Is there nationalism

Nation and nationalism

Nationalism is returning. This often-made diagnosis also assumes that he once seemed overcome. And indeed: if you look back at the turn of the millennium, the picture appears to be completely different from what it is today. The internal European border controls were abolished, a European currency in sight, we were discussing a European constitution, and the scientific and public debate was shaped by the topics of globalization and transnational networking. Today the borders are becoming more impermeable again, a disintegration of the EU no longer seems completely absurd, and populist, identitarian nationalism is growing almost everywhere.

Economic cycles of the return debate

Nevertheless, this diagnosis is peculiarly blind to a past that only goes back a little further: the scientific and public debate in the 1990s was already dominated by the topic of nationalism. The disintegration of Yugoslavia into its individual national communities (including ethnic cleansing practices), the genocide in Rwanda, the question of which world order should follow the Cold War bloc system, and not least the return of aggressive, xenophobic nationalism in Germany (including racist violence) - all of that led to a massive preoccupation with nationalism in the first decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall. And then, too, the debate revolved around the uncanny return of a phenomenon that was believed to have been overcome.

Scientifically, the discussion of the 1990s was largely based on an even older research on nationalism, which is associated with the names Ernest Gellner, Benedict Anderson or Eric Hobsbawm. They all wrote their foundational work as early as the 1980s; at that time mainly in response to that great wave of nationalism, which in the second half of the 20th century ruled less Europe, but all the more the so-called Third World, when colonial borders and affiliations had to be translated into modern, national ones, which in the In very few cases it happened without conflict. [1]

And one step further back in the past, in the immediate post-war period, the overcoming of nationalism - while largely ignoring what was going on in the decolonizing world - can be described as something like a basic consensus, an ideal, the global political ideal Major projects of this time were based on: the United Nations, the first efforts of European cooperation, the concept of a free, western world and - in its own way - also the socialist community of states in the East. After 1945, "nationalism" was something like the lowest common denominator on which the battles of two world wars and the extreme experiences of violence of the first half of the 20th century could be reduced. Nationalism, as school books convey to this day, led to the First World War, then returned in a more radicalized form, and finally - enriched with anti-Semitic and racist ideologies - also led to the Second World War.

Accordingly, in retrospect in the 1990s - also in view of the fact that the news was about the Serbian-Croatian-Bosnian nationality conflicts that dominated the headlines as early as 1914 - the world was returning to the nationalism of the years before the First World War . This nationalism, which had its origins in the 19th century, was only buried under fascism and the East-West conflict and is now reappearing at the end of the 20th century. In a similar historical short circuit, it is said today that we were living in Weimar times again and that the nationalism of the interwar period is returning. [2]