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Article

Russian Populism  

Neil Robinson

Russia has a long history of populism. Russia’s 19th-century populist movement is often seen as one of the founding moments of modern populism, and the movement and its successors were among the main revolutionary forces against Tsarism. More recently, parties like the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation have been labeled populist, and President Vladimir Putin has been called a populist. This article looks at these different strands of Russian populism. It reviews the development of 19th-century populism—narodnichestvo—and how it developed ideas about the possibility of constructing a Russian socialism based on peasant communes. It examines how narodnichestvo veered between propaganda work and terrorist activity and how this set the pattern for the revolutionary activity of the first populists’ successors, the Social Revolutionary Party, which was formed in the early 20th century. The article then looks at the different forms that post-Soviet populizm (as populism is labeled in modern Russian) has taken. It looks at the ideas of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and then looks at why Putin has been called a populist, focusing on the ideas that he put forward from 2011 onward about Russia as a particular form of civilization and state. These ideas, it is argued, formed the core of an “official” populism that, while effective as a means of arguing for Putin’s return to the presidency in 2012, is politically sterile.

Article

Nationalism  

Renaud-Philippe Garner

Nationalism is a set of beliefs about the nation: its origins, nature, and value. For nationalists, we are particular social animals. On the one hand, our lives are structured by a profound sense of togetherness and similarity: We share languages and memories. On the other hand, our lives are characterized by deep divisions and differences: We draw borders and contest historical narratives. For nationalism, humanity is neither a single species-wide community nor an aggregation of individuals but divided into distinct and unique nations. At the heart of nationalism are claims about our identity and needs as social animals that form the basis of a series of normative claims. To answer the question “what should I do” or “how should I live,” one must first answer the questions “who am I” and “where do I belong.” Nationalism says that our membership in a nation takes precedence and ultimately must guide our choices and actions. In terms of guiding choice and action, nationalist thought proposes a specific form of partiality. Rather than treat the interests or claims of persons and groups impartially, the nationalist demands that one favors one’s own, either as a group or as individual persons. While nationalism does not claim to be the only form of partiality, it does claim to outrank all others: Loyalty or obligations to other groups or identities are subordinated to national loyalty. Together, these claims function as a political ideology. Nationalism identifies the nation as the central form of community and elevates it to the object of supreme loyalty. This fundamental concern for the nation and its flourishing can be fragmented into narrower aims or objectives: national autonomy, national identity, and national unity. Debate on nationalism tends to divide into two clusters, one descriptive and one normative, that only make partial contact. For historians and sociologists, the questions are explanatory: What is nationalism, what is a nation, how are they related, and when and how did they emerge? Philosophers and political theorists focus on the justification of nationalism or nationalist claims: Is national loyalty defensible, what are the limits of this loyalty, how do we rank our loyalties, and does nationalism conflict with human rights?

Article

Iceland and European Integration  

Baldur Thorhallsson

Iceland’s European policy is a puzzle. Iceland is deeply embedded in the European project despite its non-EU membership status. Iceland is a member of the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) (1970), the European Economic Area (EEA) (1994), and Schengen (2001). Moreover, Iceland applied for membership in the European Union (EU) in 2009. Nonetheless, the Icelandic political elite have been reluctant to partake in the European integration process. They have hesitated to take any moves toward closer engagement with Europe unless such a move is seen as necessary to deal with a crisis situation. Decisions to engage with the European project have not been made based on outright economic and political preferences. They have primarily been based on economic or political necessity at times when the country has faced a deep economic downturn or its close neighboring states have decided to take part in European integration. The country has essentially been forced to take part in the project in order to prevent crises from emerging or to cope with a current crisis situation. For instance, in 2009, Iceland unexpectedly applied for membership in the EU after the collapse of its economy nine months earlier. However, four years later, after a swift economic recovery and after Iceland having been “betrayed” by the EU in the so-called Ice-save dispute with the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, the accession process was put on hold. The EU was no longer seen as an economic and political savior. Iceland’s close relationships with its powerful neighboring states, the United States and the United Kingdom, have also had considerable influence on the country’s European policy. Iceland’s membership in the EFTA, the EEA, and Schengen was largely dictated by the Nordic states’ decisions to join the organizations and because of crisis situations their lack of membership would have meant for Iceland were it to be left out. Moreover, the decision by the United Kingdom to leave the Union has firmly frozen Iceland’s accession process and contributed to increased criticism of the transfer of autonomy from Reykjavik to Brussels that takes place with the EEA Agreement. Furthermore, many at the right of center in Icelandic politics do not see any security reasons for joining the EU, as Iceland’s defense is guaranteed by a bilateral defense treaty with the United States and membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). European debates about partial and full participation in the European project have led to harsh opposition in Althingi (the National Parliament), deep divisions in society at large, and public protests. Opposition has been driven by an overwhelming focus on sovereignty concerns. The political discourse on sovereignty and self-determination prevails except when the country is faced with a crisis situation. To prevent a crisis from emerging or to deal with a current crisis, Icelandic politicians reluctantly decide to take partial part in the European project. They are determined to keep autonomy over sectors of primary political importance, sectors that are close to the heart of the nation, those of agriculture and fisheries.

