Каталог статей из сборников научных конференций и научных журналов- State principles of national identity constituting: institutional aspect

State principles of national identity constituting: institutional aspect

E. N. Sirenko

Odessa National Maritime University,

Odessa, Ukraine


The defining feature of contemporary world is a globalization induced transformation that has affected almost all spheres of human existence. The integration processes that started in the economic, financial and production spheres occur in politics as well. They inevitably affect the political reality and social consciousness in a certain way. In this connection the question arises about the prospects of existence of real sovereignty of national states and relevance of national identity in a global world.

That is why the research in state principles of constituting of national identity and their gradual development with the increasing institutionalization of national being is of current importance. To analyze fully and thoroughly contemporary social transformations, one has to be clear about the specifics of European ethnogenesis and characteristic features of formation of national identity. So, the problem facing scientists is to find out the mechanism of influence of national state as a social institute on the practices identifying community and individuals.

The hypothesis of this study is an assumption that there is a direct link between definiteness of national authentication and the level of institutional registration of interests of national community – the more interests of nation get institutional format from state institutions, the more specific are the principles of community identity and individual national identification.

The specificity of scientific development of problem of national identity  is that it is studied in the context of such disciplines as ethnology, political science, sociology, social and ethnic psychology and other humanitarian sciences. Correlation of theoretical achievements in various fields of social sciences is an essential condition for comprehensive analysis of the problem.

Beginning with the works of E. Renen, Y. Fyhte, J. Mill, O. Bauer, national identity isn’t only regarded as a part of particular culture but acquires legal, civil characteristics and is connected with loyalty to the national state. The political aspect of national life is analyzed in the works of E. Smith, M. Riabchuk, V. Tishkov, A. Zdravomyslov, B. Myezhuyev, V. Polyakov, E. Helner, F. Maynek, O. Panaryn, T. Tatarenko.

During the Soviet times ethnogenesis and nation-building, ethnic processes and ethnic relations were researched by B. Porshnev, J. Bromley, V. Alyekseev, S. Harutyunyan, but their theoretical achievements and generalizations were limited by methodological framework of historical and dialectical materialism. Specific contribution to ethnology was also made by Ukrainian researches: S. Rudnutsky, O. Bochkovsky, L. Rebet, V. Starosolsky, G. Kasyanov and others.

There are plenty of researches on identity and even more on the theory of the nation but neither of them studies institutionalization of national interests through the activity of state institutions as a factor greatly facilitating national identity. This article is intended to elucidate the institutional aspect of national existence.

Revolutionary changes in Europe started the process of formation of national states in their modern sense. During the previous historical periods state institute was considered to be a divine institution and therefore wasn’t considered as the result of public policy. The relationships between government institutions and the people were built on the basis of nationality and vassal-fief dependence. People were excluded from participation in political processes and governance and so “national interests" were in fact represented by class interests of the ruling circles. An English historian, classical liberalism apologist Lord Acton, thinking about the nature of European nationalism, said, “Under the old system neither the European governments recognized the rights of nationalities, nor the people themselves protected them. The interests of the ruling families, not nations, settled the borders; and the governance was generally carried out without taking into account the desire of people [1. p. 86–87].

The important contribution of the Enlightenment thinkers was a theoretical comprehension of the role of people as a source of power – a sovereign, whose will must be the engine of political changes in the society. However, the notion of the nation in these concepts is especially synonymous with the "third class", bourgeois and does not cover the population of the country in full; moreover it doesn’t take into account the ethnic characteristics.

National state springs up to meet needs and interests of ethno-national community. With its help society creates mechanisms of political representation of the nation on the world stage. Ethno-national community with all social institutions of civil society is the original reality which gives lots of researchers the right to consider "the mission of the national state being to serve  the society, i.e. a community of independent and socially stratified individuals” [2, p. 56]. National state realizes and expresses national sovereignty and is based on democratic principles of legal equality and political participation of citizens in governance.

Analyzing the nature of society and its problems D. Duyi says that the only constant function of state is regulation and satisfaction of public interests which are formed as a result of expanding the sphere of joint activities, and the existence of public institutions ensures its effectiveness [3, p. 37]. Thus the mechanisms of realizing national interests represent their practical aspects and are connected with the activities of social institutions. V. Kirichenko defines national interests as "an integral expression of interests of all the members of the society, realized through political system” [4, p. 118]. National interests are realized through the institutions of the political system: state, political parties, public organizations, national church, as institutional forms of expression of its citizens’ will. At the same time the state controls not only institutions of political system, but other institutionally organized spheres of national life. This control can be direct at state, regional and local levels as well as indirect – being realized by legislative, budgetary and ideological mechanisms. Since it’s only the state that possesses the fullness of national sovereignty, then it is the state to be the main mechanism of realization of national interests.

