Topic four

Lectures 9&10

Oct. 10-12                                              Nationalism

We study nationalism because it:

(1) Brings us to the sentiments of identity- such as national identity - and its meanings;

(2) Lays out the basis for the politics of nationalism as an ideology.

(3) Reveals the tensions inherent in preserving national identities while pursuing regional identities.

(4) Exposes the roots of anti-immigration xenophobia.

(5) Requires novel approaches to political organisation to address ethnic demands.


Nationalism is both a sentimental attachment among a people to a state, culture and territory as well as an ideology for political mobilisation around goals such as independence, military conquests, the unification of regions and ethnic groups, republicanism, racial and cultural distinctiveness and separatism.

Nationalism began as a sentimental identity of peoples with a common culture - language, religion, history - around the 16th century as the Holy Roman Empire=s domination of Europe began giving way to the rise of nation-states. But since the French Revolution  nationalism has also been used as an ideology promoting national and cultural superiority and competition between these nation-states.

The terms nation and ethnic share some resemblance. A nation might be made up of one ethnic group like in Japan (monoethnic) or there might be several ethnic groups within a nation (multi-ethnic) as when the British nation is made up of the English, Scots, Welsh and Irish. Nationalism refers to the feeling of oneness with the nation. Ethnic identification occurs where the feeling of oneness with a group similar in history, religion or language is different from or greater than a feeling of identification with a nation of many groups. A group might experience ethnic nationalism and wishes to break away from a nation of other ethnic groups to form its own nation.

The Origins of Nationalism.

(1) European transformations.

Nationalism arose as a consequence of the industrial and political transformations of Europe. In the area of economic transformation, the new capitalist division of labour required the integration of workers into a national economy for industrial production. As production and the market linked urban and rural areas and classes, national societies and national classes emerged. In the area of political transformation, the accompanying growth of national state administration required the creation of national armies and their mobilisation around the cause of the nation, and national control of the population for greater state planning, regulation and systems of taxation. In the area of cultural transformation, the growth of national systems of education and the spread of information were designed to achieve conformity of values and uniformity of loyalty. Academies, galleries, and museums gave people a sense of their common history and spread consciousness of a common mission.

(2) Ideas of nation and state.

But the idea of nationalism emerged in two different ways that still have politically relevant meanings and consequences. One was the idea of civic nationalism. The French revolution gave nationalism a meaning by which the state was superior to the nation. The French evolved the concept of the >one and indivisible nation,= integrated into and loyal to the state. (For example, in the Caribbean dependencies of Martinique, Guadeloupe and French Guyana, France was opposed to their independence, preferring that they remain within the framework of the French state in spite of the claim by their nationalists that they were different [ and Caribbean] nations).

What binds these different nationalities together is a system of law, standard procedures, and commonly held rights. Since most nations were and are multi-ethnic, only a common set of laws under a single state could hold the nation together. The emphasis was on the civic (such as law and rights) standards of society than on the ethnic composition.

When Napoleon invaded (the regions which were later to become) Germany, this brought a German response to the French concept of nationalism. The response was in the form of ethnic nationalism. In order to resist the French state and unite Germanic peoples, German intellectuals came to give greater importance to the nation (emphasizing the characteristics of the Germanic peoples) rather than to the state. German (Romantic) philosophers said the nation was superior to the state. Nations, they said, were older than states and it is the shared characteristic of nations - language, religion, customs and traditions - that gave them their emotional connections and passionate attachment to home. In this sense the philosophers romanticized the nation of the folk (Volk).

In this version, the nation is the source of highest authority. Ignatief gives the rationale: AThere is no other form of belonging - to your family, work, or friends - that is secure if you do not have the nation to protect you. This warrants sacrifice on the nation=s behalf.@ (1994:10). Consider for instance the Jews. Before 1948, they were a scattered nation throughout Europe. But their sense of belonging to a nation led them eventually to form their own state. The same is true for the Palestinians. Both nations are in conflict over a state of a common territory and capital of Jerusalem.

The political legacy.

Civic and ethnic nationalism have inspired different nations. The French, British and Americans probably follow the civic pattern. The German pattern has been stronger in Germany and Eastern Europe.

Civic nationalism holds that a nation should be comprised of all - regardless of race, colour, creed, gender, language or ethnicity. This was the message of the French revolutionary declaration of the Rights of Man. It is democratic because it rejects discrimination on any of the above grounds. Yet, Ignatief does not believe that industrial democracies have been true to civic democratic standards. He says, A European racism is a form of white ethnic nationalism - indeed it is a revolt against civic nationalism itself, against the very idea based on citizenship rather than ethnicity. The revolt is gaining ground in states like Britain, Italy, France, Germany, and Spain with ample, if varying, degrees of democratic experience.@ (p.8). There are the examples also of Northern Ireland and Canada where ethnic nationalism flourishes within states that are formally committed to civic democracy.

