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Archive for November, 2011

Spain’s 2011 General Election: One State, Three Nations

Spain held a general election last Sunday, 20th of November, amidst threats of economic intervention by the EU and under a dramatic economic crisis with unemployment rates matching the highest levels the country had experienced in the 1980s. It was not the best scenario for the party in government, the Socialist Party (PSOE), which had implemented unpopular policies, such as budget cuts in social services and a fast-track reform of the Spanish Constitution to limit public debt. The popularity of Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero was really low and the PSOE leadership decided that the former Deputy Prime Minister, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, should stand as a candidate instead to improve the party’s election results.

Notwithstanding this movement, the electoral prospects of the Socialist Party remained low in the pre-election polls and the conservative Popular Party (PP) entered the election campaign in a comfortable position. The PP’s election manifesto was rather ambiguous though, with no specific details about what economic measures they would implement if they won the electoral contest.

On the election day, the PP got an unquestionable victory with 44% of the popular vote and an overall majority of 186 MPs in the Spanish Parliament (350 seats). This will allow Mariano Rajoy, the conservative leader who had lost the last two general elections against Mr Zapatero, to have a comfortable position in the Spanish Parliament for the next four years. Although the victory of the conservatives was very clear, political analysts point out that the PP only got an extra half-a-million votes, whereas the PSOE lost almost four-and-a-half. Therefore, there is no clear voting transfer between the two parties and some analysts and politicians suggest that the election should not be understood as an overwhelming conservative victory, but rather as a catastrophe for the Socialists. Indeed, the PSOE got its worst result since the first democratic election in 1977, gathering only 110 seats (a loss of 59).

The PP’s victory (or the Socialists’ defeat) has followed a homogeneous pattern across Spain. The conservatives have won in all the Spanish Autonomous Communities, except in Catalonia and the Basque Country.

The PSOE had clearly won in both sub-state nations in 2008. Their good results were due to its agressive campaign against the PP, which is more centralist and Spanish nationalist in nature, so a majority of Basques and Catalans supported the PSOE, which was perceived as more willing to accept political decentralisation and Spain’s cultural diversity. However, this image did not save the Socialists from being punished by the two nations’ voters either, but instead of voting for the conservatives, a majority of the electorate supported Catalan and Basque nationalist political parties.

The victory of the Catalan nationalists of CiU (Convergència i Unió) was totally unexpected. The polls suggested that the Socialist would lose many votes in Catalonia, but none had shown a victory of CiU. Actually, it is the first time that the Socialists do not win a general election in Catalonia. CiU got 16 MPs and gathered 29% of the vote compared to the PSOE’s 14 seats and 26%. The result in Catalonia means a double victory for the centre-right nationalist party: they beat the Socialists in a general election for the first time, and CiU leading also the Catalan government, their budget cuts and austerity measures have received the backing of many Catalans. After this general election there is no doubt about who speaks for Catalonia: CiU won the Catalan election and the general election in Catalonia, and also they won in May the municipal election in Barcelona , the capital, and thus another victory of huge political significance.

The results in the Basque Country also diverged from the Spanish trend. The centre-right nationalist party, the PNV, won the general election with 27% of the vote and gathered 5 seats in the Basque Country. However, another Basque nationalist party, Amaiur, gathered 6 seats despite its 23% of the popular vote due to the effects of the electoral system. Amaiur is a left-wing Basque nationalist coalition of different parties, including members of the outlawed Batasuna, which had links with the separatist armed organisation ETA. After the abandonment of violence declared by ETA in October, the left-wing Basque nationalist coalition was allowed to take part in the election and ranked first, in number of seats, amongst all Basque political parties. The PSOE and the PP in the Basque lands got 21% and 17% of votes respectively.

The regional map of the election results shows what has been called a ‘blue tsunami’ of the Spanish conservative party. Two territories show a different colour, though, the Basque Country and Catalonia, where nationalist parties have clearly benefitted form the Socialist setback. Nationalist parties in both nations run for election raising demands for further constitutional change. The main proposal of the Catalan CiU was full fiscal autonomy for Catalonia; whereas the PNV aims to revise the constitutional status of the Basque Country and Amaiur claims the recognition of the self-determination right of the Basque people and pushes for independence. The election results strengthened the territorial claims of the Catalan and Basque nationalists, but also strengthened the PP in Madrid. The conservatives will probably not concede any of the demands presented by the nationalists on grounds of territorial homogeneity and equality amongst all Spaniards. However, the election results suggest that not all Spaniards are equal, at least on political preferences. If demands are not satisfied to some extent, we will probably see an escalade of territorial conflict in the years to come between the majority nation, which backed a centralist and Spanish nationalist party, and the two minority nations, which backed parties demanding further self-government and national recognition. In conclusion, then, a scenario of one state, three nations.

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http://video.sps.ed.ac.uk/index.php/kwidget/cache_st/1321295736/wid/_100/uiconf_id/1727877/entry_id/0_h7lag6c5

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Scotland and Québec: Two Sovereignty Movements

Here is a very interesting article on the Scottish and Québécois nationalist movement in The Gazette, the main newspaper written in English in Montreal.

While the separatist movement in Québec is suffering from disunity and an historical collapse in the last federal elections, the SNP is getting closer to its goal of achieving independence.  We will need to wait and see if the support for the SNP will result in a yes vote in a referendum, but if it does, it will inevitably influence the whole movement in Québec.

