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CIAO DATE: 10/00

Internal Colonization, Ethno-Nationalism & Negative Emancipation: A Critique of Mainstream Social Integration Projects

Carlos L. Yordán

International Studies Association
41st Annual Convention
Los Angeles, CA
March 14-18, 2000



The acts of intrastate ethnic violence that are being perpetrated in divided societies of the Global South, Eastern Europe and the post-Soviet Union are reflections of pathological currents inherent in Modern ideas, values and practices that have been exported to these regions of the globe. Popular accounts, circulated by the media, explain most of these outbreaks of violence as century old hatreds that have exploded due to the end of the Cold War. Many of these explanations surfaced as the West stood by and permitted the slaughter of innocent peoples in the Great Lake Regions of Africa and the former Yugoslavia. These explanations are not only too simple, but they also serve to legitimate the West’s inaction. 1 More relevant, these accounts blind us from understanding the social processes that are fueling these acts of violence, while impeding the construction of policies that would assist the international community to forestall future interethnic armed conflicts.

As seen in Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia and other places, the international community convinced of the fruits of democracy and capitalism, as demonstrated in Neo-Liberal theories of International Relations, is attempting to export these practices to these areas of the world. These post-conflict peace-building projects or acts of preventive diplomacy are supposed to usher new systems of governance attuned to human emancipation, interethnic cooperation, and peaceful co-existence. Are these promises materializing? The Bosnian experience does not show any sign of improvement. 2 In Kosovo, Serbs and Albanian Kosovars are still violently struggling for control of town and cities in the province’s northern region. This is unfolding in the presence of NATO’s KFOR troops, which were originally sent to secure the peace-agreement and start the post-conflict peace-building process. 3 In Macedonia, ethnic violence has not engulfed the country and the recent presidential elections and its results did not drive the country towards chaos. However, political experts have emphasized that many are dissatisfied with the elections, the new government, and the status quo. There is still tension between the ethnic groups in Macedonia that could explode in the future. 4 Can democracy and capitalism actually bring a better future to these regions or are these societies going to fall prey to new waves of ethnic violence and ethnic-cleansing practices?

The academic community has explained these outbreaks of ethnic violence via three approaches: primordialism, instrumentalism, and constructivism. The first two have dominated academic debates, while the last one is more recent and has gained more support since the mid-1990s. Contructivism incorporates aspects of these two approaches to argue that ethnic violence results in what can be called "social pathological systems, which individuals do not control." 5 The importance of this approach lies not necessarily in the strength of its arguments, but on its ability of challenging established theoretical constructs and opening new avenues of research. In this way, constructivism’s significance is its capacity to enhance "our understanding of ethnopolitics by suggesting that the origins and consequences of ethnic groups, nations, nationalism, and ethnic conflict...are contextual and interactive." 6 To put it simply, constructivism allows us to see the outbreak of ethnic violence through the lenses of the structure-agency debate.

The structure-agency debate is based on a crucial question: do structures or agents organize the institutions of society? The answer to this question actually defines the workings of ‘social pathological systems’ and better explains why this type of society experiences outbreaks of ethnic violence. It has already been mentioned that these pathological societies are those that ‘individuals do not control.’ Accordingly, ideal societies, those that do not experience outbursts of ethnic hostilities, are those in which individuals have the power to shape how society is organized. Thus, it can be asserted that ethnic violence results from ethnic groups that perceive that established social orders do not advance their interests or satisfy their needs. This proposition, though simple, allows us to understand the recent increases of ethnic-based violence as an extension of the old problem of social integration. As Anthony Richmond holds, this problem was "first stated in Plato’s Republic," and since then it has captured the imagination and interests of philosophers and social scientists. 7 The problem of social integration has been at the center of the project of Modernity. This project promised a new society free from domination and repression, but as seen throughout history this is a hollow promise. In many ways, acts of ethnic violence are one of the many consequences of the tragedy of the project of Modernity.

With this in mind, this investigation explains the occurrence of ethnic violence, the fragmentation of internationally recognized nation-states, the resurgence of ethnic-cleansing practices, and the attempt to create ethnically pure nation-states within the unfolding project of Modernity. The aim is not to discredit the whole project of Modernity. Current reinterpretations of this project actually demonstrate the intellectual blueprints to build a better future. Jürgen Habermas’ philosophical and socio-political interventions and his critique and defense of the project of Modernity influence this investigation’s analysis. As a consequence, the purpose of this investigation is to show the detrimental aspects of Modernity and illustrate how these have created social integration practices that have promoted ethnic groups to use ethnic violence against established orders. This is important because it will explain why it is important to resist current post-conflict peace-building strategies in Bosnia and Kosovo and conflict prevention initiatives in places as Macedonia. Thus, this investigation concludes by pointing to the unfulfilled aspects of Modernity and calling the academic community to use these as intellectual blueprints to create alternative social integration practices.


Internal Colonization: The State and the Imposition of Uniformity

The disciplines of Sociology, Political Science, and International Relations, as seen in the influential work of Charles Tilly or Robert Dahl, maintain "ethnically homogeneous states are more stable and durable than multiethnic or multinational states." 8 This assertion is problematic because it unearths the objective of social integration strategies: the creation of uniformity out of diversity. Many argue that the imposition of uniformity is important in order to construct working systems of governance. Such endeavors are supposedly influenced by utilitarian motives for the attainment of the common good. The common good is usually presented as material goods or the path towards the satisfaction of these material goods. Thus, uniformity brings stability and the developmental of governmental and economic practices to meet society’s material needs. A couple of questions arise: Is this project motivated by utilitarian interests or by strategic ones? How is uniformity achieved? Is this proposition the solution or the problem to the current problem of ethnic warfare? The answers to these questions can be found by reviewing the foundations of the project of Modernity and its historical unfolding since the 1500s.

