On nationalism and democracy : a Marxist examination
Historical development toward a universal community of civilization,' said Rosa Luxemburg, 'will, like all social development, take place in the midst of a contradiction ...' Indeed, on its face it seems that the simultaneous consolidation and spreading (within a progressing global order) of nationalist particularism, on the one hand, and of the support for democracy, on the other, do constitute such a contradiction. But is this really the case. Are nationalism and democracy mutually exclusive, or are they reconcilable after all. In this project, to paraphrase Rousseau's words at the beginning of The Social Contract, it is my purpose to enquire whether it is possible to reconcile nationalism with democracy, taking nationalism as it is and democracy as it may be. The dissertation shows that both democracy (as we commonly understand it today) and nationalism are strongly embedded in modern conditions (primarily capitalism) and their inherent contradictions, namely, the development of the autonomous self, on the one hand, and the loss of community and prevalence of identity crisis, on the other. Liberal theories of democracy, the thesis suggests, celebrate the development of the autonomous self but largely neglect or ignore the problem of identity crisis, hence contribute precisely to moral and political tendencies they normally reject. Nationalism and its academic sympathisers, though, may supply a solution to identity crisis but too easily or carelessly sacrifice individual liberty and equality on the altar of renewed Gemeinschaft-like communities. What is urgently needed, I argue, is a form of democracy that could transcend the contradictions latent in modern capitalism and deliver a solution to identity crisis and alienation without subverting the values of individual equality and liberty. Such a democracy, it is concluded, must be a socialist one in which the means of identity production are collectively owned.