Archive for November, 2010

Catalan election: Economy or Nationalism?

The Catalans voted for change yesterday in their parliamentary elections after seven years of leftist government. The electoral campaign has been mainly focused on the economic crisis. However, the ruling of the Spanish Constitutional Court of late June that declared unconstitutional several articles of the reformed Catalan Statute of Autonomy has also put the relationship between Catalunya and Spain on the political debate.

Hence, apart from the traditional left-right axis, political parties in Catalunya also define themselves in another axis that encompasses both issues of Catalan and Spanish national identities and their preferences on the degree of self-government that the country should have: from being just another Spanish region to achieve independence by becoming an independent state.

The tripartite coalition government suffered a severe loss yesterday. The Socialist Party (PSC) lost 9 seats and had its worst result ever in a Catalan election. The independence supporters of Esquerra (ERC) also were severely punished by their voters, which made them lost more than a half of their seats. The third government partner, the leftist ecologist of Iniciativa (ICV), also lost two seats. On the other hand, there were two clear winners last night. First, the moderate Catalan nationalists of Convergència i Unió (CiU) won a clear majority of 62 seats that will allow them to constitute a minority government. Second, the Spanish right-wing nationalists of the Partido Popular (PP) won 18 seats, so they have become the third political party in the Catalan parliament.

Finally, two small parties will also have seats in the new parliament. First, Ciutadans (C’s), which define themselves as ‘anti-nationalists’, keep their 3 seats. Second, Solidaritat Catalana per la Independència (SCI), led by the former president of FC Barcelona, Joan Laporta, won 4 seats with an electoral manifesto exclusively based on a unilateral declaration of independence.

The negative Catalan economic situation is the key explanatory factor to understand why CiU has won the election. Thus, it is unclear that the Catalan nationalist party has won the election because Catalans are today more nationalist than 4 years ago, as the NY Times seems to imply. It may very well not be the case. As a matter of fact, CiU has taken advantage of the widespread rejection to the tripartite government. Needless to say, that widespread rejection has a lot to do with the economic crisis.

Nevertheless, the national cleavage remains certainly important:

  1. CIU has claimed during the election campaign that they will demand a greater fiscal autonomy from the Spanish government. Although they do not support explicitly secession, it is worth mentioning that Artur Mas, the party leader, has claimed that the Spanish Estado de las Autonomias has proved inappropriate to accommodate Catalunya after the Constitutional Court ruling on the Statute of Autonomy. Further, he has admitted that he would personally vote in favour of the secession of Catalunya in an eventual referendum.
  2. It is undoubtedly clear that there is an increasing polarization of national identities in Catalunya:

On one hand, there will be a Catalan nationalist government. Moreover, there are now two secessionist parties in the parliament. There can be little doubt that independence has gained importance in the Catalan (political) debate during last years, mainly as a reaction to Spanish state lack of accommodation and recognition of Catalan national identity.

On the other hand, Spanish nationalist opposition has been strengthened (PP + C’s). Not in vain, it has been the most successful result of PP in a Catalan election. Besides, issues such as the need (or not) to privilege Catalan language and Catalan culture have been more recurrent than ever.

Dani Cetrà & David Martí

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I wanted to raise my awareness about the functions and responsibilities of Scottish Government and Parliament. Recently read this article from OpenDemocracy by author Gerry Hassan. I can not evaluate the objectivity of information, but I think the article contains some interesting elements for nationalism students.
Here are small parts from article:

The current and forthcoming crisis shows that we don’t have a fully responsible Scottish Parliament and Government: instead have an aspiration and ambition for a real Parliament and Government, but still a high degree of reservation and hesitancy about how to drive them forward and what the consequences might be.

This all amounts to the end of devolution. We can snuggle down to an ever more limited politics of apathy, inertia and status – one represented by institutional capture and conservatism – a politics which can be expressed either in the benign, but unattractive vision of grumpy-old-men-unionist-Scotland or the dogma and zealotry of the outsourced state, in which Scotland plc belatedly joins what the new forces of knowledge, expertise and power like to call the modern world; this would entail joining the Anglo-American order as an outhouse of the British state, just as the whole rotten edifice is collapsing around our heads.

