as development brokers and political partners in the new democratic arena of Serbia after 2000. NGOs lacked any representational base in civil society; neither had they such claims or interests. Their passport to the aid world was, instead, their strong political credentials coupled with their highly valued managerial and technocratic know-how. Interestingly, given that European democratic values were embraced by all those planning and promoting reforms, and those that held different or more critical positions were labeled as immature, spoiled kids, or traditionalists and nationalists with authoritarian personalities, such Manichean distinction was often reflecting the relation between the “ruling classes” and “the people” (Friedman 2018). The produced cultural patterns were often built around a morally ascribed opposition between dependency and freedom. Dependency was a pejorative quality, a condition pointing to particular social bondages but also to some deeper cultural essence. It basically referred to two kinds of relations: dependency on clientelistic networks and on the state. In Chapter 5, I discussed, for example, how the staff of the USAID program discredited in dependency terms the engagement of local residents with party politics and patronage networks around the local public administration of Mesna Zajednica. This discourse was not exceptional. On the contrary, Serbia (as with so many other development targets) has indeed been described, in the development script, as a low trust society that falls within three essentializing families: the “backwardness” of the Balkans, postcommunist legacies of “particracy,” and southern European traditions of strong informal ties and nepotism. Clientelism was mostly analyzed as a cultural predisposition or a remnant from some premodern past. It was always treated as a cause rather as an effect, and even less as a constituting and generating process. Indeed, a more anthropological and historically contingent analysis would reveal that such networks of patronage cannot be understood independently of other variables such as class struggles and state formation. They were part of redistributive processes, bearing their own criteria of deservingness and entitlements. They can be read as a survival

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strategy to face state inadequacy for social protection and distribution, as a risk-management strategy for creating a just-in-case safety network, or as an integrating mechanism in a political economy of extreme segregation and exclusion, and thus as a field where political and social struggle takes place. Obviously, patronage networks were classic forms of an economy’s embeddedness within unequal networks of care and obligation writ-large. In this sense an anthropological eye can depict their highly hierarchical and exploitative character. But, at the same time, it can also question the rise of autonomy as a powerful preemptive fetish. For the USAID program building local participatory democracy, freedom from patronage did not mean social dis-embeddedness. On the contrary, Putnam’s social capital precisely advocates for strong horizontal relations of reciprocity and trust. However, what does this even mean without an explicit political program fighting inequality? How to build such relations of solidarity when, in this context, egalitarianism is considered a parochial communist syndrome? Civil society understood as a conflict-less realm of shiny happy people becomes not only a naive representation of reality but also an ideological artifact. Interestingly, the stigma around dependency was actually produced by actors themselves intensively engaged in such unequal networks of obligation linked to the aid industry. As Stirrat and Henkel have long ago argued, “No matter how apolitical and, in a sense, otherworldly the development NGOs may try to be, they are inevitably involved in the mundane world of power, patronage, and inequality. … The pure gifts become, in the end, the currency of systems of patronage” (1997: 74). In the political arena, such networks were even more visible, mainly through dense ties with the main democratic political parties (Democratic Party, G17+, Liberal Democratic Party, Democratic Party of Serbia). In some cases, such relationships were grounded on tacit political ambitions; in other cases, they were rooted in pragmatism because political parties represented one of the main social channels to get things done. However, the double standards on what constitutes accepted social capital are obvious: for a minority of upscale NGOs, crossing-over sectors and hop-on, hop-off practices were framed as pure business based on some objectified need for expertise at the national level. Political suction manifested in everyday practices, on the other hand, was portrayed as a cause for political primitivism, an obstacle to modernization, jeopardizing the rule of law, market economy, and state efficiency. On the mundane level of ordinary people, it was equated to corruption,

