Ronald Wintrobe

Ronald Wintrobe is Professor of Economics at the University of Western Ontario. He is the author of numerous articles in economics and political science journals, and is the author, editor or co-editor of 9 books, including The Political Economy of Dictatorship (Cambridge University Press 1998) and, most recently, Political Extremism and Rationality (Cambridge University Press 2001, co-edited with Albert Breton, Gianluigi Galeotti and Pierre Salmon). Currently, he is working on a book on the economics of group behaviour.

Papers Published in World Economics:

Slobodan Milosevic and the Fire of Nationalism

This paper is an economist’s attempt to understand the behaviour of dictators with special reference to the Milosevic regime in Serbia. The author focuses on nationalism, ethnic cleansing and war, especially the most recent war with NATO. The basic argument is simple. First, like any dictator, Milosevic needed support in order to survive in office. His provocative and warlike actions towards other groups are best understood, not as the latest round in a centuries-old tradition of ethnic fighting, but as the attempt of a competitive politician to survive in a situation where the old basis of power had collapsed. Second, in attempting to survive the wave of democratization that swept Eastern Europe after 1989, Milosevic played a wild card—the nationalist card. Nationalism can be wild because, under some circumstances, it is contagious. Especially when combined with the security dilemma, it can spread uncontrollably. Ethnic cleansing and war are seen in this light as neither deliberate, coldly planned strategies of brutal repression, nor the results of complete miscalculation, but the results of a process in which the leadership of the regime was reacting to events which it may have set in motion, but did not entirely control.

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