Creating Hybrid National Identities for Democratic Transition in Nations with Non-Democratic Traditions: Lessons from the German Cultural Nation
Perhaps the most poignant question associated with this era of globalization is whether western model principles can be transferred to nations with varied cultural and political backgrounds. Scholars have voiced varying degrees of skepticism about the ability of nations to simultaneously adopt a market economy and democratic political system without the requisite orientations, beliefs, and values. The profound societal implications of such radical change, pose fundamental challenges to existing cultural and political foundations of nations. As a result, nationalism theory has posited the necessity of a congruent national identity which could serve as a solid basis for a democratic political culture.
Indeed, contemporary theory suggests that liberal democracy is viable only where the form of nationalism is inclusive, participant and relatively open in character. Reflecting this view, literature examining the relationship between national identity and liberalism is generally philosophical with a strong normative content. Accordingly, countries with eastern-type national identities must become western or have little hope of establishing a stable democratic society.
A comparative analysis of eastern and western German national identity suggest that historic political traditions related to a strong role of government in providing social welfare protections is a crucial factor in creating a democratic German national identity. These findings do not dismiss the importance of economic prosperity in easing transition to a democratic society. Nevertheless, economic prosperity alone cannot provide a stable basis for a national identity conductive to democracy. In the German case, economic success can be tied to the socio-cultural goal of a states guaranteed society (SGS). This SGS orientation was instrumental in the founding of the German nation and has also been associated with the major political ruptures in its modern history. The paper concludes that political traditions associated with German social democracy is critical in maintaining relative congruence between its predominately cultural based national identity and stable democracy. More broadly our findings suggest the possibility of successful hybrid national identities, in which the cultural basis of the nation may remains largely intact but selective political traditions employed to largely curtail the most negative aspects of the so-called eastern version of nationalism.
Reginald Bassa (United States)
Professor and Director
University of Missouri-Kansas City
(30 min. Conference Paper, English)