Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Nationalism and Reciprocity

By Professor Eric Miller
Originally appeared on Prawfsblawg

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?

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