Nationalism as Prerequisite for Pluralism

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Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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13 Responses

  1. Avatar E.D. Kain
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    says:

    Very well said, Mark. By the by have you read this yet?Report

  2. Avatar Mark Thompson
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    says:

    No, I haven’t. Clearly I must, though. Alas, I have no time tonight, and my computer at home is broken so I may not get to it for a few days.Report

  3. Avatar Jim
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    says:

    “The reality of the world is that nothing can create a bond – a faction, if you will – as strong as a shared culture. ”

    Bingo – this is why India holds together. The key thing is the specify how much of the cultruer has to eb the same. Indai has a lot of cultrual variety, but all its ethnic groups share some basic common ground. Actually the same is true for the English colonists – they had some big differences among them – actually they loathed each other, over non-trivial issues – but enough common ground that they could roll.

    “Very well said, Mark. By the by have you read this yet?”

    Geogaphy rules. One way to look at the real effects of geography on human interactions is to look at language maps. every oje of the pre-ciontact language boundaries along the West Coast all the way back to the Rockies makes perfect sense. There’s a good reason why people in Palm Springs spoke the same language as people in southern Idaho, but people in what is now El Centro, 80 miles away, spoke a completely unrelated language.Report

  4. Avatar ChrisWWW
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    says:

    I’m not suggesting Israel will ever reach the level of diversity that the US and other Western nations have, but once its statehood is secured permanately (with global recognition of their right to exist), I think they will be a bit less interested in religous integrity.

    Doesn’t Israel already have global recognition of their “right to exist” (assuming their is any such thing)?Report

  5. ChrisWWW,

    Israel could claim global recognition but until they have the full recognition of their neighbors, they will be forced to think of themselves as ‘us vs. them’ and I believe that actually slows the process of diversification.

    Mark,

    I’m not sure this point is completely relevant but in college I claimed in a lot of history papers that WWI and WWII were crucial to the U.S. moving from Teddy Roosevelt’s ‘hyphenated-Americans’ to a more unified populace. I don’t know how that lesson is applicable to Israel…but it’s what moved us along.Report

  6. Avatar Kyle Cupp
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    says:

    Mark,

    Do you see any particular unifying themes that help a state reach pluralism better than others?Report

  7. Avatar conradg
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    says:

    What seems to work in the united states is the creation of a single, dominant culture that everyone shares, or is invited to join, while yet allowing for the creation of many subcultures in which various ethnic, cultural, natioalistic, and other identies can continue to exist and thrive.

    This is also what India is like, in a sense. Hinduism is not really a single religion, but an umbrella philosophy that tolerates an enormous variety of differing religions within it, united by a basic kind of shared dominant culture, but allowing for a tremendous variety of subcultures within it. The modern Indian state uses the same model. There are tremendous numbers of people who identify with some local traditon, but they acknowledge the political supremacy of the Indian state as the Uber-culture of Hinduism itself.Report

  8. Avatar Cascadian
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    says:

    Great link E.D.

    I don’t think the US is doing particularly well, is particularly unified, or is functioning politically. Of course, I think this is yet another area where the anti-federalists were much more prescient than the federalists.

    Applying the logic from the linked piece to the subject at hand, it’s apparent that eventually we’re going to have wrest Banff back from the Prairie Chickens. 😉Report

  9. Avatar Bob
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    says:

    “I’m not sure this point is completely relevant but in college I claimed in a lot of history papers that WWI and WWII were crucial to the U.S. moving from Teddy Roosevelt’s ‘hyphenated-Americans’ to a more unified populace.”

    Mike, as I was reading this post I kept thinking of my visit to the WWI museum here in Kansas City. The deepest memory I carry from that visit was the involvement of black people in fighting that war. Of all the marginalized groups in America at that time blacks arguably had the best reasons to adopt a “who cares” attitude. But blacks, men and women, did their part in the war effort. The history of blacks in WWII is better known but blacks were with America at a time when their status was even less elevated.

    So how did your college profs evaluate your papers?Report

  10. Avatar Creon Critic
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    says:

    Sorry to get all po-mo on you, but how about imagination as a prerequisite for pluralism? This vision conceives of the state as being constructed by a group of political entrepreneurs marshaling identity-resources for this task. Language, religion, customs are certainly implicated in the construction of the state in this account, but in a way that has so far gone unremarked upon in this discussion: the raw materials of identity interacts with the state and vice versa. The state is an agent in creating a primordial narrative of itself and its self-evident character; the state (or political entrepreneurs seeking a state) is an interested party in constructing itself as self-evident, natural, mythological. Underneath this mythologizing there are a number of instruments being used to make this imagined community cohere. Rather than rising from the mists of time, the state reads itself backwards – remembering and forgetting what need be to achieve its ends; those ends may be tolerant or intolerant, inclusive or exclusive. Benedict Anderson’s “Imagined Communities” is at the core of this perspective on nationalism and state formation (Wiki); one chapter that’s online that describes some of these instruments for state construction and how they’re used is online, Census, Maps, Museums.