Ethnic nationalism has been most influential in Europe. It initially drove the Poles and the Baltic peoples to independence from Russian control, the Serbs from the Turkish Ottoman Empire, and the Croats from the Hapsburg Empire. After the Cold War this has led to new forms of ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia and even where these ethnic groups have won independence they have created ethnic democracies where countries like Serbia and Croatia have established ethnic majority domination. Eventually, it was the assassination by a Bosnian nationalist of the heir to the Austrian throne ( and his wife) in Sarajevo in 1914 that precipitated the First World War.

Croats see themselves as Catholic, European and Austro-Hungarian in origin and Serbs as (Christian) Orthodox, Byzantine and Slav. The problems in Yugoslavia testify to the strength of ethnic nationalism resisting a common state. Yugoslavia was a communist federation of six nations - Croats, Serbs, Slovenes, Macedonians, Bosnians and Montinegrins. It was held together after the Second World War by a communist centralised party system which allowed federal autonomy for the ethnic groups. After the cold war, the Serbians under Slobodan Milosevic fought wars to colonize the other ethnic groups to form a >Greater Serbia= and began driving the other ethnicities out of Serbia (ethnic cleansing) or inciting Serbians in the other regions to create trouble as a guise for Serbian military intervention.

German ethnic nationalism romanticized the German people as clean, pure and belonging to one community. It was always suspicious of other peoples - the French, the Slavs and Jews, for instance. It has feared the Slavs on its borders, historically considering them to be barbaric. The Slavic, communist revolution in Russia only added to those fears and set the stage for Hitler=s Nazi nationalism and the Second World War. 


Nationalism, modernisation, and democratisation.

When modernisation theory became popular from the 1950's, it argued that as societies became more modern, nationalism and ethnic loyalties would become less important. As people became more educated and aware of their common humanity, the sense of differences would weaken. As people became more urbanised and required to live together in towns and cities they would become more tolerant. As economies became more national and industrial, people would learn to cooperate as workers in common enterprises. Similarly, as countries became more democratic the ideas of equality and citizenship would replace categories of ethnicity and prejudice and issues of liberty, equal rights and economic growth would replace those of special rights, superior/inferior races and racial economic privileges associated with cultural pluralism. The prediction of modernisation and democratic theories was that industrial societies would gradually overcome the problems of ethnic differences and national jealousies.

However, societies around the world, including industrial societies have been witnessing a resurgence of nationalism and ethnic conflicts. The deep and historically embedded feelings of loyalty to ethnic identifications have proven more resilient than expected and less responsive to the supposedly cosmopolitan forces of modernisation and democracy. Ethnic feelings appear to have an independent life of their own rooted in cultural anthropology and psychology and not so dependent on the economic changes that go with modernisation or the political consciousness that accompanies democratisation.

Probably one answer lies in Samuel Huntington=s thesis about the >clash of civilizations=. Huntington (1993) argues that as the ideological conflicts between capitalism and communism recede with the ending of the Cold War, new lines of conflicts appear. These are civilisational lines of conflict that revolve around western and eastern civilizations or national groups and their cultures. Huntington had mainly in mind, an expected increase in conflict between western, Christian civilisation and eastern, Islamic civilisation. But his thesis would apply to ethnic groups and their cultural conflicts as well.

Huntington explains: AIt is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict ...will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations.@ (p.22).

Huntington might as well be talking about domestic conflicts as well and clashes within civilizations, such as those among westerners - Protestants and Catholics, French-speaking and English-speaking, descendants of the Hapsburg and Byzantine cultures, etc..Empire building, and the movement of refugees and other migrants have lodged peoples of different cultures, such as Muslims (in Bosnia for example) within the boundaries of European states ( caused by the penetration of Europe by the Islamic Ottoman empire); or boundaries have cut through ethnic groups separating them on two sides of a boundary (such as the Basques who exist on both sides of the French-Spanish border). This brings many conflicts to local levels and within the domestic sphere.

Huntington notes that many cultural differences are the product of centuries and will not soon disappear. He is more pessimistic than classical modernisation theorists about the results of people mixing and mingling. The latter felt that this would increase understanding and tolerance. Huntington believes this interaction of different peoples will only intensify awareness of differences between groups and the commonalities within groups.

