Version classiqueVersion mobile
OpenEdition Books

Struggle over Identity

 | 
Nelly Bekus

Part I. Nation in Theory

Chapter 3. Nationalism, Capitalism, Liberalism: The East European Perspective

Texte intégral

  • 1 Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed, 17.
  • 2 Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780, 168.
  • 3 Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780, 167–68.

1The approach proposed by Brubaker enables to see the events of a new wave of nation-building in Eastern Europe in a different light. The national revival we observe in this region, Brubaker writes, “is not engendered by nations […] It is produced—or better, it is induced—by political fields of particular kinds […] And its dynamics are governed by the properties of political fields, not by the properties of collectivities.”1 In a similar manner, albeit from a different theoretical standpoint, Hobsbawm estimates the East European explosion of nationalism. He believes that the changes that took place during and after 1989 were essentially not the result of national tension but, rather, the result of the Soviet regime’s decision to reform itself. According to Hobsbawm, “nationalism was the beneficiary of these developments but not, in any serious sense, an important factor in bringing them about […] The growing deterioration of living conditions for ordinary citizens, the undermined faith in the all-Union government, made responsible for it and indeed encouraged or even imposed regional and local solutions to problem.”2 The national disintegration of the USSR and the events in post-socialist countries became the consequence of events in Moscow rather than their cause.3

  • 4 Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780, 163. However, in Hobsbawm’s opinion, the development (...)

2The developments related to the East European national revival in the late twentieth century have become a source of various contradictory interpretations. On the one hand, this issue is closely interlaced with the perception of the primary connection of nationalism with the capitalist formation (industrialization, modernization), as well as the connection of nationalism and democracy (as Hroch depicts it). On the other hand, it is linked with the issue of ideological contradictions between socialism and nationalism implanted in their competition for the primacy of the definition of an individual identity through the relation to a class or a nation. The discussion of the new wave of national revival against the background of “the end of socialism” revealed its debatable character or, at least, a prematurity of conclusions about “the decline of nationalism as a vector of historical change.”4

***

  • 5 “Reconstructing Nations and States,” Daedalus 122 (Summer 1993); Michael E. Brown, ed., Ethnic Con (...)
  • 6 Hroch, From National Movement to the Fully-Formed Nation, 89.
  • 7 Hroch, From National Movement to the Fully-Formed Nation, 92.
  • 8 Hroch, From National Movement to the Fully-Formed Nation, 90.

3The resurgence of nationalist sentiment in Eastern Europe since 1990 and the effect of this resurgence on the European political landscape is addressed in a number of works.5 For many authors transformations on the geopolitical map of Europe at the end of the twentieth century brought on by the disintegration of the USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, have become a new stage of national liberation. Hroch states that in Eastern Europe we face “new national movements” whose goals “offer many analogies with those of the nineteenth century, as well as some significant differences.”6 Such a repetitive national issue is a linguistic and ethnic demand. In the 1990s, like in 1920s, linguistic and cultural appeals act as “substitutes for articulated political demands.”7 Remarkably, one of the driving ideas of the national revival in post-communist countries, according to Hroch, is “building” capitalism. “The leaders of nationalist movements aim for a very specific goal: to complete the social structure of the nation by creating a capitalist class corresponding to that of Western states.”8 This statement confirms his strong commitment to the idea of capitalist society as an ideal “framework” for national development. Furthermore, it implies that the socialist system is at variance with such a development.

  • 9 Winderl, Nationalism, Nation and State, 49.
  • 10 Samuel Huntington, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century (Norman: Universi (...)
  • 11 Winderl, Nationalism, Nation and State, 48.
  • 12 Leslie Holmes, Post-Communism (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1997), 14–15.

