<html><head /> <body> <META http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-16"><title>Nations and Federations</title><meta name="keywords" content="nations,politics,alfred,america,brendan,citizens,culture,ernest,federalism,france,French,gellner,german,history,homogenisation,homogenization,instability,jacobin,latin,materialism,multinational,multi-ethnic,nationalism,philosophy,political,polycultural,professor,stability,states,stepan,united,US,world,"><table style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:larger; " align="center" border="0" width="50%"><tbody><tr> <td style="background-color:silver; border-color:white; border-left-style:none; border-style:none; " width="730"><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:larger; ">Nations and Federations</span></td> </tr> <tr> </tr> </tbody></table><br><table style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:medium; " align="center" bgcolor="white" border="0" width="50%"><tbody><tr> <td height="131" width="669"><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small;"><strong>Editors Introduction</strong></span><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "> The twentieth century witnessed its brutal share of genocide, ethnic cleansing, partitions and secessions, speaking volumes about the plausibility and stability of multicultural nations along the way. The late Ernest Gellner held that multinational states were politically unviable, and that cultural homogeneity was essential for a stable state. </span> <p> <IMG SRC="auth_O'Leary.jpg" WIDTH="80" HEIGHT="110" ALT="O'Leary" VSPACE="0" HSPACE="10" BORDER="0" ALIGN="right"> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Brendan O'Leary (right) argues that Gellner's scepticism about polycultural and federal states should be qualified, and that the marriage between nationalism and federalism need not be stormy. He also illustrates how Gellner's "one sovereign state: one culture" condition for equilibrium can be transformed into "one dominant people is required for a stable democratic federation," adding that a stable democratic federation without a dominant people must have a consociational political system formed by the cooperation of these different peoples.</span><br><br><span style="font-size:x-small;"><strong>Remembering Gellner</strong></span><br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">I was with Ernest Gellner in Budapest in 1995 on the night before he died, attending a conference he had organised at the Central European University on the theme of formerly dominant ethnic minorities. My task was to examine the fate of the Anglo-Irish in sovereign Ireland. On the road between the conference room and a restaurant he taxed me with a riddle: "What is the historic difference between Ireland and the Czech lands?" Since I did not know the answer, he told me, "In the Czech lands the other side won the Battle of the Boyne." A typical example of his wit, and a memorable parting shot.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">I cannot, however, claim to have known Ernest Gellner well as a person, though I had the privilege of having my doctoral thesis externally examined by him. He began the <I>viva</I> by warmly congratulating me, telling me that he was recommending it for publication and had arranged a publisher, and suggested that with my consent he would write a foreword. Naturally I felt elated. But then he counselled me that he had one minor obligation to perform: he was required (in the manner of Karl Popper) to test whether he could falsify the thesis that I had written for the dissertation. A chill ran down my recently elated spine. He then performed his duty, corrected my errors, and gave me salutary advice on matters philosophical, anthropological, linguistic, historical and sociological. Lastly he presented me with about 20 pages of typed commentary, amounting to an article in response to my efforts. In short, he demonstrated generosity, utterly professional social scientific standards and astounding scholarly range.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">I relate this story not merely to recall my moment of glory at the hands of a master but to emphasise that Ernest Gellner was a true polymath. His writings on nationalism are just one component, albeit a highly significant one, of his rejuvenation of liberal social theory and philosophy. He was a major analytical philosopher--the executioner of local Anglo-Saxon linguistic philosophy and the best diagnostician of our cognitive predicament in a world made clearer but colder by positivism. He was an exemplary anthropologist, both theoretically and in the field: <I>Saints of the Atlas</I> remains an essential reference on segmentary lineage systems.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">He was a novel philosopher of history who purged historical materialism of its teleology and eschatology but extracted a useful kernel from the debris; he was also a liberal pluralist who restated the case for the distinctiveness and merits of civil society in the history of European uniqueness. Last but not least, he was a mordant and relentlessly sceptical critic of relativism, moralism and intellectual pretension--whether dressed in the guise of psychoanalysis, Parisian or Frankfurt Marxism, sweetly theological Hegelianism, or what he called postmodernist "meta-twaddle."</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">In commemorating his fellow poet W.B. Yeats, W.H. Auden wrote, "The words of a dead man are modified in the guts of the living." In commemorating Ernest Gellner we must not forget the full gamut of his intellectual accomplishments, and we should recall that his thinking on nationalism had a place within his broader liberal philosophy. But in respecting this work and his values we must, especially where evidence and logic demand it, self-consciously correct, modify and improve upon his thought. He would not have had it otherwise. That brings me to my own subject, the relationships between federalism and nationalism.