The Universal and the Particular: Inside/Outside Contexts

Pre-Modern Europe was held together by the Catholic Church’s dogma. Identities were both universal and particular, this being especially true during the Feudal Order. Particular identities were formed by the lord-serf relationship, while the Catholic Church provided the universal identity. The former assured the satisfaction of material needs. The latter allowed people to achieve their salvation and eternal life. While the Church gave existence to the particular, as the monarch or the lord ruled by the grace of God and the Church, ironically it was the ruler, who could keep alive the idea of a universalistic community. The Church did not have an army and relied on monarchs and lords to protect the boundaries of the community, while reproducing the material conditions that would support the authority of the Church. 9 The hegemony of the universal over the particular, the Church over the ruler, could be reproduced as long as the Church could continue its monopoly over the interpretation of the belief system, which assured the its position and the loyalty of its subjects.

Within this relationship existed two conflicts. One based on "two sources of authority, the spiritual and the temporal," and the other "between two forms of community — the potential universality of Christendom and the particularistic loyalty and obedience owed to temporal ruler." 10 These two conflicts will become more relevant and start to question the legitimacy of this political order by means of the intellectual workings of the Renaissance and the counter-Reformation. In fact, these two movements would start tilting the balance in favor of the particularistic notions of political community. The Habsburgs and the Catholic Church attempted to put a stop to these movements via the Inquisition and warfare. The results were the Thirty Years War and the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648, which set the foundations of the Modern international system that decreased the power of the Catholic Church and limited the political power of the Habsburgs. Though the foundations of Modernity date back to the early 1500s, it was not until 1648 that a new historical period came into place. 11

What actually separates the pre-modern era from the modern era? John Gerard Ruggie argues that the modern era can be distinguished from the former in that political agents (e.g. the monarch and the institutions of the State) started the process of organizing political spaces according to principles of territoriality and sovereignty. 12 These principles, though conceived in the 1500s, were institutionalized shortly after the signing of the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648. It determined that the monarch had the right to choose the religion of his territory, while also stipulating that foreign leaders, including the Pope, could not interfere in a country’s religious affairs or in other internal matters. This did not only keep in check the interests of those that sought to organize the continent according to Catholic dogma and Habsburg rule, but more important it established that "...territory was the key requirement for participation in modern international politics." 13 This permitted monarchs to start the centralization of political and economic power in the institutions of their States. Before 1648, monarchs or princes that attempted to strengthen their States by unifying their territories under one single authority, where hampered by foreign elements that intervened to assist their allies, which would be affected by these attempts. The signed agreement gave monarchs a higher degree of freedom to create new ways of integrating their territories and solidifying their rule. Thus, the signatories determined that the principles of sovereignty and territoriality should serve as the basis for international and intra-national order.

The Treaty of Westphalia and the practices of France during the Thirty Years War delegitimated attempts to build universal political communities that spanned the international. 14 The signing of the Treaty had endorsed the fragmentation of the international into different nation-states, while it also confirmed the unity of the national vis a vis other nation-states. This is not to say that the conflict between the universal and the particular was finally solved. It found new expression within the context of the nation-state. The monarch’s drive to strengthen the institutions of his State was challenged by his lords, merchants, and peasants. The monarch’s had to legitimate his rule via state-building projects, which evolved from coercive practices and the implementation of the State’s will over competing interests to the building of loyalty and legitimacy via different techniques of social integration and the construction of universal identities.

What strategies exactly make up a state-building project? An answer to this question has to be provided via an analysis of State-society relations. Defining the components of this project will not only shed light the detrimental aspects of Modernity, but also show how the conflict between the universal and particular has played out in the spread and reproduction of the Modern condition and how the universal has in many ways provided a measure of uniformity to complete the state-building project.

State-Society Relations and the State-building Project

The concept of territoriality allows for the establishment of the political boundaries of society. Armed by the principle of sovereignty, the State was in the business of establishing these boundaries. But, the State’s drive to organize society according to its visions has usually been opposed by different social classes. Thus, the State, as Richmond suggests, has used different strategies to achieve its objectives. Historically speaking, the State has relied on two approaches.

The first represents societies as being held together by the coercive power of the dominant groups whose interests are, in the last resort, maintained through military force. This force is used to repel external sources of threat as well as for the maintenance of order within society. The alternative view emphasizes the importance of a common value system which binds people together in a social contract or consensus concerning the necessity for order. 15

The first reflects Max Weber’s definition of political power, characteristic of modern Statehood: a monopoly over all instruments of legitimate violence. But, modern revolutions have equally demonstrated the need of creating policies that are attuned to citizens’ needs and interests, thus the alternative of permitting citizens to influence and participate in the process of societal integration. To this extent, the distinction of these two approaches is purely theoretical, as both "operate simultaneously and with varying degrees of emphasis." 16 For any regime to hold power in the long-term it needs to find way of legitimating its practices. Without a degree of legitimacy, integrating society to assure necessary conditions of stability and peace will not eventuate. Without these conditions, society would be economically impoverished and politically vulnerable to other visions emanating from within society or fostered from the outside.