4Thomas Winderl named this period “a third wave of nation-state building,”9 thus paraphrasing Samuel Huntington’s concept of a “third wave of democratization.”10 Foremost this refers to the states that have arisen on the political map of Europe. “Never before in the course of history has so much states building gone on in such a short period of time.”11 At the same time, nationalism has replaced communism not only in the countries that aspired to redesign their boundaries, but also in the states that remained within their old political framework. Some scholars consider nationalism to be a part of the symbolic capital that has become the basis for the processes of society’s systemic transformation. Thus, Leslie Holmes defines post-communism as a product of the double-rejective revolutions, which consisted of the rejection of the external domination and of the totalitarian political regime.12 In this sense, nationalism had the appearance of liberation struggle triggered by the dependence on another state and was one of the driving forces of the anti-communist movement that facilitated the collapse of the old system.

  • 13 J. Hall, “After the Vacuum: Post-Communism the Light of Tocqueville,” in Markets, States and Democ (...)
  • 14 Renata Salecl, “National Identity and Socialist Moral Majority,” in Becoming National, ed. G. Eley (...)
  • 15 Hroch, From National Movement to the Fully-Formed Nation, 96.

5A number of authors view the appeal of nationalism as a consequence of the ideological vacuum that has appeared with the destruction of the socialist system. Hall writes that nationalism provides a framework for new identities, which become needed with the loss of old references.13 Renata Salecl in her work devoted to the national identity in post-communist Slovenia writes that nationalism was claimed as a mechanism of alienation from the old ideological system of values. “The present outburst of nationalism in Eastern European socialist countries is a reaction to the fact that long years of (Communist) Party rule by destroying the traditional fabric of society, have dismantled most traditional points of social identification so that when people now attempt to distance themselves from the official ideological universe, the only positive reference point at their disposal is national identity.”14 Hroch writes about it in a similar fashion. In his opinion, nationalism enabled the peoples of Eastern Europe to manage the social disorientation that had arisen at the moment of the old system’s collapse. “The basic pre-condition of all national movements—yesterday and today—is a deep crisis of the old order, with the breakdown of its legitimacy, and of the values and sentiments that sustained it.”15 According to this perspective, nationalism has a certain therapeutic function and its outburst is connected to the demand for a new basis for shaping collective self-consciousness at the approach to a new democratic system. Such basis has led to a merger of democratization and nationalism in the perception of the transition processes in Eastern Europe.

  • 16 Greenfield, Nationalism. Five Roads to Modernity, 10.
  • 17 Frederick Hertz, Nationality in History and Politics. A Psychology and Sociology of National Senti (...)
  • 18 Ghia Nodia, “Natsionalism i demokratia,” Predely vlasti no. 4 (1994), http://old.russ.ru/antolog/p (...)

6Another reason for this alliance has become the ideological unity of democracy and nationalism in the historical perspective. The modern national state, like democracy, is based on the idea of equality and sovereignty of all citizens irrespective of the social status. Greenfield sees such arrangement as something primordial: “Democracy was born with the sense of nationality. […] Nationalism was the form in which democracy appeared in the world. […] Originally, nationalism developed democracy.”16 Frederick Hertz also underlines the meaning of the idea of equality within the framework of the nation, which comprises the basis of the national ideology. “An important factor in nationality is also the striving for a certain level of equality within nation. Equality is indispensable for unity and liberty and is implied in these aims. There cannot be any real unity and solidarity between masters and slaves, a highly privileged class and downtrodden serfs.”17 As Ghia Nodia writes, “nationalism is a melting pot of democratic (meaning: self-determining) political communities.”18

  • 19 Winderl, Nationalism, Nation and State, 41.
  • 20 A. Smith, “State-Making and Nation-Building,” in States in History, ed. J. Hall (Oxford and New Yo (...)

7Apart from the ideological bond, there is a functional connection between nationalism and democracy: a national state is the “locus” of democracy. Democratic politics were generally seen as an expression of inter play between forces operating within the nation-state.19 Smith emphasizes the importance of the available “national substrate” for democracy building, as “states, without ethnic cores will tend to resort to authoritarian regimes to mask the disunity consequent of the absence of ethnic identity and history.”20

  • 21 Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780, 110.
  • 22 Alexander J. Motyl, “The Modernity of Nationalism,” Journal of International Affairs 45, no. 2 (Wi (...)
  • 23 Motyl, “The Modernity of Nationalism,” 315.

