Socialist Yugoslavia and the Non-Aligned Movement: Political, Social, Cultural and Economic Imaginaries


The New South Institute (NSI) recently hosted a webinar to discuss the newly published book “Socialist Yugoslavia and the Non-Aligned Movement: Political, Social, Cultural and Economic Imaginaries“, edited by Paul Stubbs and published by McGill-Queen’s University Press in January this year. The event, part of the NSI’s Reading Club, was moderated by Jelena Vidojević, the Institute’s co-founder and director. Participants explored the book’s themes and delved into the complex historical and contemporary relevance of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

The book fills a gap in the scholarship on NAM’s impact on the post-Yugoslav space and traces the movement’s legacies. It also examines NAM’s role after the Cold War, when the movement lost its voice and left a void for countries of the Global South. The discussion addressed the confusion between non-alignment and passive neutrality, underlining the importance of conversations to bring clarity.

Paul Stubbs, the book’s editor, gave an overview of the publication and the themes it covers, including the study of global socialisms, alternative world-building and counter-hegemonic projects, and the cultural, artistic and architectural exchanges fostered by NAM. He also touched on the historical milestones of the movement, such as the complex relationship between the Bandung Conference of 1955 and the first non-aligned Conference in Belgrade in 1961.

The discussion touched on many issues, including the distinction between the NAM and other post-World War II world-building projects, the conservative or emancipatory nature of the movement, and the possibilities for alternative global frameworks today. Several participants highlighted the complex relationship between nation-state sovereignty, colonialism and imperialism in the context of the Non-Aligned Movement.

“The book is a critical appreciation of the non-alignment movement and of Socialist Yugoslavia, but it doesn’t treat it uncritically. The critical appreciation is aware of the contradictions and the tensions. […]  It deliberately promotes diverse multidisciplinary perspectives […]”

Paul Stubbs

In discussing the relevance of NAM today, the conversation touched on South-South cooperation, the applicability of non-aligned principles to current conflicts such as the Russia-Ukraine crisis, and the comparison of NAM with initiatives such as BRICS and China’s Belt Road Initiative. It was noted that the moral force that NAM relied on in the past is lacking in today’s world due to the different structure of global discourse and the way information circulates.

“I see the book as an instrument of critique, both of the non-alignment experience, but of the really existing world as well, because inevitably you’re pushed into making analogies. The anecdotes covering the actors make you nostalgic about the competences and professionalism that was recognized and part of the whole experience […] the analysis makes us intensively aware of the different voice that exists and the regression, at least in the political elites, in the formulation of projects, in the diagnosing of the present and in the creative responses […]”

Radmila Nakarada

In conclusion, the webinar provided a thought-provoking and insightful discussion of the complexities and legacies of the Non-Aligned Movement, as well as its relevance in today’s global context. The book offers a rich and multidisciplinary exploration of the NAM’s impact on socialist Yugoslavia and beyond, inviting readers to engage with these fascinating topics and deepen their understanding of this unique historical period.