Or we can attempt to navigate a different path and dare to dream of a Scotland which has a fully empowered Parliament and Government along with a wider notion of political and societal power and change that isn’t just focused on politicians.

Original can be read from here

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Speaker: Sinisa Malesevic, National University of Ireland, Galway

Date: Wednesday 24th November, 11am
Venue: University of Edinburgh, Chrystal Macmillan Building, Seminar Room 2


In many respects the last two centuries were shaped and defined by the organised violence and the proliferation of nationalist ideologies yet both nationalism and warfare and especially the relationships between the two have largely been ignored by the mainstream post-WWII sociology. This paper identifies the principal reasons for this disciplinary neglect and outlines the direction sociology should take to successfully analyse the impact of war and nationalism on the transformation of modern social orders. In particular the paper focuses on the ambiguous and messy relationship between the inter-state wars and nationalism. In contrast to the popular views that see the sharp rise of nationalist solidarity as an automatic response to the external threat I argue that national homogenisation, witnessed at times of inter-state wars, is neither inevitable nor directly tied to warfare itself.

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Last Tuesday, Michael Keating, another important scholar concerned with national identity and nationalism, held a lecture in the faculty of law. In my surprise, I could not spot any of you there – sadly, as it was one of the most interesting lectures of this semester. In brief, he considered the future challenges for Scottish nationalism and the crisis of unionism in the UK (leaving aside the Northern Irish case). Opinion polls, that he presented, show that neither the Scottish nor the English respondents have decided on a path that Scotland should take either towards devolution max, independence or remaining in the union. It was interesting to reflect on the meaning of these terms, as no substantive proposals are forwarded by either option. What does independence entail? How is (con)federalism feasible? Ultimately, what satisfies the majority of people? To come back to a nationalism studies perspective, I wonder if the pursuit of independence, not only forwarded by the SNP but more general the nationalist movement, was a bit premature. Moreover, it may also show that an independent state is not the non plus ultra any more. What are acceptable (for Scottish and English) alternatives for Scotland as a nation within a bigger state?

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John Hall’s excellent biography of Ernest Gellner (Ernest Gellner: An Intellectual Biography, London: Verso, 2010) has already received praised from the Wall Street Journal, see:


However, this Sunday’s Observer newspaper, included praise from the eminent Marxist historian, Eric Hobsbawm, who chose Hall’s biography as his book of the year, see:


So, Left and Right united in praise of Gellber’s biography! There is irony here: Gellner was well known for his trenchant views, which tended to divide rather than unite opinion.

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Greeneld Group: Imitating the “other”


Greenfeld argues that in the process of importing the idea of nationalism, each society inescapably focuses on the source of importation which automatically becomes an object of imitation. Under the light of the new concept, the society begins to transform. Overwhelmed by feelings of envy and inferiority, a strong belief that the “other” is superior and unreachable gets stronger and stronger, leading to the ultimate reaction of “ressentiment”. The description of the cultural revolution that occurred in Turkey makes a strong case of the aforementioned tense of imitation. The attempt to change society’s identity through “westernizing” it (“hat reform”, banning Turkish music from the radio-allowing only western classics) is a characteristic example of this imitation process and one of the stages leading to the formation of a unique national identity and eventually modernity.

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Greenfeld Group: “Russia for the Russians”


The slogans “Russia for the Russians”, “White Power” and “Orthodox faith or death” which prevailed at the early November’s nationalist demonstration in Moscow clearly depict Greenfeld’s claim that Russia developed a characteristic example of ethnic nationalism based on primordial factors such as blood and soil. At the same time, are an indication of the current rise of the anti-immigration sentiments all over Europe.

