January 27, 2022

Globalization and nationalism



In this article I will attempt to explore the concepts of globalization and nationalism in the contemporary world. The debate between globalists and nationalists seem to be one that never ends. this ongoing debate between the two groups have led us to the fundamental question of whether or not the two concepts are compatible. Both these concepts, however, are based on the prima facie evidence that humans need groups in order to survive. The expansionist mentality of the British nationalist one may say Is the reason behind the colonial era. However, their distorted spirit of nationalism is what led to the squandering of wealth from its colonies. This suppression in-turn gave rise to the nationalism of the colonies and other enemies of the British (Germany, japan). One can say that it was extremism understood as nationalism and expansionism understood as globalism is that lead to the wretched world wars.

This essay seeks to understand whether a happy marriage between the two ideas can be orchestrated, and if yes, how? Additionally, the essay also seeks to dust away some of the popular misconceptions around the two concepts. the essay aims to prove that the two are not counter destructive, rather counterproductive ideas that have contributed collectively for the development of mankind.)Imagine this. You wake up in the morning, brush your teeth, drink your coffee, read the newspaper, check your what’s-app and go to work. This can be described as the “normal” routine of a person living in the twenty first century regardless of where he is situated in this world a century ago. the “normal” routine of an English man would not match with the “normal routine of an Indian man and so on. whathas happened in the recent times that has changed all lives so radically that we practically lead similar lives? Globalization. Just recall the activities you did from the morning.

Every activity must have involved either a global ideology or a product in it. For instance, the clothes you wear are from the USA, the car in which you go to work is from Germany, the phone you use is from china. The world which is growing exponentially ever since the last century is also becoming a global village in which members are becoming increasingly interdependent on each other. Globalization thus, is the natural corollary of a developing world.

Globalization and nationalism, one may argue are diametrically opposite idea incapable of compatibility to the extent that they are counter destructive. But, are they?Anthony Giddens opined “globalization is identified as the intensification of worldwide social relations which links distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa.”1 Globalization has not only narrowed the gap between the individual and the rest of the world it has also significantly altered our day to day lives. mere geographic limits no longer confine human interactions. international trade, international laws, universal values of human rights are all manifestations of a globalized world. The united nations for instance is a classic example of a global village. It is present solely for the purpose of world peace and harmony, developing friendly relations among nations and achieving international co-operation. But what led to its formation?

The two world wars. And what caused these world wars? The answer to this question takes us to our next topic; Nationalism.The treaty of Westphalia (1648) changed all our lives for the good. Not only did it end the thirty years war it also gave birth to the concept of the modern “nation-state” and with it, nationalism. Westphalian sovereignty, or state sovereignty, is the principle in international law that each state has exclusive sovereignty over its territory. United Nations Charter, states that “nothing should authorize intervention in matters essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.” Nationalism is indispensable, for the contemporary “nation-state”. Hitler in his autobiography “Mein Kampf”2 says “German-Austria must be restored to the great German Motherland”.

This is a manifestation of Hitler’s German nationalism (along with his distorted notion of racial superiority). “People become capable of exercising sovereignty only when they enjoy some sense of solidarity based on shared values and customs. This solidarity is reified into the concept of a nation.”3 Nationalism is the devotion to one’s nation or the doctrine that puts national interests above international considerations. But what is the ratio of the cultural and political quotients in it? According to Yael Tamir, “national movements are motivated by a desire to assure the existence and flourishing of a particular community, to preserve its culture, tradition, and language, rather than merely to seize state power.”4And hence the cultural quotient outweighed the political. However, if that was the case, the society would not have approved of globalizing tendencies and certainly not in this fashion.

Also, this understanding would essentially deem all culture rich societies as anti-globalist, which is not the case. In my opinion, however, it is the political quotient that outweighs the cultural one in the interpretation of nationalism in the modern era. The Indian independence struggle is a case in point where a multi-cultural multi-ethnic society came together for a singular political cause.A nationalist would argue nationalism as the only tool to defend one’s society against chaos and destruction. Since the members of a nation share a land, history and culture it enables them to maintain social solidarity. For nationalist’s globalization is the end of what our ancestors so painstakingly built for us-our individuality -. This “in group” mentality is compromised when we open our doors to foreign invasion and as the nationalists say; digging our own graves.

