Flex Actors and Philanthropy in (Post-)Conflict Arenas: Soros’ Open Society Foundations in the Post-Yugoslav Space

Paul Stubbs ; The Institute of Economics, Zagreb, Croatia

Fulltext: pdf (295 KB), English, Pages 114 – 138

This paper explores, through interviews and archive material, key actors in
George Soros’ Open Society Foundations in the post-Yugoslav space as “flex
actors” or “flexians” who generate, occupy and transform new emergent spaces
of power, advancing their own personal agendas as much, if not more,
than organisational agendas. The focus is on three pivotal ‘moments’: the
break-up of Yugoslavia and the wars in the early 1990s; the changes in Croatia
and Serbia after Tuđman and Milošević in 1999-2000; and the current confluence
of austerity and new movement activism in the European periphery. The
Soros “flexians” acted as key definers of conflict and post-conflict spaces
in emerging and unstable discursive, institutional and political environments,
with their claims to intellectual superiority, cosmopolitan sentiment and profound
anti-nationalism serving to both define the contours of political opposition
and reduce its broader resonance and impact. Later, a turn to ‘policy’
actually expanded the political opportunity structures for these “flexians” who
often became key players in a contradictory ‘modernisation’ project emphasising
the ‘backwardness’ of the region, or at least its political leadership, in
relation to an imagined West and, at the same time, arguing that only domestic
intellectual elites such as themselves could translate the values of modernity
into implementable schemes. In the current ‘moment’, “flex actors” in the
Foundations are negotiating new and complex relationships with movements
against commodification, crony capitalism, the erosion of the right to public
space and ‘neo-liberal’ austerity politics.

Flex Actors; Soros; Post-Yugoslav Space; Post-Conflict; Philanthropy