THE BAD FACE OF NATIONALISM
Nationalist movements have become a greater concern for all members of the European Union since our entry in a modern or neoliberal world. According to Dahbour and Ishay (1995) we would be facing a totalitarian nationalism, a problematic that threats a union of European states, established in 1993 with the Treaty of Maastricht. An empirical example of today’s is Brexit, which we will talk about after, once Nationalism, one of the main concepts of the twenty first century, is defined. This text will relate both important concepts; nationalism and populism and it will explain the impact that these ones have in the European Union.
Nationalism is a political and social ideology that promotes a shared identity between citizens within the same state, which emerge from national consciousness. This refers to the gathering and strengthening notion of cultural traditions that certain groups of people adopt, to be distinguished from other ethnic groups. However, according to such scholars as; Elie Kedourie and Ernest Gellner nationalism, is either a weak or strong agent of change rather than a modernisation element and political power. Yet, modernisation and political power are deeply involved in the concept, which can create problematic situations, by making nationalism extremely powerful and destructive. This has been evident through social breakdowns, collapses in the transmission of traditional values and referendums asking for independence (Hutchinson & Smith, 1994, p. 37, 38). According to Elie Kedourie or to Ernest Gellner “It is the need of modern societies for cultural homogeneity that creates nationalism. Thus, Nationalism would be sociologically rooted in modernity” (in Dahbour and Ishay, 1995, p. 79).
Regarding nowadays the effect of nationalism, in defining citizen’s political identity, has changed since the French revolution (1789-1799). When the purpose of nationalism remained in expanding a patriotist feeling, to motivate people for either get hegemonic aims to defend the dynasty’s interests, or simply to protect themselves against hostility. (Dahbour and Ishay, 1995). However, a new notion of nationalism at its extreme level, has mostly expanded throughout European western political systems from the twentieth century, such as in The United Kingdom. An issue that roots in immigration, security, the process of globalisation, and the loss of sovereignty.
The idea of Brexit, which means the exit of Britain from the European Union, was encouraged by the United Kingdom Independence Party and did finally conclude through a referendum that took place, on Thursday 23, June 2016. When 51.9 % of voters were in favour to leave with 48.1% of people who wanted to remain. The situation sparked debates on the issue leading to concerns among members of the European Union as well as in citizens and immigrants living in the United Kingdom, fearing in their future. Nowadays, the European Union and United Kingdom negotiating teams are meeting each month for one week to talk about further economical processes until the exit occurs.
This empirical example of nationalism has been interpreted in different ways; “some theorists identified this modern conception of nationalism, merely as a social-biological interpretation, like racism, others argued that, either it was invented to legitimise power in a century of democratization, or for a moral regeneration of communities” (Hutchinson & Smith, 1994, p. 38, 39). However, Brexit can be explained in terms of, populism, a political inclination that has also become a challenge for the international system during the twenty first century.
In this case the agent of change, previously mentioned by Kedourie and Gellner, has to be interpreted as the United Kingdom Independence Party (political power), based on populist concepts, which supported the idea of Brexit. Populist’s arguments are built on “the theory of value change”. This refers to the western societies’ shift, towards cosmopolitanism and multiculturalism after the Cold War (Norris and Inglehart, 2016). Therefore, the type of nationalism proposed by the right populist wing is based on the enforcement of traditional values by turning them into a reaction against progressive cultural change. According to studies from an economic perspective, the populist support come from the less secure social classes such as; the older generations, ethnic majorities, the less educated, residents of public housing and long-term unemployed. Where there is a deep cynicism and resentment of such existing authorities as; multinational corporations, big banks, elected politicians, official government and so forth. “Populists claim to enact the expression of the voice and will of the people”, making people to realise that those elites do not listen to them. (Norris and Inglehart, 2016). Their charismatic leadership and promises are generally questioned from realistic points of view, which argues that populist leaders appeal by saying more than by acting.
This extreme nationalism has also created other issues. Such as rejection, indifference or distrust to another cultures, which they believe it is correct in order to go towards social, cultural, political and economic progress. Moreover, this situation has become in a justification to other disagreed authorities for the legitimation of the use of force, which potentially generate pressure. Therefore, other political parties in contradiction, must act carefully, as populist parties will take an advantage of any bad step from the government and political authorities, to reinforce their campaigns. Campaigns whose aim is to achieve a free and prosperous British economy. Although there is an economic contradiction in this aim since it promotes more capitalism, when they, populists, claim to be against elites (Buckle, Hewish, Hulsman, Mansfield and Oulds, 2015).
Hence, there is an urgent need for the European Union to defend itself as a community of values, so that, responses from the European Union must be strong and it must require a coordinated action of all members of the European Union to make it effective and to increase a sense of economic and political union. “Extremist nationalism needs to be challenged in order to protect citizens’ fundamental rights as well as the existence of the European Union. It needs to be challenged always within a democratic and juridical frame adjusted to the law” (European humanist federation. October 2013).
In conclusion, nationalism as a political and social ideology that promotes a shared identity between citizens within the same state, has changed over the time since the French revolution (1789-1799), from expanding a patriotist feeling, to be against of a progressive cultural change, from the middle of the twentieth century. This extreme nationalism is showed in the specific example of Brexit, in which, the force of populism has helped to increase a more extreme notion of conserving an own culture, in an era of globalisation, whose impact is negative, as it does not accept cultural progress in a neoliberal world order. Therefore, this fact is affecting the values of the European Union, which seek for a collective consensus and a sense of cooperation between states that are in a same geographic area.