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-size:x-small;"><strong>Rethinking Gellner</strong></span><br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">There is a standard criticism of Gellner's theory of nationalism. Here is one author's attempt to summarise it:</span><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><blockquote>He appeared to assume that the range of possibilities in modern times is two-pronged: there is a simple choice between nationalist homogenisation through assimilation, and nationalist secessionism, which produces another nationalist homogenisation. But modern political entities have developed strategies that <I>prima facie</I>, counteract the potency of nationalist homogenisation systems of control; arbitration; federation/autonomy; and consociation. The last three of these are compatible with liberal and egalitarian pluralist principles. Throughout modernity these methods have existed at various times, and in many parts of the world, and new versions of them are continually springing into being. The persistence of such strategies, and regimes based upon them, are empirical embarrassments for Gellner's theory. The equilibrium condition of one nation, one state, seems to be continually elusive.</blockquote></span><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">I was the author of the words just quoted, but my position was not unusual. Professor Alfred Stepan expressed very similar sentiments in the same volume in which my chapter appeared, <I>The State of the Nation: Ernest Gellner and the Theory of Nationalism</I>, edited by John A. Hall. Stepan's chapter is entitled "Modern Multinational Democracies: Transcending a Gellnerian Oxymoron." Stepan and I are political scientists by trade. We could have no quarrel with the evidence in favour of Gellner's theory: in the last two centuries the bleak testimony of genocides, ethnic expulsions, coercive assimilations, partitions, secessions and territorial restructurings following imperial collapses has tempered the optimism of all but the most fanatical exponents of human progress.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">In essence, Stepan and I, representing political scientists, had two responses to Gellner's work on nationalism. The first was empirical: the evidence of the persistence of liberal and democratic polycultural or multinational states, federal and/or consociational in format, suggests a blatant contradiction of his views. The second was normative: we did not want to accept fundamental sociological limitations on constitutional statecraft, especially if they suggested severe constraints on the institutional management of cultural and national differences consistent with liberal democratic values.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">There can be no doubt that Gellner held the views we ascribed to him. Here are four samples, one from <I>Nations and Nationalism</I>, two from <I>Conditions of Liberty</I> and one from <I>Nationalism</I>:</span><br> <br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><blockquote>"Nowadays people can only live in units defined by a shared culture, and internally mobile and fluid. Genuine cultural pluralism ceases to be viable under current conditions."</blockquote></span><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><blockquote>"The new imperative of cultural homogeneity is the very essence of nationalism. For the first time in world history a High Culture becomes the pervasive and operational culture of an entire society. The state has not merely the monopoly of legitimate violence, but also of the accreditation of educational qualification. So the marriage of state and culture takes place, and we find ourselves in the Age of Nationalism."</blockquote></span><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><blockquote>"At the beginning of the social transformation which brought about the new state of affairs, the world was full of political units of all sizes, often overlapping, and of cultural nuances. Under the new social regime, this became increasingly uncomfortable. Men then had two options, if they were to diminish such discomfort: they could change their own culture, or they could change the nature of the political unit, either by changing its boundaries or by changing its cultural identifications."</blockquote></span><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><blockquote>"In our age, many political systems which combine cultural pluralism with a persisting inequality between cultures are doomed, in virtue of their violation of the nationalist principle which, in past ages, could be violated with impunity."</blockquote></span><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Gellner emphasised that nationalism is the primary principle of political legitimacy of modernity--along with affluence. It is not the only principle, and it is not irresistible, but his readers are left in no doubt of its potency. However, he was also emphatic, especially in his posthumously published essay, "Nationalism," when he said that he would strongly have preferred matters to be otherwise.