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My paper explores, Lhrough lnLervlews and archlve maLerlal, Ceorge Soros and key acLors ln hls Cpen
SocleLy loundaLlons ln Lhe posL-?ugoslav space as ºflexlans", pushlng ºbeyond accepLed sLeps and
recognlzed rouLlnes" and performlng ºon Lhe edge, Lrylng ouL and lnvenLlng new paLLerns" (Wedel,
2009: 14). lor Wedel 'flexlans' and 'flex neLs' personallse bureaucracy, prlvaLlse lnformaLlon, and
[uggle roles and represenLaLlons Lo advance Lhelr !"# agendas, raLher Lhan Lhose of Lhelr
organlzaLlons. Pere, l am sLreLchlng her concepL Lo suggesL LhaL ln Lhls case sLudy Lhe dlsLlncLlon
beLween personal and organlsaLlonal agendas was by no means clear cuL. 1he prescrlpLlons,
pracLlces, and lnLervenLlons of Lhe Soros flexlans ln Lhe posL-?ugoslav space cannoL be reduced Lo a
slngle lmperaLlve or moLlvaLlon. lnsLead, Lhey generaLe, occupy and Lransform ºnew and emergenL
spaces of power" (newman, 2012: 8). ln mapplng ºLhe posslblllLy of spaces of agency and of pollLlcs"
(lbld: 134), l reconsLrucL Lhe sLory of Lhe Cpen SocleLy loundaLlons ln Lhe posL-?ugoslav space, golng
beyond Lhe reducLlonlsm of Soros as a harblnger of 'neo-llberal governmenLallLy' (CullhoL, 2007),
wlLhouL falllng lnLo haglography (SudeLlc, 2011). 1he sLory ls woven around Lhree plvoLal 'momenLs'
only Lhe flrsL of whlch l have Llme Lo address aL any lengLh ln Lhls presenLaLlon: Lhe break-up of
?ugoslavla and Lhe wars ln Lhe early 1990s, Lhe momenLous changes ln CroaLla and Serbla under (and
afLer) 1udman and Mllosevlc ln 1999-2000, and Lhe currenL confluence of ausLerlLy and new
movemenL acLlvlsm ln Lhe Luropean perlphery.
Crlglnally unconvlnced of Lhe need for an Cpen SocleLy loundaLlon ln ?ugoslavla, a number of
lnLellecLuals whom Soros meL ln Lhe laLe 1980s, changed hls mlnd (Soros, 2011a: 7). Son[a LlchL, Lhe
flrsL LxecuLlve ulrecLor, recalls ºSoros heard abouL me from Lhe people acLlve ln Lhe Pungarlan
loundaLlon because l worked a loL wlLh Lhe dlssldenL clrcles Lhere, and Lhls was Lhe way he was
recrulLlng people ln Lhose days.º LlchL helped form a 8oard drawn from each of Lhe lederal ?ugoslav
8epubllcs plus kosova. MosL were founders and leadlng members of %&'(, Lhe AssoclaLlon for a
?ugoslav uemocracLlc lnlLlaLlve. %&'(, formed ln early 1989, was a clLlzens' lnlLlaLlve, modelled on
anLl-pollLlcal dlssldenL grouplngs elsewhere ln LasLern Lurope, whose ManlfesLo had called for
"?ugoslavla's LransformaLlon lnLo a federal, democraLlc communlLy". %&'( comblned an anLl-pollLlcal
sLance, sLaylng ouL of Lhe formal pollLlcal arena wlLh ºan ellLlsL and deLached ouLlook LhaL could noL
resonaLe wlLh Lhe wlder ?ugoslav publlc" (Spaskovska, 2012: 33). %&'()* supporL for pollLlcal, lnLer-
eLhnlc and rellglous Lolerance, Lhough noL Lhelr, more or less sLrong, shared deslre Lo keep
?ugoslavla LogeLher, found a home ln Lhe Cpen SocleLy loundaLlons of Lhe successor sLaLes as ,Lhe
people LhaL were responslble for Lhese places (Lhe lederal 8epubllcs) on Lhe 8oard Look over Lhe
responslblllLy for esLabllshlng Lhe new foundaLlonsº ln Lhe lndependenL sLaLes.
