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Struggle over Identity

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Nelly Bekus

Part I. Nation in Theory

Chapter 2. State and Nation

Texte intégral

  • 1 David McCrone, Sociology of Nationalism. Tomorrow’s Ancestors (London and New York: Routledge, 200 (...)
  • 2 John Breuilly, Nationalism and the State (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1983). Cited in (...)
  • 3 Anthony Giddens, The Nation-State and Violence (London: Routledge, 1985), 119.
  • 4 Giddens, The Nation-State and Violence, 121.
  • 5 Smith, Myths and Memories of the Nation, 7.
  • 6 Smith, Myths and Memories of the Nation, 102.
  • 7 Smith, Myths and Memories of the Nation, 102.

1The issue of the relations between the state and the nation is one of the most significant ones in the nation definition. According to Gellner, Hobsbawm, and Anderson, a “state” is practically a synonym of the nation and simultaneously the main objective and aspiration of the nationalists; the state is the basis of a nation and an instrument for its promoting and creating. As David McCrone noted, “So successfully have these two ideas (the ‘nation’ and the ‘state’) been grafted on to each other, that our vocabulary struggles to distinguish between them.”1 John Breuilly says that nationalism as a political force is an exclusively modern, and a firmly political argument and movement, which became a spurious solution to the alienation brought on by the split between the absolutist state and civil society.2 Anthony Giddens defines the nation as a “bordered power-container.” According to Giddens, a nation “only exists when a state has a unified administrative reach over the territory over which its sovereignty is claimed,”3 and a “nation-state” is “a set of institutional forms of governance maintaining and administrating monopoly over a territory with demarcated boundaries (borders), its rule being sanctioned by law and direct control of the means of internal and external violence.”4 It was not by accident that Smith characterizes the theories of Breuilly and Giddens as “narrowly defined, state-centered modernism […] which suffers from excessive emphasis on the role of political institutions, and is too dismissive of the legacies of pre-modern ethnic and cultural ties.”5 In Smith’s definition, a nation is inscribed into the cultural-historical context and may or may not have its own homeland or state.6 This is where nationalism differs from patriotism, which is directly connected with the state, because it is, as Smith defines it, “a sense of attachment to a country or state.”7 The reality in which the national unity is formed, refers to the level of symbolic culture, and in this sense the importance of the state is subsidiary and in no way predetermines the nation.

  • 8 Hans Kohn, The Idea of Nationalism. A Study in Its Origins and Background (New York: Macmillan, 19 (...)
  • 9 L. Greenfield, Nationalism. Five Roads to Modernity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992); (...)

2The state’s role in the nation formation has become a basis for distinction between the two types of nationalism, described by H. Kohn.8 He wrote about the Western and the Eastern types of nationalism. In Kohn’s description, the Western type of nationalism—which applied to such countries as England, France, the Netherlands, and Switzerland—was largely political and territorial, the nation coincided with the political territory governed by the state, and people were defined as citizens. The Eastern type of nationalism applies to Central and Eastern Europe and Asia, where the frontiers of the existing states and ethnic communities rarely coincided. An “Eastern” version of nationalism is organic and mystical, the nation here is seen as a seamless, organic unity with a mystical “soul” and “mission.” People here were defined as “the folk.” In the case of Western nationalism, the ideology of nationalism was largely a product of the middle classes who came to power in these states at the end of the eighteenth century. On the contrary, in the case of Eastern nationalism, there was no developed significant middle class, therefore a few intellectuals took a role of the major actors in nationalist movements. This typology underlies the distinction between the “civic” and the “ethnic” nationalism, which became a working typology of nationalism in the works of many authors.9

  • 10 Smith, National Identity, 81.
  • 11 Winderl, Nationalism, Nation and State, 48.
  • 12 Winderl, Nationalism, Nation and State, 48.
  • 13 Karen Dawisha and Bruce Parrot, Russia and the New States of Eurasia: The Politics of Upheaval (Ca (...)

