Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Is Patriotism a valid alternative to Nationalism?


Many would argue that the appeal to Patriotism evokes just as much an 'emotional blindness' as does Nationalism known for its trade mark, namely a blind following of the masses of people an equally blind or irrational leader. If this 'avalanche of stupidity' (Adorno) can happen any time, anywhere, what can Patriotism do to evoke an alternative? The philosopher Jürgen Habermas would argue Patriotism can affect people to adopt a 'rational' attitude towards politics. He would argue not ethnic ties are needed so that a common reason can be upheld at European level. Rather open communication and debate will do if upheld by the institutions designed to ensure a governing process. Moreover he sees in the European Union a reasonable example of nation states able to give up a part of their sovereignty to make possible governance at this larger scale. There are, however, as of late signs, and especially during the economic crisis, that mass movements are influenced again by populist propaganda. Also the fear is on the increase that extreme Nationalist forces are making headway in what determines in the final end politics and socio-economic situations in the member states. For example, there is the alarming rise of Chrysi Avgi in Greece. It is a movement feeding its followers out of a pro Junta, even Fascist ideology with an illusion of an independent Greece and attempts to bind its followers together on the basis of a mere hate-attitude of the 'migrant' – the stranger of the 21st century. Thus it matters what constitutes the binding power when taking recourse to Patriotism and not to Nationalism.

The nation in history

The nation has been throughout history an expression of a struggle for a certain kind of freedom. Emancipation in a national sense means to bring about such a state which allows to be ruled by laws of one's own making and which safeguards at the same time national interests. It embraces a wish to belong to a certain group of people who profess to govern themselves better when others do not interfere with their ways of doing things. Language and culture play a role in reinforcing such an assumption that a common identity can be utilized to legitimize governance by means of a national state.

Yet most of the times this national emancipation and self governance was at best incomplete. Yes, a new state was created on the basis of being one nation in Greece (1821), Italy (1861) and Germany (1871) but as an ethnic entity, it meant often suppressing minorities and squashing regional aspirations. Spain has to deal with the Basques and Catalonians while the United Kingdom has Wales and Scotland with Northern Ireland as well a place of contention. Of interest is that these regional drives towards independence can resort to ethnic assertiveness as seen when former Yugoslavia broke up. The Czech and Slovakia Republics were fortunate to be able to do that without too much violence, if any at all. By the same token, the coming down of the Berlin wall in 1989 ushered in German reunification and gave a direct boast to that country assuming again it would be less problematic to articulate a national identity considered till then stained by what happened under National Socialism.

Monument in Kreisau to remember the day in November 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down

Unfortunately throughout history Cosmopolitan tendencies have been fought with the aim to prevent people perceiving themselves as 'citizens of the world'! That was the challenge of the French Revolution which went badly wrong not only due to the Jacobin terror but also by turning inwards again. Nationalism then meant confusing law for all citizens with Robespierre's fundamental morality. It cost even the life of Danton.

While the path to nation state in Europe altered tremendously the political landscape in the nineteenth century, it should not be forgotten that alternative models existed before e.g. the city states of the Italian Renaissance or the Hanseatic cities within the German context. In Ancient times, there stands out above all the example of Alexander the Great seeking to unite all nations but in order to do that he forged alliances through an army trained only to conquer. When he died, everything fell apart and fled back into a national and ethnic mode.

From local-regional to national identities

While different kinds of Nationalism can range from the more enlightened or open types to the severe restrictive, latent violent ones, they have in common an underlying ideology. It prepares citizens to make sacrifices for the sake of the nation, best shown that they are really willing to give up their own identities for the sake of the national one. Since it is an abstract identity overriding local and regional differences, the German one surmounting the Baverian or Saxony one, it has to be reinforced by something. Hegel's philosophy outlined this in the form of a negation of negation by which any person assumes first the national identity before allowing differences and otherness shape his or her personal identity. Without such a negation of human diversity from childhood and school years onward the national identity cannot be explained or understood.