Cne consLanL ls Lhe auLonomy whlch Soros gave Lo local loundaLlons:
ºLvery naLlonal foundaLlon ln Lhe neLwork had lLs local lnLegrlLy and lndependence. 1he
8oard declded whaL Lhe prlorlLles would be».
ln Lhe mldsL of war, Lhe loundaLlons began work ln 1992/3:
ºlL was very much happenlng on an +, -!. basls. ?ou [usL followed Lhe needs and you bullL
on good people, on people you LrusL. 1here was no way we could go Lhrough proper
procedures on hlrlng and so on.º
Soros lnLroduced a ,[azz-sLrucLureº mode of funcLlonlng, based on conslderable local lmprovlzaLlon,
seen as allowlng Lhe loundaLlon Lo escape from bureaucraLlzaLlon ln a rapldly changlng envlronmenL.
1hls comblnaLlon of auLonomy and flexlblllLy lmpacLed dlfferenLly ln dlfferenL loundaLlons. Many of
Lhe key acLors ln Lhe loundaLlons were closely lnvolved wlLh a number of oLher groups and
organlsaLlons, many escaplng slmple deflnlLlons as 'forelgn' or 'local', and sharlng a broad anLl-
naLlonallsL and human rlghLs orlenLaLlon. 1hese lnLerlocklng neLworks resemble Wedel's 'flex neLs' ln
Lerms of Lhelr form and perhaps effecLs, Lhough noL Lhelr moLlvaLlon.
WhllsL Lhe flex neLs Wedel dlscusses manlpulaLe and subverL normal convenLlons of accounLablllLy
and Lransparency preclsely ln order Lo furLher Lhelr lnLeresLs, Lhe loundaLlons faced huge dllemmas
around Lhese emergenL dlscurslve caLegorles.
As one lnformanL ln Serbla argued:
,lL was noL posslble Lo be LransparenL ln a normal way. 8uL somehow l Lhlnk Lhe mosL
lmporLanL proof LhaL we were dolng Lhlngs rlghL was LhaL we were never acused of flnanclal
wrong dolng. WhaL we also dld every year, we would buy a whole page ad ln /!01213+ on how
we spenL Lhe money. Cf course, lL was very dlfflculL Lo accounL for everyLhlng. 8anks (ln
Serbla) refused Lo work wlLh usº.
1he CroaLlan loundaLlon was accused of Lax evaslon aL Lhe end of 1996 afLer Lwo sLaff members
were sLopped aL Lhe Slovenlan-CroaLlan border and found Lo be ln possesslon of 60,000 uSu ln cash.
1he lrony of Lhe slLuaLlon ls well expressed by one lnformanL:
,So-called CroaLlan paLrloLs Look money ouL of Lhe counLry and we wenL abroad Lo geL
money Lo brlng ln Lo CroaLla. l remember ln a bank near Craz where l wenL a few Llmes Lo geL
money and once l was ln a llne wlLh Lhen Þrlme MlnlsLer MaLesa and from one bag he
deposlLed a loL of money and l Look a slmllar amounL back. And of course lL was a slLuaLlon
whlch was open Lo abuse. 8uL Lhe facL ls LhaL Lhe sLandards for accounLlng for expendlLure
were compleLely dlfferenL. lL would be llke l would say SLubbs wanLs Lo do research on Lhls
and LhaL. Pe needs 3,000 uSu and you would geL lL and you would slgn someLhlng. And loLs
of lnLellecLuals dld Lhls. And Lhey made research LhaL no one read, and LhaL was LhaL. We
were all one famlly and we all knew each oLher. l glve you, you glve me and so on. And as far
as l can esLlmaLe wlLh mosL people lL worked flne. All of lL was more or less wlLh people
glvlng Lhelr wordº.
An exLended neLwork of people ofLen made declslons on each oLhers' pro[ecLs ln ways whlch
someLlmes ran counLer concepLlons of open socleLy values. WhaL Soros' Cpen SocleLy loundaLlons
creaLed ln Lhe posL-?ugoslav space, ln a very shorL perlod of Llme, was a dlscurslve shlfL from
"reslsLance ls fuLlle" Lo "reslsLance can be well-funded". 1hls was parLlcularly apparenL ln Lerms of
so-called lndependenL prlnL and elecLronlc medla where Lhe sums lnvolved were slgnlflcanLly hlgher
Lhan Lhe sums - measured ln Lhe hundreds noL Lhousands of dollars - glven Lo academlcs for
aLLendlng conferences, buylng [ournals, publlshlng books and so on..
