Relation between nationalism and capitalism – Tempo Project by Danilo Prnjat

Text by Šefik Šeki Tatlić

Translation in English by Danilo Prnjat, Marina Gržinić and Šefik Šeki Tatlić

Lecture text for Tempo project presentation


    Post–war period in former Yugoslavian republics is marked with two dominant social-political matrixes. Nationalism, which, through its form of fascism, has largely formed a nation as an ideological category, and capitalism which has primarily been installed by national ideologists as a reflection of banished communism and secondarily as a perfect mise en scene where newly formed ruling classes will give their power its legitimacy.


As such, the both discourses have created perfect dyad in which one reaffirms the other. According to neo liberal logic, as the one that basically promotes capitalism’s absoluteness in production of merchandise and necessities, nationalism is a symptom of capitalism’s current form that is seen as “untamed” and “unfinished, insufficient”, as the one that needs improvement into straight, pure capitalism. As the one that will, supposedly, allow conversion of national identity into sweet market product. It is a perception of those classes that are mostly involved into immaterial labor, production departments that produces information, analysis and social links, and even forms of life. It is agents/journalists industry for public relations, analysts of all kind, young successful lawyers, fancy management private school trainees and the like. All of those who detest nationalism’s archaic discourse just from aesthetic aspect, those who hate syntagme of “hearth” but regularly allow CNN on one side and MTV on the other to form their opinion. Therefore, it is a discourse which only resents rustic aesthetic of nationalism, its idiotic rhetoric and showing form, but not its idealized dimension.


According to nationalistic logic, which is fascistic in case of Balkan countries, there is too much of capitalism and it isn’t good to be either more or less of it. Capitalism is seen as an euphemism for ultra-liberalism i.e. as a system that can be adjusted, thing about which even European fascists like French Sarkozy mourn lately. Or, as Terry Eagleton says- fascism dreams about capitalism which is endlessly dynamic and absolutely governed- with vital and spontaneous forces, but that is at the same time eternal and invariable like death itself (Eagleton 2006:57). In that case, capital like liberalism indispensably imposes whole spectrum of liberal inherencies such as right to abortion, right to same sex marriage, homosexuals adopting children etc. As fascist sees it, like all those society organization concepts that will, as manifestation of possibility for different society organization, threaten not just mythology of “blood and soil” but the very sense that subjectivity in fascism consumes as its meaning.


In such manner, Croatia’s (Zagreb’s) Cardinal Josip Bozanić has recently stated that nowadays “Marital loyalty is replaced with marital infidelity, family union sturdiness with divorcement lawsuits, and youth purity, so divine and beautiful, with floundering in dirt of passion”; unnamed Bosnian Moslem priest preaches that “gays do not belong to Bosniac (Bosnian Moslems) vision”, and representatives of Serbian nationalists still make plans to revenge on Turks, Vatican, Germans and Masons, not to forget perfidious gay lobbies. It is the mythology that will not stop “unethical” behavior, but the one that will rationalize it, and doing so, it will at the same time keep in power those the most sophisticated in rationalization of that unethical demeanour. Therefore, to do the same thing that so called free capital market does.


Chapter 1

As it is known, on January 2008, shortly before announced declaration and international recognition of Kosovo by EU, circumstances in Serbia were tense in terms of expecting reactions on Kosovian independence. Since Slovenia was chairman of EU at the time, response in Serbia manifested, among the rest, in attacks and tip-offs of set up bombs in trade centers in Slovenian ownership.

In such situation, project Tempo involved false tip-off (08/02/08) of set up bomb in supermarket (Tempo) in Serbian entrepreneur ownership. Then ensued period from 17th January to 8th May 2008. with, according to Project’s press, 114 false set up bomb tip-offs in institutions such as courts, schools, hospitals etc. As author of the project indicates, “one can assume that the project contributed to public judicial focus subversion from foreign affairs problem to problem of national politics’ ideological aspect.”


Ideological aspect of national politics occurs in the following context that refers to former Yugoslavia. On one side, there is capitalism as an ultimate immoderateness whether in response to or in production of variety of consumptions aspirations and demands. On the other side, there is nationalism as manifestation of comprehension made of galimatias, religious, archaic, traditional, ethnic interpretation of social with emphasis on its rightist political formation. If we determine that “Ideological aspect of national politics” doesn’t derive JUST from nationalistic ideology, but from market ideology that government’s sovereignty necessarily submits to market laws as well, then Project Tempo doesn’t updates only the problem of leading but also existence of external politics and politics in general in such country.