Globalization according to the nationalists’ breads insecurity by directly attacking local sentiments and ripping them of their identities heading towards a homogenized civilization. Max Weber5 for instance supported this fundamentalist argument and argued that globalization would only hamper creativity and individual autonomy in the long run. As Erica Benner noted, nationalism emerges out of domestic security concerns of modern states. “More precisely, it is a doctrine about how communities should constitute themselves if they wish to increase their chances of non-absorption in an international environment based on separate, competitive, often expansionist states.”6 globalization is often criticized for “Americanization”. Theorists argue that globalization today only means imposition of American/western values, norms and ideas while the rest of the world goes largely unnoticed and hence not representative of the “global” values. In the words of Richard Evans “Products and ideas developed in rich countries shape the value and ideas of citizens of poor countries”7. But this is however based on the prima facie assumption that the governments will take a backseat and watch the forces of globalization devour their nation.

In reality, however, it is the opposite. globalization has different effects on different nations. The national institutions through its policies shape and define the extent and effects of globalization.Radical globalists also known as fundamentalists would argue that nationalism is the beginning of the end of mankind itself. They quote the wars of the 20th century as manifestations of the immeasurable destructions that nationalism is capable of causing. Differences are a prerequisite for identities. And identities are a prerequisite of nationalism. Globalists argue that nationalists make use of this poison of difference to grow the tree of Manchineel. Since differences are the root cause for all problems in the globe, a homogenous society would render more good than any nation can achieve by itself.Globalization has two possible outcomes. One, we let go of nationalistic spirit, blur the borders, become increasingly interdependent and as a result integrate into a global village. this view clearly labels nationalism as the past and a globalized world as the future. The supporters of this theory would argue that the doomsday for nationalist/ nationalism is not far away.

The reason for the supporters of this theory to condemn nationalism as a thing of the past is primarily because they feel nationalism is obsolete as people no longer feel the need to attach themselves to groups to define their identities. Two, as human interactions and intermingling increase as a result of globalization we become increasingly aware of our differences and hence cling on to our group identities tighter than ever. The supporters of this theory would argue that, people unable to handle the threats that globalization poses to their identities, will rely on nationalism to save the society. Hence globalization heightens nationalism if anything. “Indeed, from the late 1980s to the present, there has been a resurgence of nationalism, traditionalism, and religious fundamentalism alongside trends toward growing globalization. the explosion of regional, cultural, and religious differences in the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia as well as explosive tribal conflicts in Africa and elsewhere suggest that globalization and homogenization were not as deep as its proponent hoped and criticized feared.

“Culture has thus become a new source of conflict and an important dimension of struggle between the global and the local.” 8As Anthony Giddens9 pointed out, both the pace of change and the scope of change in the modern era are unparalleled. Today we are at a crossroads where we have to choose between nationalism and globalization. Do we need to shed our local identities in order to integrate with the world? Barber in his book jihad vs Mc-world10opined that Mc-world can offer peace and prosperity but only at the cost of independence and identity. On the other hand, jihad promotes solidarity at the cost of tolerance and stability. Both cannot achieve democracy. globalization tests the limits of nationalist tolerance and nationalism in its popular sense condemns globalism.

thisinevitably leads us to many questions; Can’t we have best of both worlds? Why should we choose between our country and the world? Aren’t we a member of both the them? In fact, don’t both the entities exist for the same reason? i.e. welfare of the people? Then why are we caught in this pickle?One can argue that globalization has nothing to do with governments or nation-state rather, it has everything to do with markets and technological innovations and hence does not undermine the role of sovereign states and in turn nationalism.

