home > activities > research > croatia  

Research Project

introduction - research project - methodology - keywords - duration - research team

Contemporary Civilizational Changes and Development of Croatia


The systemic interpretation of culture brings us close to the thesis that global development is in reality the development of cultures and civilizations. The world system, as well as the relationships it creates, offers more than a framework for analyzing cultural development and change. It generates the global technological civilization, whose development is marked by the cultural matrices of production, social organization, and relationships. Being systems themselves, cultures preserve certain inalienable autonomy within the world system - the autonomy which the world system cannot absorb, but must tolerate. By opening communicational spaces, cultures incite the changes of values. Thus, they remain distinctive, constitutive elements of civilization, which is being created by the world system (I. Wallerstein, B. Hettne, G. Rist, L. Sklair).

Research Project

The project "Contemporary Civilizational Changes and Development of Croatia" starts from the realization that global civilizational changes are accelerating. Concepts such as mondialization, transnationalization and planetization reflect the processes of transformation in the world today.

Primary Objective

The objective of the project is to identify and interpret civilizational changes in the present-day world and their effects on processes of international integration/disintegration, particularly in the context of the integration processes in Europe, processes of restructuring in Central and Eastern Europe (decentralization, privatization in the field of culture), and the position of Croatia. How does cultural transformation affect both developed and developing countries and express itself as a crisis of cultural identity?

It is generally held that the very intensive and far-reaching changes since the l960s have been taking place in Europe - the continent of old cultures, rooted in strong traditions, and of nation-states formed in the l9th century. All spheres of life have been affected by change - it has swept through politics, the economy and culture. Our age has seen the emergence of a number of new countries, a crisis of the "nation-state" concept, and growing nationalism. While societies are searching for national and ethnic identity, the question of the European cultural identity has also arisen. In the rapid transformation that is now taking place, an identity crisis is inevitable. Can we expect a new project of society to emerge from such crises? On the continent that some scientists have described as "increasingly disorganized and ridden by growing inequality" (S. Latouche), new forms of cultural interaction and new values are emerging.

In Central and Eastern European countries in transition to decentralisation and market economy, the whole social structure has entered a period of uncertainty. The historic changes raised great hopes, but these countries soon began to have serious doubts, asking themselves whether this process opened the prospect of a different, authentic development for them, or whether it simply required that they should adjust to Western models (T.Szentes, E. Wallon). In all Central and East European countries changes are taking place in culture, but in different ways from country to country. Societies react differently, but there are also some common features: the role of the state in culture changes, new forms of support for culture appear, etc. (S. Gibson, B. Geremek, D. Ilczuk). The complex nature and historical uniqueness of the phenomenon of transition gives ample scope to social scientists and "designers of social living" for their projections; at the same time, however, the complex new problems that transition brings could all but paralyze any practical action.

Developing countries have for a long time been disappointed in their expectations of development. Yet, Africa, which had a "maldevelopment" (S.Amin), which has been "abandoned", "strangled", has survived and lives on the lowest gross national product in the world. Although the general situation does not warrant radical changes in culture, Africa has been manifesting its strength in many forms of art, in literature and the theatre. African countries are looking for new ways of integrating their own cultural values into international communication (T. Verhelst, G. Thill, A. Irele, E. Ayisi). Arab countries have also been looking for their own identity in the past decades: Islamic fundamentalism is the most typical illustration of "identity" movements today (F. Mansour, N. Safir). Is there something that could be described as an Arab way of development? Its cultures have created a strong cultural and religious identity, which has helped it preserve Arab authenticity and specificity, but it has also led to resistance to new ways of production in Arab countries. In some Asian countries a rapid change of cultural values has been taking place. As accelerated technological development caused the breakdown of traditional values, Asia has been trying to re-evaluate its strong traditions in contact with new production processes, which may pave the way for gradual cultural transformation (Gao Xian, B. Saraswati). Latin America has been the scene of "wandering modernity", the main cause of which has been rapid urbanization. Latin American cities are developing into mega-cities while culture presents itself mainly as mass urban culture with a heavy preponderance of audio-visual media and modern communication technologies (G. Solinis, R. Roncagliolo).

The USA is undergoing a structural crisis that affects the very definition of the American culture. As a country of immigration and minorities, the United States was seen in the fifties as a textbook example of "melting pot" assimilation and integration through diversity. However, the swelling numbers of Blacks and Hispanics and the pressure of migrants from Asia and Africa is changing American society. Japan also faces a crisis, especially a crisis in education; one aspect of the crisis is that young people are increasingly losing interest in models of economic growth and are much more concerned with establishing their own identity.