Nonexistence of politics is one of the basic capitalism manifestations with neo-liberal presage, not in sense of political institution nonexistence (and there are too many of them) but politics in context that would articulate social as political potential, that would after all give to that social some other meaning apart from consuming.

According to Etienne Balibar[1], paraphrasing Marx, hegemony of national form through history appears only in form of unequal development that makes it ruling or inferior structure, depending on place and circumstances.


Hence, nationalistic discourse is trying to present itself in reply to “unequal development”, as a condition in which it would fulfill consumers’ emptiness and cast discrimination with its “values,” that would response to western culture “sterility” with “national” representatives’ installation, reinventing politics that would be entirely national, pre-modern.

As an example, one of the most read journals in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Oslobodjenje, 09/16/08., brings the news with title “Sloba’s (Slobodan Milošević’s) oligarch in center of Sarajevo boost by canton government” that cite “ In the middle of Sarajevo and some 20 meters from the spot where, during the aggression on Bosnia and Herzegovina, chetnic grenade massacred  citizens who had waited for bread (…) trading firm MEXX operates. And it wouldn’t be disputable if one of the mediators wasn’t owner of Delta Miroslav Mišković, Serbian oligarch and economy advisor of Slobodan Milošević”. This might have been an interesting story if Oslobodjenje comes on from the different position and not from the position of its owner that is also an oligarch who sees Delta as competition. Or, in Croatia- where on national television we can see unreserved turbo-folk fascist Thompson on whose concert in Zagreb town center thousands of people shout “ Kill a Serb”- there is a debate on should (Serbian) Television Pink be allowed to enter Croatian market.  Not because TV Pink is turbo-folk hotch-potch, but because it is Serbian turbo-folk hotch-potch. And in Serbia, nationalistic discourse reacts against Kosovo recognition, reacting against Slovenian capital, seeing it as “someone’s” capital that will demolish “Serbian national core”, and it doesn’t see capital as a cannibal who will eat everything, no matter what is the ethno background.

All these examples illustrate how nationalism and capitalism complement one another. Project Tempo in that case updates an issue of national politics’ ideological aspect and also an issue of ideological aspect of liberal democracy market domination that will try, by using national, to rationalize brutality of capital.


Giorgio Agamben says, paraphrasing, the norm is applied to an exception by not being applied, but by moving away from the exception.[2] So, the norm, in form of declared democratic inherency (equality, right to live, work…) is being suspended. It is not being applied because neoliberal capitalism justifies discrimination in class sense by national interest – while at the same time nationalist/chauvinist discrimination of the “other” is being justified by “early stage” in applying of neoliberal capitalism. The system puts it self as external to it self because it integrates (internalizes) the ‘excess” (the outer political stance and/or discriminated one) by emancipating it in way in which it persuades the “outer” and-or discriminated element that obscenity of democracy, capitalism, is in fact it’s norm. After that, every emancipated subjectivity can rationalize discrimination over it self, whether in nationalistic or in market sense, by saying to it self that such an obscenity is a norm, the way things should be. That results in an attempt of emancipated subjectivity to, either become bigger chauvinist or a bigger capitalist. Contribution to externalization of the system, to its move away from the minimum of democratic norm is fascism, a sentiment that accepts obscenity as a norm.


Chapter 2

As author of Tempo Project in the following cites, “goal of the project was to demonstrate that central problem to which country is confronted- problem of Kosovo- is actually a problem of nationalism determined by inner politics and it isn’t a question of foreign politics as Serbian public is encouraged to believe through media mechanism.”


Although inner politic is more determined by nationalism then vice versa, placing this issue in foreign politics’ context by Serbian regime is nothing more than rationalization of crazy politics conditioned by national. Extreme situation in which Project Tempo occurred- announcement of Kosovo recognition- is a condition that was largely created by nationalistic politics that didn’t, not only in Serbia, led to any national prosperity, but apart from war, inflation, famine, bombing and criminal led  right into capital’s domination. Namely, even if nationalistic politics is absolutely prevailing in Serbia that hasn’t stopped its representatives after taking dominant position to create conditions for further private colonization of nation’s strategic resources and/or accepting more or less liberal capitalism as ultimate society system.

