Saturday, April 7, 2012

Compare and Contrast thh concepts of Civic and Ethnic Nationalism

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Nationalism is ostensibly a term which covers such elements as national consciousness, the expression of national identity and loyalty to the nation - ‘nation’ itself being defined by Timothy Bancroft as

“…a group of people identified as sharing any number of perceived or real characteristics � such as common ancestry, language, religion, culture, historical traditions and shared territory � the members of which can identify themselves and others as belonging to the group, united through some form of organisation, most often political.”

Bancroft, Timothy. Nationalism in Europe 178-145. Cambridge University Press, 1. p

This essay will briefly examine the concept of civic and ethnic nationalism, attempting to highlight some of the contrasting aspects while, at the same time, examining connections between the two ideologies as each strives for the establishment, retention or advancement of a nation state.

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Civic nationalism is generally seen to be exercised in the areas in which there already exists a civil society, i.e. a group of people, each having a feeling of belonging to the same community, who are governed by and respect the rule of law. The peoples national identity is said to arise from a sense of political community, within an area with defined geographical borders, which houses a culturally homogenous group, with equal rights under a legal system which is respected by the government - so indicating that civil nationalism and liberal democracy are complementary. Through education, the mass of people are more inclined to be incorporated into what Gellner labels a high culture, affording them equal rights to political decision alongside the elite, whose role it is to manage, rather than dictate to and manipulate them.

Ethnic nationalism usually refers to nationalism determined by descent. Ethnic attachments are inherited rather than chosen, and those who exercise an ethnic form of nationalism are generally considered to be those who have been adversely affected by the political development of alternative civic societies elsewhere - the Jews in pre-war Europe, the Kurds in northern Iraq/eastern Turkey or the Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo to name but three examples. Subject to the dominance of, and perceiving an inferiority to, such other territorially demarcated nation states, these individuals, feeling the need to adopt statehood in order to survive and progress, unite into groups, with the intention of achieving political recognition in the form of their own nation states. Without institutions or other unifying tools (for example, class) which may unite these people, the groups often seek to identify their own unique characteristics, which set them apart from others in order to assert their sovereignty. Gellner states that ethnic nationalism

“…was active on behalf of a high culture not as yet properly crystallised, a mere aspirant or in-the-making high culture.”

Gellner, Ernest. Nations and Nationalism. Oxford Blackwell, 18. p100

Requiring a short cut towards a high culture necessary for modern development, these groups, in the absence of the vital foundations and institutions in place in society, are forced to create one from what they have - language, culture, skin colour, religion, etc., thus bringing about the belief that ethnic/blood consciousness, rather than civic/civil consciousness is dominant in the emerging political culture. The difference between civic and ethnic nationalism is therefore said by many theorists to lie in the beginnings of the emerging of the community, relative to the actual development of a political unit or, put more simply, civic nationalism arises only after the nation state has been established, whereas ethnic nationalism usually manifests itself with the very intention of establishing such a state.

Any nation state created as a result of ethnic nationalism does however need to adopt civic qualities in order to survive and prosper, so requiring the eventual drawing of characteristics from civic nationalism. Conversely, civic nationalism uses certain characteristics of ethnic in order to confer popular appeal � myths, symbols, heritage etc. � aspects necessary to instil feelings of belonging to and participation, both socially and politically, in a group. This interplay is crucial to the achievement of the aims of all nationalism and can be identified in any example one cares to consider.

If one considers Europe, the examples of Britain and France in the west, and Germany and Russia in the east are often cited as contrasting cases of civic and ethnic nationalism. In fact, the concepts of civic and ethnic nationalism are often, when applied to Europe, referred to as ‘Western’ and ‘Eastern’ nationalism respectively.

