Beyond National Culture?
Is national culture over?1
Is the mortar of sentiments, beliefs, and customs that once cemented nations now crumbling before our eyes? What role could culture have today when, on the one hand, it has colonized society, and when, on the other, the crusade of imposing a collective identity upon heterogeneous populations has exhausted itself? These apocalyptic questions are all the more frightening as we face both the fin de siècle and the closing of the modern age. Such a moment encourages portentous prophecies: the erosion of the nation-state, the end of history, the death of culture (and perhaps also a stop to these questions themselves). The demise of culture would certainly signal the conclusion of modernity. If modernity is understood as a ceaseless differentiation of society, the progressive separation of human activities into self-enclosed domains, culture is certainly one of the most exalted and the one that allows us to comprehend these changes, enabling our very thinking. From another perspective these questions reveal perhaps our own confusion; culture can mean anything. Different conceptions of the term are embedded in various disciplinary and national traditions. By 1952 the anthropologists Kroeber and Kluckhohn
tracked down about 164 separate usages and since then, needless to say, many more have accrued. We wander in circles through this forest of meanings, finding no trail out; it is our only habitat. Linked to the social transformations of the last centuries, culture is both a product and a shaper of modernity, inordinately vague, yet crucial to the social and human sciences.
Confronted with this semantic excess, I limit my investigations here to questions of national and ethnic identity, topics challenging in themselves, with enormous bibliographies in several disciplines.
But there is much ambiguity in the usage of these two terms as well, resulting primarily from the overlap between them. National culture, for instance, is often substituted for national identity, the
communal memories, symbols, and feelings that are believed to differentiate one nation from another (the nation itself often being confused with the state). Culture can also signify society in general, the
institutions and social practices of a people without reference to its nationality. Increasingly today culture is indeed substituted for society. Ethnicity, the primordial identity of each group, is the most
problematic term, referring to pre-modern communities, modern nations, and postmodern multicultural entities. Thus it is possible to speak of ancient Sumerian identity, German identity, Greek-American
identity in one breath. All three are, of course, cultures but only the German is national, housed in a state and dug into a particular territory. We tend to use the words culture and ethnicity
interchangeably because we think of them as collective practices and assumptions which, learned and transmitted by members of a community, organize their lives.
My aim in this paper is two-fold: first, to
examine the affirmative role played by culture in nation-building and, then, to consider its fate with the break-up of the nation-state under the pressures of globalization and internal discord. The
questions I would like to ponder are, why nationalism is ultimately a cultural enterprise, and then, what happens to culture once the grand project of social integration has run its course. Traditionally,
the emphasis given to culture in modernity is seen as a crisis of legitimation: namely, with the dissolution of religion new collective myths were necessary to maintain social order; or the victorious middle
class required a secular ideology to justify its authority. This is, for instance, how Louis Althusser regarded culture. In order to ensure its political hegemony, the bourgeoisie had to create its own
"ideological state apparatuses" by both destroying the feudal state and wresting the ideological function away from the church.3
Another approach to culture, first formulated by Emile Durkheim and still prevalent in the social sciences, sees it as emerging from social transformations such as urbanization, industrialization, and functional differentiation (increasing specialization).
Its function is compensatory—to provide individuals with ways of coping with these changes. Durkheim's The Division of Labor in Society characterizes culture, in this case religion, as a response to augmented social complexity. In both examples, beliefs are seen as a result of social forces. This is also how world-system theory perceives culture, particularly in the work of Immanuel Wallerstein, with which this theory is most closely identified. To the extent that he examines culture, Wallerstein sees it primarily as deriving from the historical development of the capitalist world economy.
His model, based almost exclusively on political economy, therefore cannot "make sense of a modern world in which nationalism, religion, and inter-ethnic hostility" are so prominent.
Many theorists of nationalism themselves regard culture simply as a
result of social change. The basic tenet of Ernest Gellner's Nations and Nationalism is that industrial society depends on a common culture. Ethnicity, he argues, "enters the political sphere of
'nationalism' at times when cultural homogeneity...is required by the economic base of social life." This is so because culture in modern societies becomes the "necessary shared medium, the life-blood or
perhaps the minimal shared atmosphere, within which alone the members of the society can survive."7
Because it was shared, argues E. J. Hobsbawm, national culture was indispensable to modern states in eliciting citizens' consent for taxation and military service. With the breakdown of traditional guarantors of loyalty to the state such as dynastic legitimacy, divine ordination, and historic right, nationalist feelings came to serve as "civic religion," underwriting political authority.
Rather than triggering changes itself, culture
in these theories is reactive or derivative, always responding to external situations. "The development of the word culture," Raymond Williams writes in his authoritative work on the topic, "is a record of a
number of important reactions to...changes in our social, economic, and political life."9
In a sense they conceive of culture primarily as an invisible force guaranteeing order in the twilight of traditional ideologies. The priority, however, placed on culture's cohesive and legitimating function has deflected attention from its power to trigger change. Max Weber is a notable exception here. Convinced that culture could lead actively to social change and that ideas could have the same impact on society as material forces, he traced, for instance, the roots of capitalism in the transformations of Protestantism. These implications of Weber's work, however, have largely gone ignored and only recently have social theorists begun to analyze the decisive role played by culture in social transformations.
In my investigation into cultural nationalism
I do not deny the capacity of culture to underwrite the authority of a class or a state or the possible effect of external conditions on its production and development. While I resist a one-sided explanation
of social change, I believe that culture can shape our world, though by no means as the only force of difference. Thus, for the purposes of this paper, I will concentrate on culture's dynamic power to modify
reality, specifically in the project to build nations. In no way, however, am I proposing a culturalist theory of either nation-building or social change, one which would elevate culture as superior to
economics or the state. Indeed, nationalism cannot be understood outside the context of the capitalist world economy or the rise of modern polities. My intention here is to direct attention to the active
role of culture in the construction of nation-states. My work is based on the assumption that modernity represents the differentiation of society into a series of autonomous spheres of action and thought:
religion, politics, law, the economy, bureaucracy, and, of course, culture. To say that culture has been functionally differentiated is not at all the same as saying that it has been freed from social,
political, and economic forces and left hovering in an aestheticist heaven, much like Flaubert's concept of art. It means rather that it has been separated symbolically and institutionally from society,
endowed with its own rules and logic.11
A Shared National Identity12
Though inextricably intertwined, Archer believes, each strand is logically and sociologically distinct: the former, the imposition of law on chaos, being a function of ideas while the latter, the ordering of other people, is a property of human beings. Their subsumption into the same theory accounts for much of the confusion about the social function of culture. Increasingly the view that cultures remain united through consensus and are composed of customs, affections, and symbols has been put into question. While cultural features may indeed be collective and cultures themselves manufactured, they are not shared by all, nor are attempts to invent a culture necessarily embraced by an entire population.
The notion of culture as an assembly of shared sentiments and beliefs, as I mentioned earlier, governs our understanding of the term. Despite the squabbles over its
definition, there has been nearly unanimous agreement, Margaret Archer finds, on the principal capacity of culture to regulate our lives through rules and customs we internalize. Informing this theory are
two interrelated arguments: first, that culture acts as a code bringing disparate parts into a congruous whole; second, that culture can be imposed by one people upon another or by elites upon their own
populace to contrive a homogeneous community.
Despite this logical ambivalence of the concept of culture, it has fueled many social projects from the nationalist mission to unify nations to the Arnoldian calling to pacify disorderly forces.
Interestingly, the idea of holistic culture, as Christopher Herbert demonstrates, emerged (in England at least) during the nineteenth century from discussions concerning desire and restraint, chaos and
order, freedom and control. Fearing the entropy of the first element in each dichotomy, thinkers in various disciplines began to seek the glue that makes societies cohere. Ethnographers, for instance, in
opposition to early anthropological writing began to show that contemporaneous primitive societies as well as Europe's own savage ancestors were enmeshed in a net of social coercion.
All human acts take place in institutions, they wrote, no community is free from regulation, anomie is always checked by an internalized code of norms and customs. These ideas were then transferred to studies of industrialized societies which, social scientists feared, were losing their normative order to destabilizing differentiation. How, Durkheim asked, can individuals be cemented to society while becoming increasingly autonomous? The answer was an invisible pattern of codes, morals, and ethics imprinted on all societies despite their level of complexity.