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">He did not welcome political instability, such as that engendered by the breakup of the federations of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. He entertained hopes that advanced industrialisation might diminish national conflicts; that emerging global imperatives might prompt a new global division of competencies with supra-national government to manage technological, ecological and terrorist threats in conjunction with the cantonisation of local and educational functions; and that the de-fetishisation of land might be possible. In brief, he was not against federalism or other forms of polycultural and multinational or indeed postnational government. If anything, he was strongly in favour of them. He was just sceptical about their prospects and their robustness.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">The arguments made by Stepan and me against Gellner may, however, have been incorrect, or at least premature. I want to argue that Gellner's implicit theses about the limited prospects for the reconciliation of nationalism with federalism were more powerful, and more consistent with the evidence, than they seemed--though he himself may have not done the research to demonstrate this.</span><br><br><span style="font-size:x-small;"><strong>Defining nationalism and federalism</strong></span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Federalism is a normative political philosophy that recommends the use of federal principles--combining joint action and self-government. "Federal political systems" is a descriptive catchall term for all political organisations that combine what Daniel Elazar calls "shared rule and self-rule." Broadly construed, then, federal political systems include federations, confederations, unions, federacies, associated states, condominiums, leagues and cross-border functional authorities. Federations, with which I will be particularly concerned here, are very distinct federal political systems, and are best understood in their authentic (i.e., representative) governmental forms.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">In a genuinely democratic federation there is a compound sovereign state, in which at least two governmental units, the federal and the regional, enjoy constitutionally separate competencies--although they may also have concurrent powers. Both the federal and the regional governments are empowered to deal directly with the citizens, and the relevant citizens directly elect (at least some components of) the federal and regional governments. In a federation, the federal government rarely can unilaterally alter the horizontal division of powers--constitutional change affecting competencies requires the consent of both levels of government.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Therefore, federation automatically implies a codified and written constitution and is normally accompanied at the federal level by a supreme court, charged with umpiring differences between the governmental tiers, and by a bicameral legislature, in which the federal as opposed to the popular chamber may disproportionally represent (i.e., overrepresent) the smallest regions. Elazar emphasises the "covenantal" character of federations; that is, the authority of each government is derived from the constitution rather than from another government.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Having defined the "F-word," let us turn to nationalism. Nationalism is a political philosophy that holds that the nation "should be collectively and freely institutionally expressed, and ruled by its co-nationals." This definition is similar to Gellner's statement of nationalism as "primarily a political principle, which holds that the political and the national unit should be congruent." Observe that nothing in either definition makes nationalism automatically incompatible with federalism, or with federal political systems, or with federation. Collective and free institutional expression of more than one nation may, in principle, be possible within a federation.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">The federation may be organised to make the regional political units and the national units "congruent." Being "ruled by co-nationals" may appear to be breached somewhat in a federation when the federal level of government involves joint rule by the representatives of more than one nation, but providing the relevant nations have assented to this arrangement, no fundamental denial of the principle of national self-determination is involved. Moreover, if we acknowledge that dual or even multiple nationalities are possible, then federations, in principle, provide effective ways of giving these different identities opportunities for collective and free institutional expression.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">These definitions permit federalism and nationalism to be compatible political philosophies. They are intended to avoid shutting off empirical research on the relation between nationalism and federation. They do not axiomatically deny the possibility of dual or multinational federations. And they avoid any obvious commitments on the nature or status of nations.</span><br><br><span style="font-size:x-small;"><strong>Reconciling nationalism and federalism</strong></span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Three clear positions exploring the relationships between federalism and nationalism can be identified in the literature of practical politics in the last two centuries. The first holds that nationalism and federalism are mutually exclusive. The French Jacobins provide the exemplary illustration of this viewpoint. They believed that federalism was part of the counterrevolution, thoroughly hostile to the necessity of linguistic homogenisation, a roadblock in the path of authentic, indivisible, monistic popular sovereignty.