Religion is a particularly deep source of conflict. As Huntington puts it: AA person can be half-French and half-Arab simultaneously, even a citizen of two countries. It is more difficult to be half-Catholic and half-Muslim.@ (p.27). Because of civilisational, and particularly religious differences people, Ahave different views on the relations between God and man, the individual and the group, the citizen and the state, parents and children, husband and wife, as well as differing views of the relative importance of rights and responsibilities, liberty, authority, equality and hierarchy.@ (p.25). 

When these differences are serious, it is difficult to see such people living together under the same laws.    

On the other hand Ignatief believes that it is historically rooted memories and fears of ethnic discrimination that is at the core of ethnic conflicts today rather than the cultural differences between ethnic groups. He claims:

A Northern Ireland=s is not an ethnic war, any more than the Serb-Croat or Ukrainian-Russian antagonisms are ethnic. In all three cases, essentially similar peoples, speaking the same or related languages, sharing the same form of life, differing in religions which few seem to practice, have been divided by the single fact that one has ruled over the other. It is the memory of domination in time past, or fear of domination in time future, not difference itself, which has turned conflicts into an unbreakable downward spiral of political violence.@ (216).

Ignatief is not convincing. If it is simply the fact that one group has ruled over another then Caribbean peoples, based on their historical memories of slavery - a particularly brutal form of rule - would be >cleansing= English, Spanish and French peoples from their islands rather than welcoming them as tourists.

Problems of nationalism and nationalities.


European civilisation might have been dominant over the previous three centuries but national rivalries have led to competition between European countries as different ones claim to best represent the core values of that civilisation.

Nationalist egotism.

Different industrial countries have historically competed to be seen as the core nation of western civilization, if not world civilisation. In this sense, nationalism has been used in the service of claims of cultural superiority. Industrial countries have been guilty of nationalist egotism. The >nation= is concieved, not merely as a biological race or a geographically defined population, but as a national personality that has created itself through history.

The British seek to preserve their distinctive British traditions. As an island nation, British traditions have been protected by a certain insularity. Today, there are political divisions between the Euro-sceptics mainly those supporting the Conservative party and the Tory tradition and the pro-European movement, mainly associated with the Labour party although these positions cannot be safely delineated along party lines. Britain sees itself as distinctly British with its own identity separate from a European identity. British society still holds a nostalgic view of the past which glorifies the nation.

The French tradition has also lies in a history that glorifies the French nation and French culture. Since the eighteenth century the French have considered themselves the core nation and civilisation of the western world, the inheritors of the Greek-Latin traditions, a universal culture in language, fashions, quality and taste and a culture to be protected from foreign influences.

The Germans concocted the idea of themselves as an Aryan race - pure and white and which was to be preserved from contamination such as from the Jewish race. This was the foundation of the Nazi ideology by which the Germans constituted a >master race=. This master race had the right to rule the world and the right to expel other races and even eliminate the impure and imperfect, such as the mentally retarded or otherwise handicapped persons from within its own race.

Ethnic imperialism and separatism.

Military virtues, industrial might, racial pride and the promotion of cultural superiority, all became the hallmarks of modern nationalism. But they also became the source of the nationalities problem which still beset Europe. Many European nations are in fact multiethnic nations. They were created by ethnic imperialism by which a majority or dominant ethnic group - the English, the French, the Dutch, the Germans, the Slavs (example, Russians) incorporated the regions of minor ethnic groups, usually by force, established their language and religion as the dominant cultures and both economic and political control discriminated in favour of the dominant ethnicities. Many political complexities can be explained by ethnic alliances.

Russia=s support for Serbia in the Balkan wars ( against Croatia and Bosnia) is based on the ethnic bonds between the dominant Slavic peoples who rule Russia and Yugoslavia. Today, the more extremist nationalist Russian ideology seeks to develop special relations between the Slavic majority in Russia and Slavic ethnic groups or countries in the former Soviet Union as the basis for an alliance that would restore Russia to world power status. Much of Russia=s regional and international politics in Eastern Europe can be explained this way.

In the United Kingdom, the English make up 83 per cent of the population and are accused of political domination, economic exploitation and cultural hegemony over the Welsh, Scottish and Irish. It is the traditional symbols of Britain - Monarchy and Protestant Church that keep the kingdom united. The problems in Northern Ireland have been costly ones. Ignatief explains:

AThe illusion that Britain is an island of stability in a world of troubles does not survive a day on the streets of Belfast. In reality there is more death by political violence in Great Britain than in any other liberal democracy in the world. Since 1969 there have been three thousand political killings and more than fifty thousand people have been seriously injured. More people have died, per capita, of political violence in Great Britain than in India, Nigeria, Israel, Sri Lanka, or Argentina, all nations which the British regard as more violent than their own.@ (217).