Hegel added even in his Philosophy of Law that it meant every citizen had to give his allegiance to such a state. By the same token, a Cosmopolitan was according to Hegel's definition the Jew who as world citizen would not give his oath to the state and therefore could not be considered to be a citizen. It was already the signal for anti Semitism to be a force forming state ideology especially in Germany once Hitler came to power in 1933. That extreme Nationalism was linked to an end vision of the 'German' becoming a master of the world.

There has to be noted at all times while people are confined to national folds, there are those who transgress the borders and seem to be internationally at home. In the 18th and 19th even 20th century these were above all the aristocrats who used their connections to outplay nations while they sat back to reap the profits. No where was this better shown than in the film 'What a lovely game war is!'. Also Solzhenitsyn in his novel 'August 1914' relates to that.

Nation states and the global economy

However, while colonisation and Imperialism meant business expanding parallel to the reach of the Christian religion, in the 21st century new global business forms have been joined by global networks. Also newscasters like CNN transmit their news on a 24 hour basis. It matches the decision makers who relate to the Japanese stock market closing while they drive to work in New York and refer to the opening of the European stock market when they return home at night. Global business does demand another form of world governance, but nation states are here very slow to react or grow with time even more reluctant to give up still further losses of their own powers and national sovereignties. But definitely this is a challenge to the nation state in this age and that is why Nationalism is at odds with these new demands while no one is sure if appeals to Patriotism can bridge the gap between wishes to retain own national identities and adapting to a more abstract, indeed global form of communication to ensure world governance and world peace.

Consequently the new forms cross-national governance reflect shifts in power but they can also hide redistribution of resources and wealth outside the systems designed to ensure accountability of political decision making processes. Not sure to where all of this is heading, confusion reigns above all about what is not merely rational politics, but decisions based on save and sound, indeed practical judgements. If self-interest has been identified by Horkheimer as the threat to freedom, then the same applies at collective level if nations resort merely to national interest as prime ratio to appraise what is good or bad. It seems that due to many failures to realize the new, something happens that Adorno predicted, namely that the new is forced to flee back into old structures. Consequently an odd misture of old and new forms of governance are beginning to weaken structures of governance upon which people relied upon until recently. Besides confusion there is now added uncertainty about the future.

No wonder if people tend to flee back into their national folds as if this simplification of decision making processes would make it any easier to face in the world collectively such phenomenon as climate change, human trafficking, war and violation of human rights. If not resolved in time, these problems will affect each and every nation in the form of migration. As Michael D. Higgins puts it, the migrant shall be the central figure of the 21st century and he reminds of the nomad who gained identity by relating to no where, no place but to the earth and nature.

By the same token, many go now through the financial desert and as in the desert there is no half way measure possible for either one goes all the way or else it means giving up on life on this earth altogether. The challenges are huge and not all are man made as the many storms, forest fires, droughts and heat waves indicate. Already the Tsunami wave which hit the nuclear plant in Fukushima in Japan on March 11st 2011 triggered a reversal in the nuclear power plant policy the German government was following up to that date even though the population itself had rejected already clearly the nuclear option. Consequently the dynamic changes in governance begin to emerge just as the Arab spring has brought about regime change in some parts of the Middle East.

There are certain attitudes linked to the nation state which are clearly obstacles. Chauvinism and other extreme forms of self- interest are a part of the problem. Other things make impossible wise governance, including lack of transparency and corruption. It leads to use of mendacity. The latter uses public lie with the justification that people are not interested in hearing the full truth. When the Lehman crisis erupted in the banking sector, it reminded again people that things have gone way out of control. Astronomical figures were stated as to what amount of money was needed to bail out the banks. These figures had no longer any measurable relationship to the amount of money ordinary people dealt with not only in their daily lives, but throughout their life. Consequently purchasing power related to what is no longer a safe measure of strength especially if a rating agency can down grade the means of the state to raise money to finance its deficit on the so-called free market. Again all this creates a desire for control and this within borders and boundaries more easily accepted when under pressure than any kind of open ended system spelling ever more risks and uncertainties.

