Sunday, July 17, 2011

For a perspective of what nationalism in the 19th century was when it was a progressive force, check out Mazzini

Because it wasn't originally what it became, and it didn't resemble what we now call 'nationalism' in the United States. "The Duties of Man" is a very enlightening book, available free on google books Here. Mazzini, one of the fathers of the unified Italian state, is probably the best representative of continental mid century liberalism there is. It's not classical liberalism, but it's not the liberalism of the early 20th century, which is more familiar . Instead, it's an interesting sort of melange of socialist ideas, individualist ideas, ideas relating to a general belief in Humanity, and appreciation for local culture . The latter, acting against larger political and cultural domination, is what I think nationalism was originally about.

Italy's Risorgimento or Unification is a prime example of this. Before the Risorgimento, what we now think of as Italy was parceled out into different spheres of domination, some controlled by Austria, some by France, some by the Vatican, and some belonging to miscellaneous monarchies. Nationalism meant people not being the plaything of monarchies. Things like language,culture, and history were convenient demarcators.

It was no doubt a rough process, in Italy and elsewhere, with the reality being that there isn't just one Italian language but a series of dialects that are closely related. The same can be said of Spain . Span isn't just Spanish but Catalan, Basque, Asturian, and other language and cultural groups. Nevertheless, using language and vague ideas of a common culture was a start.

I think that people can look back to the period without the taint of the later ideas relating to nationalism adhering to them, especially if they combine it with a socialist base and a general Marxist interpretation of history. Straight out materialistic historical materialism, taken in the sense of vulgar materialism, which Marx himself condemned, however, misses the point on this as it does on certain other things.

*on edit: the good part of "The Duties of Man" starts in Chapter 3: The Law. The first two chapters deal with Mazzini's frustration with socialism and with his conception of God. Although he uses the term "God" over and over, it can certainly be interpreted in a metaphorical sense, in that it's not particularly chained to a denomination of Christianity but something much more general. This too is part of what the mid 19th century presented.


Andrew Stergiou said...

This article of yours is very vague, very generalized, very short, and perhaps very romantic and not in a sexy way but in concerning philosophy I would consider critiquing it but it is under and un-developed perhaps if it was expanded I can consider that if it lays a foundation for what it is agreeing and disagreeing with otherwise what is the point as it is immature and without even legal force.

Andrew Stergiou said...
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Andrew Stergiou said...

Comments on Bazzini

John Madziarczyk said...

Well, yeah, that's what a lot of blog posts are. I didn't intend to write a comprehensive analysis of Mazzini.

You're article doesn't make many substantive points, except to say that Mussolini was in part inspired by him, as he was by Garibaldi. Garibaldi is regarded as one of the founding fathers of Italy and not as a fascist or proto-fascist, so listing him there is irrelevant. Mussolini was also influenced by Anarcho-Syndicalist ideas as well, but that's not used as a reason to denounce them.

I would encourage you to read the post that came after this one for some clarification on my feelings on the subject.

On the subject of nationalism in general, surely as a progressive you support the independence of South Sudan, the right of Palestine for nationhood and self determination, and the right of the Kurds in Iraq and Turkey to govern themselves. All of these are examples of the sort of liberal interpretation of the subject that I'm referring to. Surely, these aren't socialist republics. The thing that makes them possible isn't class but linguistic and historical ties, yet, the recent independence of South Sudan is not looked at as an example of ethnocentrism but as a good fix to the problem of being dominated by forces from northern Sudan.

If you look at the chapter "Duties to Humanity" in "The Duties of Man" you'll see that he says that the first duty of anyone, before that of country, is to humanity in general and that people should not adopt a point of view that's discriminatory against other groups, including people from other countries living in their country. Brotherhood, instead, was his watchword.

Andrew Stergiou said...

Comment on Mazzini Nationalism part 2

Mr. John Madziarczyk please clarify what points you are trying to make for as it now seems you don't as I can not imagine what you are trying to say which is not to say you are completely incomprehensible but you have taken bothe sides of the argument strangely for and against nationalism nations, and socialism.

John Madziarczyk said...

That's why I brought Mazzini into the fray. Things are not quite as simple as they seem. Nationalism in the way that it's been identified with in the Anglo-American world for a long time, and in the rest of the world for a similar amount of time, is regressive, but not only at one point was it something else but there are also examples in the current time of it being something else. Perhaps a distinction should be made between 'Nationalism' with a big 'N' and what is being referred to here.