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whereas when involving elite formation processes, it was labeled as networking, expertise, or lobbying. The second understanding of dependency was linked to the state. Similar to the well-known neoliberal doctrine, state-dependency, and the kind of culture it presumably produced, was used as an explanation for an assumed apathy. As in the case of discrediting Fordism, people were said to be passive because of some learned helplessness during communism (Chapters 1, 3, and 5). In a period of severe staterestructuring, the dependency-culture frame was used to stigmatize labor stability and public servants, particularly those opposing neoliberal reform (Chapter 6). The opposite of state-dependency was civic engagement played with market rules, that is, NGOs competing for projects and funding. Financial instability and insecurity were actually equated with a desirable working ethos: hard work and motivation for action. The dominant logic in the welfare reform was: “If money is coming every month, why try to improve?” Freedom in this domain unfortunately meant freedom from citizen entitlements as fighting dependency implied an effort of decentralization and privatization of social services. Even when NGO services were actually complementing the public ones, or offering new ones, these were always project-based, group-restricted, and volatile, thus unable to create a universal field of rights. Paradoxically, the only way to secure the provided services, by adding them to the public budget, was conceived as counter-productive: not by NGO-providers, as was the case for UK nonprofits fearing for the expansive regulative control of the state (Alexander 2009); but by policy planners, arguing that providers, in order to guard their independency and good quality standards, should eternally compete for donors. After all, in the mainstream development understanding, NGOs are a symbol of freedom; this time not from their past anti-communist struggle but because of the subjectivity they incarnate. Neoliberalism as a regime of truth produces particular types of knowledge, rationalities, and biopolitics that enhance particular ways of subjectification. However, creating the conditions of becoming is one thing and becoming is another. If the best “art to govern” is through the formation of particular subjectivities that eventually will govern themselves (Rose 1999), then NGOs as a form of social organization represent, in such narrative, an ideal neoliberal subject: the expression of modern, active, self-initiated citizens. This idealcitizen model is based on individual responsibility and on the development of a culture characterized by self-help initiatives as opposed to the aforementioned cultures of dependency.

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Yet, the mushrooming of local NGOs in Serbia during the 2000s through numerous civil-society programs did not consolidate a vibrant civil society, neither did it create some new liberal subjectivity. On the contrary, real grassroot popular organizations were exceptions to the rule; associational volunteering was also rare, and the salon NGOs carried mixed characteristics and motives. In fact, one of the biggest problems with the welfare reform was that there were no such grassroot NGOs to locally provide the newly decentralized social services. The Ministry of Social Policy really pushed for such a development, but often, as the ethnography revealed, it was the same people working at the Centers for Social Work who were founding their own NGOs for extra activities and income. And even when grassroot NGOs did not have to be invented, their staff was actually advocating for their integration into the state budget for security and sustainability of both their jobs and the social services they provided. In any case, far from some ideal of autonomous subject, local NGOs were enmeshed within complex dependency relations, driven by the donor-funding character of the project world. As Sampson has argued about the nature of aid, “There are no pure gifts. Every donation, no matter how good hearted, carries with it a relationship of reciprocity” (2002). In the NGO world, it was unfortunately donors that set the conditionalities for funding: “What starts off as a free, disinterested gift becomes part of a system of interested exchange” (Stirrat and Henkel 1997: 76). How, thus, does the celebration of autonomy come to terms with strict donor supervision, constant reporting, and audit and other managerial demands that, as we saw in Chapter 2, defined both NGOs internal structure and the way they intervened? Donor dependency was an unfortunate reality. However, we should also avoid understandings based on simplistic assumptions of some omnipotent international actors and their imposition on passive/weak locals (whether NGOs or governments). First because the category of donor community is referring to a reality as fragmented and diversified as is the category of state and civil society; and second, because the reforms were both the product of global hegemony and of local ownership of in situ reformers. The frame of the weak state, apart from being an adequate analytical tool, can only liberate the decision-makers from responsibility and accountability for their concrete and often harsh political choices. This brings us to my last question: For whom was good governance good? Who was indeed empowered? Certainly, local NGOs