Article

Religious Frames: Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood  

Meir Hatina and Uri M. Kupferschmidt

When the Arab Spring of 2011 sparked a second revolution in Egypt (the first having occurred in 1952), it caught the longstanding Muslim Brotherhood almost by surprise. Arguably the oldest Sunni political mass movement in Egypt (having been established in 1928), it had proven remarkably resilient during more than eight decades of alternating repression and toleration by subsequent governments. Though its social composition changed over the years, its principles, as laid down by its founder Hasan al-Banna, continued to inspire large segments of the population in a quest for a state based on Shariʿa, and provided an alternative vision for a more just and moral society. Meanwhile, the Brotherhood built a wide network of social, educational, and welfare institutions. From the early 1980s onwards, with Mubarak in power, the Brotherhood was condoned, if not officially recognized, and members were allowed to participate in several parliamentary and other elections. As an organization with formal traditional leadership bodies, but also a younger generation versed in the modern social media, the Brotherhood was seen to be slowly nearing a point where it would be able to make the transition to a party. It began to formulate a political platform and an economic blueprint for the country. A modicum of democracy was adopted, and more openness towards the integration of women was seen. After winning a relatively large (minority) representation in the 2005 parliamentary elections, the regime was scared enough to allow the Brotherhood to win only one token seat in 2010. The revolution of 2011 ousted Mubarak and then led to relatively free elections with a solid victory for the Freedom and Justice Party, which had been formed by the Brotherhood, as well as a new Islamist-inspired constitution and the election of Muhammad Mursi as president. However, within a year the Muslim Brotherhood government had missed this historical window of opportunity. It proved inadequately prepared for efficient and orderly governance, did not bring order and stability, nor did it advance the aspirational goals of demonstrators. This is how the army, not for the first time in Egypt’s history, came to intervene and depose Morsi in July 2013, replacing him with Defense Minister ʿAbd al-Fattah al-Sisi. It was not long before the Brotherhood was once more suppressed and outlawed. With many leaders in jail, but latent support continuing, observers tend to believe it is not the end of the Brotherhood’s existence.

Article

Religious Traditions in Politics: Islam, Sunni, and Shi'a  

Halil Ibrahim Yenigun

How Islam and politics get entangled with each other is a remarkable topic of interest. Islam’s relationship with politics is a highly remarkable topic of interest. Islam’s inception as a religion in the 7th century was a historical event that signified the emergence of a powerful, Arab-Muslim empire on the world scene. The trajectory of the relationship between Islam—as a normative ideal that is constantly interpreted by its followers—and politics—in the form of authority structures, public policies, international relations, or everyday political relations with the government, communities, or society—is complex. The convoluted relationship between Islam and politics can be studied on multiple layers. First, by looking at the normative sources, chiefly the verses in the Qur’an and the earliest narratives about the Prophet Muhammad and his Companions (Sahaba; i.e., the hadith) and major historical events that set precedents, such as the first caliphate controversy and the Karbala Massacre (680). Together, these sources form the foundation of Islamic political vocabulary and set the parameters of the ongoing discourse on legitimate Muslim modes of behavior in politics. Second, the historical trajectory of the relationship between religion and politics manifested itself in premodern Muslim-dominant contexts. These manifestations are sought within the complex web of relations among the followers of sects, schools of thought, and among different religious classes, nobility, and governments, who contested the religious and political space. When a sense of political, cultural, and intellectual siege by the people of European descent, dubbed collectively as the “West,” dominated Muslim-majority societies and cultures, earlier patterns and constellations underwent serious transformations. Revivalist and reformist trends are crucial elements of these changing patterns. Corollary to these trends are Muslims’ indigenization of European ideologies such as liberalism, socialism, and nationalism in addition to their own formulation of Islamism as a political ideology. Finally, the relationship between religion and politics as conceived in Muslim thought from the classical age onward is found in scholars’ and thinkers’ political articulations of Islam in the mirror of the princes literature, theological works, philosophical treatises, political jurisprudence literature, also known as fiqh al-siyasah or al-siyasah al-shar’iyyah, and ethical treatises. Apart from the foundational texts and interpretive communities of the past, whether motivated by Islam or not, social and political actors in Muslim-majority societies, whether democratic masses or political elite, have reconceived the relationship between Islam and politics and redefined what Islam means politically. Ultimately, this relationship is constantly renegotiated by all those involved within this nexus of theory and praxis.