The attempt to explain why and how societies cohere, Abercrombie, Hill, and Turner argue, has been central to sociological theory from its beginnings in the 1830s. The notion that the ultimate base of social stability is a common culture rests on the belief that if a social system is to exist, it must be because of shared values and beliefs.
Related to this is the Marxist notion of hegemony or the "dominant ideology thesis" which conceives social compliance in capitalist societies as orchestrated through ideological control.15
The idea of culture as a grid of institutions marking
off one society from another came to signify not just a belief-system but the totality of social life. Culture as a way of life, Raymond Williams has shown, was one of two interrelated views appearing in the
latter eighteenth century in England. The other saw culture as art.16
In this instance, the term meant not simply the arts but also a disposition of a cultivated European, Matthew Arnold's sense of acquiring "the best that can be known" through disinterested reading and reflection.
For us, the inheritors of these intellectual permutations, culture represents the totality of social life and also the body of the arts (high culture, low culture, popular culture). T. S. Eliot, for instance, refers to both but places particular emphasis on culture as a "whole way of life."
The concept "culture" itself came into
general currency first in Germany and England at the end of the eighteenth century. It indicated a new understanding, first, of how social components adhere and, second, of the relationship among language,
the arts, religion, and the sciences and their place in society. All societies were now to be considered networks of interconnecting institutions. This idea had its basis in writers like David Hume for whom
social solidarities were founded on collective feelings.19
Such a view of social systems was further developed, J. S. Mill wrote, in intellectual discussions, particularly in England and Germany, concerning the growth of human society, which eventually produced a "philosophy of culture." Another product of these investigations was the finding that "every form of polity, every condition of society, whatever else it had done, had formed its type of national character."
This national character was, of course, national culture. Societies came to be regarded as unified wholes whose specific characteristics distinguished them from their neighbors. Theorists and proponents of nationalism in Europe appropriated these ideas into their ideologies and programs. A society for them possessed an internal homogeneity, expressed through its language, history and traditions, as well as the arts, both the cultivated and the popular. The notion of culture as shared system enabled them to claim that nationality is a product of consensus, basing their arguments on the assumption that, as Weber noted, "whatever is felt to be distinctively common must derive from common descent."
Culture, then, has figured prominently in
nationalist discourse because of its potential to paste pieces into wholes, enabling nation-builders both to see a society as a fabric of complex patterns and to fit a national identity upon a population.
Such a conceptualization is peculiarly modern in that only nation-states aspire to a national consciousness, a collective history, and a common destiny. If we think of nations as imaginary communities it is
because we understand culture as a medium symbolically shared. In pre-industrial, stratified societies political and ecclesiastical elites were more interested in separating themselves from the lower classes
than in diffusing their own identity to them.22
Hellenism, of course, as a system of language, thought, and mythology diffused throughout the eastern Mediterranean and Near East, was a "cultural" unity but had little political expression. In late antiquity, as G. W. Bowersock shows, Hellenism not only coexisted with local ethnic and religious cults but actually strengthened them. Rather than suppressing these traditions, it gave a new voice to them.
Significantly, according to Garth Fowden, "because the notions of empire and culture had not been closely linked by Alexander, the culture was able to evolve even as the empire dissolved...." The same is true of the Persian Empire; Cyrus I was the first ruler of antiquity to establish an empire in the political sense without, however, any "cultural" motives to Iranize its captured territories.
Even if rulers of the Roman and Hellenistic Empires had wanted to, they lacked the technical resources to persuade an entire population to swear allegiance to the idea of an imperial identity rather than to its faith, local region, or emperor. The conceptual synthesis of an imagined nation could become a reality only in capitalism, when the advent of print and new methods of communication as well as improvements in transportation enabled the swift transmission of ideas through an entire population.
National culture is modern in so far as it connects ethnicity to territory and installs this ethnicity as the source of state power. The authority of the nation-state primarily stems from its individual
culture, which is an ethnic identity that has been nationalized. National culture secures in this way a coexistence between state and society; nationalism itself being, as John Breuilly has noted, a program
to obtain and use state power.25
Through nationalism culture acquires a spatial scope (planting it in the native soil) and a political dimension (connecting it to the state). In short nationalism holds that political and cultural boundaries should be congruent and that there should exist cultural unity between rulers and the ruled.
Nationalism posits the universal value of
culture by validating the existence of the nation in the name of its very uniqueness, itself a product of culture. A nation is nothing other than a self-aware ethnic group, a society with positive views
about its identity,27
one which defines itself without recourse to supernatural justification. As Max Weber put it: "The significance of the "nation" is usually anchored in the superiority, or at least the irreplaceability, of the culture values that are to be preserved and developed only through the cultivation of the peculiarity of the group."
In other words, national cultures are ideals because they contain the indivisible distinctiveness of a people—the keeper and expression of this distinctiveness—whose loyalty to the nation-state is cultivated in the name of its originality. The group must survive to preserve culture which in turn must preserve the identity of the group in order to survive. Nationalism proclaims the self-sufficiency of culture through self-grounding sophistry, an argument all the more irresistible for being so forceful. The aestheticist implications of nationalism, often pointed out in the past, spin out from the circularity of its discourse.
What Comes First: The Nation or the State?29
Although nationalism is ultimately a cultural enterprise, not all states are created in the crucible of culture. Many, in fact, have emerged through the evolution of their political institutions.
Culture has often, though not always, provided the blueprint in projects of modernization, serving as the master design for achieving nationhood, and
also pointing out the fastest way to the promised land of modernity. In and of themselves these projects demonstrate the capacity of culture to modify social reality. When I say that culture played a special
role in the process of becoming modern and national—these aims often amounted to the same thing—I think of countries like Greece and Germany, the creation of which seemed a literary enterprise, integration
being experienced textually before being achieved politically. National unity was conceived first by elites in terms of language, history, folk tradition, literature, and common descent decades (and in
Germany's case, a century) before the establishment of a state. Both are instances of what Friedrich Meinecke called cultural nations, fashioned out of a collective cultural heritage, as opposed to political
nations, based on the force of common political history and constitutions.
sure, the impulse to make ethnicity the source of political legitimacy actually came after the spread of the idea of popular sovereignty, that is, the movement of a people from subjection to citizenship.
Liah Greenfeld has shown in her comparison of five national traditions that nationalism originally developed as a democratic movement; only later did the emphasis change from the sovereign character of a
people to its uniqueness.30 What characterized
the nation in this political version was not language or ethnicity but the "common interest against particular interest, the common good against privilege."31
This civic nationalism developed first in England and was later exported to the colonies. Although the modern nation-state, as a sovereign but also unique entity, welds politics and culture, civic and ethnic components, initially these were two separate processes: the creation of states and the nationalization of ethnicity. England and France, products of long political traditions, have continuous histories of state-formation; they existed as continuous polities for centuries and developed into their modern form from their monarchical precursors.
Many former European colonies, of course, were
economic or administrative zones before their inhabitants came to see themselves as sharing a common tradition. In South America, for instance, where the boundaries between states roughly correspond to those
set by the imperial powers, cultural nationalism played an insignificant role in the attainment of political sovereignty. Indeed, the independence of Brazil in 1822 was brought about by groups wanting to
enhance their economic interests; the emergence of a national consciousness had been precluded at the time by the Portuguese Crown's prohibition of printing and higher education until 1808. Even the process
of national consolidation from 1822 to 1852, spearheaded by merchants and intellectuals, was not necessarily seen by the majority of the population as serving their interests.33
Canada is also a country created through common economic interests rather
than by a common culture, its unification being a means to promote industrialization, catch up with Great Britain and the United States, and overcome perceived economic backwardness. D. G. Creighton in a
monumental text on Canadian history discusses commercial interests almost exclusively when investigating attempts at political and economic union between the two provinces.34
Indeed, a political and customs union was supposed to transcend ethnic differences between the French and English colonists. The confederation of Canada was made possible through trade, the railroad, and, as Suzanne Zeller shows, science which provided the colonists the practical means to dominate the harsh environment, the ideology to understand the formation of their state, and the metaphors to express this "nationalism."
