What are importance choices for 2018? And how will they impact pluralism? We’ve asked our members their opinion.
In this post, Christophe Bruchansky, author of the Digressive Society, shares some of his thoughts on how to best deal with the democratic choice of nationalism.
In your field of expertise, describe a choice that will become significant in 2018: one that many of us will be able to make, either because of an advance in technology, a new policy or legislation, a disruption happening in an industry, or a shift in cultural norms.
Christophe: What certainly marked the last couple of years is the renewed choice between nationalism and globalization. We can expect this choice to still be very much at the center of the political debate in Western countries, either during in the U.S. midterm elections or the Italian general election in Europe. So far, international organizations have struggled to define a strategy for countries having chosen nationalism. It will be interesting to see how the international community deals with the ongoing “America First” U.S. foreign policy in 2018, and what will be the answer of the European Union to diverse nationalistic aspirations expressed in the U.K., Poland, and Catalonia.
Why do you think having this choice will be important, for individuals and/or society as a whole?
Christophe: Presenting globalization as an ineluctable, unquestionable evolution was clearly a mistake. Alternatives to the sort of globalization we are experiencing today have for long been advocated by alter-globalization movements such as Occupy Wall Street, by young political organization such as Green and Pirate political parties, and to a certain extend groups such as the Anonymous. However, none have reach the level of popularity than recent nationalist and far-right movements. While the popularity of these movements is threatening some of the core principles of Western democracies, their presence in the democratic debate has been a powerful incentive to rethink globalization. As a reaction to these movements, international organizations such as the European Union and the IMF are feeling the urge to better explain how their model could work for everyone, and how they could conciliate (a term very important in the digressive approach) economic ideologies with social values.
How popular do you think making this choice will be? Will alternatives still exist and what will be their appeal?
Christophe: One can only hope that the popularity of far-right and fact-averse nationalisms won’t last for long. In terms of the digressive approach, a sense of national identity is a legitimate value system as long as it is not imposed on others (e.g. on citizens not sharing the same sense of identity), and does not lead to the alienation of other populations (e.g. through wars, deterioration of their environment, or non-assistance to displaced populations). If these two conditions are respected, and they are very strong, I believe that it is possible for global citizens and those expressing a national preference to belong to the same international community. Global cryptocurrencies, the gig economy and near tax-free status of some Internet giants are all threatening nations and their social contract. Until globalization is proven to offer a safe alternative, the choice of some citizens to focus on national interest is all the more understandable.
Could making this choice restrict some others? In what circumstances?
Christophe: Nationalism, “based on the premise that the individual’s loyalty and devotion to the nation-state surpass other individual or group interests” is by definition restricting individual choices, and could hardly be justified by the digressive approach. Nationalism, defined as the “a sentiment based on common cultural characteristics that binds a population and often produces a policy of national independence or separatism“, could, on the other hand, be a choice that does not necessary reduce those of others.
Digital technologies have an ambiguous role to play in the opposition between globalization and nationalism. On one hand, their universality is a natural fit for globalization, with the same algorithms and processes implemented worldwide. On the other hand, digital technologies could be used to customize taxes and public services to a degree never seen before, and could help members of a community – or a nation -, to favour its own production and services. Progress in the latter category (see for instance the announced launch of local cryptocurrencies in Kazakstan, Estonia, or Japan), could reequilibrate the role of technology in this debate, providing innovative solutions that respect everybody’s preferences.
What will we need to have access to or to understand in order to make an educated choice?
Christophe: I believe that a genuine sense of national identity can only happen if there is a clear distinction between the State and the nation, or at least if there is an international entity ensuring that citizens are not brainwashed and able to define their own identity the way they see fit. In my view, the European project is the perfect example of such an organization, because it provides a framework within which national preferences can be expressed, but not imposed on others.
Read our full annual report: Important Choices for 2018 and their Impact on Pluralism.