The French are similarly united around their dominant culture. But the nation feels threatened by Muslim immigrants whose religion with 3 million adherents make it the second largest religion in France next to Catholicism. Since the French revolution, nearly all regimes have suppressed regional and ethnic differences in the cause of uniformity. Yet, there is still ethnic pluralism. Nearly 35 percent of the people speak a regional language as well as French. Ethnic groups include Alsatians, Basques, Bretons, Catalans, Corsicans and Occitanians who preserve their folkways, customs and languages. Many Bretons and Corsicans favour more autonomy and smaller numbers favour complete independence, even using terrorism to press their claims.

Even the homogenous looking Canada is not so nationally uniform at all. About 25 per cent of Canadians are French-speaking and another 25 per cent are neither of French nor English background. About five per cent are Germans and between one and two per cent are of different European nationalities. Over 80 per cent of the population of Quebec is French and virtually all are Catholics while English-speaking Canadians are more likely to be Protestant. In about 1960, English-Canadians were earning about 50 per cent more than French-Canadians in Quebec although by the end of the 1970's the difference was about 15 percent, thanks to French-Canadian pressures. Unemployment in Quebec has consistently been higher than the national average. Quebec had for years been the least economically developed province with the poorest educational system.

The English-French cleavage in Canada goes back to the very beginnings of Canadian colonial history in 1760. (Quebec became a part of the Canadian confederation in 1867). Its most serious consequence has been a strong movement for complete independence. The separatist party in Quebec has received as much as 49 per cent in favour of separation in referendums although in national elections voters go against this. In Canada, the French identify Quebec as their nation and Canada as their state. The English identify with Canada as both their nation and their state.

Steiner (1995) points to similar cleavages in Europe. Belgium is made up of two major language groups - the French-speaking Walloons (in the region of Wallonia) and the Dutch-speaking Flemish (in the region of Flanders). Relations between them can be tense. Even the capital of Brussels is split between these two groups who contest the legitimate lines of ethnic practices in the city. For instance, Belgians might debate which language should be spoken in which post office. Brussels if officially regarded as a bilingual city.

Switzerland is even more complicated. The country has four official languages, each recognised by the constitution. The majority of over 60 per cent speak German. The other language groups are French, Italian and Romansh, a language unique to Switzerland. In addition, about 10 per cent of the population who are mainly foreigners speak a number of other languages. To add to the countries pluralistic culture, about 45 per cent of the population is Catholic and 40 per cent is Protestant. However, what saves Switzerland is that the religious and language differences cross-cut each other rather than overlap and reinforce each other. For instance, some German-speaking regions might be Catholic and others Protestant. The Swiss would not fight each other over religion therefore since they recognise and accept their similar racial attributes (as Germans in this case). All of this diversity is contained within a nation of only seven million people and this makes its major cities like Geneva and Zurich appear to be international cities.

The politics of nationalism.

The political consequences of nationalism are:

1. The growth of anti-immigrant xenophobia and the rise of right-wing ideologies based on neo-Nazi, white cultural supremist ideology, across the industrial countries. This has become a part of the >new right= ideology of the >new nationalism.= The new right objects particularly to immigrants and the provision of welfare benefits to >outsiders.= The National Front in France, led by the infamous Jean-Marie Le Pen, has been one of the most successful of the new right parties. It expresses the xenophobic fear of the French about immigrants. Part of its success lies in the mobilisation of opinion against the established parties and the traditional elites. He charges that the established parties are to be blamed for the problems of France. They are too soft, he says, in dealing with problems such as immigration. Immigration, the new right argues, is at the root of unemployment among Frenchmen because immigrants take away jobs and contribute to crime, drug use, and delinquency.

2. The growth of movements around ethnic nationalism seeking greater autonomy or even to secede and create there own state. Spain is faced with demands for greater regional autonomy, especially from the Basque population (some of whom live across the border in France). The Basque province has a cultural tradition distinct from the rest of Spain. Other provinces like Catalonia and Andulasia also want more autonomy. In Britain, the Irish Catholics (of Northern Ireland) are fighting for independence from Britain and although in Scotland and Wales the main demand is for more autonomy, smaller minorities want complete independence. In Italy too, different regions have different historical traditions, such as Naples. France has been one of the more centralised states of Europe, but there too, there is call for more local power in places like Brittany, Alsace and the island of Corsica.

