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Book Review: 'Yugoslavia Dismembered'

Contemporary European Paradox

'Yugoslavia Dismembered', by Catherine Samary, translated from French by Peter Drucker (Monthly Review Press, New York. I99S. £11.95)

If you are one of the countless people who are baffled by the events in what used to be called Yugoslavia this book is the simplest and most readable account published so far. It is packed with very useful chronological tables and easy to comprehend statistical information. It is analytically rooted in a Marxist approach, although this must be distinguished from dogmatic economic determinism which is not present.

Samary successfully connects this war with the contemporary European paradox of an economic supra-nationalism combined with re-emerging ideological nationalisms. The case for the extreme fragility of what is over-optimistically called European unity, and the possibility of regarding the Yugoslav war as a precursor of national rivalries yet to break out in Europe is well argued. The author could be accused of having too rosy a retrospective view of the successes of Titoist federalism, but she makes well the point that national cultures cannot be created in test tubes, even though many of the allegedly deep roots of distinct Serbian and Croatian national cultures were largely the monstrous inventions of dangerous Frankenstein-like intellectuals. As a study of the problem this book is good; as for the root of the problem and the solution to it, readers will be better looking at this journal’s coverage of the subject.

Steve Coleman