Neoliberalism Illustrated

Neoliberalism Illustrated: Privatisation in the Republic of Macedonia’s Tikveš Wine Region

Justin Michael Otten



This paper draws upon anthropological fieldwork carried out in 2010–11 in the Tikveš wine region of the Republic of Macedonia. Unlike most other countries of the former Eastern Bloc, Macedonia’s post-socialist transition was held off due to the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. The result is that a slower, more subtle shift has occurred there. But it has been one guided by neoliberal principles, thus significantly altering the livelihoods of the country’s inhabitants. My research in Tikveš illustrates the role privatization is playing in the region’s transition from government to private ownership and production, specifically in the wine growing business. Although the quality and selection of wine in Tikveš has improved, the lives of the independent grape growers and their families have not. Instead, the growers have been subject to the leverage of the winery owners—who have reduced and delayed payments to them—while a neoliberal government has taken a laissez-faire approach to market regulation. This photographic essay therefore focuses on how individuals in the region are both protesting and adapting to the change at hand, by staging protests and blocking main roads, and more so through rearranging their livelihoods and work. Indeed, grape growers have been left with a surplus of grapes and a dearth of income and certainty, inciting some to produce vast quantities of homemade rakija (brandy) while others replace, abandon, or sell their vineyards. New ways of bringing in income, such as selling one’s brandy, produce, or homemade goods, are also modes of survival. Yet many claim that is all they are doing, and “not living, just surviving.”

Keywords: Privatization, neoliberalism, post-socialist transition, wine, Macedonia

Download PDF – Otten 2013


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