Amy Chua's "World On Fire" (in re: Globalisation, Venezuela, Croatia, etc.)

Has anyone else read this book? I saw the author on C-Span, and it stoked my curiosity. A friend of mine barely escaped Indonesia alive a few years ago, and has told me much about the situation with the Chinese there, so I am familiar with this aspect of her book.

The reviews for it seem to be quite impressive, and I am on the verge of getting it for myself. However there are things from both the interview and the book reviews that I might take issue with.

  1. Her assertion that the current impasse in Venezuela is fundamentally “ethnic” or “racial” in nature. I am well aware of the huge chasms in many Latin American societies, and how the legacy of Spanish colonialsim plays a part. But I also had believed that Venezuela was a relatively open society, racially. Are her assertions that Hugo Chavez has introduced starkly racial politics true. And more broadly, does the Latin American elite truly fit any definition of a “market minority”?

  2. She also cited the Croats as a “market minority” in the former Yugoslavia. If I am not mistaken, it was the Slovene population that was far and away the wealthiest in the former Yugoslavia. The Croats were indeed economically better off than other groups such as the Bosnians and Montenegrins, but they their antagonism to the Serbs was, I believe, the classic tension between a large articulate majority with political aspirations, and a dominant political majority or plurality (the Serbs).

  3. The labelling of most of the principal “oligarchs” of Russia is rather explosive given the history of Russia and the common prejudices of the area. How true is this, and how is this topic dealt with…

And fundamentally, what do others think of her assertions, that rapid democratization and laissez faire neo-liberalism are hurting the developing world - not because of the familiar anti-globalization arguments - but because of the potential for out and out race war.

Serbs outnumber Croats roughly 2:1, so Croats weren’t a majority in Yugoslavia proper, only in Croatia. But I’m with you on the ‘articulate’ part! :wink:

The conflict between the Serbs and Croats (and their own component ‘tribes’) goes back to around 1054 AD, when the Roman Catholic/Eastern Orthodox Schism occured. (The EO has the gall to say that the RCC broke away from them? Preposterous, isn’t it!?) Since then, the Croats have been ‘Western European’ (although lately identifying with Central Europe), and Serbs have been ‘Eastern European’, whatever that means these days.

The War of Independence (Civil War, etc. Depends on what side you were on.) I think was not a good example of the troubles in the area, as far as the traditional animosities go. Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia wanted independence. It just so happened that they wanted it from the ruling Serbian majority. But the war itself, even though it brought to the surface old hatreds, wasn’t in and of itself started by them. Just a good ole’ faishoned ‘Hey! We want to vote and stuff!’ kind of thing.

Still, I may be mischaracterizing her point in the book, which I am tempted to grab. There isn’t much out there (in America, at least :)) concerning Croatia, so every book counts…

I suspect he meant to say a large articulate minority :).

If you’ll permit me to quibble :).

First I’d say the split of 1054 was rather more significant for Croatia than it was for Serbia. Serbia had been in the Byzantine orbit, including the administration of the Byzantine Patriarchate, since the late-9th century and the split scarcely affected them at all. By contrast Croatia had been under a divided ecclesiatical administration ( Byzantine on the coast, Rome in the interior ), that definitively shifted in favor of Rome after 1054. Also rather than aggravating tensions, this just seemed to confirm the general orientation of the two states ( such as they were at the time, Croatia being rather more independant and organized at that point ), which had always been a bit different - A difference which if anything seemed to minimize conflict.

Speaking to which, I have a semantic issue with calling Croatia ‘Western European’ at any time and in any sense. Not unless you consider all Catholic countries to be ‘Western European’ by default, which, considering the examples of Poland and Hungary, I’d tend to disagree with. I do think a case can be made for ‘Central European’ after the Hapsburg inheritance - Austo-Hungary was probably the definitive Central European state. But from 1102-1526 Croatia was submerged within Hungary ( as a separate crown, granted, but submerged all the same ) and Hungary was deeply interested in power politics in Eastern Europe ( in particular as it saw itself as a rival of Byzantium at various points and had close ties with neighboring Poland ) and Central Europe ( Bohemia and Austria ), considerably less so in the west ( the reign of the French house of Anjou notwithstanding ).

Still I get your point :slight_smile: - The two states, as I mentioned above, did look in different directions. Croatia ( while still fully independant ) west towards the coast and perhaps north a bit, while Serbia was fixated on Constantinople and consequently its expansionism was ( mostly - Bosnia being an exception ) southwards. However, again, this was not a cause of tension, but a reliever of the same. If you look at the medieval history of Serbia and Croatia, you’ll note that first they don’t overlap much as “major” kingdoms ( Serbia really moved out into prominence in the 12th century at the same time Croatia came under the Hungarian rule ) and what disputes they had were mostly mediated by clashes between Hungary and Serbia.

Any native antagonism I’d mostly chalk up to the demographic shifts under the Ottomans ( especially after the 1690’s when significant numbers of Serbs moved north into the the Krajina borderlands ), early 20th century Balkan nationalism, and post-Tito revival thereof.

But I do agree with your analysis that the various conflicts in the 1980’s and 90’s were far more political than they were tribal :).

  • Tamerlane

Oh and duh - WW II, which really lit the fire of ethnic Croat/Serb hatred. That’s probably by far the biggest sticking point.

  • Tamerlane

Eegad. Croatia is looking for history teachers; Mind if give them your name? :wink:

I meant to say “minority” though I was probably mentally confused because Croats are indeed the majority in Croatia (there was/is a Serb minority in the east there) but a large minority of the total former Yugoslav population.

And by “articulate” I meant there were many nationalist or independence minded Croatian writers, artists, and scolars from the Hapsburg days under Hungary right up to the present - who were always a thorn in the side of Pan-Yugoslavists like the old monarchy, or Tito.

My basic point is that I don’t believe Croats formed a national economic elite in Yugoslavia, as do the Chinese in the Philippines. Croatians formed a regional group - unless you can point to any evidence that Croat (or Slovene) businessmen dominated ther Serbian, Bosnian, Montenegrin, or Macedonian economies as well.