Second Objective

Do cultural policies - geared mainly towards the formulation of the objectives of cultural development - tend to ignore this crisis of identity? Therefore, the second project's objective is to establish the theoretical scientific bases of cultural policy, identify theoretical and applied models and redefine them from the perspective of cultural development. The study of cultural policies in the world, carried out in cooperation with UNESCO and a number of international research institutions, is in the forefront of contemporary research trends in the social sciences. In modern sociological science, the study of cultural policies, an area of public planning that most directly involves the objectives of national identity of society, now occupies the place previously occupied by studies of more limited social contexts or policies (O. Bennett, F. Bianchini, Au.Girard, C. Mercer, E. Harvey, R. Rizzardo, M. Quine, P. Bendixen). The research is focused on the general direction of cultural policy, agents and instruments of cultural policy (administration, financing, legislation), sectorial cultural policies, cultural industries, cultural development, and international cultural cooperation. During the last ten years, only some elements of cultural policies have remained in the standard framework (e.g., segments of legislation or sectorial cultural policies), while the most evident changes have occurred in the intensive development of cultural industries (Latin America), in the greater decentralisation of decision-making and coordination of cultural activities (particularly in European countries), in the strengthening of the private initiative (organisation, financing by sponsors and other diversified sources, e.g., in Asian countries), and in the efforts intensifying regional cooperation (in Africa, for instance, within the framework of SADC). Therefore, the problem of cultural policy now appears in a very different light than in earlier period; some of attempts suffer from failing to consider the developmental significance of culture and to recognize that new models of development should come from culture (D.P. Schafer).

Final Objective

The changes taking place within the overall civilizational context are largely determined by changes in communication/information technologies (S. Proulx, Ph. Breton, H. Frederick, H. Mowlana, Y. Mignot-Lefebvre, J. Robin). In what direction the world will develop, will depend largely on the role it will attribute to intercultural communication. Therefore, the project's final objective is to study development communication among cultures especially in the new Europe as part of the global dialogue, i.e. the role of networks in cultural change and development. In recent years, the interest in intercultural communication has found its expression in the spread of networks for cultural development and cooperation. Cultural life is being de-institutionalized and networks are playing an ever more important role in cultural development and communication at all levels: the local, regional, national, inter-regional, European and world level. Networks ensure inter-cultural communication relating to problems shared by all countries: cultural change, cultural identity and transnationalization processes (Cl. Neuschwander, M. Bassand, R. Weber). The establishment and development of cultural networks in the countries in transition, in which many old structures have collapsed and new ones are slow in emerging, is of particular importance, since thanks to their openness, flexibility and dynamism, cultural networks stimulate cooperation and partnership among individuals, groups and societies and make possible a dialogue of cultures. The analysis of networks in culture shows that there are some typological differences among them, which depend on the continent where they operate. The statement is of course conditional, in this stage of research. However, it seems that, for example, the United States does not have cultural networks in the strict sense of the word - networks in America are always linked with burning problems of our time, such as environmental problems or education. In Latin America, interest focuses on audio-visual problems, in Asia on books, reading and film; Africa has concentrated on the establishment of documentation centres in an effort to halt the erosion of traditional cultures. In Europe, most networks are concerned with research and education, in Canada with the national heritage and communication. It will be interesting to study the origin of these differences - could it be that priorities in cultural policies and in development in general influence the orientation of networks?

The expected results will be applied in defining the international aspects of Croatia's cultural identity.


The first stages of the project are devoted to a comparative analysis of case studies of development strategies and plans, as well as to a study of the documents and projects of the EU, OECD, organisations in the UN system (UNESCO), and the Council of Europe. Documents have also been collected from some networks for cultural development (Circle, Spafa, Network North-South etc.), especially from Culturelink, Network of Networks for Research and Cooperation in Cultural Development, from institutions engaged in cultural research, from mission reports, periodicals, and different other sources of information. For statistical and other data, direct use is made of the UNESCO Statistical Yearbook, Europa Year Book, World of Learning, Country Profile, Handbook of Cultural Affairs in Europe, etc. The methodology was developed for the design of an international questionnaire, followed by a survey in 150 countries and an analysis of the findings is under way. An international data base on civilizational changes in the world (cultural development, cultural policies, etc.) is being set up, and it already contains over 3,000 items. The establishment of this system is crucial for areas such as cultural and informational development and cooperation. The second stage of the project deals with the formulation of main conclusions, using analytical-synthetic procedures. Relying on a comparative method, international (especially European) elements of Croatia's position will be brought out, in particular those which its communication/information linkage with the rest of the world crucially depends on.


civilization, culture, change, cultural development, integration/disintegration, cultural identity, cultural policy, intercultural communication, civilization of networks

Scientific discipline

sociology, cultural studies, cultural policy studies

Duration of the Project


Research Team

Biserka Cvjetičanin, Ph.D. (Project Director), Sanjin Dragojević, M.A., Siniša Malešević, M.A., Žarko Paić, M.A., Zrinjka Peruško Čulek, M.A., Zoran Roca, Ph.D., Nada Švob-Đokić, Ph.D., Pavle Schramadei, B.A., Aleksandra Uzelac, B.A.

Contact person

Biserka Cvjetičanin, Ph.D., Scientific Researcher, Institute for International Relations, LJ. F. Vukotinovića 2, P.O.Box 3O3, l0000 Zagreb, Croatia, tel. (385 1) 4826 522, fax: (385 1) 4828 361, e-mail:biserka@mairmo.irmo.hr