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Saturday, July 02, 2016

Nationalism and Reciprocity

Thanks to the powers at Prawsfblawg for inviting me back. I'm a law professor at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles. I always appreciate the opportunity to place my nascent thoughts in the public forum, and see what interests folks. For the most part, I'll blog about criminal procedure in general, and in particular policing. But given the date, I thought something else might be more appropriate.

I’m Scottish. Given the current temporal proximity of Brexit and the Fourth of July, in which Americans celebrate their revolting forebear’s legally irrelevant secession statement, I'll impart one thought on nationalism. We might think that nationalism is a unilateral affair: it states “I assert my independent status as Scottish/English/American/etc.” But nationalism is, in fact, a bilateral or multilateral affair: in asserting your American identity, you rejected your British identity. It is possible to have multiple identities—Scottish and British and European. But multiplicity sits uncomfortably with nationalism. Even if Scots want to be independent *within Europe*, Scottish nationalists want to be *not-British* within Europe. And for Scottish nationalists, Europe is not an independent national identity: it is a subsidiary part of the Scottish identity. Scotland, the Scottish nationalists assert, is a European country, not limited in its projects to the British Isles (and maybe even not oriented in its projects to the British Isles).

If Nationalism is a bilateral or multilateral affair, such that asserting the exclusionary status of membership Nation X entails asserting that members of Nation Y are not participants in the Nation X project, then Nation X’s nationalism is likely to have consequences for Nation Y. One of those consequences is that members of the excluded nation are likely to feel shunned. In a *United* Kingdom, the Northern Irish, Welsh, and, yes, the *English* all participate in the Scottish project. In an independent Scotland, they do not. Indeed, one reason that Scottish nationalists want independence is precisely to prevent and exclude England from participating in the Scottish project. It’s not at all clear that they also want to exclude our Celtic Cousins the Welsh and Irish. But there is it: reject one, reject all.

Being the object of exclusion might make the English (or any Nation Y) understandably resentful. Bugger you, they might say: if you don’t want us to participate in your project, then we don’t want you to participate in our project. Indeed, one consequence of 18 months of “Indyref” (the term given to the referendum on Scottish independence) debate was an upsurge in English animus towards Scotland. Scots often took this to confirm what they always new: that the English didn’t really like us as much as they claimed; and that there was a strong undercurrent of English nationalism hidden behind British-nationalism-as-“we-all-support-England.” But I think that what also may have happened was that thoughtless English-Britishness became intentional English nationalism, and so the projects of England and Britain became separated, as English nationalism grew in response to the exclusionary Scottish nationalist project.

If that’s right, then it’s possible that UKip, as the party of exclusive English nationalism, got its fillip, not from Brussels incompetence, but from Scottish nationalist calls for independence. As Scottish nationalists rejected the British project because English politics drowned Scotland out of having a say in British politics (itself dominated by the South of England), so English nationalists rejected the British project, and Britain's embrace of its place in Europe, and instead endorsed an English, exclusionary project. And that English project has historically seen itself in opposition to Europe.

So did Indyref 2014 cause Brexit 2016? And what does that say about other nationalist projects, and their consequences on the excluded nations and nationals? Do nationalists depend for their identity as members of Nation X upon excluding competing nation's identities? 

Posted by Eric Miller on July 2, 2016 at 03:22 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink


I take the point in part but in context not sure the relevant difference.

If the militia in question was elected by some unauthorized means to represent the will of the people of Montana from the "gentry and professional element" and declared the laws of nature and nature's God warranted independence from Montana, their standing seems somewhat comparable.

The basic point is that it was an extralegal body and in the eyes of the British authorities that had sovereignty over them and some declaration of independence was legally irrelevant except to the degree it might be clear proof of treason. The fact that specific colonial legislatures chose the representatives made the Second Continental Congress more respectable, but the legal relevance this brought is questionable.

I appreciate the reminder on Scottish population.

Posted by: Joe | Jul 3, 2016 11:26:13 AM

It's like if some militia group in Montana declared their state independent from the USA because of some list of abuses by that tyrant in D.C.

No, it's like the state legislature elected to do so. The men who signed that Declaration were derived from the colonial gentry and professional element and served in colonial legislative bodies.

And, of course, the abuse of power is incorporated into the operations of the appellate courts for which academics write apologias. BO himself is a vapid creature who adds little other than small displays of petulance.

Posted by: Art Deco | Jul 3, 2016 9:24:08 AM

Scottish particularism chafes at Westminster but is pleased to submit to Brussels. It is inane, and Nicola Sturgeon is a poseur.

Posted by: Art Deco | Jul 2, 2016 6:49:23 PM

(itself dominated by the South of England),

About 40% of Britain's population lives in London, Home Counties, West Country, &c. About 8% live in Scotland. Strange as it may seem to you, the former area might just have more influence than the latter. About 1/2 of Mr. Cameron's ministers grew up in the Midlands, the North, Wales, Scotland, or Ulster. Four of the last eight prime ministers grew up outside the south of England and David Cameron's the only one from a high class background.

Posted by: Art Deco | Jul 2, 2016 6:47:38 PM

"Legally irrelevant secession statement? I don't understand what this means."

The Declaration of Independence was the "secession statement" (there was a separate vote for the action and then one to authorize the document to describe it) and it was legally irrelevant since the group in question was not authorized legally (at least in the eyes of the British government) to do it.

It's like if some militia group in Montana declared their state independent from the USA because of some list of abuses by that tyrant in D.C.

Posted by: Joe | Jul 2, 2016 6:39:49 PM

Legally irrelevant secession statement? I don't understand what this means.

Posted by: YesterdayIKilledAMammoth | Jul 2, 2016 5:25:29 PM

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