Don’t Mourn, Balkanize by Andrej Grubacic
|Book: Don't Mourn, Balkanize!|
ZNet Book Page
Publisher: PM Press
If you are at least somewhat curious about what exactly happened in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s and noticed that we hardly hear anything about the Balkans in recent years, Andrej Grubacic’s book “Don’t Mourn, Balkanize,” would be the single one I can wholeheartedly recommend. As the author states in his preface, this is not a scholarly book but a collection of essays, commentaries, and interviews. However, it is much more creative, grounded in social theory, and intellectually honest than many other works with that pretense. The catchy title, that might make you wonder, also illustrates the fact that here, Andrej Grubacic has redefined and expanded a great many concepts, terms, phrases, and notions: from the term “Balkans” itself, to “Balkanization,” to Europeanism, to the role of the Balkans in Europe and today’s world--its global relevance. For unfamiliar readers, the timeline and brief description of the process of Yugoslavia’s dismantling between 1991 and 2010 can be especially useful as a resource. That section could be easily separated and used to initiate discussions with friends, colleagues, students, and various audiences.
Both introductions, provided by Grubacic and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, are condensed masterpieces that challenge us to open our minds and hearts in order to question everything we previously believed we knew about this part of the world, socialism, global capitalism, European Union, and much more. The author equally rejects all nationalisms and the new Europeanism, both imposed from above to the peoples living in the Balkans. Sociologists and anthropologists might be very surprised to find out about the neglected question of centuries-long perpetuated stigmatization through the attachment of the “otherness” category to peoples living in the Balkans. They will also be very surprised to read that quite a few examples of the original, autonomous, authentic processes of “Balkanization from below” (Grubacic’s term) currently exist—as manifested by the new and redefined workers’ struggles and resistance to privatization and neo-liberal/colonial policies. These workers have build solidarity, formed new coalitions, and often managed to regain control over their factories and working conditions. Grubacic argues that in order to better understand these autonomous contemporary movements and new world realities we need to revisit the works of the most prominent early Balkan socialist traditions exemplified in the ideas of Svetozar Markovic.
If you are in the small group of intellectuals interested in participatory economics (parecon), there are several interviews and discussions about it in the book, as it relates to the Yugoslav model of self-management. As a sociologist with advanced degrees from both Yugoslavia and the United States, I thought that I knew enough about the Balkan history and new major developments in my homeland. Yet, this book has shown me otherwise. It has helped me to even reconsider some of my own self-identifications and reconfirm others. It comes as no surprise that Noam Chomsky called it “insightful” and “inspirational,” and Howard Zinn “groundbreaking.” This is exactly what it is—it forces us to question everything that we were told about the former Yugoslavia, Kosovo, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, U. S., and NATO’s role in the Balkans. Grubacic envisions “balkanization from below,” a new, autonomous, trans-ethnic Balkan federation as an antidote to (further) ethnic and colonial fragmentation. I am hopeful that this truly independent thinker and his unique book will continue to influence many readers to pause and think for themselves. It is also my hope that we will stop using the word “balkanization” in demeaning ways that still predominate in our public discourse.