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Milacic, Filip. “Stateness and democratic backsliding in the former Yugoslavia: How political actors subvert democracy in the name of the nation.” Nations and Nationalism (2022).


With respect to the relationship between the state and democracy, the scholarly research thus far has mainly oscillated between two perspectives: ‘no state, no democracy’ versus ‘no democracy, no state’. Using the example of former Yugoslav republics and based on Mill’s method of difference that is complemented with process tracing, we offer an alternative approach. We posit that a democracy can emerge within the context of unresolved matters of state and nation but it is unlikely that it will flourish. Furthermore, we argue that stateness problem creates conditions that facilitate democratic backsliding even if a country achieves a considerable level of democratic development: a fertile ground for ethno-political entrepreneurship and national identity-based political divisions that promote polarization. Accordingly, besides facilitating democratization, a resolved stateness problem should be regarded as a condition that fosters democratic resilience as well. The article contributes to a better understanding of the relationship between the state and democracy and reveals the mechanisms that are behind a successful subversion of democracy in the name of the nation.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.