Although cultural nationalism in Canada lagged behind other priorities, the situation changed towards the end of the nineteenth century, when the nation began to replace the state as object of people's loyalties.
Belatedness and Fragmentation 37
Groups then exist not in isolation but in a negotiation with others. Resentment of foreign occupation or the fear and envy of the accomplishments of neighbors can spur elites to uncover common memories, trace a shared descent, and impose a consensus upon the entire population. One of the fires igniting nationalist sentiment in the German territories and Scandinavia, for instance, was the defeats and humiliations during the Napoleonic wars, 1803-15.
prompts a people to nationalize its ethnicity, to underwrite it with political authority, to invest culture with state power? This is the nagging question in studies of nationalism. There may be as many
answers as there are nation-states, but one general factor is simply comparison with others, both friends and foes. Ethnic boundaries are drawn not just by the community around itself, for, as Fredrik Barth
has shown in his work on ethnicity in the United States, a group is defined by others as much as it defines itself.
Sweden had forfeited vast territories, including the Duchy of Finland, to Russia in 1809. As a result of the redrawing of Europe's map Denmark-Norway had been reduced considerably, Norway having been
ceded to Sweden in 1814. The disasters of wars and the perceived iniquitous peace settlements stimulated interest on the part of Scandinavian intellectuals in the history, folklore, and language of their
peoples. A vigorous nationalism, John Wuorinen writes, became a source of strength, with the elites employing culture as a weapon against assimilation.38
This is particularly true of Finnish intellectuals who considered union with Russia, to them a backward autocracy, a calamity leading to cultural absorption into their mightier neighbor. The principal safeguard against such a development was a strong culture founded on a language purged of foreign "impurities." In this sense, ethnic identity, now transformed into a national culture, served as a fortress in which nationalists sought to preserve the nation in the name of an irreplaceable ethnicity. If the aggressors could not be repulsed physically they could be stopped from destroying national culture, the Heimat of ethnic distinctiveness. Culture began to serve as both a space in which to cultivate a national identity and a weapon with which to safeguard it, inasmuch as the existence of peoples was linked from then on to their survival as Finns, Swedes, or Norwegians.
Although nationalism has one foot on the path towards modernization, the other is rooted firmly in the past, the primordial identities upon which the nation-state rests. Anthony Smith points to these raw
materials of nation-building: the collective name, language, religion, sentiments, symbols, myths, association to a territory, memories of former statehood, shared texts.39
These basic elements can be given new meanings as certain traditions are embellished, events recovered, practices remembered, while others are entirely forgotten. Nationalism, particularly in its current manifestations, cannot be understood without reference to these primordial loyalties, what Clifford Geertz calls the "givens of social existence: blood, speech, custom, faith, residence, history, physical appearance."
Although scholarship conceives of identity as conventional, a matter of invention, cultural nationalism often presents it as biological, a matter of blood. Relationships of blood, David Schneider shows in his study of kinship, unlike those of law, are seen as an "objective fact of nature," enabled by the "common possession of a genetic substance," which makes them involuntary and unalterable.
People often employ biological conceptions of identity by referring to their native land as "motherland" or "fatherland" which nurtures them.42
One's identity and often citizenship is thought to be determined by one's birth. Smith rightly stresses that when talking about the invention of nations, we have to take into account these ethnic antecedents which nationalism appropriates in the construction of a modern nation and also protects.
In many cases this cultural modernization takes priority over structural modernization. In the Scandinavian countries the machine, factory, and train, Wuorinen has shown, appeared after the poet,
historian, linguist, and folklorist, a situation true of many other countries, including Germany and Greece.43
Herder argued this very point, namely, that national character preceded the state, emanating from people rather than from politics. The principle of history is that "everywhere on our Earth whatever could be has been, according to the situation and wants of the place, the circumstances and occasions of the times, and the native or generated character of the people."
Culture in many European cases actually preceded the founding of states, nations having existed conceptually long before they were given political form. In other words it evolved as a relatively autonomous development rather than as a response to the need of the state for an ideological formation. Contrary to so much writing on nationalism, ethnicity was not nationalized to underwrite state authority. To be sure, cultural nationalism does not always aspire towards statehood as the contemporary example of Scotland demonstrates. Even in France, by all accounts the centralized state par excellence which served as a model for nation-building elsewhere in Europe, culture could hardly validate the state given, as Eugen Weber has exhaustively demonstrated, its relatively late nationalization towards the end of the nineteenth century. Weber's thesis is all the more astonishing when we consider that other peoples, especially the Germans, looked to France as an integrated nation-state with the aim of copying it, suffering in the comparison. Yet even by the 1860s a significant portion of the population spoke dialects other than French and as late as 1870 France was "neither morally nor materially integrated; what unity it had was less cultural than administrative."
The society whose history exemplifies the
cultural conception of nationality and affirmative use of culture to bring about social innovation is, of course, Germany, that is, the 314 states and free cities of the former Holy Roman Empire eventually
amalgamated into one state. That this unification was first experienced culturally before being realized politically is a commonplace among students of German history.46
Germany, observed Johann Fichte in 1808, "was split up into several States, and was held together as a common whole almost solely by the instrumentality of the man of letters, by speech and writing."47
Writing at the same time A. W. Schlegel echoed his sentiments: "In the mental dominion of thought and poetry, inaccessible to worldly power, the Germans, who are separated in so many ways from each other, still feel their unity."
The formation of German identity, a preoccupation of the Germans themselves for three centuries, has become paradigmatic because of Germany's central role in European history but also because of the theorizing that accompanied nationalism. Since German unity had become a passionate affair for the elites, particularly in the second half of the eighteenth century, much thought was devoted to ideas of nation and culture. Germany had to be conceptually fashioned because, as James Sheehan reminds us, in the eighteenth century there was "no terrain, no place, no region which we can call 'German'."
In other words, there was no there there. Or what existed was perceived as territorially, politically, and linguistically disconnected: numerous dialects and cultural traditions, a variety of landscapes, many barriers separating communities, and the absence of natural boundaries between Germans and non-Germans.
Traditionally scholars have interpreted the prominent role of culture in German society of the eighteenth century as a response to this felt fragmentation. The Romantic generation took the sense of a
disintegrating cosmos, Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe argue, as a starting-point for its theoretical speculations. For it, this rupture was a manifestation of functional differentiation—the division of
labor, the formation of classes, the accelerated specialization, and the growing social complexity.50
Culture, that poetic and utopian ideal, would allow Germans to overcome the fragmentariness of existence both metaphysically and nationally and feel a sense of oneness and belonging. Culture as a force promising coherence and order was, of course, seen and used this way. But did culture simply react to changes in society, as Laclau and Mouffe suggest? In other words, were the unifying powers of culture invoked in response to the Weberian disenchantment of the world—the routinization of life, the subjection of the world to instrumental reason, the domination of experience by material needs, the retreat of charisma and magic?
This is a standard explanation, as I mentioned earlier, of the rise of culture in modernity and the appearance of cultural nationalism in the German territories. Both accounts, in a sense, validate modernity's myth about itself, that it is incompatible with tradition and that modernization leads ineluctably to secularization.
If we abandon this linear paradigm, however, it would be possible to conceive the production of culture as a counter-tendency in a dialectical process rather than exclusively a response to external
conditions. The emptying of the world of magic, Edward Tiryakian contends, the Protestant critique of the sacraments of the Catholic church, and the rise of rational calculation went hand in hand with the
sacralization of mundane human spheres such as work, domesticity, and the conjugal unit.52
Disenchantment thus was accompanied by reenchantment, as the sacred, no longer relegated to the otherworldly realm, came to sanctify human experience. Surely (national) culture constitutes a major transformation of the holy, providing a system of symbols, icons, and rituals ordained with divine significance, all the time purporting to be profane. While modernizers in Europe struggled to wrest education from church control, appropriate the authority to define ethnic identity, and fabricate ultimately a secular society, religion was not really vanquished. Having become another institution, entrusted with fulfilling the spiritual needs of people, its metaphysical and redemptive functions were assumed by other domains, such as, for instance, national culture. What Weber wrote about art certainly holds true for culture in general, namely, that it took over the "function of a this-worldly salvation."