8Hobsbawm sees the link between nationalism and democracy in the reverse dependence: it is not nationalism that is necessary for democratic system, but, on the contrary, the democratic design of society has created the conditions for the nationalism to acquire mass character. “The major political changes which turned a potential receptivity to national appeals into actual reception were the democratization of politics in a growing numbers of states.”21 The essence of this dependence is that the “nation” is the most comfortable formation that provides legitimation of democratic regimes as “they derive their legitimacy from the people and from their activity on behalf of people.”22 That is why national equality is in the interests of democratic political systems. As Alexander J. Motyl writes, “it would appear highly likely, if not inevitable, that in its appeals to the people, a democratic regime will either emphasize the national characteristics of that people, if it is ethnically homogeneous, or it will attempt to create more or less homogeneous characteristics if the people are ethnically heterogeneous. Legitimacy requires that a strong connection be established between government and ‘the’ people.”23

  • 24 Alexander J. Motyl, “Totalitarian Collapse, Imperial Disintegration, and the Rise of the Soviet We (...)

9The general logic in this interrelation of democracy and nationalism lies in the fact that a common awareness of belonging to a national unit seems to be a prerequisite for democratization. Precisely in this sense nationalism had to be conducive to democratization in the former socialist countries. The national identity, national tradition, and national front are specific agents of democratization, to which Motyl heralded a successful democratic career in the former socialist countries and Soviet republics. “In as much as national identity is rooted in a sense of national community, it automatically provides for a certain amount of societal cohesion. By the same token, national traditions—be they religious, political or exclusively cultural—can underpin the institutions of emergent civil society. Finally, national fronts, which enjoy widespread legitimacy in all the republics, can endow the political arena with stability, as well as generate some of the institutions that must come to populate it.”24

  • 25 George Schöpflin, “Nationalism and Ethnicity in Europe, East and West” in Nationalism and National (...)
  • 26 Anthony Smith, Myths and Memories of the Nation, 19.

10Some authors believe that not so much political functioning as the cultural-symbolical and the ethical potential is the reason for a new outburst of nationalism. George Schöpflin states that the appeal to the national ideology testifies to the fact that it fulfills certain functions that no other set of ideas, whether communism or democratic liberalism, is able to fulfill. In Schöpflin’s opinion, these functions are to be sought in the cultural origins of nationalism, rather than in its political expression. “Every community looks for its moral precepts—the definitions of right and wrong, pure and impure—in its storehouse of cultural values and seeks to defend these from challenges, whether real or perceived. […] Crucially, it is by the moral-cultural universe that communities define the bonds of loyalty and cohesiveness that hold it together. These bonds, in turn, create the bases of identity which are at the center of a community.”25 According to Schöpflin, nationalism essentially does not have so much a political nature, as a cultural one, and in such capacity it becomes the basis for social cohesion. Schöpflin’s stance is close to Smith, who believes that it is the “continuing power of myths, symbols and memories of ethnic chosenness, golden ages and historic homelands that has been largely responsible for the mass appeal of ethnic nationalism in the aftermath of the Cold war and the demise of the Soviet empire.”26

  • 27 Hertz, Nationality in History and Politics, 240.
  • 28 Schöpflin, “Nationalism and Ethnicity in Europe, East and West,” 53.
  • 29 Schöpflin, “Nationalism and Ethnicity in Europe, East and West,” 56.
  • 30 Charles A. Kupchan, “Introduction: Nationalism Resurgent,” in Nationalism and National i ties in t (...)