3Civic nationalism defines nationhood in terms of citizenship and political participation. It can only exist within the context of a territorial state; it is the bond formed through the enterprise of statehood. The ethnic nationalism defines nationhood in terms of lineage. The attributes that members of an ethnically defined national grouping share include physical characteristics, culture, language, religion, and common ancestry. In Smith’s opinion, the distinction between the rational and the mystical (organic) types of nationalism is actually useful, though the idea of a precise division between them on a territorial base is rather arguable.10 The Eastern European nationalism does differ from its Western counterpart by nature of its higher degree of mixed settlement, and its lack of a perceived continuous political history. However, “there is not enough difference to speak of a particular Eastern European type of nationalism, which is profoundly different from the development in Western Europe.”11 This becomes especially obvious if we turn to the political practice of the late twentieth century, when the difference between the East European and West European versions of nation-building does not look so clear. Though ethnolinguistic sentiments have been re-emphasized in the West, territorially defined statehood became an alternative criterion for national identity in the East.12 This was particularly manifested after the disintegration of the Communist Bloc; only Baltic states, and—to a certain extent—the Balkan states, have chosen to base their citizenship mainly on ethnic criteria, while Russia, the Ukraine, and Belarus preferred a civil, territorial concept of citizenship.13 This means that the classical distinction between these two types of nationalism as principally Western and Eastern is, to a large extent, a matter of history and of genealogy of the nation. Meanwhile the topic of relations between the nation and the state has had a further development.

  • 14 Michael D. Kennedy and Ronald G. Suny, “Introduction” in Intellectuals and the Articulation of the (...)
  • 15 Etienne Balibar, “The Nation Form: History and Ideology” in Becoming National, ed. G. Eley and R. (...)
  • 16 Etienne Balibar, “The Nation Form: History and Ideology,” 137–38.

4On the one hand, “the nation as a representative of the people has become in the twentieth century the principal form of legitimation of the state.”14 On the other hand, the question what makes a nation a nation is still topical. As Etienne Balibar formulates it, the fundamental problem is “to produce a people. More exactly, it is to make the people produce itself continually as a national community. Or again, it is to produce the effect of unity by virtue of which the people will appear, in everyone’s eyes, ‘as a people,’ that is, as the basis and origin of political power.”15 In the overwhelming majority of theories, such a level of authority that bears the brunt of the production of the nation is the state, or to use Balibar’s term—a “nationalizing state.” In this scenario the state and the nation find themselves enclosed in a circle of interdependence. The nation is a source of legitimation of the state; simultaneously it is the state that makes the nation produce itself as a national community. To break out of this vicious circle is possible only through “practice,” as “a social formation only reproduces itself as a nation to the extent that through a network of apparatuses and daily practices, the individual is instituted as homo nationalis from cradle to grave.”16

  • 17 Rogers Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed. Nationhood and the Nationalism Question in the New Europe ( (...)
  • 18 Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed, 14.
  • 19 Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed, 10.
  • 20 Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed, 15.
  • 21 Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed, 16.
  • 22 Pierre Bourdieu, Language and Symbolic Power (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2005), 221.