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">In his report to the Committee of Public Safety of January 1794, Barhre declared that "Federalism and superstition speak low Breton; emigration and hatred of the Republic speak German; the counterrevolution speaks Italian, and fanaticism speaks Basque." On one reading of Gellner's work the Jacobins were the nationalists par excellence. They sought cultural assimilation; they were determined to make peasants into Frenchmen; and therefore they were deeply hostile to all forms of accommodation that inhibited this goal, including federalism.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">In partial agreement with the Jacobins, many nineteenth-century federalists, notably Joseph Proudhon and Carlo Cattaneo, were resolutely hostile to nation-state nationalism, and many twentieth-century federalists, notably within the European movement, reciprocate the Jacobin view that nationalism and federalism are mutually exclusive. Such federalists have been, and are, resolutely anti-nationalist, associating nationalism with ethnic exclusiveness, chauvinism, racism and parochially particularistic sentiments. For them, federalism belongs to an entirely different cooperative philosophy, one that offers a non-nationalist logic of legitimacy, and one that is an antidote to nationalism rather than a close relative.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">This viewpoint was most clearly articulated by Pierre Trudeau--educated by Elie Kedourie at the LSE--before he became Canadian prime minister. In an article entitled "Federalism, Nationalism and Reason" Trudeau squarely associated federalism and functionalism with reason, nationalism with the emotions. Thinkers like Trudeau regard federalism as the denial of and solution to nationalism, though occasionally they adopt the view that federalism must be built upon the success of nationalism, which it then transcends in Hegelian fashion. In effect they echo Einstein's reported remark that nationalism is the measles of mankind.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">The second perspective, by contrast, holds that nationalism and federalism, properly understood, are synonymous. This was the thesis of the Austro-Marxists, Karl Renner and Otto Bauer, in the last days of the Habsburg empire.In the course of Soviet state building, Lenin, Stalin and their colleagues pressed their arguments, in a suitably bowdlerised format, into service. In this conception nationalism and federalism were to be harnessed, at least for the task of building Soviet socialism. In the authoritative words of Walker Connor, Lenin's second commandment on the management of nationalism was strategically Machiavellian: "Following the assumption of power, terminate the fact--if not necessarily the fiction--of a right to secession, and begin the lengthy process of assimilation via the dialectical route of territorial autonomy for all compact national groups." Marxist-Leninists were, of course, formal cosmopolitans, committed to a global political order, but, pending the world revolution, they maintained that federal arrangements, "national in form, socialist in content," were the optimal institutional path to global Communism.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">The third perspective unites those who think that federalism and nationalism can intersect and be mutually compatible, but who sensibly believe that not all nationalisms are compatible with all federalisms. But this agreement masks an important difference, one between what I shall call national or mononational federalists, and multinational or multi-ethnic federalists.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">National federalists are exemplified by the first exponents of federation in its modern form, for whom its prime function was "to unite people living in different political units, who nevertheless shared a common language and culture" as Murray Forsyth wrote in his foreword to <I>Federalism and Nationalism</I>. The earliest federalists in what became the Netherlands, in the German-speaking Swiss lands, in what became the US, and in what became the second German Reich were national federalists. They maintained that only an autonomous federal government could perform certain necessary functions that confederations or alliances found difficult to perform, especially a unified defence and external relations policy. They often advocated federation as a stepping-stone towards a more centralised unitary state.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">The US may serve as the paradigm case of national federalism, which has been imitated by its Latin American counterparts in Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina. The US federation according to Nathan Glazer shows "little coincidence between ethnic groups and state boundaries," with one major exception: most of its original and subsequent states had white Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) majorities. Federation preceded the great expansion in the US's internal ethnic diversity, and new states were generally only created when they had WASP or assimilated white demographic and electoral majorities.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Glazer also points out that English-speaking whites were the creators of every American state, "writing its Constitution, establishing its laws, ignoring the previously settled American Indians, refusing to grant any &#91;autonomy&#93; rights to blacks, and making only slight concessions to French and Spanish speakers in a few states." National federalism was part and parcel of American nation building, aiding the homogenisation of white settlers and immigrants in the famous melting pot of Anglo conformity, and it was evident in the writing of <I>The Federalist Papers</I>. National federalism poses no problem for Gellnerian theory. Indeed, it confirms it, because national federalists aim to make the sovereign polity congruent with one national culture.