Article

Cohesion Policy and European Union Politics  

Simona Piattoni and Laura Polverari

Cohesion policy is one of the longest-standing features of the European construction; its roots have been traced as far back as the Treaty of Rome. Over time, it has become one of the most politically salient and sizable policies of the European Union, absorbing approximately one-third of the EU budget. Given its principles and “shared management” approach, it mobilizes many different actors at multiple territorial scales, and by promoting “territorial cooperation” it has encouraged public authorities to work together, thus overcoming national borders. Furthermore, cohesion policy is commonly considered the most significant expression of solidarity between member states and the most tangible way in which EU citizens “experience” the European Union. While retaining its overarching mission of supporting lagging regions and encouraging the harmonious development of the Union, cohesion policy has steadily evolved and adapted in response to new internal and external challenges, such as those generated by subsequent rounds of enlargement, globalization, and shifting political preferences regarding what the EU should be about. Just as the policy has evolved over time in terms of its shape and priorities, so have the theoretical understandings of economic development that underpin its logic, the nature of intergovernmental relations, and the geographical and administrative space(s) within which the EU polity operates. For example, whereas overcoming the physical barriers to economic development were the initial targets in the 1960s and 1970s, and redesigning manufacturing clusters were those of the 1980s and 1990s, fostering advanced knowledge and technological progress became the focus of cohesion policy in the new century. At the same time, cohesion policy also inspired or even became a testing ground for new theories, such as multilevel governance, Europeanization, or smart specialization. Given its redistributive nature, debates have proliferated around its impact, added value, and administrative cost, as well as the institutional characteristics that it requires to function. These deliberations have, in turn, informed the policy in its periodic transformations. Political factors have also played a key role in shaping the evolution of the policy. Each reform has been closely linked to the debates on the European budget, where the net positions of member states have tended to dominate the agenda. An outcome of this process has been the progressive alignment with wider strategic goals beyond cohesion and convergence and the strengthening of linkages with the European Semester. However, some argue that policymakers have failed to properly consider the perverse effects of austerity on regional disparities. These unresolved tensions are particularly significant in a context denoted by a rise of populist and nativist movements, increasing social discontent, and strengthening Euroskepticism. As highlighted by research on its communication, cohesion policy may well be the answer for winning back the hearts and minds of European citizens. Whether and how this may be achieved will likely be the focus of research in the years ahead.

Article

Religious Traditions in Politics: Catholicism  

Lawrence C. Reardon

Traveling from Galilea and Judea 2,000 years ago to the far reaches of the Roman Empire, Jewish Christians gradually transformed their small gatherings of believers into a major European Catholic State-Church, which eventually became today’s Global Catholic Church-State. Popes throughout the centuries have adapted strategies to deal with internal religious challenges, including the Great Schism of 1054, which separated the Eastern and Western Christian Churches, and the European Reformation of 1517, which created separate vibrant Protestant Churches. The popes have also dealt with external threats from Islam, nationalism, and communism that sought to control or eliminate the pope’s autonomy to lead the Church. With a universal church of over 1.3 billion members in the developed and developing world, Pope Francis continues to adapt Church policies while tackling its greatest challenge to its legitimacy, the sexual abuse scandals.

Article

The Confucian Tradition and Politics  

Youngmin Kim, Ha-Kyoung Lee, and Seongun Park

Confucianism is a principal category and term of analysis in most discourses on Chinese culture. However, when it is defined in very stylized terms, it turns out to be of little use for understanding long-term historical changes, as its meaning varied greatly over more than a millennium. The Confucian tradition has fluctuated primarily because rulers and elites made use of inherited Confucianism for their ideological ends. In this light, Confucianism, Chinese elite, and politics are closely interconnected. Confucius, who has often been regarded as the founder of Confucianism, did not entertain a chance to materialize his political vision through a powerful government office, even if he had wished to do so. However, after his death, the early imperial rulers of China actively appropriated the textual tradition of what would later become Confucianism and used it to legitimize their political powers. Throughout the late imperial periods, Neo-Confucianism gained wide currency among those who did not hold governmental office and yet sought to engage in public matters at a local level. At the same time, donning the ideological garb of a Confucian sage-king, late imperial rulers instituted the civil service examinations and adopted Neo-Confucian commentaries on classical texts as the official curriculum. As there was almost no other access to office except through these examinations, Neo-Confucianism had become required knowledge for anyone who aspired to become a member of the elite until the early decades of the 20th century. In the late 19th century, China found itself in a disadvantageous position in the new world order, where aggressive European imperialism advanced across Asia. At that time, Chinese reformers regarded Confucianism as a cause of China’s failure to industrialize as adeptly as Western countries had. During the Mao Zedong era, Confucianism continued to be held responsible for the static nature of Chinese society, which robbed it of the possibility of progress. As Communism ceases to be a satisfactory model for China, the country’s politicians and intellectuals have sought a new identity and model whereby they can fashion their future. As a consequence, although discarded at the beginning of the last century as the cause of China’s demise, Confucianism has been gaining new currency as the model for modern China.

