From the Conclusion
In this book I have sought to analyse the renewed significance
acquired by nations without states in recent years and study the
factors which contribute to envisage a medium term scenario in which
they might become new global political actors. So far, I have argued
that a clear-cut distinction between nation, state and nationalism
should be established as a precondition for understanding the
constant tension and interdependence between these three elements.
Since its establishment, the nation-state has enjoyed access to
substantial power and resources which often have been employed to
generate a single national identity within its boundaries.
The intensification of globalization processes has weakened the
traditional nation-state by breaking its monopoly over the economy,
defence, the media and culture, among many other aspects and
Rising global interdependence and the emergence of transnational
political and economic forces are shifting the locus of real
decision-making elsewhere. At the same time, small political and
economic units have become functional in a globalized world, and
this in part accounts for the unexpected salience which nations
without states are currently acquiring.
Globalization is bringing about a radical transformation of the
nation-state and opens up the way for alternative political units to
develop and consolidate. As a result, frontiers, international law,
economic, environmental and social policies are already being
reshaped in order to respond to new questions and dilemmas.
I consider the rise of nations without states as the product of a
multidimensional process changing the relations of power in society.
In my view these are the main elements of this process:
(1) The proliferation of supranational and international
institutions initially created to deal with financial and security
issues. Originally, most supranational institutions were formed by
nation-state representatives. In the West, the number of such
institutions rose after the First and Second World Wars.
In recent years we have witnessed the proliferation and
strengthening of some of these institutions; the European Union is a
case in point. It stands as a unique attempt by already established
Western and mostly prosperous nation-states to go beyond the
economic community which they originally created after the Second
World War. But we have also observed the emergence of the so-called
non-governmental organizations as new political actors which cut
across state boundaries.
They unite otherwise diverse populations who happen to share a
common socio-political objective, be it the protection of the
environment, the defence of animal rights or the struggle against
poverty and various other sources of discrimination.
Non-governmental organizations denounce diverse forms of
injustice and neglect by promoting a particular set of values which
charge their claims with a highly ethical component. In this sense
it could be argued that the legitimacy of their claims is based upon
the defence of certain moral values which only sometimes possess a
well defined religious component.
(2) The tendency of the nation-state, which is aware of its own
increasing weakness, to surrender certain aspects of its sovereignty
to supranational institutions in an attempt to maintain its power
and influence. The increase in the number of transnational
institutions dealing with matters traditionally reserved to the
nation-state and the revitalization of sub-state nationalism are
contributing to the weakening of the nation-state in a fundamental
We are already observing some signs which point to a
radicalization of state nationalism which not only seeks to
undermine the democratic nationalism of some of the national
minorities living within its territory (where they exist), but often
involves a harsher treatment of the different ethnic groups it
contains. The nation-state attempts to resist the pressure to
surrender some crucial aspects of its traditional sovereignty to
supranational and international institutions by actively pursuing
the strengthening of its citizens' sense of national identity.
The nation-state is faced with a controversial dilemma.
On the one hand, it has to favour the development and
strengthening of the transnational organizations it belongs to, for
example the European Union, as a necessary condition for its own
survival as an economically, politically and socially competitive
and viable unit.
On the other, it struggles to retain its power and to resist
further pressure to transform its traditional nature. Often this
feeds a renewed 'state nationalism' hostile to supranational
institutions, intra-state devolution, and to the acknowledgement of
internal ethnic and national differences. Following this line of
action, Western states are already implementing more rigorous asylum
and immigration policies. In my view, even tougher regulations
should be expected in the near future.
The radicalization of state nationalism should be understood as a
response to the globalization processes which have irreversibly
weakened the traditional nation-state. It also responds to pressure
exerted by national and ethnic minorities living within the state's
The claims of such minorities have the capacity to challenge the
state's legitimacy and may result in further autonomy being granted
to them. Yet some people in democratic Western states fear that
further decentralization and the recognition and encouragement of
intra-state ethnic and national diversity might result in the
irreversible disintegration of the state as a single homogeneous and
cohesive unit, assuming that it ever was one.
