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Entangled Paths Toward Modernity

Contextualizing Socialism and Nationalism in the Balkans

By Augusta Dimou

Publication Year: 1920

The book is a study in comparative intellectual history and discusses how socialist ideology emerged as an option of political modernity in the Balkans of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Focusing on how technologies of ideological transfer and adaptation work, the book examines the introduction and contextualization of international socialist paradigms in the Southeast European periphery. At its core is the presentation of three case studies (Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece), intertwined at times through similar, but also divergent paths. Each case aspires to tell a different and yet complementary story with respect to the issue of modernity and socialism. The book analyses the introduction of socialism against the background and in conjunction to other prominent options of political modernity such as nationalism, liberalism and agrarianism.

Published by: Central European University Press


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pp. 1-3

Title page

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p. 4-4

Copyright page

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pp. 5-9

Table of Contents

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pp. 10-15

List of Abbreviations

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p. xv-xv

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pp. 1-5

More than any other ideology of the nineteenth century, socialism came into being as a trenchant political answer to the challenges of modern mass industrial society. Born of the underbelly of capitalism, socialism . . .

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1. Methodology

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pp. 6-9

The current work makes use of the analytical advantages offered both by transfer2 and comparative studies.3 Far from agreeing on their methodological incompatibility or mutual exclusiveness, pointedly argued . . .

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2. Context, ideology, adaptation

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pp. 10-16

Socialist theory was born in the Western context both as a result of and a reaction to the exigencies of the Industrial Revolution and the maturation of the capitalistic process. It reflected and wished to address . . .

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Intellectuals functioned as the basic vehicles of transposition for most intellectual currents entering the Balkan area from Enlightenment thought to liberalism and socialism alike, and they were the principal . . .

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1. The Russian connection and the geography of revolution

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pp. 19-24

If the itineraries via which Enlightenment thought entered the Balkans encompassed a broad geographical space, predominantly Western and Central Europe, and to a far lesser extent Eastern Europe, the . . .

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2. Models and master texts

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pp. 25-37

The Russian influence was not limited to the transmission of literature or the plain adaptation of theoretical populism. The Russian revolutionary movement (from the 1860s to the 1880s) also furnished the . . .

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3. The Balkan disciples

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pp. 38-47

The fact that the Russian model provided for emulation is attested in the texts of several Balkan socialist intellectuals, stressing the regenerating, avant-guard role of the intelligentsia and the moral duty of . . .

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4. Intellectuals and political systems

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pp. 48-50

Models are conducive, but do not account for the total formative experience of intellectuals. The Russian model of the intelligentsia found application in some of the Balkan countries, partially for similar . . .

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5. Social descent and professional integration

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pp. 51-58

In the three countries under analysis (Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece), in the nineteenth century, the Serbian Radicals and the Bulgarian Socialists appear to display a more egalitarian social structure. The Radical . . .

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III. The ambiguities of modernity

Of all the Balkan countries to have come under the influence of the ideas of Russian populism (Narodničestvo), only in Serbia was this to initially materialize as a genuine political and social movement and, . . .

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1. Some notes on the historiography

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pp. 61-64

Indeed, it has been the ideological mutation of the later Radicals that is the hottest issue in the historiographical debate as to the “true” character of the Radical Party and its potential classification within an . . .

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2. The ideological roots of Serbian socialism

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pp. 65-69

As conceived by its founder, Svetozar Marković, radicalism was an original synthesis of multiple theoretical socialist influences both of the Eastern and the Western variety. Acknowledging the concrete . . .

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3. Modernization and its antecedents

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pp. 70-78

The Radicals’ response to modernization cannot be considered independently from the commensurate attempts of their predecessors and contemporaries. The radical reply was partially inspired, and to a great . . .

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4. A moral world imperiled

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pp. 79-78

Feeling threatened by the encroaching forces of modernity, the corrosion of the traditional social structure, the alterations in morals and customs, the intrusion of foreign capital, the growing influence of . . .

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5. The mission: saving serbdom

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pp. 79-81

The metamorphosis of patriarchal institutions into modern productive associations was to be accomplished by grafting them with the most contemporary scientific knowledge. For the early Radicals . . .

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6. The individual and society

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pp. 82-84

In the Radical’s view, Serbia belonged clearly to the Slavic typology of civilization, the principle of which feature lay in the indivisibility of the notions of state and society. Slavic civilization did not recognize a . . .

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7. The radicals and the nation

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pp. 85-88

Marković advanced a most challenging and original response to the question of Serbian liberation and unification. The initial vision concerning the form of the future Serbian state had been provided by . . .

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8. A l’attaque

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pp. 89-92

This is precisely what the Radicals set out to achieve: to capture public opinion, secure political rights, and extend the public sphere were the first three indispensable steps to political power. Having opted for a . . .

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9. The railway

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pp. 93-95

The discourse generated by the creation of the railway in Serbia is exemplary of the Radicals’ attitude towards modernity. The railway represented, in both real and symbolic terms, an intersection of economic, . . .