</span><br><br><span style="font-size:x-small;"><strong>One state, many cultures</strong></span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Multinational or multi-ethnic federalists, by contrast, may pose a significant challenge to Gellnerian theory if they prove successful in their political endeavours. Murray Forsyth says that they advocate federation "to unite people who seek the advantages of membership of a common political unit, but differ markedly in descent, language and culture." They seek to express, institutionalise and protect at least two national or ethnic cultures, often on a permanent basis. Any greater union or homogenisation, if envisaged at all, is postponed for the future. They explicitly reject the strongly integrationist and/or assimilationist objectives of national federalists. They believe that dual or multiple national loyalties are possible, and indeed desirable. Some of them make quite remarkable claims for federalism. The political scientist Klaus von Beyme, referring to Western democracies, argued in 1985 that "Canada is the only country in which federalism did not prove capable of solving ethnic conflict."</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Multinational federalists have been influential in the development of federations in the former British empire, notably in Canada, the Caribbean, Nigeria, South Africa, India, Pakistan and Malaysia. They influenced Austro-Marxists and Marxist-Leninists, and have had an enduring impact in the post-Communist development of the Russian Federation, Ethiopia, and the rump Yugoslavia. The recent democratic reconstructions of Spain and Belgium also bear their imprint. The most ambitious multinational federalists of our day are those who wish to develop the European Union from its currently largely confederal form into an explicit federation, into a "Europe of the nation-states and a Europe of the citizens," as the German foreign minister recently urged at Berlin's Humboldt University.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Multinational federalists have two ways of arguing that national and ethnic conflict regulation can work to harmonise nationalism and federalism. The first is an argument from congruence. If the provincial borders of the components of the federation match the boundaries between the relevant national, ethnic, religious or linguistic communities, that is, if there is a "federal society" congruent with the federating institutions, then federation may be an effective harmonising device. That is precisely because it makes an ethnically heterogeneous political society less heterogeneous through the creation of more homogeneous sub-units. Of the seven large-scale genuine federations in durable Western democracies, three significantly achieve this effect for some culturally distinct communities: those of Belgium, Canada and Switzerland.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">The federations of Australia, Austria, Germany and the US do not achieve this effect and are not organised to do so, and in consequence this possibility in federal engineering cannot be used to explain the relative ethno-national tranquillity of Australia, postwar Austria and Germany, and the postbellum US (in which past genocides, the overwhelming of the indigenous populations, and/or integration/assimilation are more important in explaining ethno-national stability). In Belgium, Canada and Switzerland the success of federation in conflict regulation, such as it is, has not been the result of comprehensive territorial design. Rather, it has been based largely upon the historic geographical segregation of the relevant communities. Post-independence India, especially after Nehru conceded reorganisation of internal state borders along largely linguistic boundaries, is an example of deliberate democratic engineering to match certain ascriptive criteria with internal political borders. Post-Communist Russia and Ethiopia may prove to be others.</span><br><br><span style="font-size:x-small;"><strong>Difficulties</strong></span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Plainly, this defence of federation as a way of managing nations--to each nation let a province be given--cannot satisfy those communities that are so dispersed, or small in numbers, that they cannot control federal units or provinces, e.g., Quebec Anglophones, Flemish speakers in Wallonia, francophones in Flanders, blacks in the US; or small and scattered indigenous peoples in Australia, India and North America. Indeed, one reason federation proved insufficient as a conflict-regulating device as Yugoslavia democratised was that there was insufficient geographical clustering of the relevant ethnic communities in relation to their existing provincial borders.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">However, federal engineering to achieve something approximating the formula "one nation-one province" does look like a prima facie challenge to the tacit Gellnerian notion that in modern times the equilibrium condition is one sovereign state, one culture (or nation). If we treat broadly the "political unit," in Gellner's definition, to encompass regional or provincial units in a federation, then his theory can accommodate such arrangements, but at the significant concession of recognising that such federal systems are compatible with dual and possibly multiple nationalities.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; font-style:italic; ">This lecture is being published in the journal Nations and Nationalism in 2001. Copyright The London School of Economics and Political Science.</span></td> </tr> </tbody></table> </body></html>