Richmond’s insights on the combination of these two practices correspond to Joel Migdal’s attempt to define modern society by way of an analysis of state-society relations. Migdal notes that there are at least two definitions. On the one hand, society can be understood as a site of contention between different elements or agents that want to dominate the organs of the State in order to institutionalize its ideal conception of social order. This definition views "society as fragmented, often conflictual, organizations exercising social control; the emphasis here is on the components of society — its innards — and how the parts of the melange interact." 17 The other definition notes that societies are cohesive units. "This is a definition that points to the unity of society and, in particular, questions of integration...." To put it simply this interpretation highlights the State’s ability to construct a sense of "boundedness, or that outermost structure" 18 that holds society together. Building on these two perspectives, Migdal’s definition is a synthesis of these two, holding that societies are essentially made up of conflicting elements that are brought into line by the institutions of the State. But, the opposite is true as well. The State’s hegemonic ambitions and its violent strategies can serve as a stimulant to counter-hegemonic struggles, leading to the disintegration of society. The end-result depends on the mechanisms the State employs to integrate society. As Kalevi J. Holsti points out, States’ that lack popular legitimacy are more likely to experience outbreaks of collective political violence, than States’ that have the support and approval of its citizens. 19

It is important to notice how Migdal’s definition, as the other two, assigns the State a significant role in the integration of society. Thus, the principal paradigm of societal evolution centers on the need of building a State and its institutions in order to establish social order. This project, which can be termed state-building, "is the process by which the [S]tate not only grows in economic productivity and government coercion, but, also, in political and institutional power." 20 In other words, a state-building project is a strategy used by the social elite to organize society according to their needs and interests, while forcing other social groupings, which might not necessarily approve with this undertaking, to support their project. In many ways, state-building projects are a form of colonization. In this case, the colonizing project is not implemented by foreign elements per se, but from within. Thus, state-building practices can also be understood as internal colonization. 21

As an extension of the conflict between the universal and the particular, described above, state-building projects, though aimed at creating order, do actually foster social conflicts and acts of collective violence as well. As Youssef Cohen, Brian R. Brown, and A. F. K. Organski find in their study of state-building projects in the Western and non-Western societies, "[i]ncreasing central state claims for resources — for the material means of state-making and domination — intrude into and compete with preexisting structures of rights and obligations which tie those resources to sub-national collectivities and/or ‘polities.’ Conflict, resistance, and violence are ... ... often the result." 22 This same study however demonstrates that in the long-term state-building projects can provide the basis for order by transforming their practices and permitting repressed voices to express themselves and influence the organization of society. But, this is done once the protagonists of this project have been able to significantly secure their bases of power. It can therefore be said that state-building projects are paradoxical in nature. Stability can only be achieved after a period of violence conducted by the State against certain element in their societies.

The centralization of power and the monopolization of force represent only one face of state-building projects. As Cohen, Brown and Organski suggest, the state-building project eventually establishes social order. How is this done? Once the State has consolidated its power base, it starts nation-building and economic modernization projects. The reasoning behind both strategies is to demonstrate to society’s citizens that the attainment of the State’s interest will benefit them as well. To this extent, these strategies are designed to create support for the internal colonizer’s state-building project. In the end, nation-building and economic modernization projects are implemented to build legitimacy for the way society is organized. The former is instituted to allow people to participate in the state-building project and to satisfy an individual’s psychological need of being part of a community, while the latter is practiced in order to meet the material needs of society’s members. These two undertakings reinforce the overall project of Modernity and the role of the State in the reproduction of its ideals, principles, and values. Thus, state-building project aims to not only centralize and expand its power base, but establish a sense of totality that can solve the conflict between the universal and particular, that is to say bring diversity into line with the State’s conception of uniformity.

Constructing Totality: A Project of Negative Emancipation

Nation-building strategies were a product of the challenges the Enlightenment presented to the Absolute State and its state-building initiatives. The Enlightenment was aimed against totalizing ideas that infringed on the human rights of individual and their abilities to achieve full self-determination and freely accomplish their full human potential. 23 The Absolute State’s monopoly of political and military power was challenged through violent and non-violent revolutions (e.g. France and England). The bourgeoisie was asking for more participation and when the Absolute State attempted to enforce order through force, the bourgeoisie rallied the masses to overthrew the ‘old regimes.’ This was probably best exemplified by the French Revolution. The French Revolution, though legitimizing many of the Enlightenment ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity, did not weaken the institutions of the State or undid the importance of territoriality in the ordering of political spaces. In fact, this principle was strengthened. The State increased its activities and created new ones in order to support the old principles of territoriality and sovereignty.

The Absolute State was not a nation-state, but what Paikiasothy Saravamuttu calls "state-nations." 24 While the Absolute State aimed at stripping power away from rivals that lived within the boundaries of its territory, augmenting its authority over the country, it dedicated little attention to define the integral components of the political community or the identity of its subjects. Thus, the new Enlightened State had to build nations to support its project of state-building. 25 The by-product of this reality is nationalism or the doctrine which "pretends to supply the criterion for the determination of the unit of population proper to enjoy a government exclusively its own, for the legitimate exercise of power in the [S]tate...." 26 So, nationalism was supposed to allow individuals to participate in the nation-state and achieve the individual self-determination promised by liberalism and republicanism, the strongest political projects of these times.

