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Globalization and Nationalism

Natalie Sabanadze

Chapter 6. Globalization and Nationalism: the Relationship Revisited

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  • 1 Anthony Giddens (1994) Beyond Left and Right: The Future of Radical Politics, Cambridge: Polity Pr (...)

1What is the link between globalization and nationalism? This question has puzzled many observers and generated numerous arguments that dominated the debate at various stages in recent history. It is possible to single out two distinct approaches to this question. One which sees nations and nationalisms as losers of history, as a passed stage in the development of mankind which is about to disappear and give way to other structures more suitable for the increasing global interconnectedness of the planet; and another, which posits nationalism as the most potent and enduring political force that—far from disappearing—is gaining strength in response to challenges of globalization. Both approaches, despite many differences, share a common understanding of the nature of the relationship between globalization and nationalism. The two are fundamentally opposed to one another and therefore destined for the relationship of resistance and confrontation. In the first case, nationalism is expected to lose out and eventually leave the center stage to other supranational alternatives as required by the logic of globalization. In the second case, nationalism is not only expected to persist but also increase and intensify in response to and in opposition to forces of globalization. Thus according to Anthony Giddens, “the revival of local nationalisms, and an accentuating of local identities, are directly bound up with globalizing influences, to which they stand in opposition.”1 I would argue that neither of the approaches presents a complete picture of the complex web of links and interconnections that exist between globalization and nationalism. As the two case studies have demonstrated nationalizing and globalizing forces can be complementary rather than contradictory with nationalist actors accepting, embracing, and even promoting globalization for various, often nationalist objectives. Their coexistence is not a battle in which only one is destined to emerge as the winner and the other as a loser—it is rather a mutually beneficial coexistence of two perfectly compatible tendencies. This chapter explores why such, at first sight counterintuitive, relationships are possible and what its practical and normative implications are.

  • 2 Eric Hobsbawm (1992) Nations and Nationalism Since 1780, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. (...)
  • 3 Ibid., p. 190.

2In the often-cited remark by Eric Hobsbawm, the owl of Minerva is now circling around nations and nationalism.2 In his view the heyday of nationalism has passed and its strength, power, and relevance is not the same as it was in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Given evidence to the contrary, there is a tendency to caricature this view as Marxist wishful thinking about the terminal decline of nations and nationalism. Hobsbawm’s argument has more subtlety, however. He does not regard the nation as a universal, permanent and unchanging social entity. Like Gellner, he sees the nation as belonging only to one particular historic period in which modern, territorial nation-states emerged. It is only with the decline of nation-states “as an operational entity” that decline of nations and nationalisms can be expected. Hobsbawm does not doubt that people will maintain their group identities, of which nationality is one expression. Neither does he doubt that national history and culture will continue to form an important part of educational systems across the world. He doubts whether cultural and emotional value is enough for sustaining nations and nationalism in the long run once their political relevance linked to the state declines. The idea of “the nation,” in the words of Hobsbawm, “once extracted, like the mollusc, from the apparently hard shell of the ‘nation-state,’ emerges in distinctly wobbly shape.”3 The strength of this analysis is that it identifies the political core of nationalism and underscores its particular relevance in the context of the existing international system. The flaw is that it somewhat downplays the instrumental and emotional power of nationalism both for the rulers and the ruled respectively. Its vision of the inevitable transformation of the nation-state system by global processes also reads as far-fetched and premature.

  • 4 Anthony Smith (1991) National Identity, London: Penguin, p. 74.
  • 5 Yael Tamir (1993) Liberal Nationalism, Princeton: Princeton University Press, p. xiii.

3Hobsbawm is not alone in believing that the nation-state was entering a period of deep crisis. Most of the scholars today, however, would argue that nations and nationalisms are likely to persist irrespective of what happens to the state. Moreover, they would argue that nationalism would only intensify as states face the growing challenge of globalization. According to Anthony Smith, nations have deep roots, they are based on pre-political, cultural, and ethnic identities and their social, psychological, and moral significance sustain their power and explains their persistence. In this view, nationalism emerges primarily as a cultural doctrine, which seeks to preserve and promote identity, culture, and autonomy of a nation. In the words of Smith, nationalism is “a political ideology with a cultural doctrine at its center.”4 Similarly, Yael Tamir argued that at the core of nationalism lies rather a cultural than a political claim. In her view, “national movements are motivated by a desire to assure the existence and flourishing of a particular community, to preserve its culture, tradition, and language, rather than merely to seize state power.”5 It is precisely the preservation of culture and identity that emerges as the prime objective of contemporary nationalism in the accounts of nationalism and globalization. This leads to the perception of nationalism as a force resisting and mounting a backlash against globalization and against threats to the “national” community that are associated with it.