I'm not sure if you're based in the U.S., but I think that people in the U.S. in general have a myopic vision of these things because the boundaries of the United States have been so easily set. It wasn't the case with most countries in Europe. Most of the countries in central Europe that exist nowadays were the property of one or several Empires in the days before World War I. After the dismantling of Imperial Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the withdrawal of some Russian support from Eastern Europe these countries came into existence, and with some modifications are still there.

The question is how should political boundaries be drawn up in a place where all of the people living in it aren't unified in a convenient large geographic state? A lot of bad was done along the way in the service of some forces trying to make new nations 'pure', and with ramping up chest thumping about national traditions, but what would an alternative be to the existence of, say, Slovakia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland? Language and customs provide a convenient marker, although they should not be used to persecute people who have been living in the same area for a long time.

The existence of nation-states, with state being the emphasis, is unlikely to go away soon. Until folks are able to organize themselves on a mass scale on a confederal basis, some country boundary is bound to exist. Statelets, which is what I'd consider places like Montenegro to be, defeat the purpose, though, and reduce the whole idea to absurdity.

But in general, should folks oppose the formation of South Sudan, for instance, in it's independence from a genocidal power to its north, because that means that a new nation is being formed, and with that a new state? Or the right of Kurds to form a nation of their own?

Personally, I live in the U.S. and approve greatly of our multi-cultural society. I wouldn't trade the mixture of peoples and cultures we have here for the world, although our politics leave much to be desired.

John Madziarczyk said...

I should add that I consider the discussion about immigration and multi-culturalism in Europe to be a separate issue. I don't think that immigration poses a threat to any type of 'nationhood' that places in Europe possess.

John Madziarczyk said...
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John Madziarczyk said...

There are plenty examples of nations doing very bad things in the name of nationalism. The Holocaust is of course the most obvious, as are the genocidal wars in Yugoslavia. I think that besides being completely racist and bloodthirsty, folks who were anti-semitic in centraland eastern Europe both then and now err in thinking that somehow people who are Jewish constitute some sort of separate subgroup from the countries they live in.

Yugoslavia is perhaps a more complicated story, but the original idea for Yugoslavia was just as it's name suggests, a union of people who generally spoke related south slav languages.

Andrew Stergiou said...

John I don't want (as I say) insult you but frankly your manner of casually writing on some very serious topics is easily insultable, as it insults your readers intelligence and abilities. you make brash broad assertions, totally rhetorical and unresponsive replies of absolutely no basis foundation relevance of materiality to what you discuss. You are bright but egotistical in your reaching to discuss what in actuality you are not able to discuss, for where are your supporting basis?

For you have written in ignoring all the references made by others and you parrot generalities as if you are clever.

So I suppose I could do the same?
No thanks, for your venue of discussion is a dead end in hopeless petty argument and discussion for no purpose for some unknown purpose and intention where you discuss as in idly pursuing matters for no other reason. As in arm chair generals and academics who are all very much useless when it come to the basics of living. Have a good day I wish you well if you decide to write on less ambitious matters or poetry please look me up.

Andrew Stergiou said...

"the Georgian nobility, realising how disadvantageous it was for them to lose the old privileges and power they had enjoyed under the Georgian kings, and regarding the status of "mere subjects" as being derogatory to their dignity wanted the "liberation of Georgia." Their aim was to place the Georgian kings and the Georgian nobility at the head of "Georgia," and thus place the destiny of the Georgian people in their hands! That was feudal-monarchist "nationalism."

John Madziarczyk said...

Wow, I have to say I wasn't expecting that. Sure, the first reply was insulting, but I think that in the replies afterwards I did a pretty good job of outlining some of my actual opinions in a respectful manner. These opinions you have not responded to, and for that matter you haven't responded to the parts of my initial response that brought up actual questions regarding how exactly countries should be organized if commonalities between people who live there are taken out of it.

You haven't responded to my question of if you support the independence of South Sudan, Kurdish independence, or the rights of Palestine, all of which involve low level nationalistic ideas to some extent, and which are far, far from the sort of armchair issues that you accuse me of pursuing.

The fact that you're quoting Stalin in an appreciative way does not lend credibility to your positions, to say the least.

John Madziarczyk said...

....and, adding to the supposed unrealism of this side of the conversation, perhaps geographical features could also be used as markers to delineate political units, or broad economic features.

This is what people do when they normally talk about issues, look at different sides of it, raise substantive questions and try to give substantive answers.