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10. The agrarian radicals

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pp. 96-98

Seminal in the development of the Radicals was the appearance of an opposition group of agrarian representatives in the Skupština of 1874, the first authentic grass-root expression of peasant discontent. Centered . . .

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11. A popular party

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pp. 99-103

The Radicals were the first political group in Serbia to organize politically, thus forcing their adversaries to organize. The Radical Party was conceived from the beginning as a massive and powerful . . .

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12. The watershed

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pp. 104-107

In essence, the 1880s were a crossroad in the development of the Radicals. It signaled their procedural willingness to compromise with the exigencies of surrounding realities as they moved slowly from political . . .

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13. A church and an army

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pp. 108-111

The radical program appeared in January 1881, while the Radical Party was officially founded a year later, in July 1882. The Radicals proved to be the most innovative, modern and effective group in the field of . . .

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14. Slavophilism

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pp. 112-118

Basic philosophical assumptions of slavophile doctrine were incorporated almost a priori into the Radicals’ social philosophy, informing their worldview on a variety of issues, like the relationship between . . .

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15.To the people

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pp. 119-125

Agitation was not exactly a new craft for the Radicals. The “Red Banner” affair (1875) and the concomitant trial a year later had given a first taste of the Radicals’ capacity to move public opinion and mobilize . . .

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16. Manipulating the past

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pp. 126-128

Radical discourse engaged in rhetoric as regards the Ottoman past. In their efforts to mobilize, the Radicals resolved upon a reassessment of the Ottoman past in a way very different from the sober tones of . . .

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17. Heading for confrontation

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pp. 129-133

The achievement of the Radical Party was bringing the masses into the political scene. Seeking out and politically organizing the peasantry by involving it in an elaborate party structure (consisting of party . . .

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18. Constitutional philosophy

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pp. 134-136

The constitutional project of the Radicals is not only indicative of their political philosophy, but also reveals their Jacobite attitude towards power in more general terms. Far from having a conception of the . . .

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19. In power

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pp. 137-141

The basic building blocks of radical ideology already underwent changes in the 1880s. In Marković’s design, the community was understood as a self-governing, socio-economic unit, guaranteeing economic . . .

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20. Legacies of radicalism

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pp. 142-156

It was this legacy that the Independent Radicals would claim in their schismatic dissent in 1901. The split in the radical ranks was triggered by the Radical Party’s willingness to accept the more regressive . . .

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pp. 157-163

The history of the Bulgarian socialist movement is a tormented story of fierce ideological debates, power struggles and multiple schisms (at least four occurred—1892, 1903, 1905, 1907—before the . . .

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1. The Historiography of the schism

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pp. 164-174

The historiography of the schism has often remained engulfed in the argumentation of the polemic itself. As can be foreseen, it was primarily dominated by the communist interpretation, which emphasized the . . .

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2. Bulgarian socialism

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pp. 175-178

Early Bulgarian socialism is a neglected subject.43 This remissness is mainly due to the fact that Bulgarian historiography has concentrated overwhelmingly on the establishment of the Marxist paradigm, . . .

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3. Sŭiuz vs. Partiia: The priority of political or economic organization?

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pp. 179-184

The initial attempt to create a social-democratic party in 1891 found a number of intellectuals in disagreement. Conditions in Bulgaria were still immature for the official entry of the Socialists into the political . . .

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4. Blagoev vs. the narodniks

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pp. 185-190

The establishment of the Marxist paradigm in Bulgaria has more or less accurately been credited to D. Blagoev. Although a similar ideological fermentation was taking place simultaneously among several of his . . .

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5. Constructing the social subject: a party with two voices

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pp. 190-196

The predominance of Marxism and renewed unity in 1894, nevertheless, did not solve the big open-ended issues like the profile of the party, the identification of which part of the population should form . . .

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6. Modernization

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pp. 197-200

If Social Democrats in Western countries saw their principle task in exposing, analyzing and mitigating the exigencies of the modernization process, the Bulgarian Social Democrats had first to persuade the . . .

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7. Mentalities

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pp. 201-203

If one were to agree with Jacques Le Goff that “mentality is the story of tardiness in history,”90 then the Bulgarian Social Democrats were up against a mental world that proved to be rather resilient. They not only . . .

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8. The profile of the party

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pp. 204-207

The most recurrent topos in the popular Bulgarian socialist narrative was the claim for economic frugality and prudence, coupled with the moral quest for social equality. Underlying most of the Socialists’ concrete demands for reform, these were the principle values perpetrated . . .

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9. Flirting with the peasant

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pp. 208-223

An unsettled, yet recurrent issue was the party’s attitude towards the countryside. Despite warning voices that urged the development of a special agrarian program (for example at local congresses in Jambol . . .

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10. Obshto delo

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pp. 224-239

Before setting up Obshto Delo as an independent platform, Sakŭzov had officially requested the publication of a biweekly supplement to Rabotnicheski Vestnik in order to discuss theoretical issues. His request . . .