Return to Nationalism or 'what works'!

To explain the failure of rational politics and the return to Nationalism to be perceived as an over identification with the nation state, these uncertainties have to be understood as sizes and numbers which cannot be broken down into smaller parts. Perhaps the only inkling of the difference is suggested by referring to certain operations, banks and even states as being too big to fail. It can mean either no one can afford a full failure just as it is often speculated what it would mean to the world economy if Greece would be allowed to crash or else the overall economy is driven by such forces that there is demand to sustain ongoing business. Since again confusion reigns over a clarity as to what works, what not, people tend to rely more on what they know has some degree of reliability and therefore they opt more for what is closer to them than far away. But while Germans may believe Chancellor Merkel is doing the right thing, and she has locked them into an overall narrative as to what is the right thing to do when there is a deficit, namely adopt an austerity orientated policy, this is not the case in Greece. There people have no longer confidence in the ruling elite. Public trust in the political process is all but gone and what remains is a pragmatic stance willing to make use of the second last game before the end game. Being gamblers by nature, they are willing to take the risk to let things break down and then call it their negotiation skills to save of a complete default five minutes before midnight. Talking a way out of trouble and continue the negotiations seems to be a proven tactic and strategy although no one is sure if anyone works really on the problems which have been named as cause of the huge state deficit.

Often it is so that people project upon the state their wishes and hopes that if the state would gain in strength, they would be free to do what they like. Usually such gathered strength would mean internally how laws and above all prices would be upheld while externally there would be no cause of fear someone stronger would invade and take over e.g. in Greece the projection of what Turkey might be capable of doing. This means citizens wish protection from the state so that they can go on with their lives free from worries. Since life is complicated enough, the usual attitude adopted is one of neutral or apolitical attitude as long as the necessary income can be earned and the children can go to school while it is possible to go with the family on holidays. Expectation is matched by seeing what the others are equally free to do. That all worked until 2009 when state deficits forced a new policy upon these states and severe austerity measures were introduced. Suddenly the word 'crisis' dominates in the minds of everyone and the rationale or justification for everything is precisely this unknown extent of the crisis, but one which affects especially those who are dependent upon government support whether now in the form of direct employment or else indirectly with the state giving contracts for public works to be done.

When looking back it appears that national politics was compounded over time by prejudices and false convictions as to what the own state could do. Usually it was accompanied by a world view bent to the advantage of the own state while all others were tainted as if afraid to make a decisive move. This kind of false assumption played a huge role during the period of Imperialism and Colonialism. Still today American voters are lulled into the assumption the USA is the greatest nation on earth. In modern times, it meant overspending without limits just in order to keep up with the others enjoying an ever higher standard of living. It was no longer a starving to death but rather a race towards over consumption of everything: space when building second homes, buying luxury goods based on the knowledge no one knows how important they are until actually bought and does not end with the Louvre and other major museums moving branches to Dubai as new international hub for not only doing business but showing off who has made it in such a global world finely tuned towards exceptionally successful models of making business work under these circumstances.

The nation state allows for only a restrictive kind of economy. That can easily be seen when steel and coal are nationalised but sooner or later the investors are missing and the entire infrastructure collapses due to a lack of money to make the necessary new investments. As everyone would say it is a highly competitive world but also the coercive powers are there. Anyone not willing to cooperate and comply with the rules, he will sooner or later experience an enraged world or at least the Western world coming down on him, so the case of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

A national economy is better described as a closed market with only insiders able to do business within. It is said no one can set up a business inside of Germany if the company does not hire a German manager. Within three years that company goes broke if it does not obey to that unspoken rule. Likewise everywhere intricate relationships ensure ownership and above all managerial knowledge is kept within certain circles. In Germany the family businesses are the ones doing extremely well especially during times of crisis.

