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A Theory On Nation Building Politics Essay

Info: 4688 words (19 pages) Essay
Published: 1st Jan 2015 in Politics

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There are different theories of nation-building and state-building that explain how a state and nation should be built. Most of the theories take their point of departure from Western models of state that is often inappropriate for African countries. [1] 

Nation-building has emerged in 19th century from nationalism in Italy and Germany and continued by external actors in post-WWII [2] in Germany and Japan. However, it is difficult to speak about nation-building in those two countries, as their nations; with strong cultural and ethnic bonds, already existed and focused more on building of democratic institutions. The conditions for nation-building, including homogeneity of the population, were much more positive than they are in Africa. [3] Due to this fact, this model is insufficient to explain the complexity of the situation in Somalia. Therefore we have decided to use a theory that encompasses also importance of element of nation, national identity and its integrity together with state-building.

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On the one hand, nation-building is a process of socio-political development. This, at least ideally, shall bring loosely linked communities together, becoming one society. This process can start off of political, economical, social, cultural or other reasons. As this process can involve extremely different dimensions, positively (economical integration) as well as negatively (repressions like ethnic cleansing) it is not clear that nation-building actually is successful. [4] 

On the other hand, it is a political objective as well as a strategy. This means that either internal or external players try to create a system that is constituted under a nation-state. Then, the term nation-building has a rather programmatic or conceptional character and cannot be used for analysing the political and social process. Therefore, this objective or strategy is mainly used in a development strategy in order to serve nation-building. [5] 

However different these two definitions are, there are three core elements counting for both:

integrative ideology, integration of a society and development of a functional state (state-building).

For a successful nation-building, this results in a triangle, Hippler argues, having state-building, social integration and ideological legitimacy at its corners, of which all corners need to be fulfilled. Some aspects of the elements can be introduced and provided from outside, while others can only be built from inside, such as ideological legitimacy. [6] Now we will describe different element in their theoretical perspective.

Integrative ideology

To begin with, there is a need to stem from an integrative ideology in order to build up a national feeling and give the people, through this, a national identity. Therefore, a common ground for all different groups in this emerging nation needs to be found. This could be, for example, religion, language or history. Obviously, the more in common, the bigger is the chance to build up one society. It is important to state, that, in this case, ideology should be understood in neutral terms as “systems of thought and fundamental philosophies that explain the past, present and future according to certain value models.” [7] When we look closer on the national identity, we can find several definitions. We have decided to connect two of them theoretically. One describes modern approach critically and ??? It is also very important that this ideology comprises ideas applicable to everyone and idea of national cohesion must be stronger than the idea of separation. [8] Connecting ideology with national identity, different people have their own individual identities. “As long as the primary identity and loyalty lies with the tribe, clan or an ethnic or ethnoreligious group and the ‘national’ identity level remains subordinate or missing, a nation-state will continue to be precarious.” [9] 

Crucial role in the formation of nation is played by government, elite or ruler. There are different criteria that government has to meet in the process of nation-building. First of all, government has to examine what has been done in the past, to be able to make people believe in better future. For example if the collapsed ruling regime left people hurt and full of distrust in the government, this fact has to be taken into considerations when building a nation. Therefore “confidence in state institutions destroyed” [10] should be prognosis for better future. Another influential element is population actually has to be willing to cooperate, to be motivated in “creating, supporting and shaping the nation.” [11] Finally, concept of nation has to fulfill different criteria in the perception of the people:

centrality and extent – “nation-building should…occupy a central position in peoples everyday political and social lives”?…

association with other issues on the agenda –

connecting with the experiences of the target groups

narrative familiarity

flexibility and openness to change

With clever policies and respect for the differences between different social groups in the nation, government can successfully develop a strong national identity and nation-building process.