4In the last two chapters, I have looked at cases of two distinct types of nationalism. One was the nationalism of non-state nations incorporated in historic multinational states such as Basques in Spain, and the other was that of a dominant ethnie or a titular nation in a nationalizing, post-communist state such as Georgia. Political, social, and historic circumstances under which the two types of nationalism have developed were very different. Yet the story of the two nationalisms displayed a number of similarities. In both cases the role of intellectuals was clearly pronounced in elaborating the vision of the nation in the late 19th century and in discovering nationalism as an adequate response to some of the challenges brought by specific periods of history. In both cases nationalism was chosen as the means to first constitute and develop and then defend a particular community. Its appeal was wider than that of a mere political ideology or a movement taking the form of a popular tradition. In both cases, the repressive authoritarian regimes contributed, albeit in different ways, to the strengthening of nationalism, which emerged as a particularly potent political force in the periods of transition and democratization. In both instances, nationalism was a varied and not a uniform phenomenon, with strong mainstream and relatively marginal, radical variants. Contemporary nationalism, therefore, emerged as a multifaceted phenomenon, different manifestations of which engage in different relationships with globalization. Interestingly enough, in both cases mainstream nationalists did not perceive globalization as a threat from which the nation should be protected but instead saw it as an opportunity that is worth exploiting. Nationalism appeared as a force promoting rather than resisting globalization and its influences since nationalists in both cases saw isolation and lack of international engagement as a bigger threat to their culture, identity, and nationhood than globalization.

  • 6 Erica Benner (2001) “Is There a Core National Doctrine?” Nations and Nationalism 7:2, p. 157.

5The question is why such an arguably unexpected relationship could have been formed? The answer partly lies in the nature of nationalism, which is fundamentally political or even geopolitical, rather than cultural. When it comes to nationalism, the distinction between culture and politics becomes particularly blurred. Nationalism often relies on cultural arguments and posits itself as a force protecting and defending a particular culture, however it does so through political means and for political purposes. If nationalism were a purely cultural phenomenon, sustained by values of common belonging and solidarity and driven solely by motives of cultural preservation, it would be an isolationist force strongly opposed to globalization and everything that is associated with it. It would also be a force challenging the existing international system and its constituent states that have allowed and facilitated the rise of integrationist and globalizing tendencies. This is precisely the picture of nationalism that emerges in the current literature on globalization. It also underpins common normative assumptions about contemporary nationalism. On the one hand stand opponents of globalization who present a romanticized view of nationalism as a source of meaning and belonging, as a solace for atomized, insecure individuals and as a protector of cultural diversity amidst risks of growing homogenization and rootlesness. In this noble vision of nationalism—as a defender of cultural values and principles of brotherhood and solidarity—there is no room to account for authoritarian, collectivistic, racist, and other morally unattractive features of contemporary nationalism that has marred both past and present forms too often to be ignored. On the other hand, are those who judge contemporary nationalism as a perversion of modern political life, as a form of tribalism that no longer occurs in advanced, democratic states and is more characteristic to post-communist Europe, Asia, Africa and other zones of turbulence and insecurity. In this demonized vision of nationalism, no adequate assessment can be made of its role and influence for modern politics particularly in the context of the existing pluralistic system of sovereign states. As Erica Benner noted, it is hard to deny that nationalism has been acting as a kind of “master doctrine,” that is, “as a doctrine that lays down the basic rules of the game for any movement seeking to gain or hold political power.”6

6The view of nationalism as a cultural, anti-globalist force cannot explain why nationalists under such different circumstances—as in the case of majority nationalism in Georgia and minority nationalism in the Basque Country—would embrace, promote, and engage with globalization. Neither can it serve as a reliable guide to normative judgments about contemporary nationalism and its role in the global era. If culture is at the core of various nationalist claims, then why has extensive cultural and territorial autonomy in the Basque Country not been sufficient to resolve what is known as el problema Vasca, ending the conflict once and for all? Why did contemporary Georgian nationalists risk a costly confrontation with Russia, which today is threatening neither Georgian culture nor identity but instead is challenging geopolitical and strategic orientation chosen by the independent Georgian state? Unless we treat nationalism as mainly characteristic to smaller nations and divorce it from imperialist and expansionist tendencies of larger states, then defensive and cultural aspects of nationalist doctrine are not sufficient in explaining nationalism of larger nations that claim the status of regional or world powers. Classical empires may be a matter of the past but there are other ways of projecting influence, not least through cultural claims underpinned by geopolitical and strategic considerations. The case of Russia is indicative in this respect. It claims to act as a protector of Russian speaking minorities in the so-called near abroad and a defender of the Russian language and culture. Why should Russia care about the strength of the Russian language in other countries, hardly an endangered category? It does so because cultural power can be translated into political influence and serve well Moscow’s geo strategic objectives in the area it describes as a zone of special interest.