Nevertheless to justify doing things in the name of national interest could be at best a most precarious rationale. It presupposes quite another agreement with the other states and their populations if things are said and done only in reference to national interest alone. This may be the case right now not only in the United Kingdom where the anti European affect is so strong that everything is deemed to be wiser when done in the name of the national interest rather than follow the decisions made by 'those' in Brussels. Interestingly there is talk as 'they' in Europe or in Brussels are distinctly other people and having nothing to do with us, the British people. It excludes the possibility of being Europeans!

Identity politics

Identity politics has that implication! It works with certain distortions to allow for only half of the truth. For example, British politics is dictated by a notion of sovereignty gained over centuries and tradition, but it appears as well that many in the United Kingdom have succumbed to a new renunciation of 'Britishness'. The latter set in after the bomb blasts in 2005. The response to that threat was called invoking the old characteristic of British defiance and it was reminded that this prevailed under Churchill during Second World War when London was bombed by Hitler's planes. Invoking these images perpetuates at the same time something which obliterates completely the fact that the Olympics were awarded to London for being a city of cultural diversity and of such international composition that identities could not be reduced to a single, indeed national one.

And yet there are Conservatives and Labour MPs voting down the budget proposal linked to the EU budget meant to be increased by 5%. There is applied a simple logic: if cuts are made at home, then also Europe overall has to make likewise such cuts. Otherwise the European measures appear not to be not only irrational or not logical enough to suit the present circumstances, but also they go against national interests.

That implies national interest is expressed best through prudence and a way of spending money which makes sure as well the own sovereignty stays intact. Many look at Greece as to what the European Commission can do to a country if overspending is not controlled in time and the budget allowed to run out of control.

Naturally when listening to those arguing in favour of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union under the presumption to be better off without such an overhead as the Commission dictating what can be done, what not as well in Britain, then one gets the impression that here is assumed a position of superiority over everything. Yet in reality the well being of oneself depends equally on the well being of all others both inside Great Britain and outside Europe.

Still, it has to be recognized that the self assumed national identity has become such a natural embodiment of character and personality of many people that they assume they are better off when not tied with Europe any longer but resume governance as known before the European Union, namely as sovereign nation state.

National interest

While 'nation' and 'national interests' suggest positive value premises, it lets such terms as 'traitor' and 'treason' take on specific meanings when it comes to judging who acts contrary to the need to safeguard at all times national interests. That someone acting against Hitler may not be a traitor, but one contributing to peace, would already contradict any moral argument made in reference to national interest. Unfortunately such an interpretation would never have a chance in national courts. It indicates in what kind of calamities national governance can end up if they orientated themselves only according to their own interpretations of national interest. For the interest of every human being has to be perceived from both an anthropological and an ethnological angle, that is by means of both inner and outer reflections. Any human self understanding has to relate to genuine human interests and therefore all issues need to be perceived from as many angles as possible. It is impossible to relate to human interests by adopting an one sided approach. This is the unfortunate case when recourse is taken solely to the nation and thereby national interests stand above human ones.

National Emancipation and Political Fallacy

Politically speaking, Nationalism became a force starting with a real need for freedom but often ended in a reactionary form of repression of anything which could not be 'self assumed' – a false self understanding. Since it was all the more easy to bend reason to fit the national scheme of interest, political mistakes were made when reducing especially in hard pressed times of conflict and war human aspirations for solidarity and universal citizenship. That is never the same as to just belonging to one group, tribe or nation.

Naturally many issues such as health, education, agriculture etc. exist all the time, but once international competition between various nations resulted in a break down in trade and even worse in an eruption of wars, then even these issues reduce themselves to extreme survival needs. Necessity starts then to dictate the agenda and shapes politics accordingly.

The moment self sufficiency and independence take on a key priority in the name of national interest, the politics starts to propagate the illusion as if everything can be achieved completely alone. It is a wish to silence all these interdependencies which have wounded otherwise proud people and when the world looks more like a mirror in which to reflect only own failures. The latter is compounded once stereotypical images begin to appear in the international press and deride the national character as being lazy and corrupt.