National culture enables people to not only experience a sense of sharedness but also be enraptured by magic and charisma (in all the positive and negative connotations of both words).
intellectuals felt that such a national culture was missing, particularly in comparison with the French. Hence an aim of the German literary revival of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries was
to fashion a true German literature free from the influence of French neoclassicism so entrenched in the courts.54
The guiding principles for the legitimation of the German Reich in 1871 were therefore to be found in the history of literature rather than of politics, where the Prussians, Saxons, and Würtenbergers hardly had a fund of common experiences.
Working on the foundations laid by Luther's translation of the Bible, writers, philosophers, and critics began to build a secular literary culture that culminated in the achievements of the period between the 1740s and 1770s, the writings of Goethe, Schiller, and their contemporaries, when, Sheehan explains, "some Germans sensed that they were witnessing the birth of a national literature. Readers and writers shared the belief that they belonged to a cultural community beyond the reaches of their states and cities."
The blueprints for the nation-state were conceived by private institutions (volunteer associations, reading societies, networks of writers and readers, libraries) situated in the unofficial spaces of society. But this culture, Sheehan cautions, was national only in aspiration since, as a function of the elites, it touched only a minority which itself lacked a political base.
The mystery in German history, and of nationalism in general, is when and how the masses became connected to this national culture, how peasants became Germans, to misquote Weber's formulation. Elites alone, as I noted in the beginning, cannot bring about unification; that complex process is promoted by state institutions like education and the army, as well as developments in communication, transportation, and commerce.
Comparison with others sharpens an awareness of self. As in Scandinavia, the humiliations and defeats suffered at the hands of Napoleon's armies vitalized German nationalism. Although the German
population may have been indifferent to or actually welcomed the French invaders, the physical burdens and financial hardships of occupation motivated many to undertake resistance, ultimately leading to the
revolutionary wars in 1813-14. In this respect the German nation was born in a war against the French. It was a defensive nationalism. While French nationalism, Hans Kohn has observed, found a political
entity it could transform, the German project for nationhood had to assert itself against a foreign ruler and construct a polity out of elements it found in language, common descent, history, and geography.
After the countless vicissitudes of German nation-building, the wars against Napoleon, the revolutions of 1848, the disappointments and defeats, the small options and great solutions, when the Reich was finally proclaimed by Bismarck in 1871, it all seemed rather late. "Were the Germans not simply catching up with what most European nations had long ago put behind them?"
The feeling of belatedness running through
German history is crucial to understanding the involvement of culture in national unification. Culture served as the theory and the plan to reach the level of "advanced" nation-states as well as the means to
preserve the core ethnic identity from the encroachment of these powers. In building a national culture people paradoxically attempt both to become modern and to defend themselves against modernity. The
characterization of Germany as belated may sound jarring, particularly since the epithet is applied now to developing countries, yet Germany is quintessentially a delayed nation, late in comparison to both
the industrialization of the Netherlands and England and the political evolution of France and England. The developments taking place at the end of the eighteenth century in England and France, Reinhard
Bendix remarks, "put every other country in a position of 'backwardness.' Ever since then the world has been divided into advanced and follower societies."60
Germany has felt itself a latecomer earlier and more intensely than other societies.
Instead of heralding hopeful beginnings, modernity, Helmuth Plessner has argued, represented for the Germans the epoch
of their decline, that is, the decomposition and impoverishment of the Holy Roman Empire as well as their political and cultural dependence on France. For Germans the regeneration of the nation in the
nineteenth century not only came very late but also lacked any sound foundation.61
The Germans had therefore to construct what the English, the Dutch, and particularly the French seemed already to have attained, an integrated nation-state. In order to do this they began searching for models to emulate, obsessively comparing themselves to their neighbors.
Needless to say, they fell short in these
comparisons. The Germans were "still sworn copyists," complained G. E. Lessing in 1767, "of all that is foreign, especially...the obedient admirers of the never sufficiently admired French."63
Like other societies since then which try to copy western prototypes, Germany experienced modernization as a process of catching up. Culture was mobilized in order to facilitate entry into modernity. The idea that Germany had been overtaken by France culturally and militarily and by Britain and Holland politically and economically placed a greater urgency on the necessity to fabricate, imagine, and self-consciously formulate what these states had already achieved. In other words, a sense of a communal identity was first conceived through interpretation, in narrative and in fiction. Culture in this way constituted a productive force rather than a compensatory means of acquiring absent ideals. Cultural nationalism tries to push a society from perceived backwardness to a more "advanced" stage of social development.
Belatedness itself became a problem with the
temporalization of reality when chiliastic expectation gradually gave way to the possibility of continuous development here on earth. Modernity, to be sure, emphasized time over space, giving priority to the
process of becoming rather than being.65
Its inner logic was progress, seen as industrialization, urbanization, rationalization, nationalism, and revolution.66
This idea of progress itself began to take shape in the sixteenth century during the great battle between the ancients and moderns over the authority of classical learning. An outcome of this struggle was the rejection of the notion that humankind was inevitably corrupt, fallen from a golden age of antiquity. The scientific and geographic discoveries of the age enabled the moderns to prove, according to J. B. Bury, that the posterior could be superior, that knowledge could increase indefinitely, that the perfection of society was possible here and now. The ideology of progressive development meant that certain societies could be better qualitatively as well as more advanced than others. In the linear conception of time those modernizing first had the advantage over the latecomers who scrambled to imitate them. Modernization, therefore, was experienced as a process of catching up, spurred on by the fear of being left behind in the marathon of unlimited social improvement. Culture, as a social phenomenon, also progressed towards perfection. In France, Bury explains, culture came to mean progress itself. Thus, while it was falling behind England in economic and technical advance, France could declare itself the most "civilized" country of the time. The French could claim this because they defined civilization as both technical advance and "the development of the individual life, of men's faculties, sentiments, and ideas."
By appropriating the prestige and authority of culture, they could argue they were further ahead than their neighbors.
The Greeks, in one of the earliest experiments in modernization outside western
Europe, recruited culture in their struggle for a more sanguine future. Living primarily under the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans and the Near East, the Greeks were the first people in the region to
experience the contradictions, problems, and challenges of modernity. This was so because many Greeks had attained positions of privilege within the Ottoman administration and, more important, a significant
number had spread out to Italy and central and western Europe in the eighteenth century, forming thereby the modern Hellenic diaspora, in a way the precursor of Greece. Having come into contact with western
modernity in the cities of Europe, these scholars and merchants began necessarily to make comparisons between the host societies and their own, amongst which the Greek society appeared the inferior. In
contrast to the West the Greeks saw themselves as lagging behind intellectually, economically, and politically, burdened with outdated philosophy and irrelevant education, and governed by an omnipotent
church and corrupt administration. Yet out of this comparison emerged the drive to modernize Greek society. Not by any means a unified enterprise driven by one objective, and indeed undermined by conflicts
and multiple goals, modernization generally entailed the fabrication of Greece according to western prototypes. At different times and for various groups this meant the appropriation of cultural production
from the church, the importation of western social, political, and economic institutions, and the establishment of a nation-state connected to the capitalist world economy.68
This grand scheme of reconstruction did not succeed as planned, any more than it does elsewhere, because their models of change and of cultural integration, based on the notions of consensus and patterned order, did not allow for local resistance. The introduction of European institutions and ideologies in a stratified, non-capitalist, and "eastern" society largely incapable of integrating them was a long and tortuous process and the results imperfect and incomplete. Because it had not culminated in the faithful reproduction of western models, this utopian project remained unfulfilled.
In this venture culture served as both the stadium in the fight for change and the instrument for achieving it, a realm for the contestation of values and a means of introducing national symbols in daily
practice. In other words, it constituted identity (language, customs, myths, symbols) as well as the mechanism for constituting that identity (interpretation, imagination, fiction, poetry, language).69
Instead of advocating the establishment of a centralized state, for instance, or industrialization as a way of catching up with western countries, the intellectual elites of the Greek Enlightenment (which took place roughly between the 1770s and 1820s) strove to seize education, refine language, and redefine identity. In this they came to be supported by the merchants of the diaspora and also the Greek rulers of the Danubian Principalities, two key centers of the Balkan Enlightenment.