Societies that welcome globalization do not necessarily give up on their nationalism. India for instance is a culture rich society, but we do not condemn globalization, in fact we do the opposite. Moreover, globalization is necessary to the extent that it helps combat global evils such as artificial intelligence, terrorism, climate change etc. at the risk of sounding controversial we as a society are becoming increasingly pessimistic with our approach, discrediting globalization for its positive effects. For those arguing that globalization is the demise of nation-state, are taking it too far. If anything, the sanctity of borders (with few exceptions) and the respect for basic principles of international law is far greater today than before. The spirit of nationalism, is far from dying. Let us take the Wagah border (India-Pakistan) for instance. Soldiers of either countries, everyday perform the military ceremony of lowering the flags of their respective countries.

And while they do that, one can hear the echoes of the nationalism infused roars from either side, “Hindustan zindabad!” “Pakistan zindabad!”. It is almost impossible for one to not experience goosebumps at that moment. This experience will certainly rekindle the nationalism even in the most apathetic person. Similarly, world politicians today are leaning more towards nationalism. Be it Donald trump’s propaganda of “America First” or Brexit or Modi’s “make in India”, all of which suggests that nationalism isn’t going anywhere. If anything, it is only intensifying.In many ways’ globalization has led to nationalism. Karl Marx, a German philosopher developed the theory of communism which gave rise to the formation of nations like the Soviet Union and china.

Even today, countries like china swear by communism which in the first place is a foreign ideology. In-fact the idea of nation-state itself is a foreign concept (Westphalia sovereignty). Today, we have internalized these concepts so much so that we argue against globalization with an ideology that is an offspring of globalization itself(nationalism).When you watch a cricket match, you root for your country not because you hate others but because you love your country and associate with “your people”. Nationalism is a largely misunderstood concept. Most people associate the world with autocratic leaders, violent regimes and bigoted masses. In reality however, nationalism is the love/devotion that one has towards his nation. It essentially gives him the identity he longs for. Neither the vilification of nationalism as an evil, misery causing, war spreading idea or projecting is as the flagbearer and upholder of culture and values reflects a narrow understanding of the concept.

Humans have the need to identify themselves with a group in order to feel secure. If one is bogged down by his own identity crisis, he is never going to care let alone be a part of the rest of the world. It is precisely for this fundamental reason that he embraces nationalism. This doesn’t mean that he antagonizes the rest of the world nor does it undermine his role as a global citizen. He still remains a rational, responsible citizen of both his country and the world. If a young chap that leaves his country to pursue his education in a foreign country runs into a fellow citizen he is obviously going to be delighted. It is in this sense that nationalism will live on.

Recent studies have shown that there is a steep rise in nationalism especially since the world wars. nationalism has also shown to produce happiness among its masses creating an atmosphere of acceptance and “oneness”. In a study conducted by world values survey 88.5 % of the people answered “very proud” or “quite proud” when inquired about how they feel about their country. The same survey also indicated that 71% people of the world identify as global citizens whilst being proud of their respective countries. The people who identified as “citizens of the world” showed higher level of national pride than the people who did not identify with that label. This has effectively busted the myth that globalization and nationalism are incompatible tendencies incapable of co-existing.

In fact, one can argue that there would be no globalization without nationalism. Each nation has made its contribution howsoever small or big for the development of this globe. Nationalism in that sense one may say has led to globalism. Being a nationalist doesn’t mean you resent the world and being a globalist doesn’t make you are a bad citizen. Globalism isn’t born out of dispassion towards one’s nation. Likewise, nationalism isn’t born out of spite towards the world. One must embody the virtues of both in order further his experience of life.At the end of the day we are social animal we need the society for our existence. If our tendencies prove detrimental to society, we must attempt to correct them. Homogeneity is not the answer to global problems.

Differences are indispensable in a society. Global leaders today

have proven that nationalism doesn’t mean the end of globalism and vice-versa. The beauty lies in how we solve our issues despite our differences. According to Natalie, “Their coexistence is not a battle in which only one is destined to emerge as the winner and the other as losers; it is rather a mutually beneficial coexistence of two compatible tendencies”(Natalie, 2010).Itis our responsibility to keep expansionism out of globalism and extremism out of nationalism. This will ensure a happy marriage between the two and the birth of a new world.

Author Details: Aarthi V. (Shastra University)

The views of the author are personal only.

Law Library LawBhoomi

Leave a Reply