(3) The erosion of frontiers turning the nation-state into a
permeable unit unable to control external cultural and economic
flows. Traditional frontiers are only kept in a symbolic manner; the
nation-state is no longer, assuming that it ever managed to be, a
self-contained self-sufficient unit, rather its own dependence and
porousness are on the increase. The intensification of globalization
processes generates an increasing interdependence between diverse
peoples, cultures and markets.
The weakening of the state contrasts with the prominence achieved
by the nation as a cultural community which is based upon attachment
to a clearly demarcated territory, the sharing of a common set of
values and traditions, and the wish to decide upon its political
future. Globalization has undermined the state's aim to achieve
cultural homogeneity within its borders by providing new channels of
communication which not only reproduce images and messages
originating outside the state, but also open up a possibility for
minority cultures, enjoying enough power and resources, to access a
(4) The, to a certain extent, global acceptance of democracy
(without a necessary consensus on its definition) as a guiding
principle for government. Nations without states have appropriated
the concept of democracy and made it a crucial component of their
nationalist discourses. Nations without states claim the right to
self-determination as the ultimate consequence of democracy;
however, there is no agreement about what self-determination means.
As I have shown, there are different ways in which
self-determination can be understood, they primarily depend upon who
is to define it, the state or the national minorities themselves.
But there are also substantial contrasts between the definitions
that different nations without states offer depending on the
intensity of their national consciousness and the radicalism of
their demands. In some cases they view self-determination as
enhanced political autonomy while in others, only independence
fulfils their demands.
In the West, for instance, the Mohawk of Kanahake concept of
self-determination is substantially different from that espoused by
other Native nations of North America, while different Quebec,
Scottish and Catalan nationalist political parties also fill the
word self-determination with slightly different meanings which only
in some cases involve the right to secession.
(5) The rising disenchantment with traditional politics and the
burgeoning of new social movements. An increasing passivity and
alienation from politics seems to pervade the attitudes of a growing
number of people in Western societies. Scandals revealing the
improper behaviour of politicians who betray the trust of their
voters seem to be on the increase.
Furthermore, the utopian component which certain political
ideologies used to espouse has mostly disappeared since the fall of
the Soviet Union and the abandonment of socialism as a valid
alternative to capitalism. The utopian component of politics has
been replaced by a constant search for alternative ideologies able
to encourage people to actively participate in the running of their
In this sense, the soaring manifest apathy towards traditional
politics heavily contrasts with the vitality enjoyed by new social
movements whose main objective is to call attention to a particular
issue and to mobilize people in order to redress a specific
situation perceived as unjust. A new way of doing politics which
seems to focus on finding alternatives to traditional well
established and structured party-politics is emerging.
The nationalism of nations without states is one of these new
social movements in so far as it aims to redress a situation in
which the nation has suffered some unspecified type of
discrimination, be it cultural, political or economic, by using
(6) The need for emotional closeness expressed through the quest
for individual as well as collective forms of identity and the
attempt to re-create a sense of community.
The extremely competitive and individualist society brought about
by capitalism, together with the fragmentation which accompanies
modernity in its late stages, have encouraged some individuals to
identify with the nation as the most significant of several
categorical identities that mediate between the autonomous but
relatively weak individual and complex and powerful global forces.
At a time when traditional sources of identity such as class are
weakening or receding, national identity seems to acquire an
unexpected and powerful significance.
Individuals transcend their finite nature through identification
with the nations they belong to. Nationalist movements in nations
without states seek to generate a common consciousness among their
members and to restore an endangered sense of community among them.
The nation, portrayed as a community which transcends the life of
the individuals who belong to it, encourages its members' emotional
attachment and favours the emergence of a certain sentiment of
solidarity among them.
At present, there are a significant number of nationalist
movements in Western nations without states which advocate
modernization, openness and democracy as the main features informing
their nationalist discourses and it is only in this sense that they
may be referred to as new progressive social movements."