Article

Religious Traditions in Politics: Protestantism  

Evert van Leeuwen

Protestantism was labeled when German noblemen wished to retain control of their own country church. Martin Luther’s theology based on faith and the scripture became in this way a matter of political dispute. His rejection of the pope as the final authority in matters of religion brought the Lutheran country churches within the power and economy of the local noble rulers, liberating them from financial obligations to Rome. Luther’s actions were, in the first phase of Protestantism, followed by those of Anabaptists and cantons in Switzerland (Huldrych Zwingli) and cities in France (Martin Bucer in Strasbourg; John Calvin in Geneva). Calvin stood for a kind of theocratic regime based on his doctrine of predestination. His views spread over France and the Low Countries (Belgium, Netherlands) as a liberation from the feudal system. In the second phase of Protestantism, the political dimension became less significant, and the focus became instead upon Protestant believers’ looking inward to find the Light, or God, in themselves. Political action then became the consequence of the intention to do well, by seeking justice and seeing that every human being is created in God’s image. Many groups were persecuted, as the earlier Anabaptists were, and left Europe for the New World. There they became activists for the abolition of slavery, equal rights for all human beings, and social justice. The third phase of Protestantism is characterized by ideas of rebirth and regeneration. Sin and evil can be washed away and people can start a new life in the blessing of Jesus Christ, following his guidance as evangelicals. In matters of politics, personal norms and values become more important than social justice or reform, leading to bans on, for instance, abortion and homosexuality as sinful ways of life. In the early 21st century, a significant number of Protestant groups are active in right-wing politics, and their membership continues to grow in the Americas, Africa and Asia.

Article

Revisiting the African Renaissance  

Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni

The concept of the African Renaissance was popularized by Cheikh Anta Diop in the mid-1940s. But in 1906 Pixley ka Isaka Seme had introduced the idea of “regeneration” of Africa, while in 1937 Nnamdi Azikiwe of Nigeria had engaged with the idea of a “renascent Africa,” both of which formed a strong background to the unfolding of the idea of African Renaissance. President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa made it the hallmark of his continental politics in the 1990s. Consequently, in 1998 South Africa became a host to an international conference on the African Renaissance and by October 11, 1999, Mbeki officially opened the African Renaissance Institute in Pretoria in South Africa. Scholars such as Ngugi wa Thiong’o picked up the theme and defined the African Renaissance as a “re-membering” of a continent and a people who have suffered from “dismembering” effects of colonialism and “coloniality.” “Coloniality” names the underside of Euro-North American-centric modernity, which enabled mercantilism accompanied by the enslavement of African people. The reduction of African people into tradable commodities (thingification and dehumanization) and their shipment as cargo across the Transatlantic Ocean formed the root cause of the underdevelopment of Africa. The rise of a capitalist world economic system involved the forcible integration of Africa into the evolving nexus of a structurally asymmetrical world system with its shifting global orders. The physical colonial conquest was accompanied by genocides (physical liquidation of colonized people), epistemicides (subjugation of indigenous knowledges), linguicides (displacement of indigenous African languages and imposition of colonial languages), culturecides (physical separation of African people from their gods and cultures and the imposition of foreign religions and cultures), alienations (exiling African people from their languages, cultures, knowledges, and even from themselves), as well as material dispossessions. The African Renaissance emerged as an anti-colonial phenomenon opposed to colonialism and coloniality. As a vision of the future, the African Renaissance encapsulated a wide range of African initiatives such as Ethiopianism, Garveyism, Negritude, pan-Africanism, African nationalism, African humanism, African socialism, Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), the demands for a New International Economic Order (NIEO), the various African economic blueprints including the Lagos Plan of Action (LPA) and New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) as well as the regional integration economic formations such as the Economic Community of West African Countries (ECOWAS) and the Southern Africa Economic Development Community (SADC), among many others. These liberatory initiatives have been framed by five waves of popular African movements/protests, namely: (a) the decolonization struggles of the 20th century that delivered “political decolonization”; (b) the struggles for economic decolonization that crystallized around the demands for NIEO; (c) the third wave of liberation of the 1980s and 1990s that deployed neoliberal democratic thought and discourses of human rights to fight against single-party and military dictatorships as well imposed austerity measures such as structural adjustment programs (SAPs); (d) the Afro-Arab Spring that commenced in 2011 in North Africa, leading to the fall some of the long-standing dictatorial regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya; and finally (e) the Rhodes Must Fall (RMF) movements (Fallism discourse of liberation) that emerged in 2015 in South Africa, pushing forward the unfinished business of epistemological decolonization.