In fact, in former Yugoslavia there isn’t one nationalistic discourse spokesman who would questioned capitalism as such, but only those who criticize its supra-national character that is, metaphorically speaking, equally bizarre as situation in which George Bush would criticize Castro for free health insurance on Cuba.


Capitalism, with its principal of absoluteness (production and response to variety of demands and aspirations) provokes national mythology that will legitimate itself with fake reply to capitalistic “sins” while capitalism will legitimate cast inequality as post-ideological category denouncing social as political and making it an ideological category.


Strategy of such a system produces a certain individual reflex of the emancipated subjectivity. In this context, primal problem does not lie with the archaic pipe player from the Balkan mountains who calls for ethnic cleansing, but the problem lies with the emancipated subjectivity. The one who, by re-affirming systemic suspension of the norm, legitimates the obscenity as a norm. As an example, while commenting Obama’s election victory, the president of Croatian Helsinki Committee, Ivo Banac said, among other things that Obama in fact is not black. (!?!)

Banac said, “…it should be said that Obama definately is not a classic example of Afro-American. His father is African, and his mother is a Caucasian while his academic knowledge certainly tells he had much more possibilities in life then the majority of African Americans in USA.”[3] This degut ant statement by acclaimed intellectual who is not ashamed of “counting blood cells” publicly, not only that negates minimal potential of application of the norm of democracy (racial equality), but, in a perverting way presents the basic norm as an illusion in which a black man as a black man cannot get to a position of political power. It is the example of wider public argumentation that by putting it self in critical position towards the system in fact legitimates what is most garbled in the system.   


As it is further noted in Tempo project’s elaboration, “connecting supermarket as capitalistic formation and relevance of Kosovo elevated into an issue of the biggest national interest, project Tempo updates meaning of nationalism and its purely material determination in Serbia”.

If we distort averment’s order in this hypothesis, one can say that project Tempo also updates an issue of supermarket, as a substitute for reduced symbolic potential of Kosovo, that is in some bizarre rotation maybe promoted into shrine, giving it religious, therefore ultimate symbolic connotation. For example, doesn’t in Belgrade, on Slavija, on McDonald’s wall since 1989. stand sign board that says something like “here was first McDonald’s in Serbia opened” or something like that, as it is a shrine from 12th century. As Ettiene Balibar says, “national form is type of social formation, the way that economic and ideological structures are combined. Therefore, it is, above all, model of interrelation between government’s administrative and symbolic roles.”[4] On the other hand, when symbolic role of the government, gets overloaded with nationalistic perception of religious, result in absolute profanation of religious, then administrative roles turn blasphemous into religious. Given example could be annunciated possibility to posthumously canonize vaudeville singer Toše Proeski, while Pope John Paul II was trying to demeanor like Bono Vox.


To put aside recognition of religious as an institutional religious, previous claim works better if “religious” is seen as a synonym of holy in terms of basic human dignity holiness.

Has there been, in latest history of Southeast Europe, period when human dignity has been more violated than during the period when nationalism gave the power to institutional religious majors? Or, when was administration more dehumanized? What can administration in Southeast European countries do besides fulfilling obligations of over-national capitalistic formation administration like EU i.e. making market for capitalistic domination more flexible? In Croatia, EU forbids the country to protect Adriatic from Italian utilization, in Bosnia and Herzegovina citizen surveillance start up is proclaimed to be a progress in level of achieved democracy, and in Serbia reduction of national discourse influence in principle is acquired as one of the main requirements for admittance to EU, not for humanitarian reasons but to ensure domination of capitalistic.


Chapter 3

Implication of this claims should also be looked for in context that is mentioned in the projects description where stands that “Tempo updates an issue of nationalism’s meaning and its purely material determination in Serbia”. Instead of nationalism’s material determination point, question that should be asked is a question of spiritual determination of capitalism.