ln CroaLla, Lhe 1udman reglme and pro-reglme medla launched repeaLed aLLacks on Lhe CroaLlan
loundaLlon, accuslng Soros of lnLerferlng ln CroaLla's lnLernal affalrs. 1he llne Lo be drawn ls clear
from one 8oard Member's sLaLemenL LhaL ,Lhe loundaLlon has never been ln Lhe funcLlon of any
dally pollLlcs, buL raLher anLlclpaLed cerLaln Lhlngs and evenLs, and has always been aL Lhe forefronL
of change, especlally ln Lhe sphere of clvll socleLyº (Slnger, 2007: 41). Cf course, wlLhln 1udman's
world vlew, clvll socleLy, along wlLh lndependenL medla, was parL of an lnLernaLlonal consplracy Lo
undermlne CroaLlan soverelgnLy and sLaLehood and resusclLaLe some klnd of ?ugoslav federaLlon.
ln Serbla, open hosLlllLy Lowards Lhe loundaLlon began when Soros slgned a peLlLlon calllng for alr
sLrlkes agalnsL Serblan forces Lo end Lhe slege of Sara[evo. 1he loundaLlon was banned by Lhe
Mllosevlc reglme, Lhrough a ConsLlLuLlonal CourL declslon whlch revoked lLs reglsLraLlon, ln lebruary
1996. AfLer Son[a LlchL managed Lo arrange a meeLlng wlLh uS vlce presldenL Al Core ln !une 1996,
Lhe declslon Lo revoke Lhe loundaLlon's reglsLraLlon was reversed. SubsequenLly, Lhe Serblan
loundaLlon became much more expllclLly ldenLlfled wlLh growlng anLl-Mllosevlc proLesLs.
ls lL Lhe case LhaL Lhe loundaLlons supporLed ,auLhenLlc volces and lnlLlaLlves LhaL oLherwlse would
have been lefL ln Lhe darkº, securlng Lhe survlval of whaL one key player called ,a reslduum of
alLernaLlve culLure, publlcs and ldeologlesº. An alLernaLlve vlew was expresed by an lnformanL ln
8osnla-Perzegovlna, recrulLed preclsely Lo lnLroduce more managerlallsL pracLlces and flscal
dlsclpllne, LhaL Lhe 90s saw a focus on blg Lhemes whlch were ,very pollLlcalº a producL of ,Lhe flrsL
generaLlon of Lhe mosL well known leaders of clvll socleLyº who were a klnd of ,ex-?ugoslav,
nosLalglc, lefLlsL, u!ul grouplngº.
1he %&'( experlence ls slgnlflcanL more ln Lerms of a commlLmenL Lo an lnLellecLual and ellLe-drlven
democraLlsaLlon Lhan any flxed lefLlsL pollLlcs or ?ugo-nosLalgla. lndeed, 'lefLlsm' ls a raLher Lrlcky
flexlble slgnlfler LhroughouL Lhls perlod, and even before, ln laLe soclallsL ?ugoslavla. 1he lssue of
'?ugo nosLalgla' ls also raLher complex and served, agaln parLlcularly ln CroaLla, Lo be a label used Lo
deny cerLaln acLors pollLlcal credlblllLy LhroughouL Lhe 1990s. 1he LransformaLlon of Lhe ?ugoslav
loundaLlon lnLo naLlonal successor sLaLe loundaLlons relled on a neLwork of lnLellecLuals whose
acLlvlLes ln %&'( suggesLed LhaL Lhey had soughL Lo keep ?ugoslavla LogeLher, albelL ln a very changed
form. And yeL, by accepLlng roles ln Lhe new naLlonal loundaLlons Lhey were conLrlbuLlng Lo Lhe
leglLlmacy of Lhe new sLaLes, as well as Lo new forms of neLworked reglonallsm.
1he emergence of Lhe Cpen SocleLy loundaLlons colnclded wlLh Lhe creaLlon of posL-?ugoslav space
and new naLlon sLaLes, and Lhls ls suggesLlve of a more complex plcLure Lhan merely seelng Lhe
loundaLlons as reacLlve Lo new reglmes. lnsLead, Lhey can be seen as ma[or conLrlbuLors, deflners,
and redeflners of Lhe naLure of Lhose spaces ln an emerglng and unsLable dlscurslve, lnsLlLuLlonal and
pollLlcal envlronmenL. 8oLh Lhe new (naLlon-)sLaLes and Lhe loundaLlons were engaged ln 'boundary
work' ln Lhe sense of dellneaLlng Lhe naLure and llmlLs of ºquesLlons of power, knowledge, agency
and soclal sLrucLure". lL ls preclsely ln Lhose spaces LhaL Lhe Soros ºflexlans" flourlshed.