So, asserting the political nature of nation, one cannot disregard the fact  that state is one of the oldest social institutions, which secures civilized existence of mankind, and the institutionalization of human relations is an indispensable condition for social communication, as just through it the functioning of the national community in a particular cultural field and its differentiation from other similar communities become possible. Within its functioning national interests obtain institutionalization through the system of social institutions (political and non-political (social, cultural, educational, etc.) which are controlled, regulated and often financed by the state.

The idea of state sovereignty appeared not only as the result of theoretical arguments, but primarily of sharp social and political conflicts between governments and peoples. After the Thirty Years' War in Westphalia in 1648 there were signed peace treaties which formed the basis of a new concept of international law. The Westphalian model of international relations, which had been in force until 1945, was based on the recognition of state sovereignty in certain borders, and none of the states had supreme authority, conflicts were settled directly by their participants, and cooperation beyond diplomatic relations was minimal. Within this model came the final institutionalization of state sovereignty through international law system and diplomatic missions.

Hence, national state becomes the dominant political subject in the international relations. Researchers say, “Modern states are nation-states – i.e. political mechanisms which differ from both the ruler and his subordinates, with the supreme jurisdiction within the territory with defined borders, demanding monopoly on coercive force and the use of legitimacy as a result of the minimum level of support or loyalty by the citizens” [5, p. 69]. But, from now on, their activity isn’t only limited by politics as they also begin to control other areas of social life: education, finance, certain areas of production, proceedings, they begin to influence the redistribution of public goods, economic and labor relations, etc.

One of the essential features of state is the monopoly right to use violence, which is considered not as misfeasance, but as a mechanism of restoring public order and protecting rights and freedoms of the citizens. The activity of national state is connected with ensuring social stability and security both in international relations and domestic policy. Power ministries, which nowadays are considered to be an integral part of state government, only since the time of Modern are financed from the state budget and serve the citizens but not individual people, who employ them at their own expense. Y. Habermas says, “… the true child of French Revolution is the national state, which managed to direct patriotism of its citizens to universal conscription. Along with the birth of national consciousness for the citizens of the state who had broken the traditional caste-corporate ties, new forms of social integration were formed” [6, p. 59]. Centralization of political power, expansion of state management and formation of regular armies become the main tendency of consolidation of state. In the 19th and early 20th centuries in Europe, Russia and the United States there were established state institutions engaged in a systematic fight against crime and maintaining law and order (Siurte, Scotland Yard, FBI). Since the 18th century and in some cases even earlier, most European countries begin to work on formation of systems of national law which record and reflect historical development of peoples and their cultural specificity.

The institutionalization of state enforcement machinery and normative regulation of social interaction became important steps in the process of acquiring by the state of regulatory powers in relation to society. State began to regulate not only the sphere of justice and policy, but economy, education, family and ethno-national relations, etc. as well.

Formation of national states is closely associated with the development of the capitalist economic system. The development of production and transition to the industrial stage constituted the material basis of nation-building in Europe.

Development of capitalist production requires creation of national markets for goods, finance and labor. At the previous, ethno-cultural stage, the development of production was slowed down by the lack of labor market that was connected with social class system of society, limited trade and financial turnover which resulted from a considerable autonomy of administrative units. National state overcomes intrastate borders that obstructed financial, raw materials and cargo flows thus creating conditions for industrialization of production.

State gradually increases its participation in economic processes. It fulfills  not only fiscal functions, but creates political and legal basis for the development of production, controls and regulates the production relations through the formation of social policy aimed at protecting certain groups of population.

National state began with the constitution of political and legal equality, which took place during revolutionary events in Europe in the 15-16 centuries, overcoming social consequences of political discrimination. But with the development of capitalist economic system, the inequality caused by caste political privileges, “was replaced by another inequality- it developed along with the institutionalization of private law freedoms. The question now is about the social consequences of this unequal distribution of power, which is not carried out politically but economically” [6, p. 41]. The awareness of the need for state regulation of social processes and creation of mechanisms for performing this function were gradually influenced by protest movements of disadvantaged citizens. Capitalization of the labor market, lumpenization of a large number of people employed in manufacturing, created axis of tension in social relations. Repressive methods of solving problems were ineffective, and thus states evolved into acquiring social skills.

In general, social policy with an extensive system of education, health care, pension organizations and institutions is  a great asset of national state, which being based on the recognition of legal equality of the citizens, performs the mission of leveling the consequences of social stratification caused by economic inequality in order to strengthen national community integration. None of the social institutions of the previous era performed this socio integrative function to such extent due to the lack of the resources.