The promise of individual self-determination, as envisioned in the work of Jean Jacques Rousseau and John Locke, did not materialize however. As it turned out, the State did not only define political space according to territoriality, but it also started to define who could or could not participate in society’s political processes. The State constructed political identities, often mirroring those of a stronger ethnic group, which were to be imposed to the rest of society. The goal was the creation of a homogeneous society, where difference could be eradicated. The existence of heterogeneity was seen as a threat to the State’s control of society, because those individuals or groups that desired to resist these homogenizing mechanisms could potentially challenge the State and its state-building project. How did the State conduct this homogenizing or hegemonic project? Using Enlightened administrative practices, the State apparatus grew by building legal systems based on positive law that would enforce its rules and values on its subjects. 27 In addition, public schools were created and language was standardized and competing dialects were pushed out from the public sphere into the private sphere, where they eventually died. Police departments were assembled and national militaries were equally engendered. These new armed forces did not rely on mercenaries, but on regular citizens. Thus, the State permeated all social spheres and promoted its ideals and values as unquestioned truths.

Nation-building mechanisms were established to create a more homogeneous society that would be easier to rule. It also enabled individuals to think that their interests and needs were being taken into consideration — the State’s actions were a product of the will of the people. The State could also satisfy an individual’s psychological need of being part of a community and sharing an identity with other people, while assimilating him or her into a fabricated identity that would support the State. Nation-building mechanisms also allowed the State to find ways to meet the material needs of society’s members. In fact, capitalism could not survive without the nation-building projects. While it was expected that the State should not interfere in the workings of the market economy, the State had a role in establishing the superstructure to nurture capitalism, promote investment, and encourage industrialization. 28 Indeed, capitalism could not survive without the creation of a national economy with its own set of laws and cultural affinities.

The only problem was that capitalism had created more societal problems than solutions to old ones. Class conflict grew sharper, alienation of social groups grew more acute, and the increasing division of labor made it difficult for the State to keep society working as a single unit. Thus, nation-building projects were a way of bringing dissatisfied groupings within the framework of the State, gaining their support, while assuring their role in economic production.

While nation-building projects were a way to protect the State and its state-building enterprise, the survival of the State was dependent on its ability to promote material equality or to better the material conditions of society’s members. Many nation-states employed socialism and communism as a framework to order their economies and societies. Others decided to enable the masses to participate in political processes through mass democracy, while in the early 20th century the State, armed with Keynesian economic theory, started to not only interfere in the market, but to actually save the capitalist market from self-destruction by creating the foundations of mixed economies. In all, the State took more responsibilities in economic and related social (e.g. health care) matters. In the end, the State continued its project by actively participating in economic affairs and searching for ways to satisfy its citizens’ material and psychological needs.

What is the result of these state-building projects, with their emphasis to interfere and manipulate cultural and economic matters? As Hans-Rudolf Wicker observes, "the nation thus inserted itself between the individual and humanity; and by unifying [S]tate and capital, it ushered in the concept of totality." 29 Meaning that the State becomes the protagonist of the project of Modernity, setting its basis and allowing for its reproduction. While Modernity has the seeds of progressive thought attuned to the objective of human emancipation, it also endorses the State and state-building projects as legitimate tools to order and integrate society. The State and its practices are part of a totalizing enterprise to control and dominate society and even extend its power and control outside of its territorial boundaries, hence the state-building enterprise can be explained as a process of false or negative emancipation.

Although the State has been developing different strategies to cope with challenges to its rule and authority, the evolving post-1989 system has demonstrated that the State is in a moment of transition. 30 Will the State regain control or will it whither and give way to new strategies of societal integration that advance human emancipation? How does ethno-nationalism reinforce or transform the historical progression of Modernity? These are important questions that will be answered in the following analysis.


Ethno-Nationalism: Reinforcing Processes of Negative Emancipation

Are we entering a post-Modern condition? After all, the current rise of ethno-nationalism and accompanying acts of ethnic warfare, of ethnic-cleansing practices, and the dissolution of recognized nation-states seems do point to this reality. At first glance the answer to this question would be in the affirmative, but the fact that these ethno-national struggles are fueled by the Modern principle of self-determination and are aim at establishing their own nation-state demonstrate that these struggles, to achieve this sense of self-determination, can be seen as Modern processes trying to strengthen the project of Modernity and territoriality.

The problem is that ethnic violence is a phenomenon that has found expression in the non-democratic, non-liberal economic societies. This is not too say that the ‘developed’ societies of the world are not experiencing ethnic conflicts. It means that the degeneration of ethnic conflicts into acts of violence are more likely to occur in ‘developing’ or ‘under-developed’ societies than in the ‘developed’ world. This surely raises question about the whole project of Modernity and the State’s ability to maintain, spread and reproduce its power. Indeed, there might be enough reason to suggest that we might be in a moment of transition from the Modern to a post-Modern condition. We might not be able to recognize such a process, though there is much academic debate about the existence of either condition. A solution to this dilemma is not within the boundaries of this investigation, but it is important to emphasis that the contemporary condition might be a hybrid, showing elements of Modernity and new emerging currents. The problem might be that we lack the intellectual tools to explain what a post-Modern condition really is. It is important to keep in mind the difference between the utilization of the term ‘post-Modern’ and the epochal sense of the term. 31 The former is related to the general acceptance of the term and its description, while the latter actually captures, once the term is accepted, the period of change that marks the transition from one condition to another. The case might be that we live in a post-Modern condition that will not be acknowledge in many years to come.

