The Shape of Populism
Serbia before the Dissolution of Yugoslavia
Explores how elites help form constructed notions of “the people,” using the case study of socialist Serbia in the late 1980s.
The Shape of Populism examines socialist Serbia, then part of Yugoslavia, which in the late 1980s witnessed popular mobilization and an emergence of a populist discourse that both constructed and celebrated “the people.” Author Marko Grdešić uses quantitative and qualitative analyses to show how “the people” emerge in the public sphere. This book examines over 300 protests and analyzes them in conjunction with elite events such as party sessions. It examines over 1,600 letters-to-the-editor and political cartoons to reveal the populist construction of “the people.” Grdešić also relies on interviews with participants in populist rallies in the late 1980s to examine the long-term legacies of populism.
“Marko Grdešić offers an intuitive and refreshing treatment of populism as a fractal phenomenon of elite-mass interaction. His vivid analysis of anti-bureaucratic mobilization in 1988 Serbia is an exciting contribution that illustrates the great potential in bringing together political sociology and populism studies. Political scientists and social movement scholars alike will benefit from the methodological innovations and the analytical considerations in The Shape of Populism, even if they do not share its pessimistic tone.”
—Paris Aslandis, Yale University
“This is the first comprehensive sociological analysis of the 1980s ‘anti-bureaucratic revolution’ populist movement in Serbia. Grdešić successfully combines quantitative and qualitative research models with theoretical analysis. The book stands out in terms of its analytical subtlety and its empirical richness. I highly recommend this work.”
—Siniša Malešević, University College, Dublin
“Outlines a creative new approach to the study of populism, yielding new insights in a crowded field. The fact that the author offers an original, empirically-grounded argument despite these odds makes it well worth publication.”
—Erin K. Jenne, Central European University
“The Shape of Populism is an extremely important contribution to our understanding of the mass mobilizations in Serbia in the late 1980s. Drawing on contemporary evidence on the construction of the concept of “the people,” on the preexisting notions of that concept, and on the perceptions and experiences of people who took part, Grdešić provides a deeper understanding of the political processes in the period leading up to the wars of the 1990s. This book gives a better understanding of the general phenomenon of populism that acknowledges the role of elites, while at the same time recognizing the agency of those who participate in such movements.”
—Chip Gagnon, Ithaca College
Praise / Awards
"Grdešic cracks open connections between these fields, demonstrates ways to borrow between the respective literatures to bring the state of the art forward, and further hone the ‘populist methodological toolkit’."
—Südosteuropa. Journal for Politics and Society
"Marko Grdešic tackles the increasingly relevant, uniquely polarizing, and yet widely misunderstood topic of populism. Rather than offering a wholly theoretical discussion of populism, which usually graces the pages of current academic scholarship, Grdešic takes a refreshingly more pragmatic approach to unearthing how populism operates within a real-life context as both discourse and mode of mobilization."
-Southeastern Europe Review
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