As Daniel Turp, professor at the University of Montreal, says:

A Scottish referendum win “will inspire Quebec nationalists and be seen as a very strong precedent.  The achievement of independence will have occurred in a democratic setting similar to Canada. The precedent will even be more interesting if the United Kingdom accepts, without arguing about and challenging the 50-per-cent-plus-one threshold.”

The victory of a yes vote for an independent Scotland would therefore not only transform British politics, but would also open up new debates and discussions in Canadian politics.

http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/sovereignty+movements+Scotland+rises+while+Quebec+languishes/5702389/story.html

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Belonging

I have found that in nationalism there is an underlying questions of belonging, you belong to a group or in a group, being ethnic or social, depending on your definitions. Many people think of the country in which they were born as the place that they belong and that place is also where they find the culture they most identify with, but is it always the case the birth is a criteria for belonging? This is an interesting article about someone who felt she belonged in India more than the UK, even though she was born in the UK and lived there most of her life. She says in the article that she always felt like India was home and that she belonged there, she also places emphasis on feeling like she “looked” like the people in India, which helped her to feel that she belonged there.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-radio-and-tv-15520933

Where do you feel that you belong?

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Nationalism and Globalisation

D. Halikiopoulou and S. Vasilopoulou (eds) (2011) Nationalism and Globalisation: Conflicting or Complimentary? (London: Routledge).

This book just out is based on papers given at the 2009 ASEN annual conference, provides a good current set of chapters on this topic, combining, theoretical, historical, and contemporary issue perspectives. Authors include: John A. Hall, Sarah Danielson, John Breuilly, John Hutchinson, Ronald Grigor Suny, Jonathan Hearn, Stephen Castles, Anthony D. Smith, Stephanie Lawson, and the editors.

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Liah Greenfeld

According to Greenfeld, the emergence of modern economy is equated with the rise of capitalism. Greenfield defines a nation as a sovereign community of fundamental equality of membership. She emphasizes that, in comparison with collectivist nationalisms, individualistic-civic nationalism offers inspiration, prompting economic activities towards growth.  Economic interests/ economic achievements are of significance for every individual in society and for the whole nation. In the case of ethnic nations, economic activities are mainly practiced by small groups within the community.

Our seminar focuses mainly on Individualistic-civic vs. ethnic nationalism and the modern economy in a contemporary setting.

We have chosen three examples of nationalism in order to challenge and debate Greenfeld’s theory. Québec was chosen as an example because of its contemporary development of nationalism, and China was chosen because it does not necessarily comply with Greenfeld’s argument of nationalism co-existing with capitalism, what with the rise of technology.  The Canadian province is not completely ‘sovereign’ and it may be argued that China ideologically opposes capitalism, yet they experience an intensive nationalism.

1)   Does China contradict or challenge Greenfeld’s theories of Nationalism? How so?

2)   How does digital capitalism, that goes beyond the conventional boundaries of nationalism, challenge Greenfield’s theory of specific physical boundaries?

3)   Historically, Quebec has seen examples of both ethnic nationalism (Prior to the Quiet Revolution in the 1960s, the province’s natural resources were mainly developed by foreign investors or the English-Canadian minority) and individualistic nationalism. Based on Greenfeld’s definitions of ‘ethnic’, do you believe that Quebec embodies civic, individualistic nationalism or ethnic nationalism?

4)   Would Greenfeld feel that Quebec is a good example of a ‘nation’, even though it is not fully sovereign?

An exploration of Greenfeld’s thesis in terms of how it relates to America is described within ‘Spirit of Capitalism: nationalism and economic growth’. Greenfeld states:  “the modern consciousness is a product of the dynamics of American society, in turn shaped by the singular characteristics of American nationalism”. To Greenfeld, the United States is the ideal case study for her ‘nationalism leads to capitalism’ theory because she sees the USA as the natural heirs to the original nationalism that developed in England.

5) Does Greenfeld’s argument make sense when it comes to the United States? Did economic competition, resulting from national pride, lead to the USA’s contemporary position; or, can we reverse this and ask if the origins of the USA’s capitalism lie in the rejection of English nationalism in the 18th century as they worked to boost the economy of the colonies, leading to the desire for independence, which in turn lead to nationalist feeling?

6)  If groupings of nations like the European Union become more commonplace, do you think that this will lead to economic stagnation, as the number of disinfect bodies competing is reduced? Or do you think that cohesive and coherent groups of nations will be able to compete effectively with nations such as the USA who Greenfeld does not think need to combine forces to dominate the market?

5)   How do two examples that do not perfectly fit Greenfield’s theories compare to Greenfield’s own example of the USA as one of the ‘five roads to modernity’?
….
Last but not least,
Group Five!

 

 

 

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NEW BOOK: Against Orthodoxy: Studies in Nationalism

Several members of staff who are involved in teaching the MSc Nationalism Studies at the University of Edinburgh have recently contributed to a new collection of essays on nationalism. The book grew from a number of conference sessions organised by the Canadian Network for the Study of Identities, Mobilization and Conflict at the Canadian Sociology Association’s 2008 conference in Vancouver. The volume covers a range of familiar and not so familiar topics of interest to scholars of nationalism: minority rights, the construction of childhood, multiculturalism, civic and ethnic nationalism, nationalist party’s support base, and militarism. It is also a fitting tribute to one of the book’s co-editors and contributors, Slobodan Drakulic, who died before its publication and is very much missed. More on the book can be found here:

http://www.ubcpress.ca/search/title_book.asp?BookID=299173505

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