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Greenfeld Group: India-Pakistan Relations

The concept from Greenfeld that I have picked up on, ressentiment, is one that was first proposed by Nietzsche and then refined by Scheler. It is defined as a “psychological state resulting from suppressed feelings of envy and hatred (existential envy) and the impossibility of satisfying these feelings” (pg 15).* In the context of nationalism, ressentiment is only possible when, in principal at least, the concept of equality between the two nations/groups exists; but in reality, fundamental differences are present, which do not allow for the attainment of this perceived equality. She further states that when ressentiment is the basis of national identity formation, it is constructed in sharp contrast to, even ‘hostile’ to, the constructs of the nationalism it is derived from (pg 17).

Can the partition of India in 1947, which resulted in the creation of Pakistan, be thought of in these terms? Demands for a separate homeland for the Muslims grew out of a fear for their socio-economic and political status in a Hindu majority India. The perceived “downward mobility” of the Muslim community in a united, independent India resulted in “anomie”, and a “status-inconsistency, ….[which was] accompanied by a profound sense of insecurity and anxiety” (pg 15).

Pakistan shaped its Islamic identity in stark contrast to that of a secular India, wanting to compete on equal terms (gained Independence a day apart), yet as the years went on, increasingly unequal in economic and political terms. Competition with each other is so ingrained in the national psyche of both countries, that 63 years after the event, they are still mortal enemies. Even sporting events between the two countries are always especially high-pressure events for the athletes involved, winning an imperative. Many careers have been made and lost based on performances in these crunch matches.

Greenfeld asserts that “ressentiment not only makes a nation more aggressive, but represents an unusually powerful stimulant of national sentiment and collective action” (pg 488).

A symbolic manifestation of this “aggression” and “powerful national sentiment” presents itself at the daily ceremony held at the India-Pakistan border crossing at Wagah, near the city of Lahore. This clip is from Michael Palin’s brilliant TV series ‘Himalaya’, and captures the essence of the ceremony very well.

In the spirit of friendship and in an attempt to normalize relations between the two countries, the Pakistan Army issued a directive to ‘tone down’ the ceremony, which is the subject of the Guardian article below.


* All quotations taken from Greenfeld, L. 1993. Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity. Harvard University Press.

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Greenfeld Group: Resistance to the Military Sharing Plan

In her theory, Greenfeld identifies three phases in the formation of specific nationalisms: Structural, Cultural and Psychological. In the last phase (psychological) she argues that usually the emergence of national identity is accompanied by resentment, which leads to an emphasis on the elements of indigenous tradition, and in turn hostility towards the principles of the original nationalism (the imported ideas). In turn, in her study of French nationalism she points to the resentment that existed (or was created) against England, which in turn implied that any association with the English was seen as anti-nationalist. Keeping this argument in mind, then it should come as no surprise to see a lot of opposition to the new Anglo-French military sharing deal from both sides of the Channel. Surprisingly, however, there is far less French opposition to the deal than it is British.

An opinion poll conducted by the Financial Times before the deal was signed by the two governments shows that more than a third of the British public oppose sharing military resources with another country, which is in stark contrast to the French figure of only 13 per cent. Moreover, the French figure for the supporters of military sharing is almost double that of the British. These figures, in turn, could be linked to the general opposition in the British media and public to the idea of a European army or anything that might lead to that, however, they do also represent a turn of events. Whereas Greenfeld identified the resentment to the English as one of the main features of French nationalism, it seems that now it is the British who are becoming protective of their national interests against the French and the EU in general.

  • How is this turn of events explained according to Greenfeld’s theory? Can the resentment of the British public to military sharing and the EU in general lead to a new British nationalism which would cause a break away from the EU?

Ref: Blitz, J. (2010), “Military sharing plan finds resistance”, Financial Times, November 1, http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/d6c63a7e-e5ec-11df-af15-00144feabdc0.html#axzz14tpbgNRM

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I was really wondering after one of the lectures by Professor McCrone, why Jewish-Czech liberal (all possible combinations to be anti-communist) Gellner was upset about the demise of the Soviet Union? I deem I discovered a visual answer to the question.
Despite the typical Soviet content of the song about the glory of Lenin and Comsomol it worth to watch it, because it clearly serves as a facade illustration of Soviet multiculturalism (the only thing Gellner liked in “Evil Empire”). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yCr5RRuGV4&feature=player_embedded#!

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