11From this point of view, the role of a mobilizing force of political liberation that nationalism has played in Eastern European countries is not an essential factor. As Frederick Hertz noted in 1951, “the demand for national self-determination is usually represented as one for liberty. Nevertheless national self-determination is by no means identical with political liberty. It does not necessarily imply a democratic regime, but merely freedom from foreign interference.”27 That is why, when political and national interests in Eastern and Central Europe begin to be perceived as mutually substituting we face a confusion of the social and the national orders. “Nationalism may be an excellent way of determining identity, but it has little or nothing to say about political participation. […] In this sense, the demands for autonomy expressed through nationalism—‘we should have the right to decide for ourselves because we are members of the Ruritanian nation’— […] an illustration of the confusion of codes to which Central and Eastern Europe is subject. Theoretically the demand for, say, freedom of the press or assembly cannot be derived from the ethnic aspect of nationhood, although in practice this may not be so clear.”28 In some cases elements of self-perception that claim a particular democratic virtue for the nation are inscribed into the content of national ideologies; however, these are rather conditional and are “in no way necessarily connected with the definition of nationhood.”29 Charles A. Kupchan writes about it in a similar fashion: “Nationalism itself says nothing about the distribution of political power among actors inside the nation-state. Thus, while nationalism can instill ideas that facilitate the functioning democracy, it can also serve as an ideological foundation for authoritarian regimes.”30

  • 31 Zdeněk Suda, “Liberalism in Central Europe after 1989,” in The Meaning of Liberalism: East and Wes (...)

12Zdeněk Suda concurs with Kupchan when he writes, “nationalism in East Central Europe, although it contributed significantly to the failure of both totalitarian attempts—fascist and communist—at securing regional domination, only unwittingly became an ally of democracy.”31 Moreover, referring to the historical experience of the East Central Europe Suda speaks about nationalism as a most dangerous rival of the liberal democratic current in the process of political modernization in this region in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This can be explained by the specificity of the political tasks of peoples in that region.

  • 32 Suda, “Liberalism in Central Europe after 1989,” 204.

Central Europe for a better part of the nineteenth century was busy shaping and defining its various national identities, which, in the absence of visible geo-political frameworks, was a frustrating full-time job for all the ethnic groups involved. The emancipation of the individual—liberalism’s primary concern—was given a low priority. Proof of the prevalence of interest in collective problems in this region is the peculiar notion of national freedom, understood as the independence and sovereignty of the state and altogether unconnected with individual freedom. Following this notion, it is conceivable to view as free any nation living within the borders of a state that is sovereign in the terms of international law, regardless of the type of political regime—absolutist, authoritarian, even totalitarian—to which its members are subject.32

  • 33 He understands national unity as a constellation where “a vast majority of citizens in a democracy (...)
  • 34 Schöpflin, “Nationalism and Ethnicity in Europe,” 53.
  • 35 See arguments in Patrick Dunleavy and Brendan O’Leary, Theories of the State: the Politics of Libe (...)

13It is worth mentioning here Dankwart Rustow’s view who wrote that national unity creates conditions for development of an authoritarian regime.33 As to the mobilizing force of nationalism in Eastern Europe, as George Schöpflin writes, the communist system not only did not destroy nationalist ideology, but, on the contrary, was largely conducive to its preservation. “By sweeping away all other competing ideas, programs and values, which allowed the communists to sustain their monopoly, they made it much easier for an undiluted nationalism referring solely to ethnicity to survive more or less intact, more or less in its original state.”34 He proceeds from the premise that in Western societies nationalism had existed together with a variety of other identities (class, economic interests, gender, religion, status, etc.), which in time invariably led to relativization of nationalist demands. Meanwhile in Eastern Europe, as a result of the ideological space cleansing there appeared a tendency “to see all matters as involving ethnic nationhood, whether properly related to nationhood or not.”35

Notes

1 Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed, 17.

2 Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780, 168.

3 Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780, 167–68.

4 Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780, 163. However, in Hobsbawm’s opinion, the developments in Eastern Europe do not disaffirm this thesis because “the explosive issues of 1988–92 were those created in 1918–21 and in equal measure they can serve as a final stage of the solution of old national questions” (164). Gellner writes that the national development was suspended in the conditions of socialism, and at the moment of the systems’ breakup these societies “resumed the development which had been frozen seventy (or, in some areas, forty) years earlier. Ernest Gellner, “The Coming of Nationalism and Its Interpretation: The Myths of Nation and Class,” in Mapping the Nation, 131.