For instance, in a movie Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) has an associate who rents Louis Vuitton handbags for a period of couple of days and dreams about the day she could afford one for herself. Her definition of “successes” is not an ambition to build a career or to get rich but to develop a life style. Not only that material object is made sacral, but life is made profane if life style isn’t chic, fancy medium for object promotion. Life itself is in that case manifestation of new production relation, biopolitics. Biopolitics, according to Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt, is a dominant form of contemporary production, that creates immaterial goods such as idea, knowledge, communication forms and social relations.[5] In such immaterial work, as they continue to cite, production “flows over” boundaries of traditionally recognized economy and directly includes culture, society and politics. What we get as a product, in Negri/Hardt’s opinion, in that case aren’t just material goods but current social bonds and forms of life as well.[6] In that manner, spiritual dimension of the capital becomes the culture as its ideology. In that circumstances, Louis Vutton, Jimmy Choo, Manolo Blahnik, Bvlgari are getting sacral meaning, life style becomes substitution for life, and politics is replaced with culture. And that is the culture that accepts liberal capitalism as irreplaceable post ideological system which is ultimate paradigm of freedom, justice and equality.

When project Tempo leads to 114 false signals to national institutions that have nothing to do with trade centers and Slovenians, it is response to everyday problems where from the same institutions service can expect only those who can pay for it. Even though as probably negative tropism, reflex reacting to source of situation, this reaction as such is still a reaction caused by unsatisfactory life of most people and very satisfying of minority. And as such it puts an issue of universality of freedom, justice and equality in liberal democracy syntagm.


In that context, project Tempo, by provoking ideological aspect of nationalistic, tends to provoke ideological aspect of capitalistic.

According to Jacques Ranciere, paraphrasing, the only equality that bourgeoisies recognizes is levelness in trading that lies in harsh and shameless exploitation, in fundamental inequality of relation between service of labour “supplier” and “client” who buys his “labour force”.[7]


Project Tempo provokes connection between capitalism and nationalism within criteria where it designate suffering as common name for all those who haven’t integrated, not in nation or capital, but in its obscene relation.

Therefore, neoliberal capitalism rationalizes it self through integration of excess into it’s obscenity, presenting obscenity and suspension of the norm  as a norm.

Paraphrasing Rancier, if “bourgeoisie” is replaced by other subject, by “democratic man”, we get transformation of exploitation kingdom into kingdom of equality where democratic gets equated with “exchanging sameness” of merchandise supplier. Revised Marx’s text states that human rights equality enounces “equality” of exploitation relationship that is ideal of democratic man’s fulfilled vision.[8]

Observing from this perspective, Tempo in certain way makes democratic man incommodious                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     in sense that reduces him to an object whose options are narrowed down  to choosing between level of nationalist’s radicalism or supermarket products assortment.

Basically, it is the same meaningless choice that democratic man, in former Yugoslavian republics, has at parliamentary elections, while choosing between nationalists and capitalists (disguised into various social-democratic forms), between symbolic safety in herd or existential uncertainty in market.  In that manner Project Tempo makes the link between capitalism and nationalism. After all, those are relationship coordinates between the country in transition and the master, the West, as an euphemism for liberal democracy, hence for so called absolute freedom. System that finds “solution for Balcanic crises” in reduction of nationalism to the measure that will allow integration of ex-Yugoslavian republics into free market, and yet doesn’t want complete unmasking of chauvinistic national because nationalism perfectly withholds “politization” of social in sense in which it would present nationalistic and neoliberal discourse both as totalitarian. Totalitarian because one of neoliberal capitalism’s primal obscenities, market fundamentalism is presented as most sacred component of democracy.













[1] Balibar, Etienne, Mi, Građani Evrope  (Beogradski krug, Beograd, 2003.) originally published as Nous, citoyens d’Europe? Les frontiers, l’Etat, le people (Paris: Éditions la Decouverte, 2001).



[2] Agamben, Giorgio – Homo Sacer / Suverena moć i goli život (Multimedijalni institut Hrvatska / Past:Forward edicija) pg. 20. Originnaly published as Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer. Il potere sovrano e la nuda vita, Giulio Einaudi, Torino, 1995.


[4] Balibar, Etienne, Mi, Građani Evrope  (Beogradski krug, Beograd, 2003.) originally published as Nous, citoyens d’Europe? Les frontiers, l’Etat, le people (Paris: Éditions la Decouverte, 2001).


[5] Michael Hardt / Antonio Negri, Multitude, War and Democracy in the Age of Empire, Hamish Hamilton/Penguin Books, London, 2005. Pg. 94


[6] Ibid.

[7] Jacques Ranciere, Mržnja demokracije (Naklada Ljevak, Zagreb, 2008. Pg.28) Originally published as Jacques Ranciere – La Haine de la Democratie (La Fabrique, 2005. Published by arrangement with Literary Agency  “Agence de l’Est”)


[8] ibid.

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