As it was already mentioned above, it is pointless to talk about the existence of the nation beyond the presence of ethnic substrate. Until recently, the authorities usually addressed to God's will in demographic issues. But the development of science, medicine, improvement of living conditions, etc. led to an increase in capacity of the state to monitor and regulate this area. Therefore, an important function of national state was to ensure demographic reproduction and promote positive balance of population growth.

Nowadays a lot of researchers speak about old, in the literal sense, nations, where the vast majority of representatives are on pension or are not of reproductive age. Actually, the population of these primarily European countries isn’t decreasing in number, but a significant portion of them are residents of other countries and immigrants whose share is constantly growing as a percentage of traditional national communities. They, in turn, being people of  other cultural types and usually do not accept the culture of the host country and have only political, civic loyalty to the new homeland. Another aspect of human reproduction as an ethnic substratum of the nation is the problem of birth control. Absolutely natural biological factors curbing population growth in the past, now become administrative, social in nature.

The very nature of family as a social institution is changing as well. Until recently, the institution of family and marriage needed religious legitimation, which had certain legal and economic consequences (inheritance, property division, etc.). The processes of secularization and revolutionary transformation made this kind of legitimation not obligatory and sometimes insufficient to recognize the legal status of marriage. State assumed the role of family relations regulator.

Since the Modern times a gradual disengagement of women from the sphere of privacy and giving them political and economic rights have become an objective trend of social development. All this along with the increasing role of women in production process have led to a growing number of single-parent families and civil marriages. Towards such families and the women who raise children on their own, state performs social guardianship functions and thus, indirectly, contributes to the destruction of traditional family, which in the previous period used to be the dominant institution of socialization and reproduction of national identity. Being engaged in economic activities mother has to send the child to state-controlled institutions of socialization too early.

In the contemporary world the institute of education, which is controlled and funded by state, plays an important role in the process of socialization. Today a full social identification of an individual is impossible without professional and educational criteria. In the world of high technology, intellectual potential of  nation ensures its success on the world stage. Intellectual elite is the pride of the nation and indicates the level of social development and the state of its productive forces. Government regulation and certification of educational programs ensure creation of contemporary personality type due to the combination of educational process with upbringing. The sense of patriotism and national pride is cultivated in pupils and students by studying national and world history, teaching in the state language.

I. Cohn says that due to the transition of society to the industrial stage of development socialization becomes “a public, national matter, which requires systematic government planning, management, coordination of efforts of individual institutions (family, school, peer groups, the media, etc.” [7, p. 187]. The socialization of personality loses its natural character, even within the family because educational processes are organized on the basis of recommendations and taking into account theoretical achievements of such sciences as psychology and pedagogy. In the education system they distinguish primary, secondary and higher degrees, professional education is distinguished from the general one, a detailed profile specialization of higher education institutions takes place. Division of labor, growing share of high-tech industries make high demands for specialist training. State creates and regulates the system of organizations and agencies responsible for training qualified labor force. At the same time, education is combined with upbringing, an important part of which is the formation of child's sense of patriotism and national pride. Hence national identification of an individual occurs under control and with the focused impact of the state.

Formation of ideas of growing importance of masses as the decisive force of historical process and of people’s will as a source of political reforms on the one hand, and the increasing individualism due to the weakening of traditional identities of a personality on the other – both became the consequences of formation of a capitalist economic system and bourgeois European revolutions. These processes actualized and brought to the fore the need to identify an individual with national community and, thus, clearly define his position in relation to the social environment.

Studying cultural identities in the era of modernism, N. Kostenko sees in the national identification "a special social and political mission of an individual which was realized through the rightful participating in expressing of collective will, in the constitution of the institution of state citizenship – nation. Therein individual and collective identities got very close being linked by mutual responsibility for the social result” [8, p. 28].

The analysis of specific features of national identity and institutionalization of national interest under the conditions of existence of national state enables to make the following conclusions: under the conditions of national state social institutions function not only in the form of certain rules, norms, instructions and values that ensure the transfer of social experience, but rather act as certain institutions and organizations controlled and managed by the state, and it is their activity that enables the nation to unite and regenerate in all the diversity of its subjective and objective characteristics; the criteria of national identification do not exist by themselves, but are the result of purposeful activity of state mechanism as to their implementation and institutionalization. State offers individuals and society certain basis for the identification: henceforth citizenship, language, education, enforcement machinery, legal system, market  become the factors of identification;  the era of dominance of  national state is characterized by two important social processes that occur simultaneously in objective and subjective dimensions of national life: they are a state institutionalization of national interests and political and legal in nature national identification of both individuals and society.

During this period it is not the need to produce cultural distinction that comes to the forefront, but rather the need to maintain the existing institutionalized basis and thus national state assumes the function of the single representative of the interests of national community as well as the decisive criterion of collective and personal identity.


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