Noting this uncertainty, this analysis attempts to explain the resurgence of ethnic-based violence in the post-1989 system in the context of the unfolding project of Modernity. It does so by basing its explication on the impact the Cold War had on the overall project of Modernity. It argues that this time period saw the creation of competing identities that propelled ethnic conflicts to become more prevalent in the new (the former Soviet Union and its Eastern Bloc) and old (the Third World) ‘developing-underdeveloped’ world.

Creating Competing Totalities: Reforming the Modern Project?

Traditional state-building projects have constructed a sense of totality that connects nation with State with national economy. The survival of this order is dependent on how the State, as the chief protagonist of this Modern enterprise, can maintain and reproduce the structures of this system. Thus, a sense of totality furnishes uniformity, which in turn allows the State to centralize and expand its power within and outside the structures of the nation-state. Non-interference from other nation-states would enable the State to complete this project. Modernity and its reproduction have always been dependent on the State and the way the international system has been structured. Highly fragmented systems, based on non-interference of States in the domestic affairs of other States, on the consolidation of national economies and on low levels of interdependence, allowed for the creation of particular totalities; each created within the State’s territorial boundaries. Thus, there was not a single typology or representation of this project, just certain elements that has made it easier for social scientist to describe such practices.

The post-1945 international system completely changed the evolution of this process. The United States (US) and Soviet Union (USSR) divided the world into two blocs, each creating competing notions of totality; each claiming to achieve Modernity’s unfilled promises of emancipation and self-determination. Communism, even the Yugoslav version, was based on one type of totality and democracy furnished its own. The important difference between the post-1945 system and the pre-1939 world is the fact that in the latter period nation-states had more freedom to construct their own totalities. This was not the case in the post-1945 world were the US and the USSR created totalities that were exported and instituted, sometimes forcefully, to the members of its blocs. 32 The maintenance and reproduction of these totalities would only reinforce the rule of the US or the USSR. Thus, the two countries and their respective blocs represented two mutations of the project of Modernity.

Under the auspices of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Warsaw Treaty Organization, the US and USSR, respectively, organized the national militaries of their bloc to create a bipolar balance of power that would permit them to recreate their particular universal totality. Western totality depended on a new relationship between State, nation, and economy. This time the emphasis was not the creation of national economies, but of a world economy, if not a single economy for the bloc. The State would sacrifice complete control in the creation of universal totality and allow economic interests to start shaping the organization of society. Thus, society was organized not to separate itself from others, but to become interdependent to other countries. This would assure the reproduction of capitalism and spread democratic values around the world. National identity was still created by the State, but this was not necessarily based solely on territoriality. It built instead a political culture based on loyalty to constitutional ideas. This culture would allow the creation of an national identity that was not static, as economic processes and other social processes, protected by constitutional provisions, enabled the questioning or the strengthening of this identity, permitting the creation of new ones, as long as these do not challenge the established power structure. 33 Social order was preserved by coercion in certain instances, but it was mostly achieved via public policy (e.g. school systems, military training, propaganda, welfare, government intervention in economic matters etc.) and economic well-being strategies (economic growth programs, export promotion policies, employment policies, etc.).

The Eastern conception of totality remained dependent on the State’s ability of preserving power over economic (e.g. centrally planned economic practices) and cultural processes (e.g. the creation of the new Soviet individual). The principle of territoriality was downplayed, but not that of the sovereignty of the State over all social matters. National identity was clearly engineered by the State and the expression of difference was not allowed, for it would represent a threat to the social order. Order was achieved, mainly through coercion, but the satisfaction of material needs and reforms of aspect of the system, via the communist party, also took place.

Each conception of totality is more complex than the description provided here. Nevertheless, it is important to notice that the Western conception enabled economic interests to shape the way society is organized, while the other one relied too heavily on the State’s apparatus and the monopoly the communist party had over social discourses. In addition, both projects transformed the principle of territoriality because the objective of each project was the extension of their rule around the world. 34 How can we explain the rise of ethnic violence in the post-1989 world? The answer to this question lies in the success of the Western project and the failure of the Eastern version of Modernity and the effect these new changes were having on the structures of the countries of the Eastern bloc and countries in other parts of the world.

Re-Constructing Totality: Reinforcing the Detrimental Side of Modernity

Based on the importance of capitalism in creating systems of interdependence, the exchange of ideas, and the development of a world economy and the dramatic improvement of living standards in the United States and its allies, processes of economic globalization started to put pressure on the East’s version of Modernity. The problem for the Eastern version was that it success depended on the State’s ability of fulfilling the common good, which was based on the fulfillment of material needs. Take Yugoslavia as an example. Support for Yugoslavia was high when standards of living were on the increase. Once these started to deteriorate conflicts between the nationalities of Yugoslavia would increase, forcing the State to reform the system or use force in order to settle any conflict. 35 Matters were made worse once media outlets started to inform people in the Eastern bloc that their standards of living were below those of the West and comparable to ‘developing’ capitalist countries. This in itself is not a reason for ethnic violence, as Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union did not experience a violent dissolution. The realization that the State was presenting a false reality to its people forced many to organize new social movements outside the State’s structure that challenged the State’s conception of truth, that is to say, its totality.