7Political and strategic considerations were at the heart of Georgian and Basque nationalist engagement with globalization. In the case of Georgia, nationalist forces in power have been seeking out greater globalization of the country through efforts aimed at Georgia’s integration in Euro-Atlantic structures, incorporation into global political and economic processes, attracting foreign direct investments and enticing multinational companies. They tried hard to carve out a strategic place for Georgia in the global market by positing it as a transit route for oil and gas to Europe and resisting the takeover by Russian energy companies. All these efforts were made in the name of protecting and promoting Georgia’s national interests. In the Georgian political reality, dominated by nationalism, international isolation meant the biggest threat to the Georgian nationhood while globalization offered protection and security and held promise of peace and prosperity.

  • 7 The Economist, April 21, 2007, p. 32.

8In the case of the Basque Country, the ruling nationalists have been particularly skillful in exploiting opportunities offered by economic globalization to promote their political objectives, enhance their position both within the community and vis-à-vis central authorities in Mad rid, and seek international recognition for the Basque people. Globalization offered them a possibility to put the Basque Country firmly on the global map of tourism and culture and present it as an entity separate and different from the rest of Spain. Basque nationalists have also been one of the strongest supporters of European integration that offered them a prospect of being recognized as a national community in the context which was broader than Spain and offered greater reassurances. Basques are not alone in putting Europe at the heart of their nationalist agenda. The Scottish National Party (SNP) campaigned in the 2007 elections under the slogan “Scotland in Europe” and saw the best ever electoral result. As The Economist noted, in the run-up to the elections, “here is the most complacent and Eurosceptical of political unions, Britain, facing dissolution partly because Scottish voters are reassured by the existence of a much bigger union embracing 27 countries.”7 The nationalist embrace of Europe, however, does not indicate their wish to abandon a traditional, nationalist quest for power and recognition. After all, both Scottish and Basque nationalists, albeit to varying degrees, are asking for the nation-state of their own in the best traditions of 19th century nationalism.

  • 8 József Bálint-Pataki, Statement, Office of the Hungarians Living Abroad. Available at http://www.h (...)

9Using the supranational European Union for promoting and fulfilling strategic nationalist objectives is not unique to stateless nations or minority nationalisms within Europe. One of the earliest and strongest manifestations of political nationalism in the Soviet Union was developed among Baltic republics, which aimed at leaving the Soviet Union and joining the European one. Membership both in the EU and NATO were essential objectives of a majority of Latvian or Estonian nationalists who saw in these structures guarantees for their security and independence and thus the best ways of fulfilling their nationalist aspirations. Elites of other East European nations also framed their accession campaigns to Euro-Atlantic structures in terms of fulfilling nationalist aspirations, including gaining acceptance, recognition, and security guarantees. Romanian nationalists went further and began to promote Moldova’s accession to the EU in fulfillment of their nationalist and revisionist ambitions of virtually “uniting” the two countries in the common union. Romanian nationalists in this respect seem to have learned the tricks of the trade from their Hungarian counterparts, who skillfully used Europeanist and globalist arguments in support of their nationalist interests. Thus, Hungarian nationalists promote the vision of Europe as a “community of communities” that transcends state boundaries and unites peoples with shared ethnic and cultural background. It is the vision of Europe, “in which the notion and importance of absolute territoriality will fade away and the importance of the larger units above the state and of the smaller unites below it will become stronger.”8 The controversial Law on Hungarians Living Abroad, often referred to as the Status Law was also presented in similar terms as the first postmodern legal initiative, particularly suited for the globalized world in which states have been weakened but cultural communities revitalized.

  • 9 The reference is to the Trianon peace treaty signed between the Allies and Hungary in 1920. The tr (...)
  • 10 See Natalie Sabanadze (2006), “Minorities and Kin-States,” Helsinki Monitor, 3, pp. 244–256.
  • 11 “Proposal of the Hungarian World Alliance” (2004) in The Hungarian Status Law: Nation Building and (...)
  • 12 Bridget Fowler, “Fuzzing Citizenship, Nationalizing Political Space: A Frame work for Interpreting (...)