1he loundaLlons dellneaLed a space, aL one and Lhe same Llme, opposlLlonal and reslsLanL Lo, as well
as compllanL wlLh, hegemonlc pracLlces operaLlng aL dlverse scales. 1hey helped Lo lnsLlLuLlonallse a
klnd of flexlble publlc sphere whlch, ln lLs clalms Lo lnLellecLual superlorlLy, cosmopollLan senLlmenL
and profound anLl-naLlonallsm served Lo boLh deflne Lhe conLours of pollLlcal opposlLlon and reduce
lLs broader lmpacL and resonance. 1hls producLlon of dlfference, lnequallLy and auLhorlLy helped Lo
creaLe and susLaln ºnew assemblages of governance" (newman and Clarke, 2009: 63) and new
spaces of agency for Lhe flrsL wave of Cpen SocleLy 'flexlans', mlrrorlng, Lo an exLenL Lhe already
raLher flexlble plurallsL conLexL of laLe soclallsL ?ugoslavla.
My second momenL ls, acLually Lwo momenLs conflaLed lnLo one - namely, ln boLh CroaLla and
Serbla, Lhe loundaLlons were key 'lnLermesLlc' acLors, aL one and Lhe same Llme belng 'lnLernaLlonal',
parL of an lncreaslngly co-ordlnaLed group of forelgn donors worklng on 'democraLlsaLlon', and
'domesLlc' belng a hub for anLl-reglme lnLellecLuals some of whom played a key role ln Lhe very
groups creaLed wlLhln clvll socleLy Lo brlng abouL change and, lndeed, subsequenLly, parLlcularly ln
CroaLla, ln sLraLeglc parLnershlps wlLh Lhe new CovernmenL.
1he Lurn Lo 'pollcy', colncldlng as lL dld wlLh Lhe lnsLllllng of more ordered managerlallsL pracLlces,
expanded Lhe pollLlcal opporLunlLy sLrucLures for Lhe Cpen SocleLy 'flexlans'. Lmerglng 'Lhlnk Lanks'
performed pollcy work whlch has been wldely recognlsed Lo have been boLh maLerlally well
rewarded and generally lneffecLlve ln Lerms of real change. ln many ways Lhe loundaLlons were key
players ln a conLradlcLory 'lnLermesLlc modernlsaLlon' pro[ecL aL once emphaslslng Lhe
'backwardness' of Lhe reglon, or aL leasL lLs pollLlcal leadershlp, ln relaLlon Lo an lmaglned WesL and,
aL Lhe same Llme, argulng LhaL only domesLlc lnLellecLual ellLes could undersLand Lhe conLexL and
LranslaLe Lhe (unlversal) values of modernlLy lnLo locally or naLlonally lmplemenLable schemes.
1he Lhlrd 'momenL' whllsL, perhaps, noL represenLlng any klnd of 'flnal' conLradlcLlon, does pose
slgnlflcanL quesLlons abouL Lhe currenL and fuLure relaLlonshlp beLween Lhe loundaLlons and Lhe
'new lefL senslblllLy' of movemenLs agalnsL commodlflcaLlon, crony caplLallsm, Lhe eroslon of Lhe
rlghL Lo publlc space and 'neo-llberal' ausLerlLy pollLlcs (cf. SLubbs, 2012). 1he loundaLlons, and Lhe
new Cpen SocleLy lnlLlaLlve for Lurope, are Lasked wlLh solldarlLy wlLh Lhose on Lhe recelvlng end of
new ausLerlLy pollLlcs, supporL for lnnovaLlve soclal programmes for Lhe poor and vulnerable, and,
cruclally, engaglng wlLh new clvlc acLors and soclal movemenLs. 1hese movemenLs do much more
Lhan merely 'change Lhe geography', belng parL of an efforL Lo ºreLhlnk Lhe caLegorles used Lo explaln
Lhe soclal, pollLlcal and economlc slLuaLlon ln Lhe 8alkans" and beyond (PorvaL and SLlks, 2012). ln
one sense, Lhese movemenLs arLlculaLe a crlLlque of nCCs, granL glvers, and by exLenslon Lhe Cpen
SocleLy loundaLlons as, elLher, lrrelevanL, or parL of Lhe problem. Powever, Lhe flexlblllLy on boLh
sldes, Lhe lmposslblllLy of a 'pure' pollLlcs ouLslde of Lhe realms of culLure, educaLlon, governance,
and so on, and, noL unlmporLanLly, forms of maLerlal lnsecurlLy, suggesL LhaL new relaLlonshlps
beLween fundlng pracLlces and sLraLegles adopLed by emergenL soclal movemenLs wlll emerge ln Lhe
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