The result was a weakening of the State’s control of society and the creation of new political spaces that started to grow in influence. The State did try to force its citizens into submission, but its inability of meeting the material needs of its citizens forced it to join these new political movements in the imposition of the West’s conception of totality. The communist parties changed their names and new political parties were formed. Elections were held and a new State, backed by the majority of those that voted, started the painful process of transforming their economic and social structures according to Western conceptions of Modernity. 36 This was not possible in Yugoslavia due to the virulent nature of Serbian nationalism. 37 In fact, the Slovenes and Croats were willing to negotiate a new Yugoslavia along Western conceptions of Modernity, but Slobodan Milosevic had other plans. 38 He wanted to organize Yugoslavia according to Serbian principles. His actions forced the rest of Yugoslavia’s communities to construct their own competing projects. These projects would have probably not succeeded if the international community decided not to support them. Croatia’s and Slovenia’s independence were supported by Germany and the rest of the European Union, while the existence of the Bosnian State was dependent on US support and aid. It is important to notice that the imposition of these new totalities render forms of negative emancipation. This is especially true in Croatia and Bosnia where ethnic cleansing practices and bloody wars have claimed the lives of millions.

The new nation-states are presently working to institute the Western conception of Modernity. The international community, as seen with the post-conflict reconstruction strategies in Bosnia and Kosovo, is allocating a great amounts of resources to assist these new nation-states accomplish the Western project of Modernity. The belief is that the transformation of these societies along Western ideals and values will prevent the future outbreak of ethnic wars and even international wars. The problem is that the imposition of the new internal colonization projects are extremely similar to those of the past, when the Absolute State was attempting to consolidate its power. Though post-1945 Western conceptions of Modernity is seen today as the ideal project, the international community has learned, in Bosnia, Guatemala, and now Kosovo, that the imposition of liberal democratic practices needs a certain degree of uniformity. 39 The State has been armed to fight national projects by implementing its vision of society. This is important because these areas, though moving closer to Western conceptions of Modernity, are still not there. Borrowing Francis Fukuyama’s controversial thesis, these new internal colonization projects, attempting to assimilate ethno-national movements into new totalities, are "still in history." 40 These areas of the world are still ripe for more ethnic conflicts and further outbreaks of violence.

The Western world is for this reason supporting these state-building projects. A cycle of violence can be seen and the promises of Modernity are still not achieved; not even in the Western world were there has been increasing protest against immigrants, while intolerance of other ethnic minorities and competing lifestyles has also been on the rise. 41 There is still much work to be done to transform the nature of political community, from an exclusive sphere of political and cultural self-determination for a particular people to an inclusive space, where individuals, regardless of their ethnic lineage or beliefs, can meet to fulfill their human potential.

It is important to understand these contemporary outbreaks of ethnic violence as the failure of the Eastern version of Modernity. Looking at this from a historical angle validates the assertion that social integration practices have to be changed according to changing realities. Social reality is not static. Attempting to stop social events for fear of their consequences will only bring about the worst kind of change. Western societies have faced many challenges from within and from the outside, but their systems of governments have been able to change according to the demands of its citizens. But, it is important to not confuse this stability for the achievement of a social condition conducive to the ideals of social justice and self-determination. This is not the case, as it is seen in ethnic conflicts presently unfolding in the United Kingdom, Spain, Canada, and in the US. The internal colonization project is far from finished. As critical theorists have demonstrated, the State has achieved its interests by means different from coercion. Negative forms of emancipation are being instituted all over the world in different degrees.

While it is important to transform these negative conditions in both the Western world and the developing world, the Western world does offer some interesting developments that question the State’s role in the unfolding project of Modernity. The State’s decision to surrender some power to economic agents is proof that the State’s role in social integration, as that of these economic agents, can be replaced by other societal processes. This historical examination can help us device new strategies that might fulfill the unattained promises of Modernity or move humanity towards a new historical condition.


Concluding Remarks: Can the Promises of Modernity be Achieved?

The previous analyses have demonstrated the unfolding pathological development of Modernity. What exactly has cemented and reproduced this project? Why is it that the international community is presently continuing this project, even though this have not created zones of peace or ushered new emancipatory conditions? The problem lies in the belief that homogeneity is a recipe for political stability, for economic growth and individual well-being. As seen in this historical analysis, Modern ideals, values and concepts were not originally supposed to oppress humanity. Modernity was supposed to usher new emancipatory social conditions. The individual studies of Karl Marx, Max Weber and the Frankfurt School demonstrate that Modernity has created a condition of domination and oppression, which we might not be able to escape.

If we understand society as a set of structures that represent the interests of its citizens or a group of citizen and agents as the creator of ideas that give life or challenge these structures, then the history of humanity can be equally understood as a conflict between structures and agents and interests and ideas. In many ways, structures represent universal totalities, while agents can either work to support these totalities or erect new particular ideologies that challenge the established order. The potential of conflict between established structures, usually representing the interests of a sector of society, and individuals that want to transform these structures forces these to find ways of keeping under control these individuals. Many tools have been created since the 1500s, but none has been as triumphant as the State and its state-building project. As said before, the state-building project has strengthened the State’s ability of forcefully settling or managing social conflicts. Among its many actions, the most successful was the construction of national identities that would tie the individual to the state-building enterprise, convincing individuals that their fate was equal to that of the State’s.

Social conflict and acts of political or ethno-national violence are a product of a failure of the State’s ability to implement its state-building project falters. These projects are weakened by transformations in the international system or by internal economic difficulties. The State’s looses its ability of controlling society, opening new political spaces. These political spaces permit the individuals to build counter-hegemonic movements that are usually aimed at transforming society or building a new nation-state. Thus, agents are free to construct or recreate new identities to engender social groups and mobilize them against the State and its totality. Groups that wish to transform society are usually socio-economic groupings, while those that want to create their own nation-states tend to be ethno-national groupings. Class conflict has been resolved via the welfare State, while the State and the international community have not been able to solve these ethno-national conflicts.

