Saturday, March 08, 2014

Us And Them

Jerry Z Muller's Us And Them from Foreign Affairs in 2008. Bear in mind that the magazine published a roundtable of authors disagreeing with Muller a few months later. He holds his own, though.
...a survey would show that whereas in 1900 there were many states in Europe without a single overwhelmingly dominant nationality, by 2007 there were only two, and one of those, Belgium, was close to breaking up. Aside from Switzerland, in other words -- where the domestic ethnic balance of power is protected by strict citizenship laws -- in Europe the "separatist project" has not so much vanished as triumphed. Far from having been superannuated in 1945, in many respects ethnonationalism was at its apogee in the years immediately after World War II. European stability during the Cold War era was in fact due partly to the widespread fulfillment of the ethnonationalist project. And since the end of the Cold War, ethnonationalism has continued to reshape European borders.

One could argue that Europe has been so harmonious since World War II not because of the failure of ethnic nationalism but because of its success, which removed some of the greatest sources of conflict both within and between countries. The fact that ethnic and state boundaries now largely coincide has meant that there are fewer disputes over borders or expatriate communities, leading to the most stable territorial configuration in European history.
This is, of course, quite different from how Europe pictures itself these days. The standard belief is that a pan-European consciousness is growing, and nationalism fading, except in retrograde parties which hate outsiders. That the ability of the EU to come together may actually be founded on its individual components first becoming separate is not such a popular idea just now.

It was very much the American idea at first, of disparate colonies coming together.  And certainly, an American identity has been established.  As federalism disappears (or so I hear), American unity may fragment as well.  Union may require separateness.

Note that since WWII, and accelerating after the breakup of the USSR, much of nation building has involved people returning ethnic groups, mostly Germans, back to their countries of "origin," even had they lived there for generations. This was often not expulsion but volunteering, e.g. Germans and many Hungarians leaving Romania; Germans moving west from Poland and Poles West from Belarus;

(HT: Byzantine Calvinist)


a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...

I suppose I rather agree with what I feel is your imputed point. If Crimea is Russian ethnically, let it be. I was just thrilled the other day when I heard President Obama had said 'We need monitors.' What I though he might have meant was monitors for the election 'over there.' It would have saved my generation a whole lot of grief if Eisenhower had taken 'that attitude' toward the 'election in VN agreed to in the Geneva accords' by the French. Moreover, the idea that they can't have an election there because there can't be public statements or somesuch against the Russians. What is the difference? Obama has kept the Tea Party supporters from spending money on the airwaves against him. All democracies are a bit imperfect.

sykes.1 said...

The EU is destabilizing and delegitimizing the remaining multinational states like Britain, France, Italy and Spain, and further secessions can be expected..

james said...

I wish I knew more about what the ordinary people in France or Germany thought. We hear from the elites who run the media, and sometimes everything else, like the ENArchs in France. Some of what seems spontaneous (strikes over some law) isn't--it is top-down driven by the political party that lost. Sometimes maybe it is--how can I tell the difference?

Too much centralization could mean "one size fits all" when it doesn't, or that the spoils get too concentrated, or that there is less and less scope for smaller figures (even in the arts: do people spend money at the Met simulcasts that would otherwise go to the local opera company?) All sound like recipes for unhappiness. Federalism or subsidiarity seem like better compromises.