Dr. Liah Greenfeld, a professor of Sociology, Political Science, and Anthropology at Boston University has been published on many subjects, including “art, economics, history, language and literature, philosophy, politics, religion, and science,” but is probably most well known for her works focusing on nationalism (Boston University, 2015). Greenfeld asserts that “[n]ationalism is a unique form of social consciousness which emerged in the early sixteenth century in England,” spreading outward to the English colonies in America, then to France and Russia, and finally across much of the rest of the world over the last two centuries (Greenfeld 2001, p.2). Greenfeld agrees with other nationalism scholars, including Anderson, that sovereignty is a crucial element to true nationalism; Greenfeld argues that “[n]ation consciousness is inherently democratic” and “popular sovereignty [is an] essential political principle” of nationalism (Greenfeld 2001, p.2).
Instances of this English nationalism predate industrialization and create a drive toward capitalism and economic growth (Greenfeld 1996). According to Greenfeld, “nationalism, while it did not determine the nature of the modern economic system, has undoubtedly contributed to the development of its chief component: industrialization” (Greenfeld 1996, p. 29). In Greenfeld’s view, nationalism has driven the formation of capitalism as an individualistic endeavor that is a “service to the nation” (Greenfeld 1996, p.29).
Dr. Greenfeld takes the modernist view a step further and points to the formation of a national identity and civic equality of “the people” of nations as giving individuals a sense of dignity (Greenfeld 1994 p.165). However, after this dignity is established within a people, psychological malaise becomes widespread in modern societies (Greenfeld 2001 p.3). Because of the opportunities offered by modern nations, and unrealized economic potential, Greenfeld points to significantly higher instances of “socially paralyzing mental disorders” than existed in pre-modern times (Greenfeld 2005, p.340).
Greenfeld, L. (1994) “Types of European Nationalism” in J. Hutchinson and A. Smith (eds.) Nationalism, Oxford U.P).
Greenfeld, L. (1996) Nationalism and Modernity. Nationalism Reexamined. [Online] New School. Vol. 63 (1). p. 3-40. Available from jstor.org
Greenfeld, L. (2001) Spirit of Capitalism: Nationalism and Economic Growth. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
Greenfeld, L. (2005) ‘Nationalism and the Mind’, Nations and Nationalism 11(3): 325-42.
Boston University (2015) “Liah Greenfeld” Faculty and Staff, Boston University[Online] http://www.bu.edu/sociology/faculty-staff/faculty/liah-greenfeld/
Case Study 1: Russia
Liah Greenfeld in Nationalism: Five roads to modernity outlines an argument that the national consciousness and character in Russia is a result of transvaluation as result of ressentiment towards the West (p.250). At first Russia used the West as a model to emulate. As national consciousness evolved, ressentiment evolved with it. Early in this process Russia recognized the superiority of the Western system, but was wary of admiring it. Though the West was viewed as a legitimate model for emulation, with it came the acknowledgment that a comparison to it was unflattering to Russia (pp.227-228).
Ressentiment became “the most important factor” in the crystallization of Russian national consciousness. The Tsar was seen as humiliating Russians by eradicating and replacing old customs as an attempt to Westernize the country. Importantly, the values in this consciousness, and later character, were “a result of the transvaluation born out of this ressentiment” (p.250). This ressentiment was based on a pessimistic view of Russia, one that recognized “its absolute impotence in the competition with the West (254). Contextually Greenfeld appears to be speaking of cultural competition. Though, in “Nationalism and the Mind” she points out that Russia has always chosen cultural and military competition but “has never been interested in economic competition” (p.328).
However appropriate and correct this theory may be regarding “ethnic” Russians or Russian speakers, it appears limited in its application to the entire country, then and now. The main individuals referenced by Greenfeld are Russian elites and the intelligentsia, which by implication are Russian-speaking urban elites and intelligentsia. In Imperial Russia, as in contemporary Russia, the actual territory of the country covers and includes manifold languages, ethnicities, and cultures. Pre-WWI Imperial Russia and the Post-WWII Russian dominated Soviet Union encompassed past (and future) countries with their own sense of identities.
As Greenfeld has highlighted, the nascent national consciousness and character in Russia was essentially a top-down creation of a very Russian-centric identity. If one looks at further Russian nationalism developments, specifically under Stalin, one can see this theme reoccurring. It has been argued that Stalin had a specific “primordial” interpretation of both the nation and ethnic identity, but with Russia centered within this view (Van Ree, p.162). Though this doctrine included other soviets and cultures in the “Family of Peoples”, the Russian nation took the lead (p.172). By 1934 Soviet “patriotism” concentrated on a Russocentric and idealized version of Russia military history, describing progressive defensive battles; Russian expansion in to other regions, such as the Ukraine, were portrayed as beneficial to the people living in those regions(p.175).