Nationalism may thereby be interpreted as taking recourse to a kind of fatal acceptance of this negative determination while revolting against the implied suppression behind all these allegations and insinuations. Once national pride is insulted, then it means a reaffirmation thereof tops the political agenda.

Change of agenda through Patriotism

It is this kind of agenda which Patriotism seeks to alter, and this in the realization that in today's global world no nation state alone is sufficiently equipped or has the resources to make it all alone. Consequently Patriotism is a marked response to international interdependencies. No where is this better expressed then in the existence of the European Union.

To tap into a so-called 'national consciousness' based on 'political reason' as required by nation states which have joined larger units of governance, that it is a formidable task. Thus if an appeal to Patriotism wishes to alter this link between identity and nation in that direction, there must taken into account not only philosophical streams influencing and determining the concept of identity, but heed as well political developments which tend towards an extreme form of Nationalism.

Above all the question exists whether an appeal to Patriotism can succeed in a period of crisis. It would demand a capacity to uphold a collective orientation for the sake of the common good while able to respond to the identity question by letting things work out with practical wisdom. Since many people shall experience during hard pressed times an identity crisis, finding solutions at both individual and social level shall not be easy.

All the more important is to know what an appeal to Patriotism entails? Can it bring about a new economic thinking, in order to find a way out of economic recession? With unemployment being very high (around 50% in 2012) amongst the youth in Greece and Spain, member states of the European Union have to resolve the crisis without falling back into regressive and well known forms of extreme Nationalism.

Consequently current appeals to the 'emotions' have to be carefully scrutinized as to their real intentions. That includes those made in the name of Patriotism as well. For all kinds of appeals may amount only to a 'clever' or 'cheap' way to manage the crisis while in reality other things are afoot. There is above all the security concern linked to uncertainty about the future. There is also being experienced a potential and real loss of freedom to move and to do things. It has become a rallying point for many to wish a life in dignity and they do articulate this despite knowing what they are up against. Amongst many of the youth this means as well negating governance as indicated best by many in Greece joining the Anarchist movement. There is as well a new form of empowerment gained by use of new media but it can also drive many into self isolation. Those in power are only to well aware what not only this but any crisis entails, namely the potential to question the entire system. As seen in the Arab spring a revolt can lead to 'regime change' in Tunisia and Egypt. But a revolt or even a revolution is only one possible outcome. Another can be regression and the surge of new forms of Extremism. Thus the challenge for Patriotism is to uphold the link between identity and nation without allowing other forces take recourse to a more extreme form of Nationalism as known in the past, in order to seize power by moving away from securalization and towards fundamental law.

Failure to stay on course

Already worrying trends can be seen in 2012 as to what is happening in the Arab world. One year later a vicious and often violent conflict between moderate and extreme fundamentalist forces is being played out and critical voices again silenced. If such extreme forms of conflict begin to dominate in Greece, Spain or Portugal, it can easily bring about in Europe a collapse of not only the Euro, but as well of democratic governance. This would be the case if the conflict leads first to a complete fragmentation of the political parties and then in a second phase turns into a conflict being played out in a highly polarised situation between different extreme forces on the Left and the Right. In the case of Greece or Spain this meant in the past civil war.

The return to a polarized political situation is most noticeable in Greece. It is the result of binding forces within society having become so weak that there prevails no longer a social contract to ensure a balanced approach to how interests and needs are perceived and recognized. The fragmentation of politics in Greece was due to the traditional or established political parties having lost all credibility. Established political figures were no longer trusted to ensure that first public and then national interests would be safeguarded. Repeatedly since 2009 various kinds of governments have been tried. After repeated elections and failure to materialize a workable solution, an elected government was replaced by a technocrat management.

The same happened in Italy with Monti assuming the role of prime minister even though he has not been elected. A crisis makes many things possible and here it is interesting that Monti would argue many nation states have yet to realize that they have lost and given up a lot of their national sovereignties, but in order to regain some of that they must learn to cooperate with other nation states within such forms which have brought about the European Union. Such rhetoric indicates that Patriotism is very much used to safeguard the balance between these two obvious opposite trends with a promise to regain some of the lost sovereignty only by joining a larger whole.