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represent a new social actor in the “transitional” restructuring of Serbia. However, defining them rather easily as a new class or new elite would not simply be “immature” (Sampson 2004) but, most importantly, analytically problematic and indeed misleading: we would create a fictional homogenized sector simply to fit our argument, and we would miss the power differentiations and the class divisions among and within NGOs. How can a prestigious policy expert, a hyper-precarious project manager, or CRDA’s mobilization staff be under the same category? And what does it really mean attaching the class prescriptive to a particular profession, other than creating depoliticized stratification schemata such as those of the middle class (see Chapter 3)? Regarding local NGOs, their engagement with the aid industry has brought them vital resources connected to the prestigious capital of project know-how. Yet, for the majority of their staff, these cocalled privileges translated more to the maintenance of earlier lifestandards or to the impediment of further impoverishment, rather to some promised fast upward mobility (although there were such cases too). NGOs were more of a survival strategy or even a safe place at a time of dramatic social convulsions in the 1990s and of generalized transitional dispossession and economic crisis in the 2000s. As presented in Chapters 2 and 3, labor conditions within local NGOs were not empowering either: on the one hand, workers were stuck within the rigid internal hierarchies, namely those between NGO founders or directors, middle-management, and volunteers. On the other hand, project-based NGOing was, more often than not, synonymous to casualization of work, incapacity of predictability and future planning, anxious dislocations, constant stress and insecurity, frenetic rhythms, and endless bureaucratic work. Its volatile nature was fostering exploitation and was blurring the very connection between performance and compensation; its ethical credentials of doing good were equally often contributing to worker’s disempowerment, by censoring resistance through guilt and moral obligations. We might still wonder, what are the effects of the massive developmental presence on labor patterns and job markets? What would all these people do if it weren’t for the NGOs? As Catherine Baker asks, what jobs were they not doing (2012a: 862)? And what implications does this labor-capture have on the actual local development? Are we witnessing the development of a working class for staffing the aid industry, a sort of “projectariat” (Baker 2012b)? These are all pertinent questions that demand further inquiry.

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On the antipodes of such disempowerment lied the emergence of a new political elite of experts embedded in the transnational circuits of aid. When I refer to elite, I certainly elaborate on a wage-earning one. I consider them such because they had a constitutive role in setting the frame of post-socialist social reproduction by having an input in the very direction that social change should take (for them), or, as Foucault would have put it, in the conduct of conduct of others. As described in Chapter 6, this was a hop-on, hop-off elite, circulating between NGOs, state institutions. and donor organizations. In addition to their strong political networks, their power derived from their participation in epistemic or transnational discourse communities (Bislev, Salskov-Iversen, and Hansen 2002; Stone and Maxwell 2005), and from their ability to construct expert regimes of truth, that is, to normatively naturalize and normalize specific ways of thinking, saying, and doing (Escobar 2011). As development brokers, they possessed certain “principles of authority” and they were “gaining power and influence from their abilities to work across and between languages, contexts, sites, levels, and agencies” (Stubbs 2007: 216). Globally applicable knowledge (Sampson 2000) was to be translated into concrete drafts of laws, sectorial strategies, institutional patterns, and other policy reforms for contextual application. In this way, expert knowledge was wedded to a hierarchical process of scale making and temporality: it was considered the most up-to-date knowledge that always stands “above” (Mosse 2007). Not only did it define different knowledge categories, it also ranked such knowledge and their producers accordingly. By doing so, experts set the grounds for their social reproduction, by constantly creating the need of their intervention. After all, isn’t one of the main results of development to produce the need for more development? As Jeremy Gould has argued, “the most significant achievement of decades of aid has not been ‘development’ but the institutionalization of a self-referential aid industry and the professionalization of a managerial elite responsible for its maintenance” (2004: 275). But self-referential does not mean non-consequential. The circulating experts of good governance, parallel to concrete policy-making, created a very sharp division of labor: a distinction between functions of planning, designing, and regulating and those delivering and implementing then on the ground. The distinction of functions implies a clear distinction of the actors assuming them: As “the processes of knowledge formation here involve both the delegation upwards of rulemaking and policy framing to the international stage, to international agencies, private organizations, NGOs, and

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networks of experts; and the delegation downwards to ‘responsibilized’ communities” (Mosse 2007). Such separation, most importantly, enables responsibility for policy to be side-stepped by focusing accountability upon implementation. According to such logic, failure is always conceived as external to the expert’s job; failure is correlated to the constructed local: local culture and mentality, local implementation, local irrationalities and inertia, local deficits and local (corrupted) ways of getting things done. Failure never means a wrong policy idea, wrong template, wrong social change direction, or wrong political project, and “this divorce between command and accountability [might] explain[s] the long political reach of consulting practices” (Sennett 2006: 57). Such an absent pre-defined or outsourced responsibility results in an absent accountability. But, even when policies are found guilty and report their lessons learned, what would be a democratic mechanism for controlling and sanctioning non-elected expert interventions? Democracy promotion unfortunately in such cases brings hollow democracy.