5 “Reconstructing Nations and States,” Daedalus 122 (Summer 1993); Michael E. Brown, ed., Ethnic Conflict and International Security (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993); William Pfaff, The Wrath of Nations: Civilization and the Furies of Belonging: Journey into the New Nationalism (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1994); Misha Glenny, The Fall of Yugoslavia: The Third Balkan War (New York: Penguin, 1994). Charles A. Kupchan, ed., Nationalism and Nationalities in the New Europe (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1995).

6 Hroch, From National Movement to the Fully-Formed Nation, 89.

7 Hroch, From National Movement to the Fully-Formed Nation, 92.

8 Hroch, From National Movement to the Fully-Formed Nation, 90.

9 Winderl, Nationalism, Nation and State, 49.

10 Samuel Huntington, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991).

11 Winderl, Nationalism, Nation and State, 48.

12 Leslie Holmes, Post-Communism (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1997), 14–15.

13 J. Hall, “After the Vacuum: Post-Communism the Light of Tocqueville,” in Markets, States and Democracy, ed. B. Crawford (Boulder: Westview Press, 1995), 86–88.

14 Renata Salecl, “National Identity and Socialist Moral Majority,” in Becoming National, ed. G. Eley and R. G. Suny (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 418.

15 Hroch, From National Movement to the Fully-Formed Nation, 96.

16 Greenfield, Nationalism. Five Roads to Modernity, 10.

17 Frederick Hertz, Nationality in History and Politics. A Psychology and Sociology of National Sentiment and Nationalism (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1951), 21.

18 Ghia Nodia, “Natsionalism i demokratia,” Predely vlasti no. 4 (1994), http://old.russ.ru/antolog/predely/4/dem1-1.htm.

19 Winderl, Nationalism, Nation and State, 41.

20 A. Smith, “State-Making and Nation-Building,” in States in History, ed. J. Hall (Oxford and New York: Basil Blackwell, 1986), 263.

21 Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780, 110.

22 Alexander J. Motyl, “The Modernity of Nationalism,” Journal of International Affairs 45, no. 2 (Winter 1992): 315.

23 Motyl, “The Modernity of Nationalism,” 315.

24 Alexander J. Motyl, “Totalitarian Collapse, Imperial Disintegration, and the Rise of the Soviet West: Implication for the West,” in The Rise of Nations in the Soviet Union, ed. M. Mandelbaum (New York: Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1991), 52.

25 George Schöpflin, “Nationalism and Ethnicity in Europe, East and West” in Nationalism and Nationalities in the New Europe, ed. Ch. Kupchan (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1995), 55.

26 Anthony Smith, Myths and Memories of the Nation, 19.

27 Hertz, Nationality in History and Politics, 240.

28 Schöpflin, “Nationalism and Ethnicity in Europe, East and West,” 53.

29 Schöpflin, “Nationalism and Ethnicity in Europe, East and West,” 56.

30 Charles A. Kupchan, “Introduction: Nationalism Resurgent,” in Nationalism and National i ties in the New Europe, ed. Ch. A. Kupchan (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1995), 194.

31 Zdeněk Suda, “Liberalism in Central Europe after 1989,” in The Meaning of Liberalism: East and West, ed. Zdeněk Suda and Juři Musil, 202 (Budapest–New York: Central European University Press, 2000).

32 Suda, “Liberalism in Central Europe after 1989,” 204.

33 He understands national unity as a constellation where “a vast majority of citizens in a democracy-to-be […] have no doubt or mental reservations as to which political unity they belong.” D. Rustow, “Transition to Democracy: Toward a Dynamic Model,” Comparative Politics 69, no. 4 (1970): 337–63.

34 Schöpflin, “Nationalism and Ethnicity in Europe,” 53.

35 See arguments in Patrick Dunleavy and Brendan O’Leary, Theories of the State: the Politics of Liberal Democracy (London: Macmillan, 1987).

© Central European University Press, 2010

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540