The reading ‘Equality for Minority Cultures’ deals with the set of issues that are common to societies where there are a few dominant cultural groups and numerous minority groups. In the case of Canada and the United States, the Native American population (also called the aborigines) comprise one such group. Kymlicka analyzes the contentious issue of ‘special’ rights and privileges provided to aboriginal people by law. Kymlicka argues that such ‘affirmative action’ is a breach of principles of equality, which is such an integral part of the Constitution of these democratic nations. The author criticizes the basis of such entitlements, which are founded upon an “abstract egalitarian plateau” that provides inadequate justice to minority communities. Citing the views of prominent legal thinkers such as John Rawls and Dworkin, the author states that such special entitlements would not be effective as long as “the effect of market and political decisions made . . . Read More
The reading titled ‘The Ethnocratic Regime: The Politics of Seizing Contested Territory’, written by O. Yiftachel, continues on the theme of secession and focuses on its political aspects. There are three core arguments forwarded by the author. These include arguments supporting “the existence of an ethnocratic regime as a distinct identifiable type and the existence of a set of mechanisms that shape the ethnocratic regime and explain both persistent patterns of ethnic dominance and regime instability”. Another salient feature of the reading is the view that the structural features of an ethnocratic institution can be subject to rational enquiry and classified into discernable types. While the reading largely theoretical and focuses on abstract analysis, it also briefly tests the validity of the theory to cases of ethnocratic regimes in countries such asSri Lanka,AustraliaandEstonia. This scholarly work by Yiftachel is as relevant to the present times as it was in . . . Read More
The reading titled ‘Theories of Secession’ written by Allen Buchanan deals with a topic that is rarely paid attention to, namely that of secession. Irrespective of the chaos and turmoil episodes of secession bring with them, it is better to have in place a framework for analyzing it, as opposed to neglecting it by taking moral high ground. Buchanan has attempted the former, through answering important questions as “Under what conditions does a group have a moral right to secede, independently of any questions of institutional morality, and in particular apart from any consideration of international legal institutions and their relationship to moral principles? And under what conditions a group should be recognized as having a right to secede as a matter of international institutional morality, including a morally defensible system of international law.”
The first of these questions is the more substantive one – being likely to find application in all types of . . . Read More
Walker Connor’s article titled ‘Eco- or Ethno- nationalism?’ addresses an oft discussed issue, namely the impulse underlying ethnic conflict. Connor asserts that attributes such as race, language, religion, etc, which comprise an individual’s ethnic identity are at the heart of an ethnic conflict only so far as there is evidence of tangible discrepancy in these attributes among the groups involved. The author further points out that far too often measures of economic disparity between the conflicting groups is not paid attention to. A closer scrutiny would lead to the conclusion that economic stature of the two groups is a significant factor. The reason why economic factors behind ethnic conflict are not obvious at the outset is due to the fact that comparative studies of ethnic conflicts show a near-universal relationship between ethno-national conflict and economic causation. Further, “analysts have been beguiled by the fact that observable economic . . . Read More
This article by Ronald Suny attempts to sort through theories of ethnic conflict. It peruses the case ofSoviet Union, before and after its collapse, to identify underlying motives of ethnic conflict. The author disagrees with the view forwarded by certain academics that Primordialism, which springs from an innate, natural identity, is at the root of most ethnic conflicts. But, since the notion of Primordialism is itself loosely and vaguely defined, this argument does not hold merit. Secondly, Suny points out the deficiencies in a Constructivist approach to studying ethnic conflicts, as this approach does not provide a satisfactory explanation for conflicts in the past.
Moving away from these simplistic assessments of ethic conflict, Suny suggests that a combination of both emotion and reason are at work in any given instance of conflict. The emotions that instigate conflict include fear, resentment, hate and anger. But it is debatable whether there is sufficient . . . Read More
The core focus of this article by John Dunn is on evaluating the success of nation-states. The author tries to assess the competence and adaptability offered by this framework of governance. The reader of the article will realize that the question mark placed at the end of the title is intended to be rhetorical, implying that the author believes that a crisis is confronting the notion of Nation-State. At the outset, Dunn makes the point that Nation-State is a political concept that gained acceptance not so much because it understood and anticipated the future of social organization but because it was a convenient term. Firstly, the concept of a Nation, which links a community on grounds of language, culture and ethnicity, is subjective and unscientific. Secondly, the primary purpose of a State is that of giving legality and legitimacy to a geo-political entity and hence is an artificial construct that is amenable to change. In other words, while contemporary global . . . Read More
The focus of this reading, written by Phillip Spencer and Howard Woolman, is the distinction between healthy and unhealthy varieties of nationalism that have developed over the course of the last few centuries. The very concept of ‘nation’ is a modern one, having found meaningful expression within the last two hundred years of world history. The founding principle of modern nationalism, the authors argue, has been its offer of equal political rights for all constituent groups and communities, irrespective of their social class, gender, economic background, etc. An empirical study of global political history over the recent past would suggest that nationalist movements broadly fall under two categories – civic and ethnic. The civic variety is perceived by commentators and scholars as a more progressive arrangement, whereas ethnic nationalism is seen to possess potential for misuse. The authors further point out that there is no straightforward method for classifying . . . Read More
Benedict Anderson’s essay titled Imagined Communities offers a historically informed analysis of nationalism. He asserts that the rise of nationalism was facilitated by the simultaneous decline of key cultural conceptions of great antiquity, which had erstwhile had a profound effect on humankind. The first of these changes had to do with the role of language in the evolution of human civilization. For much of history, written language was interlinked with power and privilege. The religious elite especially had employed the medium of written language to control the thoughts and actions of the masses. This was true across various religions. Second was the dismantling of the belief that the ruling elite earned their right by divine decree. The liberalization of language use had encouraged rational discourse among the common people and the movement toward democratic governance owes its advance to this. The third development which made it conducive for nationalism to . . . Read More
D. Ronen’s scholarly work The Quest for Self-Determination further explicates the nature of ethnic and national identities. In order to illustrate the complexities involved in ethnic and national identities, Ronen constructs a new conceptual framework which he calls “aggregations”. According to this theory, political discourses relating to human communities refer to the latter from one of two perspectives. The first is called “functional aggregates”, where defining aspects of identity such as language, religion, custom, skin color, etc “merely” serve the function of distinguishing one group from another. Generally, this way of denoting one’s identity is used as a matter of convenience and without any political slant. In ‘conscious aggregations’, on the other hand, the focus turns to away from the merely descriptive aspects of identity and plays up the differentiation quality among human communities. A good thumb rule for making a distinction between . . . Read More
The reading titled “Beyond Reason: The Nature of the Ethnonational Bond”, written by Walker Connor, will provide the contextual background for this think-piece exercise. The central argument of the author is that ethno-national bond is much stronger than patriotic bond. The basis for the formation of ethno-national bonds are never fully based on fact and evidence, but rather on some vague but convincing feeling of kinship within a group of people. In other words, the concept of ethno-nationality appeals to the notion of common genetic inheritance alongside other tangible aspects such as language, culture, religion, etc.
The author presents a wide range of examples to support the aforementioned thesis. By perusing relevant scholarship, the author does make a persuasive case for the superiority of ethno-national bonds over patriotic bonds. The notion of common ethnicity has played a significant role throughout the history of human civilization, whereas patriotism as is . . . Read More