from WorldPoliticsReview Website
Recovered trough GoogleWebCache Services
Pro-independence demonstrators wave an “estelada,”
or Catalonian independence flag, in front of a Spanish police station,
Barcelona, Spain, Oct. 3, 2017
(AP photo by Francisco Seco).
The repressive run-up to the voting and heavy-handed police response on the day of the outlawed ballot have generated outrage in Catalonia and beyond, providing a major boost to what opinion polling indicated was a minority movement.
Brinksmanship on both sides in the months leading up to the vote proved impossible to walk back.
The local Catalan government's determination to follow through on its longstanding threat to hold an independence referendum has now freed the genie from the bottle, with the possibility of a cycle of escalation that could easily get out of control.
A general strike paralyzed the region yesterday.
The local government is
threatening to declare independence within days. And Spanish King
Felipe made an unprecedented venture into politics to condemn the
separatists in a nationally televised speech.
Similar dynamics are at work in,
But this is just one category of contested identity currently on display in Europe.
Transnational terrorist groups like the so-called Islamic State and al-Qaida appeal to a religious identity that subordinates the national identities of their European recruits.
European nationalists and
nativists use a mix of ethno-cultural grievance and class politics
to contest the meaning of national and European identity.
At the same time, the persistence of racial injustice, particularly with regard to police brutality faced by black Americans, and discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation have radicalized political discourse among some currents of the left without necessarily facilitating coalition-building and broad alliances.
The kaleidoscopic nature
of the various groupings makes it harder for these contested
identities to coalesce into coherent blocs that might lead to
separatism in the event that social order begins to unravel.
But any number of the violent incidents the country has witnessed in the past few years, whether,
...might have led to escalation in a more clearly bifurcated landscape.
The intersectional nature
of America's contested identities means that it is harder for any
single incident to solidify the country's fractures into discretely
divided camps that might seek to peel away the nation-state.
to subsume national identities,
leaving the EU less than
the sum of its parts.
But in the past they took place in a context where the nation-state enjoyed a clear advantage, both in power and legitimacy, over smaller-scale local entities.
What we are seeing today
is a more mixed landscape, where in many cases the gravitational
pull of alternative and local identities seems to exercise a greater
attraction than that of national identities.
The emergence of the nation-state coincided with a period when both war and industrial development required economies of scale that only a national identity could hold together. There are areas of the world where this logic still holds firmly on one or both counts.
China's rise would be unimaginable without a strong national identity, as would revanchist Russia's resurgence under Vladimir Putin, even if both still face ethno-sectarian separatist movements, in Xinjiang and the North Caucasus, respectively.
In South America, too, national identity still has little competition outside of small and often marginalized indigenous communities. But in Europe, war on a mass-industrial scale has been delegitimized and the system of economic accumulation distributed transnationally.
As a result, the nation-state showed signs of receding as an anchor of identity in the 21st century.
The European Union signaled the
advent of an order in which nations were the fundamental building
blocks of a larger structure that, it once seemed, would eventually
No European identity
emerged to subsume national identities, leaving the whole less than
the sum of its parts. And the perception - rightly or wrongly - of
existential threats like outsourced jobs and uncontrolled
immigration has driven a resurgence of nationalism since the
European debt crisis and the 2015
It is where the competing identity is rooted in region, ethnicity and language as in,
...that the risk of an
internal cleavage rises.
The alchemy of how these fractures emerge is mysterious, and there is no magical formula for defusing them once they have been activated.
Most often, maximalist
identity movements exist at the fringes of such societies without
exercising broad appeal. At other times, it seems as if every
possible response, from accommodation to repression, only fuels
It is likely the Spanish state will survive intact, but the fault lines that already undermined its cohesiveness will have been widened.
And the broader questions
surrounding the future of the nation-state and national identity in
Europe will almost certainly take on added prominence in the years