Integration of society

Integration of society in the nation is very important element of nation-building. In post-colonial states it is usually understood in connection with democracy and “third wave of democratisation”. The nation-building was accompanied by high expectations from the West and in many post-colonial countries different ethnic groups are gaining meaning in the changing institutional system. [12] 

Generally, we define three models of national unity, that will help us to understand how in ‘divided societies’ nation-building can take place. Those are: Imperium, Culturally homogenous nation of modern age and Pluricultural integration. In the imperium, there is a set hierarchy, while religion is dominated by the ruling elite. There is no necessary desire for unified culture and communication. Integration is achieved through differences. [13] Looking at culturally homogenous nation of modern age, we can see patterns of secularisation – keeping culture and religion apart from the state. Culture of the majority or elite is, again, supported. Nation-building processes are underpinned by regulated norms. [14] In the last model, the pluricultural integration, minorities are oppressed and discriminated and have to struggle for recognition of their rights. This is mostly a case in “multi-ethnic and multi-lingual societies” that are “taking account of cultural and religious diversity”. [15] 

The evolution of democracy in developing countries is challenging and demands of different ethnic leaders make processes of nation-building in these countries even more fragile. But very important fact that there are efforts for building “new ‘architecture’ of democracy” [16] That means that there are bigger emphasis on the ethnicity and ethnic equality and therefore these ideas “counteract centralist/assimilatory tendencies” [17] Four democratic innovations for states in inner conflict – concordance, local representation, federalism and cultural autonomy.

Concordance is a model that “allows representatives of all important groups to participate in the political decision-making process” [18] , offering large variety of institutional forms. Advantage of this form is creation of coalitions, where different groups have to cooperate to reach their goals. This model is of use when there is no strong majority to rule, because otherwise there is no need for coalition.

Local representation represents “most diverse representation of minorities possible” [19] . It is also significant in the way that minorities are usually represented by their own representatives. In the elections, ethnic groups are finding coalitions and ways to cooperate and to enforce their interests. However, this model can deepen ethnic differences and policies might be strongly influences by individual ethnic interests instead of the ones of whole society. [20] 

Federalism offers different groups equal power but also identical rules to be followed. Groups deal with their matters individually, what makes system more flexible, decentralized and minorities more secure. On the other side, there is a “danger of secession”, where demands for greater autonomy can be continually rising. [21] FIND MORE

The last model, cultural autonomy, is very focused to “preserve and strengthen the identity of minorities” [22] . There is emphasis on local languages and religions that are also considered to be official languages. That gives minorities ability to take care of their affairs individually, but on the other side, to deepen the differences between the groups (might not be an issue – deals with minority language, legal pluralism)

However, although state-building being a part of nation-building, it is important to distinguish between both of them: While state-building is focused only on building state institutions etc. – a functional state apparatus – nation-building is in many states a pre-requirement needed to be fulfilled before. [23] Especially in European countries, where a national identity already exists, only the state needs to be built around it. We can also observe this phenomenon, when we look upon the history of the modern (and in this case European) nation-state, where first a nation existed from which then a nation-state emerged.

In post-colonial countries, in opposite, demarcations were made by the former colonial powers on interest lines and not according to ethnic groups, tribes or similar communities. This means in many cases, that a country either includes many different ethnic groups with different backgrounds, or that one ethnic group is spread in more than one country. This leads to arguments how a state should be governed and, through this, to weak states or weak state institutions.

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The political elements contain the nation-state and a “high level of social mobilisation and political integration”, which are, although not the central elements, some of the most important. Therefore, methods like material incentives (e.g. public service employment), cultural means (e.g. educational system and language policy) and compulsion need to be applied. Furthermore, when a government is finally introduced, it needs to consolidate its own position in the society. [24] 

The social mobility also needs to be built up, either in a bottom-up or top-down model. This implements that all members of society need to be involved, especially in the political and ideological process of shaping the nation. This is often a big change, as most weak states were formerly governed by only one part of the society which excluded/repressed the rest of the population. As everyone is supposed to participate, in this period of time, at least some democratic dialogue will take place. However, it is possible that the newly formed nation will in this dialogue agree on some authoritarian or totalitarian form of governance. [25] 

In this dialogue of constituting a nation, dormant conflicts will “wake up”, especially in the former excluded part of society. This might turn out to be more serious, when it is not clear who belongs to the nation. The problem arises especially, when the conflict is ethnically motivated (for instance because of the language or religion). Then, nation-building easily becomes repressive and lowers the social participation in the political discourse.