10The discourse surrounding the adoption of the Status Law represented a striking combination of good old ethnic nationalism mixed with postmodern globalism. The Hungarian government presented the Status Law as an attempt to restore the “national unity” defined in ethnocultural terms, to undo Trianon,9 and to unify the Hungarian nation. It relied heavily on the use of national symbols such as St. Stephen’s Crown that infuriated Hungary’s neighbors.10 The supporters and initiators of the Status Law described it as “a framework for unifying the Hungarian nation as a whole, whose spiritual communities were created historically and developed by a common past and culture, and share a common destiny.”11 Since the goal of national unification was meant to be achieved by the peaceful adoption of the law and not by forceful redrawing of borders, the Status Law supporters hailed it as the first postmodern legal document specifically adapted to the globalized world of “retreating states” and integrating Europe. Arguably the law was meant to pave the way for the strengthening of transborder communities, overcoming traditional understandings of state sovereignty and citizenship. As Zsolt Németh, the former State Secretary for Foreign Affairs stated in parliament, “The Status Law was designed for the future… State borders are gradually losing their meaning in the course of European integration. The Hungarian national policy is in the mainstream of Europe where the emphasis is moving from state borders to communities of individuals and peoples. The Status Law is a milestone in this process.”12

  • 13 Ibid., p. 184.
  • 14 See Michael Stewart (2004), “The Hungarian Status Law: A New European Form of Transnational Politi (...)

11Similarly, several academics argued that Hungary had introduced a postmodern reading of concepts such as national community, state sovereignty and citizenship and therefore was much more progressive and advanced than neighboring States trapped in “modernist” paradigms. For example, according to Bridget Fowler, Hungary’s neighbors affected by the law such as Romania and Slovakia argued against the Status Law primarily in terms of “modern” norms of territorial sovereignty and equal citizenship. Hungary, by contrast, has argued in explicitly “postmodern” terms, pointing towards an alternative to the “modern” territorial state and its citizenry as the sole means of organizing political space.13 In reality, however, the Status Law debate highlighted that there is no realistic alternative to the state, which remains a key actor in establishing transnational and transfrontier linkages. It was surprising to see so many people argue that the Status Law makes the idea of a sovereign state passé, when the law was initiated by the government of a state (Hungary), was adopted by the parliament of a state, was to be implemented by the institutions of a state and was to be financed by a state budget. If anything, the Hungarian experience highlighted the crucial role of states in sustaining transnational links that rise above national borders, as well as the way state interests and power struggles shape these links.14

  • 15 Benner, “Is There A Core National Doctrine?” p. 164.
  • 16 Footnote on Rousseau in Benner.

12These examples illustrate that nationalism and globalization can and do coexist comfortably both in practice and in rhetoric. The geo political core of nationalism precludes it from acting as a force of isolation and closure that would undermine political and security interests of nations in the context of the existing international system. In this respect, culture politics serves power politics and not the other way around. Even though concerns for culture and identity tend to be at the forefront of nationalist actions and discourses, they are largely underpinned and sustained by political and security considerations. This is true from both defensive and expansionist forms of nationalism. Latvia wants to strengthen its language as much as possible and if necessary at the expense of liberal principles of justice and human, including minority, rights because it needs to balance out the strength of the Russian language and political and security risks that come with it. Russia on the other hand, seeks to strengthen teaching of the Russian language and posits itself as a the great defender of cultural and language rights especially in the Baltic states precisely for the reasons that Latvia fears, i.e. for instrumentalizing culture and minority rights for geopolitical purposes. As Erica Benner noted, nationalism is rooted in security concerns that are specific to the modern, pluralistic system of sovereign states. “More precisely, it is a doctrine about how communities should constitute themselves if they wish to increase their chances of non-absorption in an international environment based on separate, competitive, often expansionist states.”15 In this system, therefore, building communities with a strong sense of identity bounded by common culture, language, and heritage acquires a special political and strategic value.16