The break-up of the former Soviet union has allowed old nationalities to revive their historical passions and set up their own states. This phenomenon means that Europe has come to have more states and smaller nations as well. For instance, Czechoslovakia was split into two between the Czechs and the Slovaks. The alternative to secession is for political structures which are too centralised to take on more federal-like features and allow more autonomy for ethnic groups. This in fact is what has been happening in countries like Italy, Spain and Belgium. The relative stability of Switzerland can be explained by its successful federalism.

3. Consociationalism: This is a formula proposed by the Dutch political scientist, Arend Lijphart. He argues that majoritarian democracy, where the majority rules, is unsuitable in countries with serious ethnic cleavages because it ensures that the majority ethnic group will dominate. Instead, there should be a consociational formula, one based on power sharing, where for instance, all the ethnic groups are guaranteed seats in the legislature by proportional representation, and their representatives are guaranteed positions in the Cabinet. The elites of the segmented cultural groups would cooperate to ensure that the rights of each group is protected. This is consociational democracy.

Lijphart built upon the findings of Almond and Verba in their studies of political culture. They found that Britain and the US had homogenous civic cultures while Germany and Italy had more fragmented political cultures and these led to political instability. Lijphart wanted to find out if there was a novel model of democracy that could provide stable democracy in countries with fragmented cultures.

Lijphart, in fact, did notice that some European countries - Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland - did have fragmented cultures but were politically stable. They were able to practice what Lijphart calls, the politics of accommodation. What is also important in Lijphart=s model is that there are leaders of the ethnic groups who recognise the potential from break-up and instability and who desire to prevent this. This means that the role of leaders or elites is very important. Does such a condition exist in Ireland. It appears that some power-sharing scheme is being attempted there between Catholics and Protestants.

The importance of power - sharing is not restricted to the governmental level. That is only the means to ensure that policies reflect the interests of the ethnic groups. For instance, language policy would be such that the rights of children to be educated in their own language is practiced; the rights of people to their own religious institutions and forms of worship in their region is accepted; the rights of people to their dress is recognised; universities have a policy where a quota system ensures that all ethnic minorities are given places. In short, regional institutions will be able to cater to the special needs of their ethnic population and national institutions would accommodate the needs of all members of the ethnic population.

In this way, democracy is managed to preserve a balance of interests among the groups. Competitive or majoritarian democracy would be unsuitable, if not dangerous, since the majority or economically dominant groups would have the advantage in competition and political power.  

Take the case of Yugoslavia. In 1990, 36 per cent of Yugoslavs were Serbs, 20 per cent Croats, 9 percent Muslims, 8 per cent Slovenes, 8 per cent Albanians, 6 per cent Macedonians, 3 per cent Montenegrins and 10 per cent were members of even smaller groups such as Hungarians and Turks. The leadership factor is very important in determining whether Yugoslavia is managed under one state or is fragmented into violent relations between ethnic regions. Under its communist leader, Tito, the country was held together by the discipline of the communist party which practiced a great degree of autonomy for different groups. However, the recently ousted leader, Milosevic, tried to force the ethnic groups to submit to Serbian power under his scheme of building a Greater Serbia. It is in the context that the country has been ravaged by wars. Milosevic clearly rejected a consociational scheme of power-sharing and instead tried to foist an authoritarian-majoritarian system of Serbian rule on all the ethnic groups.


Europe is a historical region. As the home of Roman Catholicism and the later Protestant reformation, religious cleavages remain strong on the continent. As the home of empire-building nations, its countries have come to host ethnic groups that have fallen within the boundaries of the national empires that were created on the continent. Neither capitalism nor democracy has satisfactorily provided the conditions that people feel are fundamental - that of identity. Economic wealth and political rights have not satisfied a deeply felt need for peoples to be allowed their cultural heritage.

Culture, in the forms of nationalism and political practice, is at the heart of much of the politics of these industrial societies. It challenges forms of democracy and forces countries to find more novel forms, possibly forms such as consociationalism. It challenges the concept of identity, whether people should identify with the state as the idea of civic nationalism suggests or with the nation, as the idea of ethnic nationalism proposes. Nationalism shows that the issue of national rights is still being worked out in industrial democracies. What ethnic nations should have what rights and how should those rights be protected? What rights should immigrant ethnic groups have relative to national groups? Violence is sometimes used, as in Northern Ireland, to settle some questions, or extremist new right ideologies develop to settle other questions. The politics of nationalism is a special challenge in the larger politics of industrial societies.

Fifth topic Political Culture

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