There is also a need for the redistribution of power: old social and political structures will be (need to be?) destroyed, while new ones will be built up. This means, that, where local governments had most power, Hippler argues, a centralised government with a good local anchoring might be an advantage, as this ensures that new persons will take over. [26] 

As nation-building needs at least to some extend external help, especially in regards of providing security and building up a functioning infrastructure, the country’s government either needs to invite the international community, or this needs to intervene. [27] However, as the states of the international community will only act in a failing state if they see some advantage in it, there needs to be a trigger. This trigger could be for economic (the intervention of the USA to Iraq in 2003), security (the intervention of the NATO to Afghanistan in 2001) or for political and historical reasons (the intervention of the NATO in the Former Yugoslavian Republics in the 1990s). [28] 

The goal for intervening is not or not primarily nation-building; it needs to be seen as a necessity for reaching another goal. For example did the USA plan to leave Iraq after half a year and only realised after the end of the (official) war that it will take several years to build a nation and rebuild institutions. [29] This explains, why nation-building in many cases is only improvised, incontinent and lacks of preparation, as the war does not only destroy the balance of power in the intervened country but also “entails a clash of power politics between internal and external players.” [30] As it is the interference into the domestic politics of another country, Ignatieff stresses, nation-building has also imperial approaches. [31] A shift in the international discourse about an allowance of these imperial actions by putting them in the UN charter is discussed in the international community, as there is no dominant public position.

But there can also be external efforts to internal nation-building that can be very helpful for the built state. A good example therefore was the nation-building in Afghanistan with the help of the USSR. Here, processes are supported from outside with positive efforts in political, social, security-policy and other domains. This is also possible in countries with different political embedding. However, then there is a greater emphasis on development and peace policies, although also other aid can be provided for a long term stabilisation. [32] 

In the case of external efforts for internal nation-building, it is important to see for the intervening state that often an area of conflict arises between the internal processes promoted and the often contradictory political objectives. [33] 

Internal nation-building should promote human rights, social equalisation, good governance and participative democracy.

Imperial nation-building must recreate a nation-state and sometimes even the corresponding society. The desire to bring this about external players is the creation of an enormous dimension. However, the external governments are often not entirely conscientious of their action as they want/need to work economically and have a limited budget, while recreating a whole nation-state is financially very expensive, takes a lot of time – it is calculated to take one or two generations, and is very personnel-intensive. If the intervening countries cannot fulfil these variables fully, they are likely to fail. This mostly happens in a change of government, what most likely occurs during the time frame of such an operation. [34] 

There are several fundamental problems that easily arise by imperial nation-building, meaning that one country intervenes another one and then rebuilds the nation: [35] 

Firstly, at the intervention but also throughout the whole process, there is a security problem: Usually, there is no real army to fight against, or it is just one part, but as the country is fragmented, the war is as well: Opponents are often warlords, terrorists and militias which fighters can be hardly recognised from civilians. Furthermore, their buildings are closely linked to civilians and common living spaces.(quote?) However, an army is only prepared to fight against clearly recognisable enemies and has in this case either only little power or civilian causalities need to be acceptable. The latter is usually not an option, as this is not only problematic in terms of ethics and international law but also contradictory to the overall aim, as the local people would not understand it.

The second problem is the political problem of local rulers and warlords: As security is one of the major aims, for the intervening power as well as for the local population, a cooperation on the spot is often implemented. This can easily contradict to the aim of nation-building, because it usually means a cooperation with old local structures which are usually meant to be disband or with the use of other “local power structures, militias, warlords and even criminal gangs as auxiliary troops.” This was done by actors such as the UN (cooperation with a militia in Kosovo) and the USA (cooperation with warlords is Afghanistan and Iraq) for different interests: On the one hand, these auxiliary troops often find support in the local population and are therefore helpful, on the other hand they are potential enemies which are, at least for the time of cooperation, eliminated. This cooperation is built upon the proliferation of weapons and money towards these troops. But especially the latter becomes a problem in the further process. When peace and order are established, warlords, militias, etc. are supposed to be disarmed, what is very risky and needs a lot of money as well as personnel.

