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15.02.2017 | Words by: Emma van Meyeren.

In his famous 1982 essay “War Making and State Making as Organized Crime”, sociologist Charles Tilly discusses the intrinsic ties between European state formation and war. In opposition to the idea that war is a state of exception, Tilly shows that war is always-already implied in the foundation of the European nation-state. Post second world war Europe shows war’s ties to peace through its creation of NATO, its shared military force. The violence implied in its state protection and formation became visible in its interference with the dissolution of Yugoslavia into seven nation states.

In 1999, while NATO carries out Operation Allied Force, Tijana Todorovic is a teenager living in Serbia. In a recent piece with Resident Advisor, she shared her memories of that time. From partying while the city was bombed to DJing in a country under sanctions — Tijana’s formation as a DJ is characterized by war/state formation. This includes the absence of most music-resources. While DJs in Western European countries have access to the latest releases, record stores and equipment, the majority of music still doesn’t come out in Belgrade. Meanwhile the Internet has provided a great resource for music access on a small budget, but the differences in access between Eastern and Western Europe are still considerable.

Tilly said the state is a racketeer, always either imagining or creating its own enemies. In his own words, “governments themselves commonly simulate, stimulate, or even fabricate threats of external war and since the repressive and extractive activities of governments often constitute the largest current threats to the livelihoods of their own citizens, many governments operate in essentially the same ways as racketeers.” Seeing our own governments as the biggest threat to peace, its constant perpetuation of war influences every aspect of life, including club culture. 

As is the case in Belgrade, where Tijana says “going out at weekends is still considered an obligation and not mere leisure, for many young people it's the only escape from total depression.” This cannot resonate more in the current crisis of states. While many European states are having elections in 2017 with far-right parties polling at all time highs, it is important to remember Tilly’s analysis of war as non-exception. As Flavia Dzodan explains perfectly in her take on the role of the right in European elections in 2017 here, the European far-right is not on the rise, it has always-already been here. Like Tilly, Dzodan reveals continuities not out of pedantic reasons to blame any one person for our situations. More likely, these discussions are genuine efforts to see the bigger picture, to understand how war and state are intertwined, and to prevent and/or heal from the escapism that comes with war’s depression.
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