The emphasis given to culture, as Paschalis Kitromilides shows, resulted from the devastating comparisons the elites made between Greek and European society. These comparisons exposed the belatedness of their society and aroused feelings of ressentiment.
Indeed, to be late is to be damned to imitation, as Madame de Staël wrote in 1800 with reference to German culture: "A literature that develops later than that of neighboring nations is at a real disadvantage; for the imitation of already existing literatures often takes the place of national genius."
Their distress at the corruption of the Empire and Patriarchate as well as at overall social primitiveness jerked them into undertaking a program of cultural critique and reconstruction.
One scholar who anxiously discovered Europe's cultural, social, and
political head-start was Iosipos Moisiodax (c.1725-1800), regarded now as a father of the Greek Enlightenment. Not ethnically Greek, but a Vlach from what is now northern Bulgaria, Moisiodax like other
contemporary figures assimilated into the Hellenism then diffused throughout the Balkans. A product of the science-based culture of the eighteenth century and the author of numerous treatises, Moisiodax's
most lasting contribution is in sharply defining the two horizons of influence which had emerged for the Greeks: modern Europe and classical Hellas. Greeks, he insisted, had to orient themselves towards, on
the one hand, their recently discovered heritage and, on the other, the newly emerged modernity.74
The sorry lot of the Greeks was due to their neglect of the ancients and disdain for the moderns, being as they were ignorant of the former and distrustful of the latter.
Moisiodax extolled the
benefits of modern science and philosophy: Only someone who had never traveled to Europe, he wrote, could ignore the practical benefits Europe enjoys thanks to Newtonian philosophy.75
European nations, even those considered barbarians by the ancient Greeks, had reached advanced stages of civilization, often surpassing the glories of the ancients.76
Greek society by contrast was in a wretched state: pedagogy remained in the hands of a scholasticism suspicious of modern developments, scholarship was undervalued by the ruling elites, schools lacked books.
Highlighting the Enlightenment maxim that ignorance was responsible for social ills, he exhorted his readers to support the cause of general education. The Greeks, he argued repeatedly, had no choice but "to imitate Europe." Since Europe "overflowed" with the lights of learning and Greeks were deprived of them, they had to gain from Europe, itself only too eager to repay them for the debt incurred to their classical ancestors.
Moisiodax diagnosed the problem of Greece as one of cultural backwardness and proposed the modernization of pedagogy as a way of catching up. Central to this renewal was language.
That language became the
hub of debates in the Enlightenment is not surprising given its centrality in education and narratives, both so vital to the fabrication of cultural identities. Scholars had to prove that modern Greek could
become a suitable instrument for teaching, literature, and later, the state. As in the battles inaugurating modernity in western Europe, they had to undermine the authority of both the liturgical and
classical idioms. Because in the Greek case they were in fact registers of the same language, discussions of either necessarily stirred up the issue of tradition. The long uninterrupted history of Greek
meant that the language problem raised questions about the past, the connection between linguistic and ethnic survival, and the relationship between the ignominious present and a glorious heritage. The
Greeks thus faced a choice of registers as the appropriate medium of modern culture (and later the state); an archaizing language based on Attic Greek, the vernacular or demotic, and katharevusa, a hybrid of
The overwhelming emphasis on language highlighted the premise that the reconstruction of culture necessitated the cultivation of language.
The ideas of Moisiodax are representative of an entire movement,
neither unified nor pursuing one goal, which set out to reorder Greek society. This massive enterprise embraced amongst other things the mapping out of a new geography, the "purification" of language, the
compilation of folk poems and narratives, the composition of new poetry, the establishment of schools, the pursuit of national autonomy, and so on. Even though Greek scholars may have squabbled over the
appropriate path, between a reorganization of an older, classical community through mimesis and the construction of an entirely modern one based on European models, the emphasis in their work fell on the
imagined, conceptual, the fictive. Through culture they promoted an ideology of regenerating the ethnos after a decline of four hundred years and called for political action to end Ottoman rule.80
At the same time, however, the reconstruction of
culture was a supreme act of self-defense against the globalizing trends inaugurated by the modern age.81
Nationalism was the only way to shield primordial identities from foreign penetration. To be sure, the very fact that Greece chose to nationalize itself shows the relentless expansion of modernity. Not only more advanced, Europe proclaimed its system of values catholic, the new ruler against which belated others measured themselves. Through cultural integration, belated societies aspire to become modern and cosmopolitan while remaining traditional and provincial. National culture serves as both the source and objective of authority, a self-invention and a generator of other inventions.
Culture as Flood of Damnation and Ark of Salvation82
The late twentieth century is marked by a new phase in capitalism, the globalized economy, what Scott Lash and John Urry refer to as "disorganized capitalism"83
and David Harvey as "flexible capitalism." This new phase entails the decentering of finance and production as no one country or group of countries can be said to constitute a center. Furthermore, capital now has a tendency to become spatially indifferent by reducing its dependency upon particular raw materials, markets, sources of energy, areas of the city, and supplies of skilled labor.
In search of best advantage, multinational corporations establish subsidiaries in the Third World for labor- intensive work and engage in much subcontracting. Every new airliner built today, for instance, is a product of international cooperation.
The national loyalty of these corporations is an open question. A major consequence of the globalized economy is a marked reduction in the authority of nation-states to regulate their economies, as the run—brought about by speculation—on many European currencies in 1993 indicated.
The tensions between backwardness and progress, particularity and universality, which define our understanding of culture have intensified with
the close of the twentieth century. Our world is both contracting into a village and extending into boundless space. We all are interconnected as never before, as members of diasporas, professions, in what
we wear, eat, see, and hear, without necessarily sharing the same territory.
As markets expand so do the means of communication (satellite, fax, e-mail, television, radio, cassettes, films, video) bringing societies into closer contact with each other and disseminating popular
culture throughout the globe. This globalization is felt as a great threat by many societies. If nationalism posited the welfare of ethnicity in cultural terms, then the currents of globalization threaten to
capsize nations in an immensity of sameness—Reebok shoes, Coca-Cola, CNN, British Airways, ethno pop, pizza, Dallas, Michael Jackson, blue-jeans, McDonalds. Will the augmented flows of people, goods, and
information streaming around the world overwhelm individual nations? Will they be swallowed up in a commercially diffused homogeneity? Will globalization, by spilling over and eroding national boundaries,
deterritorialize culture and terminate its autonomy, the aim of its (self-)invention and justification? If so, are we at the end of national culture?
While theorists of globalization emphasize the
reciprocal flow of ideas and goods, these channels seem to move in one direction as poor states lack the technological means and capital to transmit information or manufacture goods in equivalent measure.
Global culture, thriving on consumption, is still the prerogative of the affluent. Furthermore, large systems simply do not need to import or learn as much from small ones in order to survive and can easily
assimilate the refugees, the immigrants (and their lifestyles) arriving at their borders.86
The center-periphery model may no longer be applicable in a shifting and overlapping world but not all cultures are equal in this exchange. While the forces unifying markets into a global agora will not be reproduced culturally, creating a true global society, the threat to national culture persists and not as a worry only of the poor. European elites, for instance, have always distrusted the encroachment of American mass culture as discussions in France about Euro-Disney have shown. Many nations fear being sucked down by a global charybdis, wrecked, and cast out unto the junkyard of history so littered with forgotten societies. Who is clever enough to outsmart this monster?
These anxieties about the survival of national culture, felt so intensely today, are as old as nationalism itself, though the situation now differs from the past insofar as the current perils to cultures
flow from not one but multiple sources. These worries rise from the conflictual relationship between the specific and the general which has so defined modernity. On the one hand, we have the international
society of states bound together by ties of communication, commerce, and diplomacy, the world-system of capitalism which began to emerge, as Wallerstein has shown, in the middle of the sixteenth century. On
the other, states decompose into ever smaller ethnic units all claiming autonomy. Roland Robertson has argued repeatedly that the concepts of universalism and particularity are neither new nor diametrically
opposed but bound by a cord stretched in both directions.87
This is why we are witnessing the creation of federal political systems and free trade zones but also a renewed emphasis on ethnicity and a bloody "tribalism": the Maastricht treaty for European integration and the North American Free Trade Agreement, on the one hand, and ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia and bloodletting in the Caucasus, on the other. The transnational conversations conducted by e-mail and fax are disrupted by the trumpets' blare of enmity.