A third fundamental problem is the question of resources: As already stated earlier, a nation-building process usually takes several years, a lot of money and personnel. The expected numbers are usually topped by the actual needs. A good example for this is the US intervention in Iraq, now going on for seven years instead of a supposed short-term mission by using almost double of the costs calculated. [36] 

Fourth, there is the internal political factor of the intervening state for a long term commitment. Especially in the Western world, the sense of the mission in regards of financial and human costs will be questioned after a short time. Also, due to the rise of interventions after the end of the Cold War, many states reach their military capacities by supporting one or two nation respective state-buildings (e.g. Germany with its soldiers in Kosovo and Afghanistan, the USA being in Iraq on top of its other operations).

As a fifth fundamental problem, there should be mentioned conflicts of objective and means, as there is most often a conflict between the interest in actual nation-building and the interest of control. The latter needs certainly be focused on security reasons, because it can otherwise fall apart easily. In this context, nation-building becomes “a means for social and political control of the country.” That means that it is not any more an objective but becomes an instrument for other purposes. This comes, according to Hippler, down to three points describing the goals of imperial nation-building:

“[…] (i) an emphasis on military, police and intelligence resources […]; (ii) appropriate infrastructure measures […] and (iii) strictly regulated democratisation and participation possibilities in order to include local political forces in the administration of the country and be better accepted among the public at large […].” [37] 

The opposite of imperial nation-building is non-imperial or development policy nation-building. It’s biggest argument is that nation-building must not be seen as a blueprint of Western democracies which shall be projected on Third World countries, including economy and democratic institutions; being also a major reason for the failure in Afghanistan. Rather it should have a sound and workable concept that suits the country’s nation to be built. An example for failing on this context is the Iraq, where the USA did not have a suitable plan at all. [38] 

Best prospects nation-building has when fulfilling certain functions for the society affected. These should be articulated by socio-economic and political groups. However, nation-building is less likely to be affective after current crises, as the society is already too split. Easier it is when the society is not split yet, meaning usually a solution before a crisis starts off. While for the latter a short-term solution is likely to solve the prospects of nation-building, the former means – because of the great experience of violence – a more important role of control and security for the (re-)integration of society.

When talking about integration, the question of a targeted disintegration may arise in the sense of ‘ethnic cleaning’ in order of building separate nation states. A central argument of supporters of this thought is that in countries where is, due to e.g. a genocide, only little chance of an integration of the enemy factions and that it is close to impossible to bring integration if not wanted by any of the parties. Opponents may reply that greater trouble will occur by displacing people what definitely would need to happen in border regions, but is also likely to happen in other regions. A separation would neither solve the problem entirely as the factions are like to start a new war afterwards. [39] 

Nation-building is a “painful, contradictory and complex process” which promises only success, when the affected population’s living standards are improved and the population connects it to nation-building. If the living circumstances stay the same in the long term it is perceived to be artificial and more and more opposition will rise. However, over a short term, nation-building is tolerated when it arouses hope for the future instead of actually bringing improvements. [40] 

As a starting point, the new ‘nation’ must have the feeling that the new nation-state is and will be capable of solving problems in the population’s interest. This normally includes economic and socio-political components such as a safeguarding food supply, healthcare, jobs and accommodation, but should also contain personal security and infrastructure. But cultural symbols are for the integration of a nation equally important. [41] 

Another step to be made – in connection to the improvement of living standards – is the implementation of ‘politicostructural’ changes. An optimal starting point for these are the internal cultural and political conditions in the newly built nation. However, although it should create the prerequisites of it – equality, a fair fiscal system, education, etc., it should not form democracy itself. [42] 


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