What underlies the controversy of the cultural identity of Serbia which has been in transition for over two centuries? I have looked for answers in the unstable, hybrid and dynamic concept of the Balkan identity. The Balkans, as a specific ethnic and culturological mix, as a place where noble barbarogeniuses meet with barbarianism, the European Orient, the melting pot of traditions and global trends, is a specific platform from which we have observed construction of presentation and mixing of our attitude to the national identity with the attitude to the culture in general. Analogy between the 19th century process of modernization and Serbia today is obvious, both in the steps for building cultural and national identity and in the latest consequences of the poor social transformations. The transition from a traditional to a modern society, modeled after West European paragons, has always neglected at least one of the key integrating factors. Hence the uncoordinated social and cultural policies and poorly directed social emancipation in general have led to ignorance of or misinterpretation of own culture, tradition and models, causing long term incompetence for preservation of cultural (as well as political) independence in these regions. This text poses some questions related to the deficit of modernity and the cultural imperialism that has remained in the Balkans as a consequence of colonial dominance. The marriage of the politics and the esthetics is analyzed on the example of visual representation of national identity, through portraits of the ruler – Knez Miloš Obrenović – a clear indication of the attempt at developing a cultural strategy and defining a unique national cultural model. Equating the notion of national identity with political mentality has shown that passive traditional mentality (static and non-communicative) is an obstacle to forming a modern cultural identity which is innovative and capable of forming its own perception of politics. The political transformation of the system, which legged behind overall social transformation, has brought about an unsustainable cultural policy (which should be a foundation for the modernization of state) as well as maintenance of the status quo attitude to the dominant centre. This is why mere erasure of the colonist identity models and acceptance of new models were not sufficient to establish own national and cultural identity. The never-ending process of modernization has caused permanent indefiniteness of the modern cultural policy, since in the unstable period of transition we still choose between traditionalism and global culture, all the while additionally emphasizing the differences and controversies without creating a field of free cultural fluctuation. Returning to the Balkans as a cultural paradigm of Serbia, the cultural policy of today should communicate with the visible wealth of diversity without contradicting either tradition or transition, in order to avoid the inferiority in recognition of or indifference for production, presentation and preservation of its own cultural riches.
This study analyzes the Yugoslav geopolitical transition and its impact on the rise of corruption in the Balkan region, with special reference to the role of the JNA. Geopolitical parasitism has evolved and taken root in the period 1945-1980 because the communist state has managed to provide international recognition and has won a large number of people to their side. Corruption was conceived in the centre of the military and state security apparatus. Shortly before the breakdown of Yugoslavia it has grown and has exploded into all the countries of the former Yugoslavia.
This piece analyzes the ways of imposing ideology of exported democracy into Serbian political culture: the superficiality and hybridity of the process, the incompatibility of the imposing techniques and methods with the local specifics, as well as domestic and foreign missionaries at work. It is about the reasons, the price and the meaning of the results achieved in the process, about the reach of the colonial democracy and the implementation of the democratic culture into the Serbian society. The roots of the reasons for which no one insisted on seeing whether the democratic culture has been “instituted from inside or imposed from outside” is being determined, as well as the repetition of the old pattern which imposes that “liberal democracies in the First-world- countries always demand that the other nations pay – politically, socially and economically – for what their countries are enjoying”.
In this text the difference between two cultural matrixes is being examined: the culture of Polis and the culture of Megalopolis. Taking for example Dučić and his glorification of social life in big cities, dating from 1902, the roots of the culture of polis in Serbian culture are being shown. It stands against the dominant romantic matrix but not in a way that denies national identity deriving from that matrix, but in a way that recognizes a set of civil and modern values within the national culture and identity. As opposed to this, the culture of Megalopolis turns a citizen into a consumer, characterized by feeling of radical emptiness. By using brands, it turns him or her into a virtual citizen of Megalopolis who has negative sentiments towards its own cultural tradition because he/she experiences it as something that prevents his/her connection with the Megalopolis. Thus this cultural matrix acts as an instrument of separation of an individual and his or her cultural tradition, by which he or she is turned into a virtual resident of Megalopolis. Therefore it supports the turnover of a national state into suburbia which is entirely at the disposal of Megalopolis.
The transition has changed a lot in Serbia, but there are a number of constants of the cultural context that the transition has not managed to affect. It could even be said that these constants shaped the course of transition. We need to keep in mind the global value orientations that are rooted in the tradition of the social being of the Serbian people, which continually reappear in both old sense and in new forms. In the long term, these constants make any qualitative leaps difficult and give a specific form to modernization trends. These include traditionalism, authoritarianism and their various derivative forms. These are global value orientations that seek to connect the past with the future and thus ensure historical continuity of the society. They shape a society which is internally contradictory and insusceptible to innovation.
After clarification of some basic notions, the text moves towards analysis of the results of one of the very few empirical studies dedicated to explicit attitudes of Serbian citizens about cultural policy. This is a survey conducted by the Institute of Sociology of the University of Niš in the period from 2002-2005, by collecting empirical material in five districts of southeastern Serbia (Nišavski, Toplički, Pirotski, Jablanički and Pčinjski). The results are indicative for the period after the democratic changes in Serbia, and allow a comparison with other findings and future research. After the implosion of socialism and dramatic events at the end of the last century in former Yugoslavia, which were primarily caused by the fear of destruction of national culture and national identity, it appears that the cultural policy largely depends on the overall social processes, economic power of society, position of citizens in the political system, historical heritage and prevalent cultural values. New developments have drawn attention to some important cultural questions, like how to profile the cultural policy of Serbia, what it should be oriented at, what is the stand of the national culture (of Serbs) in comparison to cosmopolitanism, whether citizens are scared of European or American values (and to what extent), whether the answers to the such questions make Serbia specific in the Balkans, and to what extent is Serbia internally divided on these issues – given the standard socio-demographic characteristics of its population? The text is looking for the answers to these and other dilemmas in the responses of Serbian citizens in the aforementioned survey.