13The importance of security for modern nationalism is what makes contemporary ethnic conflicts so difficult to resolve and minority rights so hard to sell, particularly outside of the EU. No assurances of cultural protection, power-sharing, and autonomy seem to be sufficient for ending the confrontation between warring ethnic groups once the trust in their peaceful coexistence is broken. This is the case in relations between Georgia and its breakaway region of Abkhazia. The successive Georgian governments made various offers for establishing an extensive territorial autonomy for Abkhazia with all possible guarantees for the protection and promotion of Abkhaz culture and identity. All proposals were rejected outright and Abkhazia continued to insist on independence and ever-closer alliance (if not merger) with Russia. From the cultural preservation point of view, the Abkhaz have far better chances of surviving as a distinct ethnic group and retaining their identity as part of small Georgia than as part of a bigger and more assertive Russia. However, the choice of the Abkhaz leaders seems to be determined by lack of trust in the Georgian side and by fears for their future security and survival based on the experiences of recent history. In addition, concepts such as autonomy and power sharing carried very little meaning for them in the Soviet context and seem to be completely devalued as viable options for the resolution and prevention of conflicts. In their turn, de facto Abkhaz authorities are closing down Georgian schools and denying the remaining Georgian population the right to use their language. In addition, they are trying to promote the regional, Mingrelian identity among the local Georgians and present them as different, both culturally and linguistically from their ethnic kin in the rest of Georgia. Once again, culture is used as a tool in the struggle for political power and survival.

  • 17 See Will Kymlicka (2008) “The Evolving Norms of Minority Rights: Rights to Culture, Participation (...)

14The idea that ethnic and cultural pluralism inside a state constitutes a serious security threat is not new. Many governments, even liberal and democratic, resist acceptance of rights of national minorities out of fear of fostering different loyalties that could be threatening to territorial integrity and social cohesion of their states. According to Kymlicka, the securitization of the minority question is particularly evident in the post-communist Eastern Europe, which impedes the democratic management of interethnic relations in the region. In this view, emphasis on security erodes the democratic space for voicing minority demands and reduces the likelihood that those demands will be accepted and treated as a matter of normal democratic politics.17 It also makes suppression of minority rights easy to justify to the public and may generate the wrong kind of responses, often heavy handed, in the name of protecting vital national security interests. Kymlicka contrasts the situation in Eastern Europe with that of Western Europe and North America, where the question of national minorities has been desecuritized and the states are much more at ease with accepting devolution of powers and territorial autonomies. He suggests that the same should happen in Eastern Europe—minority rights should be treated as a matter of justice and not that of security.

  • 18 Will Kymlicka (2001) “Western Political Theory and Ethnic Relations in Eastern Europe” in Will Kym (...)

15Kymlicka accepts that both political and historic conditions are different in the two regions and explains reasons behind particular sensitivity towards minority claims in post-communist sphere. The first has to do with the legacy of pseudo-federalism and lack of traditions of democratic coexistence between different ethnic groups. The second has to do with the existence of kin-states, which is associated with threats of irredentism, justified or not, and with fears of potential political and even military intervention from often neighboring states claiming protection of “their people” abroad. Historic legacies also exacerbate the problem, particularly when a kin-State in question is a former imperial power.18 What Kymlicka does not explain, however, is why the issue of minorities had been desecuritized in Western Europe and how East Europeans should deal with risks to security, real or perceived. He seems to suggest that risks are more perceived than real and that states should simply accept minority claims, including the right to secession because there is simply no other democratic and better alternative.

  • 19 See Ian Buruma (2006) Murder in Amsterdam, The Penguin Press. Also the review of Buruma’s book by (...)

16Western Europe accepts claims of traditional minorities because there are no particular security risks associated with them. In a majority of cases kin-state factors are absent and both majority and minority groups benefit from the EU as well as from economic prosperity and democratic stability characteristic to the whole area. Even if the Basque Country and Scotland decide to secede and form an independent state, there is no real expectation that these newly formed states would be hostile to either Spain or Britain and pose any serious danger to them. In contrast, if Abkhazia secedes from Georgia there is a real danger that it will turn into a stronghold of the Russian military and fleet, hostile to Georgia. At the same time, Western Europe is much more cautious in treating its growing migrant communities as ethnic minorities and according them similar rights as they do to their traditional minorities. Recent immigrants, particularly from Muslim countries, are perceived as much more of a security risk to West European states and thus the emphasis is put on their assimilation and integration into mainstream society rather than on the protection and promotion of their culture and identity. Certainly policies of multiculturalism and interculturalism adopted by a number of Western states aimed at respecting and accommodating certain cultural differences and practices, while at the same time integrating them into the dominant culture and institutions. However, the terms of integration offered to members of immigrant migrant communities and people belonging to traditional national minorities are quite different. Moreover, in many West European states—including Britain, the Netherlands, and others—that suffered from terrorist attacks, there seems to be a growing backlash against multiculturalism which is blamed for fostering ethnocultural difference and undermining social cohesion of increasingly diverse and pluralist states.19

  • 20 See chapter on Georgian nationalism and the debate surrounding the construction of Baku–Ceyhan pip (...)