5Special attention should be given to Brubaker’s ideas who in “National ism Reframed” (1996) writes about the role of the state and of the political institutions in nation formation, not in terms of its instrumental character and/or the function of historical unification, but in terms of it constituting a form of the nation’s reification. He rephrases the issue of a nation definition, “We should not ask ‘what is the nation?,’ but, rather: how is nationhood as a political and cultural form institutionalized within and among states. How does the nation work as practical category, as a classificatory scheme, as a cognitive frame?”17 In fact, he in equal measure disagrees with ethnosymbolists and modernists by proposing an alternative way of nation conceptualization, which consists of decoupling the study of nationhood and nationness from the study of nations as substantial entities, collectivities, and communities. In Brubaker’s opinion the objectivist ethnocultural theory of the nation that makes use of such objective characteristics as language, territory, religion, as well as the modernist and constructivist concepts that see the nation as something formed in the process of industrialization, increased communication all have the power of “substantialist approach.”18 He proposes an interpretation of the nation as bound up with social praxis. “Nation is a category of ‘practice,’ not (in the first instance) a category of analysis. To understand nationalism, we have to understand the practical uses of the category of nation, the ways it can come to structure perception, to inform thought and experience, to organize discourse and political action.”19 Understood in this manner, the nation is a result of “institutionalization.” From this perspective, nations result from the numerous social practices, fabricated with the help of electronic media, printed press, schools, popular culture, and so on. Brubaker, on the contrary, writes about “institutionalization as a symbolic reification as a means of nation implementation as a reality. Reification in his understanding is a “social process, not only an intellectual one.”20 It is central to the phenomenon of nationalism, namely through the process of social reification, that “the political fiction of the nation becomes momentarily yet powerfully realized in practice.”21 Brubaker develops the idea of symbolic reification of P. Bourdieu, although the latter wrote not about the nation, but about group-making reification in general. This symbolic dimension is central to the quasi-performative discourse of nationalist politicians who, at certain moments, can succeed in creating what it seems to presuppose—namely, the existence of nation as mobilized or mobilizing groups. Bourdieu describes struggle for ethnic or regional identity as a “struggle over the monopoly of the power to make people see and believe, to get them to know and recognize, to impose the legitimate definition of the divisions of the social world and, thereby, to make and unmake groups.”22 Social institutions are the level of authority in whose power there is a possibility of “knowledge installation” and means of self-perception, an authority in identity formation.

  • 23 Paul DiMaggio and Walter L. Powell, “Introduction,” in The New Institutionalism in Organizational (...)

6The approach to nationalism studies proposed by Brubaker fits the framework of “new institutionalism.” New institutionalism differs from the older sociological institutionalism by emphasizing not just the compulsive character of institutions, but the institutional constitution of both interests and actors.23 In other words, emphasis is given to the fact how a certain perception, including self-perception, appears under the impact of institutions, and how identity is formed in the process of institutional reification.

Notes

1 David McCrone, Sociology of Nationalism. Tomorrow’s Ancestors (London and New York: Routledge, 2000), 7.

2 John Breuilly, Nationalism and the State (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1983). Cited in Smith, Myths and Memories of the Nation, 7.

3 Anthony Giddens, The Nation-State and Violence (London: Routledge, 1985), 119.

4 Giddens, The Nation-State and Violence, 121.

5 Smith, Myths and Memories of the Nation, 7.

6 Smith, Myths and Memories of the Nation, 102.

7 Smith, Myths and Memories of the Nation, 102.

8 Hans Kohn, The Idea of Nationalism. A Study in Its Origins and Background (New York: Macmillan, 1946).

9 L. Greenfield, Nationalism. Five Roads to Modernity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992); Anthony Smith, The Ethnic Origins of Nations (Oxford: Blackwell 1986); Rogers Brubaker, Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 1992).

10 Smith, National Identity, 81.

11 Winderl, Nationalism, Nation and State, 48.

12 Winderl, Nationalism, Nation and State, 48.

13 Karen Dawisha and Bruce Parrot, Russia and the New States of Eurasia: The Politics of Upheaval (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 60–79.

14 Michael D. Kennedy and Ronald G. Suny, “Introduction” in Intellectuals and the Articulation of the Nation, ed. R. G. Suny and M. D. Kennedy (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2004), 1.

15 Etienne Balibar, “The Nation Form: History and Ideology” in Becoming National, ed. G. Eley and R. G. Suny (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 138.

16 Etienne Balibar, “The Nation Form: History and Ideology,” 137–38.

17 Rogers Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed. Nationhood and the Nationalism Question in the New Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 16.

18 Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed, 14.

19 Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed, 10.

20 Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed, 15.

21 Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed, 16.

22 Pierre Bourdieu, Language and Symbolic Power (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2005), 221.

23 Paul DiMaggio and Walter L. Powell, “Introduction,” in The New Institutionalism in Organizational Analysis, ed. W. Powell and P. DiMaggio (Chicago University of Chicago Press, 1991). 2–15. George M. Thomas et al., Institutional Structure: Constituting State, Society and the Individual (Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1987).

© Central European University Press, 2010

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