The crisis of culture reflects in the crisis of cultural values, cultural institutions and the foundations on which it rests. More specifically, the culture crisis is driven by: a serious lack of funds which prevents the cultural institutions from better responding to the demands that have been placed upon them; inertia found in the very institutions, resulting in extreme slowness with which they adapt their internal structures to the needs, even if they are not too affected by lack of funds; and inertia of the social system, bounded by traditions, beliefs and values, which has proven to be incapable of making the best use of culture and cultural institutions in the interest of national development. The gap between cultural institutions and social environment is caused by relative autonomy of these institutions. They tend to remain what they have always been in order to protect their own interests and values. In order to overcome the crisis, it is quite obvious that the culture and the society must agree on the need for mutual adjustment and adaptation. Planning of cultural needs must take into account the development of other social activities, in particular the development and financial aspect of the economy. Programs that do not comply with other programs of social life remain a mere collection of wishes and efforts that can often bring confusion into the social life. The development of certain activities over others should be replaced by a balanced and coordinated planning of all activities. Practice has shown that “the activity” of culture in the period of pre-transitional changes was not just part of the material sphere of work, but also its result – a distribution of total income through contributions. The state has set up the necessary infrastructure and established various cultural institutions. However, bureaucratic attitude towards culture and bureaucratic culture has often neglected the function of people in dealing with social affairs. It has bypassed the world of their needs, because its objective has been to keep the production and the culture separated. This is how the culture has become a guided activity, where the possibilities of manipulation are huge.
During transition, Serbia and other (semi) peripheral countries have become economical, political and cultural colonies of transnational capitalist class (TNCC) whose center (metropolis) is found in the main societies of the world capitalist system – the US and the EU. This has influenced the formation of the Serbian system of mass culture that is characterized by the culture of forgetting, the ideology of consumerist “liberation” of sin and shame, fetishism of sex and violence, as well as normalization (“relaxation”) of pathology and amorality. These features dominate also in the “high culture” produced and consumed by TNCC members (and candidates for it). Most of the “high culture” is now under TNCC control, which essentially dictates the dominant tastes. Members of the bourgeoisie, who successfully produce or demonstrate the right taste on the (semi) periphery, are incorporated into the idiocratic fraction of TNCC. Hence almost all high culture in Serbia is marked with comprador content and style, and also marked by “conceptual art”. And since it is impossible, in the current socio-historical conditions, to reject the main cultural function of the mass media in Serbia as a “collector” of consumer hypnosis, it is also impossible, in the current socio-historical constellation, to change the colonial comprador character of the institutions of high culture in Serbia. They are only an institutional expression of the dominant, financially and socially hegemonic classes in Serbian society – the comprador bourgeoisie.
This paper deals with strategic dilemmas of social development that have a great potential to affect the quality of civil life as well as the conceptualization of Serbian cultural policies, but have remained out of public space and public debates during the transition period: interior-exterior culture, endogenous-exogenous resources, rural-urban communities and many more. The aim of this research is to look at the complexities of contemporary cultural policy and analyze its capacities for the democratization of the cultural system and the inclusion of rural population into cultural life. The empirical research has been based on a case study of the villages Starčevo and Omoljica, located on the territory of the administrative, industrial and cultural centre of South Banat – the City of Pančevo. It can be perceived as a representative example of a balancing action of the economic, educational and cultural policies that have crucial influence on the quality of life of its citizens. The study of theoretical and empirical sources demonstrates results of public policies led since the early phase of industrialization at the beginning of the 18th century up to this date, and by analyzing its strengths and weaknesses, it intends to indicate the course of action of cultural policy in the future. The crisis of our contemporary urban-industrial civilization provides an opportunity for better understanding of repressed concepts on the other pole of the dichotomy (interior culture, endogenous development, rural communities). This involves discovering values with the concepts that are worth reviving and incorporating them into contemporary development strategies. Village schools and libraries have a particularly significant role in this area and so far they have not showed awareness of the value of rural cultural heritage, or its role in its protection, preservation, conveyance and usage. In the communities in which those two types of institutions of culture and education are organizationally separate, schools and libraries represent a complementary institutional framework of potential partnership for sustainable development.
Three key transition contradictions in the culture of the Republic of Serbia (and Serbian culture) are: 1) a confusing relation between the state and culture, 2) the role of the market in culture, and 3) political instrumentalization of culture and the problem of general interest in culture and art. The first part offers a study of the inconsistent relation between the state and culture from 1990 to 2011. The state and its cultural policy are criticized from an anti-étatiste standpoint. At the same time the state is expected to enable cultural development. The free market, as a key factor of transition, has not been well accepted in the Serbian culture somewhat due to the crisis, somewhat due to the traditional state support to culture and arts. The second part of the text points to the political utilization of state supported art. Critical analysis of these phenomena is faced with the dilemmas referring to democracy in culture, where the issue of general national interest arises. The conclusion offers expectations of a continuation of contradictions in cultural policy of Serbia rather than their solving.