In This Review

The Social Construction of Man, the State, and War: Identity, Conflict, and Violence in the Former Yugoslavia
The Social Construction of Man, the State, and War: Identity, Conflict, and Violence in the Former Yugoslavia
By Franke Wilmer
Routledge, 2002, 368 pp

The reason that so many books have been written about the Yugoslav wars is not just the drama of a state disintegrating or of European history repeating itself. Rather, in their brutality, these wars offer discouraging proof of how undiminished the capacity for inhumanity remains -- the topic of Wilmer's book. Yugoslavia is not her area of expertise, although in her travels and reading she clearly has become expert; instead, she tries to explain why normal people become butchers -- and whether the possibility exists in us all. Although she uses the voices and experiences of Yugoslavs to give her exploration immediacy, she goes deep into psychoanalytical, feminist, constructivist, and international relations theories of identity, conflict, violence, and their larger embodiments: the state and war. This is a brave and humane intellectual enterprise because it addresses head on issues that others either ignore or handle with philosophical or literary flourish.