The CSS Blog Network

Evolving Ideas of Nationalism II

Travelling the world - but only with states

This week the ISN will examine the role of nationalism in an evolving and dynamic international system. We will also consider whether multiculturalism is a necessary and appropriate response to some of the more retrograde and unsettling aspects of nationalism. From the outset, however, it is important to mention that the social science literature on nationalism often emphasizes 1) the lack of a comprehensive definition for the term, or 2) that there is a multiplicity of nationalisms. Indeed, these nationalisms often get defined with catch-all terms such as New Nationalism, Liberal Nationalism, Small Nationalism and so on. This multiplicity, in turn, confirms that the very concept of the nation has developed across the course of history and refers to more than just to a group of people born in the same place.

Again, to chart our understanding of nationalism today, we begin by quickly outlining Ernst Renan’s conception of the nation-state, followed by a look at how some analysts are trying to transform this traditional view of it in order to respond more effectively to the stresses of globalization. (Yes, nationalism provides states with a cohesive identity, but often by playing upon the insecurity of societies to achieve desired outcomes.) Finally, we will quickly look at multiculturalism and see whether it offers an approach to addressing global challenges that is more user-friendly than nationalism. » More

The Future of Nationalism and the State – Introduction

'Liberty Leading the People' by Eugène Delacroix. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Thus far in our Editorial Plan we have posited a simple overarching theme – the international system is indeed undergoing irrevocable and tectonic changes. To illustrate this claim, we have done three things thus far. First, we asked ourselves what the trajectory of these changes might look like. We looked, in other words, at the challenges and opportunities afforded by international relations-centered future forecasting. Second, we built on this exercise in ‘futurology’ to look at the traditional geopolitical dimensions of international relations today and tomorrow. Last, we then looked at geopolitics’ theoretical opposite – i.e., we looked at the arguments presented by those who would have us pursue global interdependence and effective multilateralism rather than hew to traditional geopolitical lines.

This week and then starting again on January 2 (yes, we will feature new material during Christmas week, but it won’t be part of the Editorial Plan), we will ‘sandwich’ our previous analysis of global interdependence between our initial discussion of geopolitics and our current discussion of nationalism and the state. Over the years we have tended to hyphenate these two categories, but we know better now. Nationalism is a broader concept and carries with it considerable socio-cultural ‘baggage.’ We therefore plan to look at it first this week and pit it against a rival concept that has equally vociferous advocates – multiculturalism. Then, after the Christmas break, we will resume our discussion by looking at the state of the state in international relations. By twining our analyses of nationalism and the state in this way, we will have addressed the geopolitics of international relations, its potential for interdependence and multilateral cooperation, and its still-dominant Westphalian dynamics. As usual, we wish you happy reading.

Welcome to Karzai’s Peaceful and Prosperous Afghanistan

Naveed Ahmad is a journalist and academic with a special focus on governance, security and diplomacy. He reports for various international online and electronic news sources. The views expressed in this blog do not reflect those of the ISN, the CSS, ETH Zurich or any affiliated agencies.

Photo: World Economic Forum

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is quite resourceful when it comes to creating ripples in the media. And that is the only thing he is good at. With American generals and NATO troops protecting Kabul, the Afghan president tirelessly designs colorful robes, worn in a funny way amid high profile dignitaries. The happy-go-lucky Afghan was enjoying the limelight in Bonn when his peaceful country fell prey to terrorism.

While everyone condemned the gory killing of 58 Shiite pilgrims, Mr Karzai sacrificed his shopping trip to London, where mercury and prices nosedive ahead of Christmas. No wonder, only a dedicated, full-time statesman would do so. For once, he thought of a quick stop-over in the United Kingdom. But in the interest of visually-starved media back home, the Afghan president descended on the Kabul airport. Soon, a bunch of loyal American commandoes enveloped their beloved friend and shipped him to the president‘s palace where Afghan and western journalists dashed to record his fireworks. » More

The EU’s Democratic Deficit

2009 European Election Campaign Poster. Photo: European Parliament/flickr

The worldwide economic and financial crisis and the subsequent European sovereign debt crisis have shaken the European Union to its foundations. There has always been widespread criticism of the EU’s democratic legitimacy in the broad public and the media, but the discussion is even more salient today. To many – especially the UK tabloids – the EU is an inefficient bureaucratic monster, run by elitist eurocrats who act completely detached from European citizens. The EU takes these accusations seriously and responds with various “myths and facts” collections, where common misconceptions of the EU are corrected (see this example of the EC’s response to budget “myths”). However, it is worthwhile mentioning that some 56% percent of EU citizens are satisfied with “the way democracy works in the European Union” (see Eurobarometer chart below), which is a respectable result, even in comparison to national figures.

So what is it with democracy and the EU? There is of course no simple answer and a lively scholarly discussion is underway about democracy in the European Union, or the lack thereof. » More

Water Diplomacy

Rusty water tap. Photo: Eduardo Rodriguez/flickr

On 28 November 2011, the NCCR North-South Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) based in Bern and the ETH North-South Center based in Zurich sponsored a half-day conference, “Water diplomacy: transboundary rivers and international politics”  at the Museum of Natural History in Basel. It explored the theme of water as an instrument of diplomacy, in particular how water management can be used to solve diplomatic conflict and how diplomacy can solve water conflicts and improve resource management. The conference included 5 key presentations from experts with differing perspectives of how water issues can (and do) shape diplomacy, which was followed by a panel discussion with the presenters.

Peter Bosshard, the Policy Director of International Rivers, began with a discussion of the dominant issues regarding water use, availability, quality, and demand. He offered his perspective on whether water can be a vehicle for diplomacy, but noted that many issues still need to be resolved, especially in the areas of international law, water rights and water sector resilience. » More

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