The research project “Resistance to Socio-Economic Changes in Western Balkan Societies” was regional in scope and it was jointly realized in 2012 and 2013 by the Centre for Empirical Cultural Studies of South-East Europe, Institute for Democracy “Societas Civilis” from Skopje, Center for Social Research “Analitika” from Sarajevo, and Social Research Kosova from Pristina.
The aim of the project was to identify, describe and to try to explain socio-economic changes occurring in the transitional period in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Kosovo -and resistance to these changes – from the standpoints of two theories of social development: recent modernization theories and theories of practice. On the one hand, we tried to understand socio-economic changes in the societies of the Western Balkans by observing and documenting simultaneous and conflicting processes of re-traditionalization, first and second modernization taking place in the region (Inga Tomić-Koludrović). On the other hand, we investigated these same changes in Western Balkan societies from the perspective of theories of practice, as exemplified in the works of Pierre Bourdieu, Ann Swidler or Theodor Schatzki.
Data were collected by conducting surveys and semi-structured interviews as well as analyzing secondary sources (mostly statistical data). In a survey we interviewed 1259 respondents in Serbia, 1256 respondents in Bosnia and Herzegovina and 800 respondents in Macedonia and in Kosovo each (in sum 4115 respondents). In addition to the standard socio-demographic variables, the questionnaires contained questions which gave us insight into four different groups of data.
Firstly, we collected the data about the resources/capitals available to respondents: their economic capital (average monthly income per family member and properties – house/apartment, weekend cottages, arable lands, cars); their social capital (whether they are members of political parties and/or charitable organisations; how big their social networks are; whether they have “connections and acquaintances” in public institutions; how many friends/acquaintances they can rely on in critical situations, etc.); and their cultural capital (the level of education of interviewees and their parents, ownership of cultural goods and products, characteristics of their cultural consumption). We also collected data about occupations, education, birthplaces/places of residence of interviewees and their ancestors (the span across three generations) in order to reconstruct their educational, occupational and territorial trajectories. On the basis of these data, we were able, using Multiple Correspondence Analysis, to reconstruct the social space of targeted societies and the field of lifestyles in them.
The second group of data reveals interviewees’ attitudes, values and beliefs related to issues of state, religion, nation, authority, family, gender roles, abortion, sexual orientation, environmental issues, political activism and issues of self-expression. These types of data are usually used in research aiming to establish the impact of modernization processes on people’s attitudes and values. The questionnaire included questions from the World Value Survey and European Value Survey, used by Roland Inglehart in his construction of the map of global cross-cultural variation. Thirdly, we recorded respondents’ evaluation of socio-economic changes: of the improvement/detriment of the overal social situation compared to the period of socialism; of the macro-processes of democratization, the introduction of the multi-party system, privatization of state possessions, and of their attitude to the Euro-integration of their countries. Finally, data were collected about the respondents’ practices in the public sphere in the past two decades: on whether they had voted at parliamentary, presidential and local elections, whether they had participated in peaceful protests, in strikes, whether they had volunteered for political parties or candidates, or for nongovernmental organizations, assisted with collecting funds for charities, intentially purchased or boycotted a particular product for political, ethical, or ecological reasons.
Just as in our previous studies, this study was characterized by a specific link between quantitative and qualitative research techniques. With the help of the software SPAD 7.3, we were able to locate characteristic individuals in social space, the field of cultural practices and the field of values and interview them. We conducted 140 interviews with survey respondents (40 in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina each, and 30 in Macedonia and Kosovo, respectively). The interviews had the form of narrating life histories and the interviewees were asked to talk about their experiences in the area of labour market, the area of education, health care, their marriage and friendship “strategies” and their experiences related to the religious sphere. Triangulation of the data collected from these sources (and statistical data from the secondary sources) made it possible to achieve exceptional insight into the transitional experiences of the citizens from Western Balkan societies, as well as into their attitudes, values, and beliefs.
This form of research is a true innovation, and not only in the Western Balkan region. At the same time, due to the wealth of the data collected, it became possible not only to test two contemporary theories of social development, but also to develop an entire range of social, political, economic and cultural analyses of a lesser scope, as well as to formulate practical policies in many different areas.
Within the project, the international conference “Lost in Transition – Citizens’ Engagement with Transitional Changes in Western Balkan Societies”, organized by the Institute for Democracy “Societas Civilis” and “Iustinianus Primus” Faculty of Law was held on July 6 and 7, 2013 at the premises of the Faculty of Law, Ss “Cyril and Methodius” University in Skopje. A book of proceedings from the conference, “A Life for Tomorrow – Social Transformations in South-East Europe”, is currently being prepared.
A highly significant role in the realization of the project was played by members of the wider project team – the project supervisors Eric Gordy from the UCL School of Slavonic and East-European Studies (UK) and Mihaela Popescu from California State University, San Bernardino (USA); as well as three colleagues from the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Zadar: Inga Tomić-Koludrović, Mirko Petrić and Ivan Puzek.
The results of the research will be made available in a comprehensive study in English which is in the process of preparation.