Monday, 17 August 2009

Walker Connor on ‘docility’

Walker Connor identifies the factors explaining minority groups’ docility even where they do not consider the state to be legitimate. I post it here because the analysis is equally applicable to majorities where “western norms of cultural liberalism are driving a wedge between increasingly ‘civic’ nation-states and their dominant ethnies in an attempt to render western states ethnically-neutral.” (Kevin Macdonald examines Kaufmann’s claim that ‘norms’ are doing this to us here.)

From Ethnonationalism in the Contemporary World: Walker Connor and the Study of Nationalism, edited by Daniele Conversi (Routledge, London, 2002) pp. 38-41:

(1) Fear: Granted that violent coercion cannot be used too frequently or too long or in too heavy doses, its periodic, small-scale application to ‘examples’ may prove a very effective means of persuading a population that overt resistance to an unpopular political system is not worth the entailed risk. How fear of reprisal can dampen a population’s will has been eloquently captured by the former editor of a Czechoslovak journal:

Where government stands for a long time, the citizen falls. Where does he fall? I will not try to please the non-Marxist enemy and say that he falls on the gallows. Only a few tens or hundreds of citizens do that. Our friends know that it is sufficient because it is followed by the fall of, perhaps, the whole nation into fear, into political indifference and resignation, into petty daily cares and little desires, into dependence on gradually tinier and tinier overlords, into a serfdom of a new and unusual type, impossible to explain to a visitor from abroad.

Fears of physical coercion or incarceration fail to explain why people in a democratic society do not vote for nationalist parties. But fears can be wide-ranging, and the prospect of secession can raise fear of the unknown, the untraveled road. It can also raise fears, particularly among the elderly, of unemployment or of no governmental old-age assistance. It is probably not just coincidence that professional people, those with a sense of security and independence because of their training and vocation, have been disproportionately represented in separatist movements, and that, as one moves from the middle-aged to the post-middle-aged element, support for such movements sharply decreases.

(2) Habit: Aristotle was among the very earliest of philosophers to indicate the link between habit and political behavior. In emphasizing the consensual rather than the coercive side of law enforcement, he noted that ‘the law has no power to command obedience except that of habit, which can only be given by time.’ Some two thousand years later, Max Weber, while substituting the word custom for habit, would substantively agree. Though noting that our knowledge as yet ‘does not allow us to determine very clearly the point of transition from the stage of mere custom to the, at first vaguely and dimly experienced, “consensual” character of social action’, Weber nonetheless insisted that habit is a principal reason why people obey the laws of the society in which they reside. Tradition, in the active form of habit, exerts an oughtness of its own. Most significantly, it is a force militating against change: ‘The inner orientation toward such regularities contains in itself very tangible inhibitions against “innovations.” ’ Particularly when combined with fear of the unknown, the comfortableness of that with which one is familiar would explain a timidity concerning such an all-encompassing ‘innovation’ as a new state.

(3) Apathy and/or Inertia: Apathy can, of course, be further broken down into a number of explanations ranging from a psychological state of mind such as fatalism (‘If Allah wills…’) to the prevalence of energy-sapping parasites. In any case, it is one thing to grumble about the illegitimacy of rule by the Castilians, Han Chinese, or French, and something else to become actively engaged in terminating that rule. Even powerful mass movements may be divided into activists and sympathizers. Thus, the number of people actually willing to serve as guerrillas in a national war of liberation may be meager, while the number who demonstrate their agreement with the guerrillas concerning the illegitimacy of the political system by the passive act of refusing to give information on the guerrillas’ whereabouts, despite governmental threats and offers of rewards, is necessarily impressive, or the guerrillas could not survive. But again, such a conviction concerning political legitimacy is for many not sufficient to motivate positive activity.

(4) Apoliticalness: If economists tend to place too much emphasis upon economic motivation, political scientists are prone to exaggerate the degree to which the typical person is emotionally involved in political matters. So-called highly authoritarian states often offer bewildering experiences to the visitor, who finds people pursuing their life-ways with apparent good cheer and outwardness. Such people have learned to accommodate themselves comfortably within limits prescribed by the authorities. The injunction not to speak or act in any way that could be construed as ‘antistate activity’ does not weigh heavily on some shoulders. What the earlier cited Czech dissenter termed the ‘petty daily cares and little desires’ can be preoccupying. In democracies, the lack of interest in political matters is illustrated by low participation in elections, and by surveys indicating extremely meager knowledge of political issues and public figures. Even if they are convinced that alien rule is illegitimate, therefore, the issue may not generate enough enthusiasm by the apolitical segment of a minority to motivate it to join the national movement’s ranks.

