Archive for the ‘MichaelH’ Category

Solidarity and the Politics of Anti-Politics

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Solidarity and the Politics of Anti-Politics

By David Ost

David Ost argues that the Solidarity movement in Poland, which asserted itself as a purely social organization and not political, was true as well as false to this claim: true because that was the stated intention by Solidarity leaders and the actual practice for several years, but also false because inevitably the desire for social power will lead to confrontation with the state. His book reads like a history of Poland from 1944 until 1991 with an emphasis on the Solidarity movement. His thesis is that the Solidarity movement in Poland successfully exploited a previously unexploited chasm between state government and civic society to wear down the repressive communist party and eventually force change in Poland. (more…)

Before the final solution

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

Before the Final Solution: Toward a Comparative Analysis of Political Anti-Semitism in Interwar Germany and Poland: by William W Hagen


William Hagen, in Before the Final Solution, compares the anti-Semitism in Germany and Poland between the world wars because he felt that historical literature offered no comparison.  Hagen’s argument is that both anti-Semitic movements had “common features deriving from their embeddedness in comparable patterns of socio-economic development.  In other words, Hagen believes that the anti-Semitism in both states was motivated by economic concerns.  This essay successfully argues that anti-Semitism in Germany and Poland were similar movements stimulated by similar perceptions of a Jewish threat to Christian prosperity in the emerging industrial economy.


The Functions of Ethnic Stereotypes in Austria and Hungary in the Early Nineteenth Century

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007

The Functions of Ethnic Stereotypes in Austria and
Hungary in the Early Nineteenth Century: by Andras Vari, in the collection essays entitled, “Creating the Other: Ethnic Conflict and Nationalism in Habsburg Central Europe”

In The Functions of Ethnic Stereotypes, Andras Vari argues that ethnic stereotypes originated in Austria-Hungary during the end of the 18th century with the help of outside intellectuals and that these stereotypes were used as a filter to determine which groups were and “were not fit to participate in the construction of a new society” (Vari p. 39). Vari uses a number of descriptive statistical works from two different generations of authors – those born between 1745 and 1770 and those born between 1770 and 1800 – as his data set. His hypothesis is that the ethnical stereotypes that originated from the first set of authors would not change during the second set even though the stereotypes were “redrawn in more divisive nationalist fashion” in the latter half of the 19th century.


Peoples of the Mountains, Peoples of the Plains

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007

Peoples of the Mountains, Peoples of the Plains: Space and Ethnographic Representation: by Karl Kaser from the collection of essays entitled, “Creating the Other: Ethnic Conflict and Nationalism in Habsburg Central Europe”

Peoples of the Mountains, Peoples of the Plains is an essay that gets to the heart of the “Other” narrative; looking specifically at two distinct groups of people in the Balkans. Karl Kaser examines the work of Jovan Cvijic, a Serbian geographer, and Dinko Tomasic, a Croatian sociologist, to show how the “Other” narrative can influence two authors with “similar research objectives,” but who reach “starkly different conclusions.” Kaser explains that his objective is not to prove the veracity of either side, but to simply show how the “Other” narrative can drastically influence the work of two scholars.


Parlor and Kitchen by Gabor Gyani

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

In Parlor and Kitchen, Gabor Gyani attempts to study the booming urbanization of Budapest from its formation in 1873 until the interwar period through the lives of middle and upper class city dwellers and the lower or working class. His approach is to use the clear contrast between life in Budapest for members of the high and low classes to explain the development of the city, but also the relationship between different classes of citizens. Parlor and Kitchen presents an exhaustive study of life for upper and lower class Hungarians in turn of the century Budapest, but fails to tease out any mind blowing findings. Although Parlor and Kitchen made for an interesting and unique read – unlike anything I’ve read previous – it ultimately disappoints because its main idea is overwhelmed by the painfully meticulous attention paid to describing decor.


Malcolm Tanner, “Croatia: A Nation Forged in War”

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

Malcolm Tanner presents a history of Croatia that starts with their ancestor’s descent onto the Balkan Penninsula in the fourth century and culminates with the most recent manifestation of Croatia following its war for independence from Yugoslavia.  In fact, one of Tanner’s themes is the many different forms that Croatia has taken throughout its history; this chameleon-like existence is driven both by a desire to survive as a nation and also by its unique position on the land bridge connecting East with West.  Tanner effectively communicates the history of the Croatia people in a way that does justice to their struggle with identity that results from being caught between two worlds.

Croatia has had to alter its allegiance in response to the external threat from numerous empires and enemies on its borders.  Tanner notes that Croatia sought refuge in the Austro-Hungarian empire as protection from the Ottoman Turks, but later rooted for the demise of the empire during the first world war.  Its unique geography has meant that it  has been coveted by many larger states because of its position and thus forced to behave sometimes sporatic in order to ensure survival.

 A second important dichotomy that Tanner notes is the struggle between nationalism and communism.  This struggle started during the second world war between the Ustashe and the Partisans.  The Ustashe were fervent nationalists and the Partisans, led by Tito,  communist.  Tito, like Stalin before him, attacked nationalism as a movement for the bourgeoisie and a distraction from the struggle of workers and their supposed union.  These two ideologies resulted in the destruction of hundreds of thousands of lives of Croats, Serbs, Jews and others in a few short decades perpetrated in the name of nationalism and communism.  The most recent spate of nationalism was played out during the Croatian war of independence from Yugoslavia and the atrocities committed by all sides.

 Tanner’s comprehensive account of Croatian history is a lucid tale of a nation that has struggled with identity and direction from its beginning because of its unique position on the map.  Tanner persuasively argues that to understand Croatia is to understand nationalism and its dangerous consequences.

first post

Tuesday, September 4th, 2007

Nationalism Reframed is Rogers Brubaker’s attempt to clarify in present terms the reemergence of nationalism in Central and
Eastern Europe that many had thought was a thing of the past. Looking at both the rise of nation-states from the interwar period and more recent examples like the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the
Soviet Union, Brubaker warns the reader to be wary of generalizing and promises to deliver a more in depth study of the most recent wave of nationalism. Although Brubaker certainly delivers on his promise of a thorough analysis of the rise in nationalism in
Europe in the later half of the 20th century, his thesis that the nationalism of the late 20th century differs from the previous “state-seeking and nation-building nationalisms” does not clearly emerge from his difficult prose.

Despite difficulties in proving his overall thesis, Brubaker does present several ideas that encourage the reader to look at nationalism in different ways: one, the “triad relational nexus” is a unique way to explore nationalism from the perspective of the national minority, the nationalizing state and the external national homeland; two, his comparison of Russian and Serbian views of their former unions – the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, respectively – with that of the other nations that comprised those unions. Brubaker successfully shows that a dyadic view of the fighting between Serbia and Croatia will not sufficiently explain the situation as well as a triadic view that takes into account the national minority (Croatian Serbs), the nationalizing state (Croatia) and the external national homeland (Serbia). Brubaker also raises an excellent comparison of the similarities between Russian and Serbian views of their former unions as belonging to them and without significant boundaries and that of the other less dominant nations, which thought of the unions as a whole of several parts. (more…)

happy holiday weekend

Sunday, September 2nd, 2007