The fate of Greece

How things shall develop in Greece facing an ever worsening of the debt crisis, that can be anticipated to some extent. If Greece is to stay as a member of the European Union, then a type of governance controlled by Brussels will have to be imposed. It will mean a still further loss of national sovereignty with strong nationalist reactions to be expected as prime political outcome. Occupation of this country has tradition but so has resistance. The other alternative would be to leave the country to its fate. Once left adrift, there will have to be seen how this will impact upon world trade and the various banking systems.

In this context of how to resolve state deficit and an economy in recession, a widely heard argument is that it is best out of national interest to return to an own currency. It is thought since this makes it possible again to devalue the own national currency, a positive balance of payments can be more easily regained while making the own national economy more competitive. Quite another solution is called for when the 17 member states stay on in the common Euro-zone and therefore shall be hard pressed to achieve governance over and beyond national interests. Here the promise is to regain a part of that national sovereignty in the long run.

Europe in the world

Alone the option of a strengthening the European Union alters the disposition towards a national consciousness. Hence the appeal to Patriotism may very well mean posing anew the question of identification with what larger unit, the own nation alone or an agglomeration of nations forming a new union! Patriotism would be a way to gauge then what shall be a workable compromise between national and European interests.

Given the crisis the European Union has entered, it is naturally always more difficult to sell this project to all Europeans. Success is both a crucial but also elusive terms in politics and nothing is more counter productive than having obstructions which are based on self interests reformulated as national ones, and this at the exclusion of all the others. Here a huge failure of European integration has become noticeable in the crisis the moment national stereotypical images were flung at Greeks and vice versa demonstrations in Athens depicted Merkel in Hitler's uniform. Things become more than merely distasteful if things remain at levels of historical resentments e.g. Greeks repeatedly reminding Germany about the atrocities committed during Second World War and thereby blending out all the cooperation and collaboration achieved by both joining the European Union.

From now on there has to be monitored carefully to what extent national interests become more vocal than the pro European voices. In the United Kingdom it is already possible that a referendum could result in a 'no' to Europe. That is a result of often campaigns leaving out reasonable arguments for staying in Europe as a collective body able to govern itself.

Naturally there are also still other forces at work to ensure a workable solution may be found in this crisis. But solutions worked out by experts and behind closed doors shall never satisfy everyone. Also the intervention by the World Bank is resented by those who claim national sovereignty over the need to face the deficit caused by over spending. In the final end, it will haves to be realized that in a global economy, there are sometimes very little choices possible. This is especially the case if the company decides to take all workplaces over seas and investors stay away since the place is deemed to be unreliable when it comes to guaranteeing returns to the initial investments made. Therefore, the interesting point is how far does public trust go when this important reliability that things will get done is missing and even existing state authority cannot guarantee a solution. If that failure hits home, then it gives rise to many more irrational, including highly nationalist forces.

Indeed, there is a worrying trend in Europe. It can be felt underneath the surface of public opinion. It is the cultivation and formation of still other, more extreme forces preparing for a power bid. Their strategies are accompanied by forms of hatred and Extremism. The risk for Patriotism is not to succeed in convincing the majority of people not to go down that road of extreme Nationalism and therefore becomes itself a victim of a new totalitarian language preparing the ground for hate to be unloaded on any suitable object, most often the migrant and the one deemed to be not of one's own kind i.e. Greek, German, French etc.

A proponent of Patriotism: the philosopher Jürgen Habermas

One key proponent of Patriotism is the philosopher Jürgen Habermas. Being a philosopher of a rational school of thought, his diagnosis of current political state of affairs points to a worrying trend in discourse practices, insofar as public debates are undermined by what he calls a 'pathology of communication'. Likewise he challenges Chancellor Merkel who initiated the Lisbon Treaty to compensate for the failure to ratify the EU Constitutional Treaty in 2005. Habermas criticizes this new treaty insofar as does not help to close the democratic gap between citizens and decision makers at both national and European level.