(5) Political and Cultural Isolation: The intensity of the urge to cast off a foreign yoke is influenced by the degree to which the yoke is felt. For the notion that alien rule is illegitimate rule to trigger action, it is necessary that the alien rule be perceived. Multinational, non-integrated states (such as pre-World War II Ethiopia, Iran, and Thailand) were able to survive for generations without ethnonationally inspired separatist movements because political and social control by the centre was a fiction. In effect, such units were comprised of a series of ethnocracies, as each group (or subgroup) ruled itself. But as communications and transportation networks made the presence of (a) the central government and (b) the dominant ethnic group felt in the periphery, ethnonational discord rose precipitously. So too, Basque, Breton, and Scottish nationalist movements gained strength as improved communication- and transportation-networks made the central government an increasingly pervasive force, and also led to an increase in the quality and quantity of contacts between the dominant group and the national minorities. A particular irritant to minority sensibilities (and, therefore, a catalyst for separatist sentiment) proved to be the increased presence of non-members of the minority within the homeland. In general, separatism has risen with in-migration. However, perception of the alien presence will vary among individuals. With a larger homeland, such as Quebec (or Scotland), some, because of their occupation, neighborhood, and/or reading and listening interests, will necessarily be more sensitized to the alien yoke than others. To these others, Ottawa and the Anglophones (or London and the English) will be too remote to their experience to ignite the fires of separatism.

(6) Disorganization: A resistance movement requires poles or foci about which to form and develop. A state which can atomize its population decreases the likelihood of effective antistate activity. Some states, through secret informers and infiltrators of social organizations (unions, churches, organized sports, and even the family) have proven adroit at isolating the individual. A leading Chinese composer and musician rendered this account concerning controls in the People’s Republic during the Cultural Revolution:

I was cautious about discussing such matters. Everybody and anybody could be attacked. I know many others felt as I did … but it was increasingly dangerous to admit it. There were party members who kept their membership secret. Even within one’s own family it was necessary to be circumspect. I trusted my wife and children, but I knew individuals whose children reported on them; Youth League members were required to do this. It happened to the father of one of my daughter’s schoolmates. Therefore, in some families, especially if the children were ‘progressive’ and were trying to ‘draw a line’ (as the expression goes) between their parents and themselves, the adults stopped talking or changed the subject whenever the children entered. It was not uncommon for families to eat meals in silence for weeks at a time.

In such societies, the odds of mounting a challenge to the state are slight indeed. But even in a democracy, a peaceful national movement may encounter problems. For example, the incarceration and expulsion of Breton leaders for purported collaboration with the Nazi occupiers impeded the Breton national movement for some years after the war. The state’s control of the communications media may also inhibit a movement’s ability to present its side of the issue. In early 1977, Canadian political leaders accused a number of CBC announcers on the French network of favoring the Parti Québécois. Apparently the former did not believe that secession merited ‘equal time.’ A mélange of fear, habit, inertia, apoliticalness, political and cultural isolation, disorganization, and other overlooked factors may therefore help to account for a people’s passive willingness to abide within a political system to which they do not ascribe legitimacy. And, from the perspective of the state apparatus, perhaps passivity is enough. Thus, for decades the British pursued a policy of buying the passivity but not the allegiance of the Pushtun tribes within northwestern British India, and Pakistan has continued the policy. Authorities in the Federal Republic of Germany, Switzerland, and other Western European states have wanted no more than passivity from their large guestworker communities; policies have been pursued that purposefully dissuade the guestworkers from developing an emotional attachment to the state. Only passivity, not legitimacy, is essential to the everyday, humdrum functioning of a society. But if the state requires more than passivity, if it hopes to invoke the symbols of the state as a means of gaining positive cooperation and sacrifice, legitimacy will be sorely missed. Simply because one person will not raise a hand against another does not mean that he would raise a hand to aid him.

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