17In this respect, the impact of globalization is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, growing globalization manifested in the spread of certain political, economic and ideational influences can have a conflict preventing effect. For instance, many Georgians would argue, nationalists included, that prospects for peace and stability for the country and the region on the whole are far greater with a greater inter national presence on the ground, including through international organizations, embassies, NGOs, foreign companies, and ideally through eventual membership to NATO and the EU. Even multinational companies and their investments are seen as certain security guarantees that should be courted not only for material and economic reasons but also for political, national security considerations.20 In addition, as the Georgian case has demonstrated, the spread of international norms, practices, and other ideational influences has a significant impact on national elites and contributes to a certain degree to the transformation and deradicalization of local political nationalism. On the other hand, however, increasing immigration and movement of people associated with globalization may create new sources of tension and pose new difficulties to the management of cultural and ethnic diversity in democratic states. This is the area where globalization is truly challenging nationalism. Political essence of nationalism requires that national communities, pluralistic or homogenous, retain certain cohesion and unity in order to survive and flourish in international conditions that have prevailed at least since the modern era. Globalization, however, through growing immigration, makes the attainment of such unity and cohesion increasingly difficult. It also introduces new risks and security challenges that cannot be easily addressed through traditional defense mechanisms and security policies. A complete disengagement from globalization is not an option because the costs involved are too high not least for the purposes of security and stability. The dilemma for the majority of states today, therefore, is how to continue benefiting from globalization, while minimizing its risks.

18This brings us to the question of globalization challenging the existing international system and its constituent states. The alleged demise of the territorial sovereign state has been a prominent feature of the globalization literature. In this view, globalization is a phenomenon driven by technological innovations and markets not by governments.

  • 21 Geoffrey Garrett (1998) “Global Markets and National Politics: Collision Course or Virtuous Circle (...)

19The capacity of states to regulate their economies, provide social security for their citizens, generate loyalty and address transnational security threats is becoming increasingly reduced. Moreover, states appear to be pressured into adopting market friendly policies, cutting back on the role of the public sector and accepting increasing liberalization of their economies. As Geoffrey Garrett pointed out, governments “are held ransom by the markets, the price is high, and punishment for noncompliance is swift.”21 The state of the state is particularly relevant for the discussion of globalization and nationalism since, in my analysis, nationalism is inextricably linked with states and with the international system they comprise. The fundamental transformation of this system thus should have a significant impact on the role and function of nationalism. The question, however, is whether contemporary globalization is producing such a fundamental change.

  • 22 Stephen Del Rosso Jr. (1995) “The Insecure State (What Future for the State?),” Daedalus, 124:2, p (...)
  • 23 Ibid., p. 3.

20There are good reasons to believe that globalization, at least in its current form, is not so much of a challenge to the established international system and the news about the death of the state may have been exaggerated. First, those who claim the imminent demise of the state seem to imply that in the not so distant past states were all-powerful entities fully in control of most aspects of public life. Historic evidence, however, is much more mixed. As Stephen Del Rosso Jr. has argued, in each of the key areas in which state authority has supposedly been eroded—including the control of communications, economic regulation, and the ability to provide security and protect territorial integrity—history shows that the state’s capabilities have always been highly contingent and variable.22 Moreover, state borders have largely been permeable and foreign invasions a norm. If anything, the sanctity of borders (with few exceptions) and the respect for basic principles of international law is far greater today than before. This is partly the reason why many small states that once might have been swallowed up or dismembered by stronger neighbors are able to survive with their autonomy and independence intact.23

  • 24 See Saskia Sassen (1998) Globalization and Its Discontents, New York: New Press; also Paul Hirst a (...)

21Second, states differ greatly in terms of their capabilities. It is therefore unreasonable to expect that all states, irrespective of their differences, could be affected by globalization in the same way. National institutions and domestic policies mediate the impact of globalization on both states and individuals and determine the power of state vis-à-vis global economic actors. Governments of some states, especially of the big and powerful ones, are not passive on-lookers of globalization—they shape it and define the rules of the game. 24Small states may certainly be more in a position of rule-takers rather than rule-makers in the context of globalization but this does not mean that they are rendered irrelevant or their existence is put into question. I have argued that in the case of Georgia, globalization has sustained the fragile, newly independent Georgian state and can be regarded as a force contributing to its viability and survival. At the same time, Russian actions in Georgia demonstrated that globalization offers no protection from power-politics and neither does it make power-political competition among states irrelevant.

