Date of Degree

9-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Anthropology

Advisor(s)

Katherine Verdery

Committee Members

Michael Blim

Setha Low

Jeff Maskovsky

Keith Brown

Subject Categories

Finance | Human Geography | Political Economy | Political Theory | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Urban Studies and Planning | Work, Economy and Organizations

Keywords

Ex-Yugoslavia, Balkans, Postsocialism, Eastern Europe, Financialization, Subjection

Abstract

On May 17, 2015, over 50,000 people took to the streets of Skopje, the capital of the Republic of Macedonia, protesting against Prime Minister Gruevski and his party, the conservative neoliberal Internal Revolutionary Organization of Macedonia (VMRO). After nine years of authoritarian government, it was the first significant demonstration in which the population demanded accountability for Gruevski's despotic system of rule. This dissertation is the story of how Gruevski's system of power was built and why it lasted for so long. I argue that a series of failing financial processes, which included the use of illiquidity, created the material and moral conditions for subjection to this system of power.

This dissertation is also a story of loss. It details how the VMRO regime monopolized the Macedonian market, forcing companies either to become its cronies or systematically lose money (that is, Macedonian denars), by accepting partial or no payment for the work they provided. But it also analyzes the capacity of such monetary illiquidity to redefine what it means to be a person in Macedonia. Citizens and workers who found their own social worth diminished by illiquidity were forced to adopt rent-seeking behaviors that over time transformed their social personhood. It is to this double aspect of subjection, material and existential, economic and political, that I dedicate the center stage in Losing Values.

Utilizing findings collected during 12 months of fieldwork in Skopje, Losing Values constitutes a bridge between classical studies in political anthropology and contemporary debates about finance as a process of subject formation. I see this intellectual work as an intervention into contemporary political debates. To date, we have many accounts of Eastern European countries' transitions from socialism, detailing the chaos that plagues the postsocialist condition. There is, however, very little scholarship about a second transition, which concerns the emergence of authoritarian politics at the fringe of Europe. Yet at this time of political turbulence, it is crucial to understand the combination of financial and non-financial techniques of governance that empower kleptocratic and neopatrimonial regimes. In Putin's Russia, financialization goes hand in hand with state control of the market; in Erdogan's Turkey, real estate bubbles go hand in hand with internal militarization. Presenting the case of Macedonia, Losing Values constitutes an insight into processes of value loss that connect financialization, its failure, and the peculiar resurgence of authoritarian politics in the region. More importantly, the research bridges the study of different areas, such as Mediterranean Europe, Western Europe, and Eastern Europe, promoting an integrated discussion of financialization at a critical point when the European process seems to have shifted from integration to peripheralization.

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