Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Veil Ban and the Academic Study of Nationalism

            Culturism, the opposite of multiculturalism, holds that traditional majority cultures have a right to define, defend, and promote themselves domestically. This article will explore culturist theory’s relationship to several academic positions on nationalism.  And it will ultimately use the example of the French ban on veils to do so.

This week France began enforcing a ban on face concealing veils. Violators must pay a fine and take a citizenship course.  The easy point to make is that, despite one woman’s claim that these laws were “racist,” they have nothing to do with race.  These laws address culture, they are culturist.  And while racism is ridiculous, if cultural diversity is real, culturism is rational. 

              Liah Greenfield and others have created a paradigm wherein nationalism starts in England as Civic Nationalism, which incorporates individual rights.  By the time nationalism spreads to Germany, we have Collective Nationalism, which tends to be authoritarian.  And in between the two we have France’s mix of both types.  And since the West exported nationalism, and many nations are built upon resentment of other nations, many are anti-Western.

            Greenfield’s approach denies the impact of thought in culture. China’s Confucian background goes further in explaining its willingness to adopt deference for leaders than it’s being supposedly created after England.  The humanistic thought of Shakespeare and the Scottish Enlightenment, as well as Jefferson’s writing, display cultural paradigms that manifest in Civic Nationalism.  The Civic Nationalism is not due to England being first.  It results from cultural thoughts.  Rather than reflecting an absence of cultural influence, Civic Nationalism is the product of a culture. 

            The term ‘nationalism’ should be supplemented by the term ‘culturism.’  Benedict Anderson and Anthony Smith debate whether nations are largely new or grow from earlier cultural precedents.  Most scholars side with Anderson concerning newness.  Whereas nations, defined as direct overlaps between state governments and cultures, may be newish, such debates rob us of the ability to include the histories of civilizations.