Britain and France, being the first examples of modern nation states in Europe, naturally followed with the development of a national consciousness, in the case of Britain or, more specifically, England, with the Puritan revolution of the 17th century, and with France, in the aftermath of the revolution of 178 which, along with that in America is regarded as the first powerful manifestation of nationalism of modern times. Germany and Russia, at that time lacking forms of clear political unity, developed national consciousness, in aspiration of the massive progress achieved by the West, prior to the actual establishment of clearly defined and governed states mainly, in the case of Germany - its nationalist struggle led by writers and intellectuals who rejected the progressive liberal and humanitarian principles of the American and French revolutions in favour of those principles based on tradition and historical differences - as a result of the defeats and injustices inflicted by Napoleon and, in the case of Russia � its nationalism divided into two schools of thought that which proposed a progressive, liberal, westernised Russia, and that which stressed the distinctive character of Russia, based on its autocratic and Orthodox past, These Slavophiles being similar to and influenced by German thinkers, saw Russia as a future saviour of a West undermined by liberalism and the heritage of the French and American revolutions - the vast shortcomings in her level of development highlighted during the Crimean War, these events all taking place during the mid-1th century. Ian Adams, writing of Germany at that time, talks of

“…a somewhat backward region of Europe and a patchwork of small independent states.”

He writes of

“…the German upper-class adopting French culture and language in a spurious attempt at sophistication, to the detriment of native German thought and art and custom.”

and mentions the Address to the German Nation of Johann Fichte (176-1814) who

“… exhorted the German people to unify and defeat the occupying French.”

Adams, Ian. Political Ideology Today. Manchester University Press, 16. p86

The examples of the two pairs of countries mentioned are widely viewed as the original exercisings of the two forms of nationalism in modern times.

With regard to the effects, positive or otherwise, of all nationalism and upon societies in Western Europe, Keith Crawford asserts that it

“… has been, and will probably remain, a positive force for democracy and social harmony within the region.”

Crawford stresses the intrinsic link between democracy and civic nationalism, but warns of the dangers of the playing of a dominant role by ethnic nationalism in societies with weak civic cultures, citing the predominance of ethnic nationalism as

“… one of the main reasons why democracy failed in ECE [East Central Europe] during the inter-war period…”

Crawford, Keith. East Central European Politics Today. Manchester University Press, 16. p16

If wishing to examine the case in which civic and ethnic nationalism are exercised in parallel, one need look no further than India. Gaining freedom from centuries of British rule in 147, India was split up into two nations India and Pakistan. Credit for the sub-continent’s independence is mainly attributed to the Indian National Congress, a multi-caste and class coalition formed in the 180s, which led a mass movement against British imperialism. However, in the early years leading up to independence, as the struggle against colonialism intensified and liberation seemed close at hand, the Muslims, a minority community comprising roughly a quarter of the total population, began to feel increasingly nervous about their prospects in a Hindu-dominated free India. The Muslim elite feared that upper-caste Hindus in the Congress would subjugate and deny them their legitimate place in the nations power structure. They hence began demands for a separate nation for themselves.

In 106, these Muslim elites formed the Muslim League which would later be led by Mohammed Ali Jinnah, a former member of Congress and future first prime minister of Pakistan, pledged loyalty to the British and urged them to divide India. The League rationalised its demand on the basis of what it called the “two-nation theory”. According to this theory, Indians comprised not one nation but two, according to their religion. The policies of the Muslim League asserted that the majority Hindus comprised one nation and Muslims the other, and the two could not live together as they were different in every conceivable respect, although the fact that the two communities had lived together relatively peacefully for many years under British rule is a point worth considering. Speaking from this purely ethnic platform, Jinnah and the Muslim League insisted that the separate state of Pakistan (the name formed by combining the first letters of the three regions the Punjab, Afghanistan and Kashmir, with istan {country}) be created from the Muslim dominated regions of the north-western and north-eastern provinces.

Appalled by the two-nation theory, the Congress denounced the Muslim League for exploiting religious identity and emotions for partisan ends. Leaders of the Congress, Nehru and Gandhi appealed strongly to Jinnah not to persist with these demands. In seeking a secular, multi-ethnic, united India, the Congress differentiated itself from the Muslim League, and flew its civic colours. They vowed to treat the Muslims with honour and dignity, and share power with them in an equitable manner.

The efforts of Congress though, were of course to no avail. India was partitioned, and thence began an era of great tension which endures to this day.

Adams, Ian. Political Ideology Today. Manchester University Press, 16.

Bancroft, Timothy. Nationalism in Europe 178-145. Cambridge University Press, 1.

Crawford, Keith. East Central European Politics Today. Manchester University Press, 16.

Gellner, Ernest. Nations and Nationalism. Oxford Blackwell, 18.

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