The spectacular explosion of cultural nationalism today represents an intense concentration on a collective self facing an inscrutable globality, the attempt of ethnicity to find islands of security in a
heartless immensity. Ethnicity was nationalized, I argued earlier, in part to protect autochthonous identities from modernization. If culture in modernity became associated with the survival of groups, with
acquiring autonomy, gaining acceptance, and winning prestige, this has not changed today but has been accentuated in our more interdependent world. We are witnessing today not Samuel P. Huntington's88
interstellar clash of civilizations but an intensification of cultural conflict. "These are veritable culture wars," Anthony Smith contends; "communities in their struggle for political rights and recognition have drawn upon their cultural resources—music, literature, the arts and crafts, dress, food and so on—to make their mark...regionally and internationally...."
The conflict between Greece and Macedonia over a name shows the continuous importance of culture. But, rather than the disappearance of cultural identities, we are seeing the end of national culture. The aim of these myriad nationalisms is to dismember large nation-states and destroy the idea that one culture can contain diverse communities within national borders.
began to recognize that, far from drowning in the confluence of assimilation and acculturation, ethnic identities survived through several generations even in the gaping sameness of suburbs. Though the boundaries of ethnic identity were eroded with each succeeding generation, a sense of ethnic distinctiveness persisted.
In contemporary, postmodern North America we see similar phenomena: the critique of national culture but also the accentuation of ethnic identities. To be sure, white
immigrants to the United States, defying the expectations of assimilationists who at the beginning of this century foresaw the demise of ethnicity, have tenaciously held on to their heritages. Around the
Though ethnicity has endured through many
generations after the first phase of immigration, its form has been radically altered. Ethnic identity has become self-conscious at a time when its role as a structuring principle is weakening. It is
important, therefore, not to be seduced by rhetoric about an ever increasing ethnic diversity in the United States. To be sure, the fashionable celebration of difference and the opportunistic marketing of
heterogeneity indicate the waning practical significance of ethnicity, at least that of white Europeans. No longer incorporated in everyday behavior, determining place of habitation, marriage, or kinship
ties, as it once did among immigrants and their children, it is becoming, as Herbert Gans finds, increasingly symbolic, "a voluntary role that people assume alongside other roles." White Americans of
European descent have some choice about "when and how to play ethnic roles."92
The seemingly irreversible decline of objective markers differentiating ethnic groups in education, occupation, family, and place of residence (as
they still distinguish races), has been counterbalanced by an increase in ethnic phenomena: festivals, cuisine, interest in ethnic origins, ethnic programs at universities, in other words, multiculturalism.
With the disappearance of the institutional sites for the experience of ethnicity, identity is becoming increasingly personal and symbolic, allowing people to take an interest in their roots without
committing themselves to ethnic social ties and behaviors.93
Being Greek, Jewish, or Irish today entails more an expression of an eclectically created uniqueness than necessarily belonging to a set of ethnic institutions. The challenge for individuals is how to maintain a sense of distinctiveness in a society sacralizing continuous differentiation as normal. Ethnicity in multiculturalism becomes a social play enacted at certain stages of our day or life, a matter of food, dance, and pride.
In this respect we resemble the Poseidonians in Cavafy's eponymous poem, written in 1906 and posthumously published. Poseidonia, part of Magna Graecia, was a colony near Naples, founded by Greeks in 600
B.C. and captured by the Romans in 273 B.C. After centuries of ethnic mingling with "Tyrrhenians, Latins and other foreigners" they had forgotten their Hellenic heritage, the only connection to their
ancestors being an annual festival:
It was their habit at the end of their festival to recount their old customs and again to utter their Greek names which only few of them understood.
renowned culture had been reduced by then to a celebratory event, an optative invocation of difference from others, a drama performed in a strange dialogue—hence, the festival's elegiac end. Such is Cavafy's
interpretation of the fate of immigrants.
The self-conscious creation of identities is decidedly modern, as my discussion of cultural autonomy has shown. Emphasis on self-invention departs from past
practices, when identity was more prescriptive and "primary attachment was stipulated by one's clan, religion, or race."94
In postmodernism, however, ethnicity has become an extension of the new regime of the self, a task of synthesizing suitable elements from a variety of traditions according to one's own rules and ethics.
The new "enterprising and consuming self" maximizes the value of life by "assembling a lifestyle, or lifestyles, through personal acts of choice in the marketplace."96
The formation of identity is transformed into a reflexive project by which people make artworks of themselves.
Individuals invent their past by selectively using knowledge about their heritage, which,
over generations, entails rummaging through many ethnic attics. But the high rate of intermarriage, social mobility, flight from ethnic neighborhoods, the process of acculturation after four or five
generations, has led to uncertainty about ethnic background. This smudging of ethnic boundaries has given people considerable freedom in manipulating suitable cultural symbols for a personal pastiche. This
is why individuals of postmodern suburbia have so many options in forming their identity even though they see it as authentic and not a matter of choice. In fact, as Mary Waters discovered, their
self-definition may change not only in the course their lives but during the day. She cites the case of a woman with a Greek-Polish mother and a Welsh father who identified herself as Greek to family and
friends, Polish at work, and Welsh in the 1980 Census.97
There is a paradox in this example of decentered subjectivity. Although it indicates the free-invention of identities in postmodernism, it also shows that ethnicity is also understood as genetically determined. This woman could lay claim to three different cultures, without sufficiently knowing them, because she feels that she has inherited her identities as a birth right. But her whiteness allows her to escape biology, so to speak, and change ethnicity at will.
This freedom is unavailable to people of color since their race largely determines who they are, where they live, and whom they marry. As Bonnie Urciuoli insists, there exist two separate discursive
strategies in the creation of ethnic identity: on the one hand, a race discourse which posits origins as biological and difference as dangerous and disorderly, and on the other, an ethnic discourse which
casts origins as cultural and difference as safe and desirable. The production of ethnicity as a valued category does not give all groups the same space to perform and market their cultural difference as an
authentic, slightly exotic experience, imbued with tradition. The groups most poorly situated to exploit "ethnicizing" discourses, which in the United States has been an avenue of class mobility, are those
"colonized directly into the United States: Native Americans, African Americans, as well as Puerto Ricans." This is why, Urciuoli argues, there is no equivalent of a Puerto Rican or black "town," a
picturesque neighborhood of restaurants, shops, cafes, marketing "bona fide" ethnicity to insiders and outsiders alike.98
White immigrants by contrast have successfully repackaged and marketed their identities. Pleasurable to insiders and outsiders,
ethnicity has abandoned immigrant enclaves, to be sold and consumed as a commodity (food, dances, clothing, quaint neighborhoods, atmosphere, family values), laced with bittersweet nostalgia. This
commodification of ethnicity is a manifestation of the fragmentation and diffusion of culture throughout society. In contemporary post-Fordist capitalism, with its turn towards services, information, and
communication, the exchange-value of commodities, as Jean Baudrillard has shown, has been changed to sign-value.99
In other words, a shift has taken place in both production and consumption away from goods to signs which flow relentlessly through society. Consumer culture spreads into every niche of life by means of advertising, television, radio, billboards, fashion, and so on. This explosion and scattering of goods as signs means that for all intents and purposes culture has lost its self-sufficiency.
The consequence of this expansion, Fredric Jameson observes, is that everything in our life "from economic value and state power to practices and the very structure of the psyche itself can be said to
have become 'cultural' in some original and as yet untheorized sense."100
What is taking place is nothing short of the aestheticization of life, a phenomenon foreseen by Georg Simmel nearly a century ago, which fosters a degree of leveling and homogenization through its emphasis on the fragmentary and the fleeting as it turns the unique into the typical, the accidental into the normal, the superficial into the essential. "Our world view turns into aesthetic pantheism. Every point contains within itself the potential of being reduced to absolute aesthetic importance."