22Third, globalization has often been presented in terms of markets vs. states as if the two are always and necessarily in opposition. Global markets, however, depend on a well-developed set of rules, norms and regulations for their day-to-day functioning. Global actors, including multinational companies, are attracted mainly to those markets that are under effective control of states. States therefore matter greatly in providing the right conditions and stimulus for globalization to work. At a time of crisis, the role of states is even more pronounced as governments are expected to step in and cushion painful effects of a financial and economic meltdown. In fact, what the future holds for globalization as we know it is entirely unclear as consequences of the current crisis and its handling by states begin to emerge. This is a good indication that globalization is a reversible phenomenon should major states so decide.

  • 25 Andrew Hurrell (2007) On Global Order, Oxford: OUP, p. 200.
  • 26 Ibid., p. 204.

23Fourth, state economic policies are closely linked to security concerns. As Andrew Hurrell has argued, the move to economic multilateralism should be explained by consequences of the Second World War and security concerns during the Cold War. Equally, since 2001, states have stepped up their efforts to reassert control over transnational flows of money, people, ideas, and military technology that became essential in the ear of new security challenges such as transnational terrorism.25 It is in this general context of the relationship between politics and economics that the relationship between globalization and nationalism can be understood. Nationalism promotes globalization in so far as, and as long as, globalization is desirable for national power and security and does not fundamentally challenge the system of nation-states. Even though many changes and challenges of globalization are real, they do not amount to some sort of deep change or a fundamental transformation. In the words of Hurrell, “however much understandings of the road to power and plenty may have changed, the nationalist developmental state is alive and well.”26

24The relationship between globalization and nationalism—as described in this work—has a number of practical and normative implications. Firstly, it has to do with the management of interethnic tensions and conflicts that came to be seen as major security challenges in the post-Cold War era. The role and effect of globalization in this context is not as negative as it is often assumed. Globalization has a potential of containing aggressive nationalism that thrives on isolation and insecurity. It may also create incentives for the resolution and prevention of conflicts by offering benefits of integration to various multilateral structures and greater prospects for economic development and prosperity. Most importantly, globalization of norms and ideas contributes to the changes and transformations in the practice and discourse of nationalism. At the same time, however, it can generate nationalistic responses in the form of right-wing radicalism or ethnoreligious fundamentalism that react to certain aspects of globalization such as immigration and restructuring of traditional economies. The challenge for policy-makers is to manage these two types of consequences resulting from the complex interrelationship between globalization and nationalism in a way that best upholds prospects for peace and stability.

  • 27 The Economist, May 13, 2006, p. 34.
  • 28 Ibid.

25The case of European integration in this respect is indicative. The growing resistance from the member states to further expand the union has been seen a sign of globalization fatigue from some mainly older EU member states. The Economist found a striking correlation between countries that say globalization is a threat and those that blame enlargement for threatening their jobs. At the same time, those older member states that were most relaxed about enlargement also tended to see globalization as an opportunity, not a threat.27 The challenge is to balance out dangers of internal discontent with positive consequences of enlargement for the stabilization of Eastern Europe and prevention of conflicts. As pointed out by The Economist, the fundamental logic of enlargement is that it benefits both existing members and new members alike: “If the EU does not go to the Balkans, the Balkans will come to the EU, in the form of illegal immigration, drugs, and crime.”28

26Second, the fact that nationalist states and their governments often actively seek out globalization—as well as attach great importance to the effect greater involvement in global processes may have on their power, status, and security—means that international institutions have significant leverage over national policy-makers. This is often seen as a sign of weakening state power in relation with other, increasingly powerful global actors such as multinational companies, international institutions, and NGOs. However, the existence of such leverage does not have to translate into negative power that leads to the domination and weakening of states. It may instead be used to promote values of justice, equality and protection of human, including minority rights. This is precisely the rationale behind the conditionality policies developed by various international institutions that may be an effective tool if applied properly.

  • 29 See David Miller (1995) On Nationality, Oxford: Clarendon Press.

27Finally, demonizing nationalism as an evil spreading war, misery, and fragmentation across the globe or romanticizing it as a defender of cultural heritage and upholder of brotherly love and solidarity is not an adequate basis for making normative judgments about the role and nature of nationalism in the era of globalization. Nationalism, both defensive and expansionist, may turn the noble goal of liberation and emancipation into an effective force for the suppression of individuals, minorities, and even descending opinions. It may easily override demands for social justice and needs for individual as opposed to collective emancipation. At the same time, however, nationalism provides a solid basis for building cohesive polities that maintain their distinct identity and contribute to the plurality and diversity of the international system. By forging a sense of solidarity across members of the national community, nationalism also arguably creates conditions for a more effective functioning of the system of social welfare and distributive justice.29

28The normative ambiguity that surrounds nationalism becomes particularly prevalent in connection with globalization. Globalization exposes difficulties in reconciling values of liberalism and nationalism, particularly when basic needs for security and unity come under strain. The growing immigration and the challenge of promoting integration under conditions of increasing diversity is a case in point. The emphasis on strong identity and national self-awareness as preconditions for building and maintaining an effective political community requires that nationalism remains defensive of its borders and puts limits on liberal values of individual freedom and universal justice. Globalization tests the limits of nationalist tolerance. The relationship between nationalism and globalization is pragmatic and will remain so as long as risks of globalization do not outweigh its benefits to the security and viability of the national community.