Jürgen Habermas would surely claim that Patriotism is the best way to face collectively an uncertain future. To this he would add some important qualifications. Above all such an appeal can be interpreted as a general wish not to slip back into the fold of the past when an extreme Nationalism dominated the political agenda. Since that would have many fatal consequences for both the individual and the state, the question is if similar disasters can be avoided by taking recourse instead to Patriotism?

The positive case for Habermas is when people no longer insist on emotional and even biological ties and cling to just national interests, but adopt a more rational attitude towards government and moving freely in newly formed collectivities. In that sense his interpretation of Patriotism to the nation would allow the giving up of sovereign rights to something greater like the European Union. This would allow for progress in the direction of world governance. That is the ultimate ratio in Jürgen Habermas' philosophy. It comes to its fullest expression when he specifies it as 'constitutional patriotism'. This means allegiance is given by every citizen not to an abstract body like a state or nation, but to what are the Rights of everyone.

“Contrary to a widespread misunderstanding, ‘constitutional patriotism’ means that the citizens make the principles of the constitution their own not merely in an abstract sense but also in the concrete historical context of their respective national histories. The cognitive approach does not go far enough if the moral contents of basic rights are to gain a foothold in convictions. Moral insights and worldwide agreement in reactions of moral outrage against gross violations of human rights alone would ensure only the paper-thin integration of the citizens into a politically constituted world society (should it one day come into existence). A solidarity among citizens, however abstract and legally mediated, develops only when the principles of justice become woven into the more finely spun web of cultural values.

….In light of the foregoing reflections, the secular character of the constitutional state does not exhibit any internal weakness inherent in the political system as such that jeopardizes its ability to stabilize itself in a cognitive or motivational sense. This does not exclude external reasons. An uncontrolled modernization of society as a whole could certainly corrode democratic bonds and undermine the form of solidarity on which the democratic state depends even through it cannot enforce it. Then the very constellation that Böckenförde has in mind would transpire, namely, the transformation of the citizens of prosperous and peaceful liberal societies into isolated, self-interested monads who use their individual liberties exclusively against one another like weapons. Evidence of such a corrosion of civic solidarity can be found in the larger context of the politically uncontrolled dynamics of the global economy and global society.

Markets, which, unlike state administrations, cannot be democratized, are increasingly assuming regulatory functions in domains of life that used to be held together by norms-in other words, by political means or through prepolitical forms of communication. Not only are private spheres as a consequence of becoming increasingly recalibrated to the mechanisms of instrumental action guided by individual preferences but the domain open to public legitimation pressures is also shrinking. Civic privatism is being reinforced by the discouraging loss of function of a mode of democratic opinion- and will-formation that in the meantime operates more or less satisfactorily only within national arenas, with the result that decision-making processes that have been displaced onto supranational levels are now beyond its reach. The fading hope in the political capacity of the international community is also promoting the trend toward the depoliticization of citizens. In the light of the conflicts and glaring social injustices of a highly fragmented global society, the disappointment is growing with every additional setback to the process of constitutionalization of international law initiated after 1945.”

Habermas, Jürgen (2009[2005]) Between Naturalism and Religion. Ciaran Cronin, trans. Cambridge, Polity Press, p. 107 - 108.

The English version was quoted 22/02/2011 by Kelly Cooper


This allows him to link to world governance as he sees it based on one value premise everyone does agree upon and which needs therefore no further legitimization, namely that the human dignity of everyone should be respected and be preserved. He would recommend making this the main premise of a newly reformed United Nations in order to allow the working out of potential conflicts before they unload themselves again in violent strives and even war.

Habermas believes that Patriotism can replace Nationalism and still serve the purpose of bringing people in tune with one overriding sentiment called 'national interest'. The latter begs the question but what is then really the difference between Patriotism and Nationalism? The answer may lie in use of new methods for still the same purpose, namely to focus the collective mind upon a specific goal and subordinate everything else to that alone! Rather than appealing blindly to the emotion, Patriotism suggests a greater intellectual commitment to the way to stay alive on this earth.