Rather than representing the reintegration of art into life, the goal of the historical avant-garde, this transformation shows rather the overwhelming importance assumed by culture in postmodernism. Given the critique of autonomous art that has already been undertaken by postmodernism, the colonization of society by culture means that culture is no longer merely a specialized realm of experience but rather a way of life.
Since any object or experience can now be cultural and any article of everyday life a work of art, culture truly is everywhere.
That culture has established itself as an organizing paradigm in our society
is shown by the astronomic rise in the number of specialists engaged in the production, dissemination, and interpretation of cultural goods. To be sure, as Lash and Urry show, postmodernist developments in
culture are related to the rise of the new service class (elsewhere referred to as the "knowledge class" and "new petite bourgeoisie").
These symbolic analysts, situated in universities, advertising, the mass media, Mike Featherstone argues, belong to this new class and have been involved in the critique of high culture, in the proliferation of "consumer cultural imagery," and in the spread of their lifestyles.
The values of this lifestyle are primarily aesthetic and can be characterized as follows: there is no one true self but a compilation of identities and life should be aesthetically enriched through new experiences, values, discourses, styles, and preferences.
The aestheticization of social life, of which
the commodification of white ethnicity forms one development, indicates the accentuation of cultural values in contemporary postindustrial, postmodern, multicultural society.
has a radical potential, albeit not based on the grand liberation narratives of modernity. Various groups are using the categories of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation to fight for greater
participatory democracy and the improvement of life. The privatization of ethnic identity, therefore, is accompanied by its politicization. Increasingly today Native Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans,
as African Americans have been doing since the 1960s, are uniting under the aegis of identity, utilizing culture as a collective political strategy.106
Related to other macro-nationalisms such as pan-Islam, pan-Africanism,
and pan-Balkanism, pan-ethnicity in the United States is a reaction to past injustices and current discrimination and a product of the growing importance of government in the distribution of resources. "The
spread of political decision-making," Daniel Bell argues, "forces the organization of persons into communal and interest groups, defensively to protect their places and privileges, or advantageously to gain
place and privilege." Ethnic communities therefore turn into quasi-political associations but with a difference: they manipulate culture in pursuit of social justice. Ethnicity has become so salient today
because it combines interest with an affective tie.107
The aboriginal peoples of North America have also sought a resolution of their grievances by conflating their tribal differences into a common politico-ethnic identity as Indians.108
By the 1940s and 1950s a pan-Indian identity culture had appeared, distinguished by symbols and activities often derived from plains cultures, which was considered by Indians and non-Indians as expressive of Indianness.
Although external factors motivated the fabrication of this identity, the meanings and practices of a collective culture differentiate Native Americans from others. Without them they would be just another interest group. Thus an interplay between culture and politics determines this macro-identity. What distinguishes Latinos from the rest of the American population, for instance, is the Spanish language and Latin heritage, but what has motivated this pan-ethnic class is the American urban experience, racism, and government policies of welfare and affirmative action. Without material interests, cultural sentiments would not yield a self-conscious Latino identity; but cultural differences are the building blocks for the new community.
Although necessitated by external factors, ethnicity can become an internal resource and take on a momentum of its own. The pan-ethnic group can invent a culture through its institutions (ethnic programs at universities, media, lobby groups) which becomes increasingly essential in maintaining solidarity. This is particularly true of Asian-American ethnicity, a complex blend of linguistically, culturally, and geographically diverse groups.
Asian Americans are in the process of creating a shared Asian-American tradition out of multiple histories.112
These pan-ethnicities manifest the radical potential of multiculturalism in that they undermine the idea of a common culture.113
Disenfranchised for particular reasons, they had never been integrated into American society. Their claims to difference are meant to show that national culture, despite its pretensions, was never a seamless cloth but a patchwork now fraying. While we cannot predict rates of interracial marriage or trends in assimilation, these groups may demand some version of autonomy. The establishment of Afrocentric schools in several cities surely indicates the attempt of certain African American communities to gain greater control of education. This may become a pattern in the future as ethnic or racial groups seek greater authority over civil society, that is, jurisdiction over education, civil justice system, family matters, and all affairs relating to culture, particularly language (an arrangement resembling the Ottoman millet, for instance).
Milton Esman, who regards this form of "group incorporation with minority privileges" as the opposite of individual assimilation, argues that such institutional pluralism may be an option for diasporas
and minority groups.114
This would be a radically different system of federal government from any now in existence. The challenge in such a federalism, however, would be to develop a relationship between ethnicity and power, culture and the state that would reproduce the national model. The dangers of the project to make national sovereignty conform to ethnic borders are well known today. Indeed the contemporary affirmation of regional and local cultures is an attempt to escape from the procrustean nation-state.
Yet, the celebration of diversity, held captive by culture, has paid little attention to government. "Identity politics" has much say about identity but little about politics. The declaration of
difference alone becomes a political strategy. Culture is transformed into politics through rage. It would be a tragedy if, after their dissolution, large nation-states were replaced by small-scale unities,
equally homogenizing, still gaining their legitimacy from the cultural identity of the majority, largely hostile to those ethnically or racially incompatible. Culture can provide a group with the capacity to
constitute itself as a distinct people and thereby support its survival in modernity. Yet, it can also bond with the state in a xenophobic, defensive, and, sometimes, murderous union. It is imperative,
therefore, that membership in a polity be determined by citizenship rather than by ethnicity or race. The affirmation of identity, so necessary for the excluded and silenced, must be accompanied by a
discourse on governance.115
If culture is being
used by groups to assert their identity, what can be the place of literature now? In one respect its future seems grim. In their analysis of the situation of literature in American society today, Nicholas
Zill and Marianne Winglee write that there are few readers for whom literature is at all meaningful outside of reading lists. They estimate that anywhere between seven and twelve percent of the adult
population reads some form of literature which includes genre writing. The audience for what would be considered "serious" fiction is "minuscule." The authors acknowledge that figures are hard to come by.
But statistics from publishers, who argue that works of "serious" fiction have a print-run of 5,000, are sobering. Classic and contemporary works of literature constitute one percent of bookstore sales.
Popular fiction, on the other hand, sold in 1985 322 million copies.116
Literature simply no longer plays the same role in the construction of grand national or class identities. Yet if literature is not important for
large nations it certainly is for Queer Nation. In the context of identity politics literature represents concrete realities, becoming useful again as a marker of collective consciousness and difference.
This is particularly true within the academy. Focus in literary study has been moving increasingly away from form and aesthetic evaluation to content, author, and experience. To be sure, claims for the
incorporation into the canon of hitherto excluded texts or the creation of separate canons are made on the basis of representation. (The most unexpected result of the turn towards content is the rise of
autobiographical criticism—part of the greater obsession with memoirs in the 90s.) American Deconstruction was perhaps the last school to appreciate literature's mystical association with the ineffable.
There are fewer and fewer analyses of individual texts and more comparative, interdisciplinary studies, relating literature to other cultural and social phenomena.
If culture became autonomous with
modernity, if literature itself was removed from social life and economic production, then in postindustrial, postmodern society it is returning to the social realm. As culture expands throughout society,
every experience, product, and practice, even politics itself, is becoming cultural. This must mean the end of culture. For social phenomena do not die abruptly, they are commodified, simulated, and
scattered to the winds.
(1) I am grateful to the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation for a fellowship which has enabled me to undertake the
research to write this essay. Portions of this paper have been presented to audiences at the Ohio State University, the University of
Oregon, and Stanford University. I thank friends and colleagues at all three institutions for their comradely comments and advice.
(2) A. L. Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn, Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions (New York: Vintage Books, 1952).
(3) Louis Althusser, Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays, trans. Ben Brewster (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1971) 151.
(4) See Robert Wuthnow, "Cultural Change and Sociological Theory," Social Change and Modernity, ed. Hans Haferkamp and Neil J.
Smelser (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992).