It is interesting, then, to look at the current situation in the Ukraine. Putin’s reasoning for annexing Crimea was that it was and is an “inseparable part of Russia” that was cut off from Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. According to him, these Russians in Crimea became “a national minority in former republics of the union. The Russian people became one of the biggest, if not the biggest, split-up nation in the world,” (quoted in The Guardian). Of course this annexation only came after the Russian friendly Ukrainian leader was chased out in favor of a Pro-EU one. However, support for closer ties with Russia still continued to exist in parts of the Russian speaking eastern Ukraine. The question is how big of a role, if any, nationalism played in eastern Ukraine’s desire to stay in a Russian sphere of influence over that of the EU.
Greenfeld, L. (1992) Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Greenfeld, L. (2005) ‘Nationalism and the Mind’, Nations and Nationalism 11(3): 325-42.
Traynor, I. (2014) ‘Putin claims Russian forces ‘could conquer Ukraine capital in two weeks’’, The Guardian 2 September. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/02/putin-russian-forces-could-conquer-ukraine-capital-kiev-fortnight
Van Ree, E. (2006) The Political Thought of Joseph Stalin: A Study in 20th Century Revolutionary Patriotism, London: Routledge.
Case Study 2: Scotland
Recently there has been a lot of debate in Scotland about whether the Scottish education system is failing poor students. Last week, the Scotsman revealed that students from low-income families are borrowing almost £6,000 a year, which is about a third more than students from more well-off families.
At last week’s First Minister’s Questions, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was also heavily criticised over not keeping her promises to cut student debt.
This issue can be related to what Liah Greenfeld regards as the big problem that emerged with nationalism – namely anomie (Greenfeld 2005: 332). She says anomie is a ‘condition of cultural insufficiency, a systemic problem which reflects inconsistency, or the lack of co-ordination, between various institutional structures, as a result of which they are likely to send contradictory messages to individuals within them’. More precisely, Greenfeld argues that the amount of choice in modern societies creates a notion of disorientation due to the pressure to be successful in several aspects of life. In reality, however, very few people manage this. According to Greenfeld, anomie creates depression and increases suicide rates. She claims that we cannot have modernity or nationalism without anomie.
Greenfeld could explain the Scottish students’ debt frustration with anomie. Because of the social mobility made possible by the creation of the nation, everyone now in theory has the possibility to get higher education on the same line with everyone else. However, many students realise that they might have to sacrifice success in other aspects of life to attain this goal. One result can be a less desirable economic situation. Greenfeld would say that this feeling of not being able to succeed in all points of life can trigger depression. Before there were nations, however, only the aristocracy could be educated. Therefore, there was nothing to be depressed about, as your life path was decided at birth. If you were born a peasant, you would die a peasant. Greenfeld seems to think that this is psychologically easier to handle than being given a lot of different choices without being able to utilise all of them.
Greenfeld, Liah (2005) ‘Nationalism and the Mind’, Nations and Nationalism 11(3): 325-42
Macnab, Scott (2015) ‘Poorer Scots Face £24,000 Student Debt Burden’, The Scotsman. Available at: http://www.scotsman.com/business/finance/poorer-scots-face-24-000-student-debt-burden-1-3929912#axzz3qPhyIdly
Macnab, Scott (2015) ‘Nicola Sturgeon Broke Promises over Student Debt’, The Scotsman. Available at: http://www.scotsman.com/news/education/nicola-sturgeon-broke-promises-over-student-debt-1-3932366#axzz3qPhyIdly
Case Study 3: China
A brief history of Nationalism in China:
1.Ancient Chinese ‘Nationalism’-the distinction between Hua (华) and Yi (夷), or ‘Sino–barbarian dichotomy’, since 770BC Zhou dynasty? Chinese identify themselves as the most civilized people around the world, others, are ‘Barbarians’.
2.From 1840, Chinese culture and cultural pride was smashed by the Western countries, or ‘great powers’. Modern Nationalism developed since that period.
- Recognizing ethnic groups movement, 1953-1978. 56 ethnic groups in PRC.
- ‘Chinese Nation’, since 1912 and re-developed since 1978, as a replacement of ‘Chinese people’. This theory identifies all the people who live in China as ‘Chinese’(cultural), regardless of their ethnic background.
A brief history of capitalism in China:
- Born in 1860?
- Developed during the WWI, 1912-1919.
- Continued to develop in 1920s and 1930s, as the ‘Golden decade’ or ‘Nanjing decade’.
- Damaged by war and conflicts 1937-1949.
- Destroyed by the CPC since 1956.
- ‘Socialism with Chinese characteristics’, which is partly ‘Crony capitalism’ since 1978.
‘the factor responsible for the reorientation of economic activity is nationalism’- Lian Greenfield, the spirit of capitalism.
- National Products Movement (1912-1937) was a self-organized movement in China, majorly in Peking, Shanghai, Tianjin and other ‘modern cities’. The goal of this movement is to develop Chinese industry and economy by boycotting foreign products and using Chinese products.
- People prefer to(or be educated to) use national products, even with lower quality and higher prices. Use national products= love your country, Use foreign (especially Japanese) goods= 汉奸(traitors)
- Industrialists used the symbol of country, patriotic advertising language and even named their products with national hero or national symbol for marketing.