The problem is that even if the State transforms its practices it would still be required to accept a paradigm of socio-economic development that integrates society according to the Western conception of totality. This is especially seen in the Balkans, where the United States and the European Union are building societies that mirror their practices. The other alternative is for the State to implement a violent state-building project against dissenters, but these would make these countries pariahs in the international system. Neither of these alternatives will solve the problem, but just settle it for a period. As seen throughout history, new social challenges will force the State to transform its practices. This cycle of oppression and domination has continued for too many years and is responsible for the horrors of the past, the present, and if this process continues, those of the future.

Can the promises of Modernity be achieved? That is to say, can we find ways of changing these systems of oppression and domination? State-building projects and counter-hegemonic projects have been fueled by strategic interests. This type of interest ignores the present realities or needs of other groups. The importance is the establishment of structures that can maintain, secure and reproduce their power. Nation-building and economic modernization exercises are an extension of this form of thinking. As Habermas demonstrates in The Theory of Communicative Action, this only represents one side of the project of Modernity. The internal colonization of society by a group that wants to fulfill its will at the expense of the rest of society represents the overall development of this project and its unfolding throughout history. Habermas’ reconstruction however demonstrates that society can re-construct itself by putting the State and economic processes in their place via the creation of new political spaces were new identities and ideas can be created and influence the way society is organized. 42 This political space forms the foundations of Civil Society or the Public Sphere.

The organs of Civil Society can construct the foundations of new types of societies, where integration is not achieved via strategic interest, but via unbounded communication processes. The free interaction of peoples in Civil Society can construct the basis for new democratic practices that can give shape to the State and its structures. The State’s actions are therefore an extension of the people’s will. Thus, the State does not engender a new totality, but represents the will of the people. What keeps society together is not the strategic interest of one group over others, but the conviction that communication provides a process where existing reality, that is to say the structures of societies, can be constantly re-negotiated according to the changing needs and interest of society’s members.

The Modern characteristic of this project is its reliance on the structure of the nation-state, though Habermas, as Manuel Jiménez Redondo maintains, would describe this as a post-national state of affairs. 43 The positive conception of Modernity, one that has not been really demonstrated in this investigation, is reliant in the old idea of Civil Society and communication as mechanisms to fulfill the promises of emancipation. As a result, emancipation is possible, only if citizens can direct the way society is organized and if the structures can adapt to the changing needs of its citizens. If the detrimental side of Modernity can be explained as the rule of structure over agency, then the positive face of Modernity can be achieved if social agents, via processes of political will-formation ingrained in communicative practices, determine the organization and the actions of society’s structures.



Note 1: Rodolfo Stavenhagen, Ethnic Conflict and the Nation-State (New York: St Rodolfo Stavenhagen, Ethnic Conflict and the Nation-State (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996), 1. Back.

Note 2: Carlos L. Yordán, "Fostering A Self-Sustaining Peace In Bosnia-Herzegovina: An Alternative Strategy," Politica Externa, vol. 3 no. 7-8 (2000): 135-151. Back.

Note 3: Tim Judah, "New Kosovo Conflict Brewing," Balkan Crisis Report No. 119 (February 24, 2000). Available: [Accessed on March 2, 2000]. Back.

Note 4: International Crisis Group. Macedonia: The Politics of Ethnicity and Conflict (October 21, 1997). Http:// [Accessed on January 4, 2000]. Stefan Krause, "Losers Cry Foul as Macedonia Elects New President," Balkan Crisis Report No. 94 (November 19, 1999) Available: Http:// [Accessed on January 30, 2000]. Back.

Note 5: David A. Lake and Donald Rothchild, "Spreading Fear: The Genesis of Transnational Ethnic Conflict," in The International Spread of Ethnic Conflict: Fear, Diffusion, and Escalation, ed. David A. Lake and Donald Rothchild (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998), 6. Back.

Note 6: Lawrence R. Robertson, "The Constructed Nature of Ethnopolitics," International Politics 34 (1997): 266. Back.

Note 7: Anthony Richmond, "Ethnic Nationalism and Postindustrialism," Ethnic and Racial Studies 7.1 (1984): 5. Back.

Note 8: Susan Woodward, Balkan Tragedy: Chaos and Dissolution After the Cold War (Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 1995), 21. Back.

Note 9: John A. Hall and G. John Ikenberry, The State (London: University of Minnesota, 1989), 35. Back.

Note 10: Sanjay Seth, "Nationalism in/and Modernity," in The State in Transition: Reimagining Political Space, ed. Joseph A. Camilleri, Anthony P. Jarvis and Albert J. Paolini (Boulder: Lynne Reinner Publishers, 1995), 43. Back.

Note 11: David Kaiser, Politics and War: European Conflict From Philip II to Hitler (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990), 135-137. Back.

Note 12: John Gerard Ruggie, "Territoriality and Beyond: Problematizing Modernity in International Relations," International Organization 47 (1993): 148. Back.

Note 13: Emphasis is in original. Torbjörn L. Knutsen, A History of International Relations Theory: An Introduction (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1992), 71. Back.

Note 14: For an excellent review of French policies during the Thirty Years War in the context of the Catholic Church and the Habsburg’s "moral universalism," see: Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994), 56-77. Back.

Note 15: Richmond, 5. Back.