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“Alarm for ghosts—our apostasy or their nonsense”

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pp. 240-250

After the party split (1903), Sakŭzov wrote the “Alarm for ghosts,” elaborating on his positions, especially with respect to the issue of class struggle and class cooperation. A major point of contention between . . .

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12. Historical materialism not economic determinism

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pp. 251-256

In his Principles and delusions of the Bulgarian Social Democratic Party,182 P. Dzhidrov discussed the epistemological foundations of Marxism, answering to some of the principle accusations of the Narrows. Dzhidrov . . .

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13. The debate on private ownership

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pp. 257-260

The already strained relationship between the two fractions was increased by the debate on private ownership in 1902. It was triggered by Sakŭzov’s parliamentary declaration that the Social Democratic Party . . .

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14. The debate on party membership

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pp. 261-266

The wrangling for control over the party and the diverging notions of what social democracy ultimately stood for were manifested best in the debate on party membership. The debate could stand also as a holistic . . .

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15. The predicament of Bulgaria

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pp. 267-268

The practice of social democracy, as emphasized Dimitrov, was a progressive movement aiming at the realization of the end goal, a process in which every moment had its own weight and significance. The . . .

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16. Theory and practice

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pp. 269-272

A deeper and incessant preoccupation with theoretical problems remained at the core of Sakŭzov’s analysis of concrete Bulgarian circumstances. The dialectics and restraints of theory and practice consumed . . .

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17. How to make sense of broad socialism

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pp. 273-278

Tracing the different ideological layers and their eclectic amalgamation in the discourse of the adherents of Broad Socialism seems a much more fruitful exercise than simply verifying Sakŭzov’s revisionism. The . . .

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18. Rethinking Bulgarian politics

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pp. 279-300

The role of the left and more specifically the emergence of Broad socialism cannot be understood independently of the political system operating in Bulgaria. The issue of the democratic deficit remained a . . .

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V. Modernity without socialism soCialisM

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pp. 301-308

Admittedly, it is not wise to start a chapter with a pompous title. It does summarize, however, most concisely the principal argument of the Greek case study with respect to the two preceding ones on Serbia . . .

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1. Historiographical notes

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pp. 309-314

Historiography is the self-reflexive story of history. It goes without saying that the seminal experience that shaped the historiographies on socialism, and the modality of their representation in the three countries . . .

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2. Greek nationalism: the imaginary of superiority

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pp. 315-321

The formation of the political sphere in nineteenth-century Greece rests on a precarious, almost paradoxical combination. Whereas on the one hand the Greek state had a functional liberal constitutional system . . .

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3. Some particularities of greek socio-economic development

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pp. 321-327

Greek nationalism, however, did not draw its strength solely from an imaginary postulating the indisputable superiority of the Greek nation. It was nurtured both psychologically and materially by a world much . . .

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4. Intellectuals: the discrete temptation of submission

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pp. 328-351

If intellectuals were the principal disseminating agents of socialist ideology in the early Balkan socialist movement, the failure to translate socialism in political terms in Greece was not due to a shortage in the . . .

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5. The liberals: progress, expansion and order

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pp. 351-359

If one were to summarize Venizelos’ project in one sentence, Nipperday’s assessment of Bismarck that he was determined “to rule with the forces of modern society and not against them” seems to fall . . .

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6. The national schism: metamorphoses of political polarization

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pp. 360-366

The National Schism (Ethnikos dihasmos) was the particular political deformation that dominated Greek inter-war politics from 1915 to roughly 1936. Triggered initially as a consequence of the disagreement . . .

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7. “The promise of the impossible revolution" revolution”

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pp. 366-405

The failure of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) to develop into a considerable political factor in the inter-war period is a broadly acknowledged fact. Moreover, there is general consensus among scholars . . .


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1. Divergent paths towards modernity?

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pp. 407-413

The nineteenth century witnessed the introduction of diverse ideologies of mass representation such as liberalism, nationalism and socialism in the Balkan space suggesting a menu of new identities . . .

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2. Legitimacy and mass politics

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pp. 414-416

The legitimization of social order is an imperative function of political systems. Turning peasants into political and national subjects was the primary goal of liberalism in the Balkans. Generally, it could be argued . . .

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3. Socialism

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pp. 417-419

Socialism in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Balkans was bound to address the imbroglio between agrarian structures and modernization rather than the effects of an absent or weak . . .

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4. Politics and the state

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p. 420-420

If socialist intellectuals function as the salient actors in this narrative on Balkan modernity, the concealed yet pragmatically dominant actor of modernity in all three stories is the state. The Serbian Radicals . . .

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5. Legacies

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pp. 421-425

Legacies form part of the longue durée in history. They provide for continuity of traditions in time and space. Concluding the presentation on intellectuals and paradigms, it is worthwhile emphasizing that there . . .


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pp. 427-448


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pp. 449-456

Back cover

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p. 474-474

E-ISBN-13: 9786155211676
Print-ISBN-13: 9789639776388

Page Count: 474
Publication Year: 1920

Edition: 1st