1 Anthony Giddens (1994) Beyond Left and Right: The Future of Radical Politics, Cambridge: Polity Press, p. 5.

2 Eric Hobsbawm (1992) Nations and Nationalism Since 1780, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 192.

3 Ibid., p. 190.

4 Anthony Smith (1991) National Identity, London: Penguin, p. 74.

5 Yael Tamir (1993) Liberal Nationalism, Princeton: Princeton University Press, p. xiii.

6 Erica Benner (2001) “Is There a Core National Doctrine?” Nations and Nationalism 7:2, p. 157.

7 The Economist, April 21, 2007, p. 32.

8 József Bálint-Pataki, Statement, Office of the Hungarians Living Abroad. Available at

9 The reference is to the Trianon peace treaty signed between the Allies and Hungary in 1920. The treaty defined Hungary’s new borders, leaving 3.3 million ethnic Hungarians outside the post-Trianon Hungary. This became one of the main reasons for disputes and hostilities between Hungary and its neighbors. In the Hungarian nationalist discourse, Trianon features as the greatest injustice inflicted upon the Hungarian nation.

10 See Natalie Sabanadze (2006), “Minorities and Kin-States,” Helsinki Monitor, 3, pp. 244–256.

11 “Proposal of the Hungarian World Alliance” (2004) in The Hungarian Status Law: Nation Building and/or Minority Protection, Sapporo: Slavic Research Center, p. 17.

12 Bridget Fowler, “Fuzzing Citizenship, Nationalizing Political Space: A Frame work for Interpreting the Hungarian Status Law as a New Form of Kin-State Policy in Central and Eastern Europe,” in The Hungarian Status Law, p. 20.

13 Ibid., p. 184.

14 See Michael Stewart (2004), “The Hungarian Status Law: A New European Form of Transnational Politics?” in The Hungarian Status Law. For a broader discussion of kin-state policies see Stephen Saideman and William Ayres (2008) For Kin or Country: Xenophobia, Nationalism and War, New York: Columbia University Press.

15 Benner, “Is There A Core National Doctrine?” p. 164.

16 Footnote on Rousseau in Benner.

17 See Will Kymlicka (2008) “The Evolving Norms of Minority Rights: Rights to Culture, Participation and Autonomy” in Marc Weller, Denika Black lock, and Katherine Nobbs (eds.), The Protection of Minorities in the Wider Europe, London: Palgrave. For the arguments on securitization of the minority question, see Will Kymlicka (2004) “Justice and Security in the Accomodation of Minority Nationalism” in Stephen May, Tariq Mod ood and Judith Squires (eds.), Ethnicity, Nationalism and Minority Rights, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

18 Will Kymlicka (2001) “Western Political Theory and Ethnic Relations in Eastern Europe” in Will Kymlicka and Magda Opalski (eds.), Can Liberal Pluralism be Exported? Oxford: OUP.

19 See Ian Buruma (2006) Murder in Amsterdam, The Penguin Press. Also the review of Buruma’s book by Timothy Garton Ash “Islam in Europe,” The New York Review of Books, 55:15, October, 2006.

20 See chapter on Georgian nationalism and the debate surrounding the construction of Baku–Ceyhan pipeline.

21 Geoffrey Garrett (1998) “Global Markets and National Politics: Collision Course or Virtuous Circle,” International Organization, 52:4, p. 793.

22 Stephen Del Rosso Jr. (1995) “The Insecure State (What Future for the State?),” Daedalus, 124:2, p. 4.

23 Ibid., p. 3.

24 See Saskia Sassen (1998) Globalization and Its Discontents, New York: New Press; also Paul Hirst and G. Thompson (1996) Globalization in Question, Cambridge: Polity Press.

25 Andrew Hurrell (2007) On Global Order, Oxford: OUP, p. 200.

26 Ibid., p. 204.

27 The Economist, May 13, 2006, p. 34.

28 Ibid.

29 See David Miller (1995) On Nationality, Oxford: Clarendon Press.

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