The manifestations of “globalization” and “multiculturalism” which began to peak from the 1990s were to erode the idea of nationalism.
Multiculturalism postulated that, in an increasingly globalized world, diverse communities could coexist in the same society without its citizens having to adopt a preponderant nationalist ethic. For multiculturalism, nation states became micro-expressions of a globalized community, in which citizens only had to interact as an economic collective with a tangled global economy. Thus, multiculturalism can also be seen as an offshoot of civic nationalism, in which a nation is defined by liberal “universal” values, instead of a dominant language, ethnicity or religion.
Read: Multiculturalism – An idea that turns sour
After World War II, nationalism began to be censored for being myopic and violent in its attempt to create a cohesive whole. Yet the initial intentions of nationalism were largely progressive. It first appeared in England in the 17th century after the gradual erosion of the so-called “blue-blooded” elites in society. Erosion was the result of multiple internal and external wars waged on the basis of religion and territory. These created space for the upward mobility of segments existing just below the elites.
In England, as the “red-blooded” men began to replace the blue-blooded nobles as the new elites, they declared the English people a nation. It didn’t matter if you were a nobleman, a merchant or a peasant. They were now part of a nation and could move up and down the ranks according to their individual abilities. These abilities were now to serve the nation, instead of the Church and the monarch alone.
The idea of nationalism began to spread across Europe. It relates to the ideas of the “Enlightenment”, a time in Europe when science, industrialization and the demystification of religion are strongly encouraged. Reason was to be used as a tool to understand the world and its place in it. Nationalism also appeared in non-Western regions that had been colonized by European powers. Ironically, this triggered a process of decolonization, as colonized peoples formed their own nationalisms and nation states.
German sociologist Max Weber (died 1920) viewed nations as societies driven by “rationalization” (the replacement of emotions and old traditions with ideas based on reason). Weber, however, feared that rationalization would create bureaucratic societies that held back individualism.
While multiculturalism is diluted in the West, immigrant communities export their mentalities, their assets and their identity markers to their countries of origin which are often co-opted by exclusivist nationalisms.
But that’s not really what sparked a more severe attack on nationalism. This is how nationalism began to evolve: from being a source of rational communities (nations) moving forward by making rational choices, to becoming a source of collective emotionality shaped by complexes of ethnic, religious and racial superiority.
This mutation of nationalism is often criticized for having caused the carnage observed during the two world wars. He was blamed for becoming openly emotional, exclusivist, and rigid for a world that was being reshaped by the economy of globalization. Therefore, Western societies, in an effort to safeguard their civic and nationalist values, began to embrace multiculturalism as an alternative.
The new nation-states of the twentieth century had also adopted the original “rational” and modernist dimensions of nationalism. But as the democratic institutions of these countries were either weak or non-existent, the darker shifts in nationalism were used to consolidate authoritarian arrangements. These maneuvers were justified as being “anti-colonial” and later “post-colonial”.
In the early 2000s, Western nation states began to witness pockets of rebellion against multiculturalism. Critics of multiculturalism criticized it for encouraging the “ghettoization” of immigrant communities, allowing them to refuse to adopt the “national values” of the majority community.
Globalization, for its part, was mainly denounced by countries where nationalism had turned into ethnic and / or religious nationalism. They saw globalization as a tool to crush the ethnic / religious traditions of their countries. But the anguish of globalization was also brewing in Western countries. Here, we saw that it had given birth to multiculturalism.
This sparked the resurgence of nationalism in the West. Populist regimes are emerging, denouncing multiculturalism and globalization. Again, it was not nationalism that envisioned the creation of rational nations. This nationalism was closer to religious / ethnic nationalism.
According to political scientist Florian Bieber, the current trend towards populist nationalism in established democracies is the result of the global economic crisis of 2008. These crises have been blamed on the economy of globalization. But Bieber concludes that this myopic current of nationalism in developed democracies will gradually die out. It will be defused by its own successes, because it did not appear as a structured movement. It was an impulsive reaction, which will be neutralized by the economic recovery.
It is almost impossible to reverse the overwhelming presence of the globalized economy. However, multiculturalism is clearly being readjusted in developed Western democracies. Multiculturalism had made sense in the West, where nation-states protected their civic-nationalist ethics from the more illiberal mutations of nationalism. But a backlash against multiculturalism now forces them to dilute it.
The important social expressions of immigrant communities encouraged by multiculturalism are also gradually declining. As a result, immigrants began to export (to their home countries) expressions of the so-called “ghettoized” mindset that they had adopted during the years of advanced multiculturalism.
Exports in this regard also include remittances. This gave them influence in their home country. The exaggerated identity symbols of their native cultures that they displayed in the West now accompany the money they send to their home country. So what impact does this have on their mother countries, a majority of whom are still gripped by ethnic / religious nationalism?
Examples include Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Turkey, India, etc. A spike in social conservatism and emotional nationalism among the urban middle classes in these countries may be related to what these countries received as returning citizens and / or their money. . Motherland regimes use religious / ethnic nationalism to bolster their legitimacy, especially when economies fail. Thus, remittances and their sources are important assets for these plans.
But these strengths largely include people who, due to multiculturalism in their adopted countries, had come to accept only Western economic liberalism, and not political and social expressions of liberalism. Therefore, the economic and social influences of the working people clearly deepen ethnic / religious nationalism in their countries of origin.
The presence of immigrant identity symbols in the Western multiculturalism paradigm was a variation of inclusive Western liberalism. But such symbols, when placed in the context of the ethnic / religious nationalism of the countries of origin, become contributors to exclusivist nationalism.
Posted in Dawn, EOS, October 3, 2021