    As for Kaplan’s claims of geography’s increasing influence in international politics – actually his claim is even stronger than that, “People and ideas influence events, but geography largely determines them, now more than ever.” I’m unconvinced. There are echoes of Huntington’s clashing civilizations – and the analysis suffers from similar weaknesses. Identities (like culture) are in flux, many layered and changing in ways large and small over time; I’m reluctant to embrace the view that people are ciphers of their culture/identity – we pick and choose, shape and reshape, foreground and background aspects of ourselves that link or separate, create or break apart communities; this isn’t necessarily a free & open choice (I can’t choose just anything), but there is an element of choice/malleability that geographic (or cultural) determinism misses. (My current favorite on this theorizing consequences of complex, syncretic/hybrid identity, is James Rosenau, “Distant Proximities”)

    Diasporas and communication technologies, transnational advocacy networks and modern modes of transportation lead me to believe the efforts to win hearts and minds, persuasion and conviction are where it’s at in the 21st century – less the battle for the Eurasian landmass, more global media and soft/smart power. Arjun Appadurai’s my touchstone here, he presents a picture of multiple –scapes (ethnoscapes, mediascapes, technoscapes, finacescapes and ideoscapes) we occupy; it’s difficult to see the landscape/geography as becoming resurgent when all these –scapes intersect with one another, often overlapping and interlinking without regard to geography or state boundaries (Appadurai’s Modernity at Large).

    That’s an awful lot of theory. Shorter CC: Pluralism can be produced by imagination, nationalism isn’t a necessary prerequisite; one can construct inclusive states to begin with. Given current technologies & identity/cultural malleability, geography is not destiny; if at all, it is decreasingly decisive.Report

  11. Bob,

    I did okay on those papers! It’s interesting how prior to WWII you had all kinds of ethnic enclaves around the country and people thought of themselves very much as part of their ethnic community. WWII shattered that image and really solidified thinking of themselves as simply ‘Americans’.

    For Israel I think if they can get recognition and then be willing to include non-Jews in their compulsory military service it would be a very interesting devlopment. Non-Jews thinking of themselves as Israelis would be a significant shift in Israel’s history.Report

  12. Avatar Jim
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    says:

    “I’m reluctant to embrace the view that people are ciphers of their culture/identity – we pick and choose, shape and reshape, foreground and background aspects of ourselves that link or separate, create or break apart communities; this isn’t necessarily a free & open choice (I can’t choose just anything), but there is an element of choice/malleability that geographic (or cultural) determinism misses.”

    The one discipline where i have seen this dealt with in any kind of ordered and principled way is lingusitics, where there are questions of adoption of material form other langauges (leixcal, morphologicla and typological borrowing), full scale language shift, and also more prosaic language change wihtout outside influences. The consensus is that all these changes consist of thusands and millions of individual choices by individual speakers, but in aggregate these changesa re beyond the scope of any one speaker, or even group of speakers. The strains and failures of the Academie Francaise model of language dirigisme are often cited as an example to defend this consensus.

    “The state is an agent in creating a primordial narrative of itself and its self-evident character;”

    However this is also tue, and we can all cite examples – the Plymouth Rock narrative comes to mind immediatley. On the other hand no one groups specifically developed the Donner Party narrative, which is the Californian equivalent. I don’t think the Alamo narrative needed much help frrm any state entity either.

    ““I’m not sure this point is completely relevant but in college I claimed in a lot of history papers that WWI and WWII were crucial to the U.S. moving from Teddy Roosevelt’s ‘hyphenated-Americans’ to a more unified populace.”

    Yep. Two things had a big role in that – mixed, national-level units in place of state levies (activated National Guard units) as in past wars, and the GI Bill, that turned lots and lots of blue-collar white ethnics into middle class suburbanites. And I remember one of the Tuskegee Airman crediting WWI with the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement too – he said the experience of being armed, of fighting in a just cause, and of even a taste of real citizenship for a while, all radicalized people across the whole community.

    “This is also what India is like, in a sense. Hinduism is not really a single religion, but an umbrella philosophy that tolerates an enormous variety of differing religions within it, united by a basic kind of shared dominant culture, but allowing for a tremendous variety of subcultures within it. ”

    Very good and valid observation, Conrad, and I think the same is true for US civic culture too. People remark that it is easier to become American than British, for instance, and certainly easier than becoming German.

    “I don’t think the US is doing particularly well, is particularly unified, or is functioning politically.”

    On what scale of comparison, Cascadian? Comparison with unitary states like Denmark, which is a pointless and non-instructive comparison, or comparison with past eras in US history?Report

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