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General Editors: August Carbonella, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Don Kalb, University of Bergen & Utrecht University; Linda Green, University of Arizona The immense dislocations and suffering caused by neoliberal globalization, the retreat of the welfare state in the last decades of the twentieth century, and the heightened military imperialism at the turn of the twenty-first century have raised urgent questions about the temporal and spatial dimensions of power. Through stimulating critical perspectives and new and cross-disciplinary frameworks that reflect recent innovations in the social and human sciences, this series provides a forum for politically engaged and theoretically imaginative responses to these important issues of late modernity.

Volume 1 Where Have All the Homeless Gone?: The Making and Unmaking of a Crisis Anthony Marcus

Volume 8 Class, Contention, and a World in Motion Edited by Winnie Lem and Pauline Gardiner Barber

Volume 2 Blood and Oranges: European Markets and Immigrant Labor in Rural Greece Christopher M. Lawrence

Volume 9 Crude Domination: An Anthropology of Oil Edited by Andrea Behrends, Stephen P. Reyna, and Günther Schlee

Volume 3 Struggles for Home: Violence, Hope and the Movement of People Edited by Stef Jansen and Staffan Löfving

Volume 10 Communities of Complicity: Everyday Ethics in Rural China Hans Steinmüller

Volume 4 Slipping Away: Banana Politics and Fair Trade in the Eastern Caribbean Mark Moberg

Volume 11 Elusive Promises: Planning in the Contemporary World Edited by Simone Abram and Gisa Weszkalnys

Volume 5 Made in Sheffield: An Ethnography of Industrial Work and Politics Massimiliano Mollona

Volume 12 Intellectuals and (Counter-) Politics: Essays in Historical Realism Gavin Smith

Volume 6 Biopolitics, Militarism, and Development: Eritrea in the Twenty-First Century Edited by David O’Kane and Tricia Redeker Hepner

Volume 13 In Blood and Fire: Toward a Global Anthropology of Labor Edited by Sharryn Kasmir and August Carbonella

Volume 7 When Women Held the Dragon’s Tongue and Other Essays in Historical Anthropology Hermann Rebel

Volume 14 The Neoliberal Landscape and the Rise of Islamist Capital in Turkey Edited by Neşecan Balkan, Erol Balkan, and Ahmet Öncü

Volume 15 Yearnings in the Meantime: ‘Normal Lives’ and the State in a Sarajevo Apartment Complex Stef Jansen

Volume 21 The Partial Revolution: Labour, Social Movements and the Invisible Hand of Mao in Western Nepal Michael Hoffmann

Volume 16 Where Are All Our Sheep? Kyrgyzstan, A Global Political Arena Boris Petric, Translated by Cynthia Schoch

Volume 22 Frontiers of Civil Society: Government and Hegemony in Serbia Marek Mikuš

Volume 17 Enduring Uncertainty: Deportation, Punishment and Everyday Life Ines Hasselberg Volume 18 The Anthropology of Corporate Social Responsibility Edited by Catherine Dolan and Dinah Rajak Volume 19 Breaking Rocks: Music, Ideology and Economic Collapse, from Paris to Kinshasa Joe Trapido Volume 20 Indigenist Mobilization: Confronting Electoral Communism and Precarious Livelihoods in Post-Reform Kerala Luisa Steur

Volume 23 The Revolt of the Provinces: Anti-Gypsyism and Right-Wing Politics in Hungary Kristóf Szombati Volume 24 Worldwide Mobilizations: Class Struggles and Urban Commoning Edited by Don Kalb and Massimiliano Mollona Volume 25 Democracy Struggles: NGOs and the Politics of Aid in Serbia Theodora Vetta