Picture: cigarettes box, Nanyang Brothers Tobacco
Translation: (New Patriotic Cigarettes: Chinese people, Chinese money, Chinese industrial, Chinese economic rights, patriots please enjoy Aiguo cigarettes)
- This movement is partially successful. With National Products movement, Chinese capitalism and Chinese ‘modern’ industrial growth rapidly, especially from 1927-1937. This period is remembered as ‘Golden decade’.
Greenfeld, L. (2001) The spirit of capitalism : nationalism and economic growth, London, Harvard University Press.
Case Study 4: UKIP
Much of Liah Greenfeld’s study of nationalism focuses on the economy. Calling nationalism “a unique form of social consciousness,” Greenfeld attributes the emergence of nationalism to the application of the word “nation” to the population or people of a country instead of just the elite, seen first in sixteenth-century England (Greenfeld 1992). Greenfeld argues that there are three types of nationalism; individual-civic nationalism, collectivistic-civic nationalism, and – the “ultimately racist” – collectivistic-ethnic nationalism (Greenfeld 2001, p. 3). England is, according to Greenfeld, the first example of an individualistic-civic nation, made of “an association of individuals,” who work toward individual autonomy and economic growth (Greenfeld 2001, p. 23). Nationalism “has undoubtedly contributed to the development of…[the] chief component [of the modern economy]: industrialization” (Greenfeld 1996, p. 29). Nationalism presents “economic exploits…as service to the nation” and is most felt “in the economic sphere…where economic issues are interwoven with political and ideological ones” (Greenfeld 1996, p.30).
At the beginning of this week, there was a report from the House of Lord’s on the “EU Action Plan Against Migrant Smuggling”. The report calls for migrants displaced by violence in Eastern Europe to all be reclassified as “refugees” and for a decriminalization of these refugees entering other countries through smuggling or other illegal routes. UKIP largely disagrees with doing either of these things and states that any migrant coming from Turkey specifically is not in danger and therefore cannot be classified as a refugee (UKIP 2015, a). Refugees are entitled to more social and monetary benefits than immigrants, and have fewer restrictions on access into the UK, so UKIP advocates for labeling almost everyone displaced by the refugee crisis as immigrants to “protect” British economic interests (UKIP 2015, a).
UKIP Migration spokesman Steven Woolfe said that “[t]he cost in one year alone in giving all migrant arrivals asylum status would bankrupt Britain” and that this is one reason among many “why the UK government is legally obliged to deport any non-EU economic migrant who enters this country illegally” (UKIP 2015, a).
Many of the arguments of the UKIP manifesto are economic in nature, focusing on limiting taxation of British citizens and largely restricting immigration, which the party believes “is far too high” and blames for straining “housing and…public services such as schools, hospitals, transport networks, [and] power and water supplies” (UKIP 2015, b). In addition, UKIP frequently points to immigrants as abusers of British welfare and an overall “pressure” on British services (UKIP 2015, b).
As the name of the UK Independence Party implies, the political group is Eurosceptic in nature, and often blames the European Union for as many issues as it can. The party’s ultimate goal is to “leave the EU and take back control of [British] borders” to protect the largely economic interests of the United Kingdom (UKIP 2015, b). This economic drive is encased in nationalist sentiment, seen in statements about putting British “money to this country [the UK] and our [British] people where it’s meant to go in the first place” from UKIP’s former head of policy Tim Aker (Mason 2015). Greenfeld’s economic assertion that nationalism drives capitalism and economic growth presents itself in the anti-immigrant and anti-European sentiment surrounding the political policies of UKIP, most symbolically in the logo of UKIP which is essentially just the British Pound symbol.
GREENFELD, L. (1992) Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
GREEENFELD, L. (1996) Nationalism and Modernity. Nationalism Reexamined. [Online] New School. Vol. 63 (1). p. 3-40. Available from jstor.org
GREENFELD, L. (2001) Spirit of Capitalism: Nationalism and Economic Growth. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
MASON, R. (2015) UKIP MEP Blasts EU for Helping Refugees While Grass Left Uncut in Essex. The Guardian. [Online] 18th September. Available from: theguardian.co.uk [Accessed: 2nd November 2015]
UKIP (a). (3 Nov, 2015). Lords Migration Report Joins Juncker’s Commission in Confusion Over Faulty ‘Refugee’ Reclassification. UKIP. [Online] Available from: http://www.ukip.org/_lords_migration_report_joins_juncker_s_commission_in_confusion_over_faulty_refugee_re_classification
UKIP (b) (15 Apr, 2015) UKIP 2015 Election Manifesto Launch, Read a Clear Summary of the Full Document. UKIP. [Online] Available from: http://www.ukip.org/ukip_manifesto_summary#
- Is there something inherent in the Russian national character or consciousness that, because of its origins, sets it at odds with the West? If so, is this exploited by Russian leaders
- Can Greenfeld’s argument of anomie be used to defend strictly restricted authoritarian regimes?
- Does nationalism contribute to the economy in a ‘dishonorable’ way? E.g, some national products are sold by the name of patriotism, regardless of the poor quality. The public suffered from the poor quality and paid more for it, while the Industrialists earned more.
- In what ways do (or don’t) UKIP’s immigration policies embody Greenfeld’s economic theories of nationalism?