In that respect, the task of the nation state is re-defined.

„Angesichts der Probleme können wir bestenfalls konstruktive Überlegungen anstellen. Die Nationalstaaten müssten sich zunehmend, und zwar im eigenen Interesse, als Mitglieder der internationalen Gemeinschaft verstehen. Das ist das dickste Brett, das in den nächsten Jahrzehnten zu bohren wäre. Wenn wir mit dem Blick auf diese Bühne von 'Politik' reden, meinen wir oft noch das Handeln von Regierungen, die das Selbstverständnis von souverän entscheidenden kollektiven Akteuren geerbt haben. Doch dieses Selbstverständnis eines Leviathan, das sich seit dem 17.Jahrhundert zusammen mit dem europäischen Staatensystem entwickelt hat, ist schon heute nicht mehr ungebrochen. Was wir bis gestern 'Politik' nannten, ändert täglich seinen Aggregatzustand.“

Jürgen Habermas, Zur Verfassung Europas, s. 105-6


"In view of the problems we can at best make some constructive reflections. National states must even in their own interest understand themselves as members of the international community. That is the thickest piece of wood in need to be drilled through in the coming decades. When we talk with regards to this world stage about 'politics', we mean often the action by governments which have inherited a self understanding as sovereign deciding collective bodies. But this self understanding of a Leviathan which developed itself together with the European system of states, is today no longer unbroken. What we called yesterday 'politics', changes daily its aggregate condition."

Jürgen Habermas, About the constitution of Europe, p. 105 - 6

(translated by the author)

To explain the transition from national sovereign nation states to the European Union, there is made usually reference to the lesson learned out of two disasterous wars, but in history there were already existing signs of this future model. Although embedded in historical structures of those times, transitions become possible once an emancipation from pre-existing structures takes place. This was indicated, for example, by developments having in the long run deep political ramifications.

Progress in governance can be linked to having developed sophisticated enough political ideas which allow the organization of society while taking things to the next higher level of development.



When compared with Nationalism, Patriotism seems adopt a more open attitude towards the other and therefore can claim to be relatively free from hatred of the other; it is more or less a positive acclamation of one's own collective identity without necessarily claiming it to be better than any other. It is also an expression of a public opinion or more precisely seeks to be a public stance, in order to show what one stands for. Naturally such a mild form can be substantiated by forms calling for sacrifices. This can include being willing to enter the army to serve the country or to accept the austerity measures in need to save the overall balance of the money flow in the economy. That overarching attitude can be linked to another way of organizing the army; rather than having compulsory military service, it is a professional army with people joining out of various but not enforced reasons. Patriotism in this sense would mean a willingness to serve but not under just any condition. That quality of conditionality leaves open choices, something which Nationalism would not allow for. Consequently a possible qualitative difference between Patriotism and Nationalism may be found in how collective reasoning is brought about when compared to more extreme forms requiring just loyal and even blind fellowship.

Consequently what impact Patriotism has upon both the personal and the national identity building process, is of great interest as it shall affect not only political negotiations at state level when dealing with the 'sovereign debt' related crisis, but fore mostly the 'social and community related reasoning and deliberation processes'. In the latter case the assemblies in Athens or the protest movement of the indignant people of Spain articulate new constraints when ordering politics anew. People cannot be left out when deliberating the measures in need to be taken to face a mounting debt crisis and therefore not only a loss of purchasing power, but also a crisis in the morality of payment. For work being paid so that a livelihood can be attained for a life in dignity within society is a value premise undergoing in this crisis a huge revision and therefore survival needs rekindle as well older strives of people to band together in tribes or nations rather than let their interests be subsumed under a larger, less concrete entity like the European Union.

Hatto Fischer

Athens 5.11.2012

^ Top

« Meeting in Kreisau - Krzyzowa, 23. - 29.2.2012 | Methodological questions »