Note 16: Richmond, 5. Back.

Note 17: Joel S. Migdal, "Integration and Disintegration: An Approach to Society-Formation," in Between Development and Destruction: An Enquiry into the Causes of Conflict in Post-Colonial States, ed. Luc van de Goor, Kumar Rupesinghe and Paul Sciarone (London: MacMillian Press, 1996), 93. Back.

Note 18: Migdal, 93. Back.

Note 19: Kalevi J. Holsti, War, State, and the State of War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996). Back.

Note 20: Keith Jaggers, "War and the Three Faces of Power: War Making and State Making in Europe and the Americas," Comparative Political Studies 25.1(1992): 29. Back.

Note 21: Ed Ayres, "Internal Colonization," World Watch 3 (May-June 1998): 3. Though I use Ayres term and understanding of the term, this is in line with Habermas’ thesis of the System’s (the administrative and economic) colonization of the lifeworld. The term internal colonization, as it will be seen below, shows the imposition of new definitions of Modernity to areas that have already experienced the project in Modernity. The idea is not to simply control the activities of social groupings, but to achieve social stability to implement projects that will move these groups and their country closer to the physical and metaphysical spaces of the Western type of Modernity. For more on Habermas’ thesis see: Jürgen Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action: Lifeworld and System: A Critique of Functionalist Reason, trans. Thomas McCarthy (Boston: Beacon Press 1987), 332-374. Back.

Note 22: Youssef Cohen, Brian R. Brown, and A. F. K. Organski, "The Paradoxical Nature of State Making: The Violent Creation of Order," The American Political Science Review 75(1984): 902. Back.

Note 23: Jurgen Habermas, Más Allá del Estado Nacional, trans. Manuel Jiménez Redondo (Salamanca: Editorial Trotta, 1998), 89. Back.

Note 24: Paikiasothy Saravamuttu, "Introduction to the Problem of the State and the Instability of the South," in The State and the Instability of the South, ed. Caroline Thomas Paikiasothy Saravamuttu (New York: St. Martin’s Press 1989), 3. Back.

Note 25: Seth, 49-51. Back.

Note 26: Elie Kedourie, Nationalism, 4th edition (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994), 1. Back.

Note 27: Knutsen, 117. Back.

Note 28: Hans-Rudolf Wicker, "Introduction: Theorizing Ethnicity and Nationalism," in Rethinking Nationalism and Ethnicity: The Struggle for Meaning and Order in Europe, ed. Hans-Rudolf Wicker (Oxford: Berg, 1997), 8. Back.

Note 29: Wicker, 9. Back.

Note 30: Nick Rengger, "Beyond Liberal Politics? European Modernity and the Nation State," in Developments in West European Politics, ed. Martin Rhodes, Paul Heywood and Vincent Wright (London: Macmillian Press Ltd, 1997), 256-257. Back.

Note 31: This observation is based on Ruggie’s explanation of when the modern actually commences in historical and intellectual terms. See, Ruggie, 148. Back.

Note 32: Some of these observations have been influenced by Geir Lundestad’s study on US foreign policy and the integration of Western Europe. For more on this study, see: Geir Lundestad, Empire by Integration: The United States and European Integration, 1945-1997 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998). Back.

Note 33: Jurgen Habermas, "The European Nation-State: On the Past and Future of Sovereignty and Citizenship," in The Inclusion of the Other: Studies in Political Theory, ed. Ciaran Cronin and Pablo de Grief (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1998), 118-119. Back.

Note 34: It can also be added that the Western project was designed to permit the expansion of capitalism to prevent economic crises, while the Eastern project was in many ways influenced by the idea of internationalism — communism could only survive if the world would have one single government. Back.

Note 35: Woodward, 50. Also see: John R. Lampe, Yugoslavia as History: Twice there was a Country (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 326-329. Back.

Note 36: This is of course a generalization. My observations are based on the work of Snyder and Vachuova. For more information, see: Tim Snyder and Milada Vachudova, "Are Transitions Transitory? Two Types of Political Change in Eastern Europe Since 1989," East European Politics and Societies 11.1 (1997): 1-35. Back.

Note 37: Brako Caratan, "The New States and Nationalism in Eastern Europe," International Politics 34 (1997): 293. Back.

Note 38: Sumantra Bose, "State Crises and Nationalities: Conflict in Sri-Lanka and Yugoslavia," Comparative Political Studies 28.1(1995): 109. Back.

Note 39: In Bosnia, Western policy aims to build a multiethnic democratic society. Nevertheless, the Office of the High Representative has the power to impose his decisions on the people of Bosnia, even if these are not consistent with the needs or interests of the groups. It has even attempted to create a new national identity that can fuse the three ethnic groups into one cohesive unit. For more on this issue, see: Yordán, 140-41. The attempt to build a single national identity can be found in the pages of a report of the High Representative to the United Nation’s General Secretary. Office of High Representative, Report by the High Representative for Implementation of the Peace Agreement to the Secretary of the United Nations (Sarajevo: OHR, July 1999) Available at Http:// [Accessed. January 10, 2000]. Back.

Note 40: Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1991). Back.

Note 41: Aleksandra Ålund, "The Quest for Identity: Modern Strangers and New/Old Ethnicities in Europe," in Rethinking Nationalism & Ethnicity, 91-110. Back.

Note 42: Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action. Back.

Note 43: Manuel Jiménez Redondo, "Introducción," in Más Allá del Estado Nacional, 9-27. Back.