(5) See Immanuel Wallerstein, "Culture as the Ideological Battleground of the Modern World-System," Global Culture, Nationalism,
Globalization and Modernity, ed. Mike Featherstone (London: Sage, 1990). Also in the same volume see Roy Boyne, "Culture and the
World-System"; Wallerstein, "Reply to Boyne"; and Albert Bergessen, "Turning 'World-system Theory' on its Head."
(6) Peter Worsley, "Models of the Modern World-System," in Global Culture 92.
(7) Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1983) 94, 38.
(8) Eric J. Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1870: Programme, Myth, and Reality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1990) 84-85. See also Eric Hobsbawm, "Introduction: Inventing Traditions," The Invention of Tradition, ed. Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983).
(9) Raymond Williams, Culture and Society, 1780-1950 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1958) xvii. In the tradition of liberal
humanism, two of culture's primary functions are critical and compensatory, to denounce the evils of modernity (i.e., alienation,
destruction of nature) and to unlock havens of redemption where these evils can be suspended through the imagination. See Jochen
Schulte-Sasse, "The Concept of Literary Criticism in German Romanticism, 1795-1810," A History of German Criticism 1730-1980, ed.
Peter Uwe Hohendahl (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988). Regarded, in the words of Matthew Arnold, as the "most resolute
enemy of anarchy," culture has been invoked as a stabilizing and ameliorative force in times of perceived decay or anomie. Matthew
Arnold, Culture and Anarchy (1869; reprint, New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1971) 170.
(10) See, for instance, Margaret Archer, Culture and Agency: The Place of Culture in Social Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1988); Mike Featherstone, ed.,Global Culture; Mike Featherstone, Consumer Culture and Postmodernism (London: Sage, 1991);
Ralph Schroeder, Max Weber and the Sociology of Culture (London: Sage, 1992); and writings in the journal Theory, Culture and Society.
(11) While I use the conventional image of a sphere to convey the sense of autonomy, in subsequent pages I see culture as a
blue-print, grid, trigger, bulwark, raft, flood, and exploding fragments. This self-sufficiency collapses in postmodernism. Whether
postmodernity represents a continuation of modernity, a stage of production centered on communication and information, or its
exhaustion and crisis in its values, the shattering of autonomy is a momentous development. I return to this in the latter half of the paper.
(12) Archer 2-4. The discovery of an underlying code in all cultures, especially after Clifford Geertz translated them into texts, gave
way to a goldrush of scholars seeking to unearth their hidden meanings.
(13) Christopher Herbert, Culture and Anatomie: Ethnographic Imagination in the Nineteenth Century (Chicago: Chicago University
Press, 1991) 44, 60. One of their aims was to destroy the notion of crazed primitives. In rehabilitating the savages, Herbert shows in his
Foucauldian analysis, ethnography paradoxically imposed on them a "new unrelenting discipline which it claimed to overthrow" (58).
(14) Emile Durkheim, The Division of Labor in Society, trans. W. D. Halls (1893; reprint, New York: The Free Press, 1984) xxx.
Durkheim's conception of social cohesion was much more complex. As Nicholas Abercrombie, Stephen Hill, and Bryan S. Turner
argue, Durkheim actually attempted to locate social stability in modern societies at three levels: the system of economic ties stemming
from social differentiation, the network of intermediary occupational associations connecting individuals to the state, and the system of
moral restraints created by political bodies. He developed a theory of "social regulation in which the notions of moral restraint, social
coercion, and economic force played a key part." (See The Dominant Ideology Thesis [London: George Allen, 1980] 44-45). In
Professional Ethics and Civic Morals (London: Routledge, 1957), Durkheim argued that the division of labor produced occupational
groups and professional organizations which prevent the state from tyrannizing over individuals (63, 103, 206).
(15) The three authors subject the "dominant ideological thesis" to a rigorous critique. In place of this theory of social control, they
provide a model of economic and social interrelationships. Late capitalism, they contend, is characterized by an extensive "social and
technical division of labor which heightens the interdependence between workers and their dependence on existing social
arrangements" (The Dominant Ideology Thesis 167). Their arguments are bold and persuasive but, in their investigation of how
economic and political forces shape our lives, they discount culture completely. Along with the notions of shared culture and ideology,
they toss out culture itself. What function would national identity play in their model? Does patriotism play no role in societies? Are the differences between the Germans and French strictly economic?
(16) Williams, Culture and Society, 1780-1950 43.
(17) Arnold, Culture and Anarchy 170.
(18) T. S. Eliot, Notes Towards the Definition of Culture (London: Faber, 1948) 31. The equation of culture with the arts is, of course,
related to the amalgamation of these human activities into a self-enclosed system, the autonomous institution of art.
(19) "When a number of men are united into one political body, the occasions of their intercourse must be so frequent, for defense,
commerce, and government that, together with the same speech or language they must acquire a resemblance in their manners, and
have a common or national character, as well as a personal one, peculiar to each individual." David Hume, Essays: Moral, Political
and Literary, vol. I, ed. T. H. Green and T. H. Grose (1742; reprint, London: Longman Green, 1898).
(20) J. S. Mill, Mill on Bentham and Coleridge (1838; reprint, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980) 130, 132. These
intellectual permutations represent the culmination of research, starting in the Renaissance, into the histories of language, the
sciences, and the arts. Peter Burke traces the roots of the idea that culture is a totality or, at least, that the connection between the arts
and sciences is important, to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. When the term Kultur, he notes, appeared finally in Germany in the
1780s, it demonstrated simply a sharper awareness of the relationship between creative affairs and human customs. "Reflections on the
Origin of Cultural History," Interpretation and Cultural History, ed. Joan H. Pittock and Andrew Wear (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991)
17. On the relationship of the literary to these developments see Timothy Reiss, The Meaning of Literature (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992).
(21) Max Weber, Economy and Society, vol. 1, ed. Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich (1922; reprint, New York: Bedminster Press, 1968)
395. Descent of course means tracing one's lineage to one's parents, to those born from the same womb, to those sharing one's blood. I discuss the relationship between culture and biology again below.
(22) Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism 16; Anthony Smith, The Ethnic Origin of Nations (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986) 69.
(23) G.W. Bowersock, Hellenism in Late Antiquity (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1990) 6-9.
(24) Garth Fowden, Empire to Commonwealth: Consequences of Monotheism in Late Antiquity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993) 22, 7.
(25) John Breuilly, Nationalism and the State (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982) 1. The cultural nature of nationalism
explains to a certain extent its global appeal, constituting perhaps the most successful western export. Indeed, few individuals in the
world have not been affected by it. As a cultural (discursive) construct, nationalist discourse is open to all types of interpretations:
religious, socialist, communist, capitalist. Belonging to a nation is considered a natural right; indeed, existence without one is seen as inconceivable and horrifying.
(26) Gellner, Nations and Nationalism 125.
(27) Walker Connor, "A nation is a nation, is a state, is an ethnic group is a...." Ethnic and Racial Studies 1.4 (1978): 377-400, 388.
While before nationalism societies established boundaries between themselves and others, they did not translate this peculiarity into a source of state power.
(28) Weber, Economy and Society 925.
(29) Friedrich Meinecke, Cosmopolitanism and the National State, trans. Robert B. Kimber (Princeton, Princeton University Press,
1970) 10. Meinecke's distinction between cultural and political nations is not absolute, however, as the two categories overlap. The
issue is not which came first, the nation or the state, but of divergent paths to nationhood. These differences yield, amongst other
things, contrasting conceptions of citizenship. France (and to a certain extent Great Britain), Rogers Brubaker explains, defines
nationhood as a territorial and political community, its policies for citizenship being relatively inclusive and assimilationist. In
Germany, on the other hand, nationhood is understood in ethnocultural terms and membership in the polity is determined by descent.
German citizenship, therefore, is expansive to ethnic Germans living abroad but restrictive to non-Germans (Citizenship and
Nationhood in France and Germany [Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992]). In the ascription of citizenship by
nation-states we see the implications of the overlap between biology and culture. Being a Greek or German citizen means being able
to trace one's descent to Greek or German parents; citizenship is associated metaphorically with blood. This is why it is difficult to
acquire citizenship in states defining themselves as ethnocultural entities. By contrast, one can acquire citizenship in states (Canada,
the United States) defining themselves in civic, i.e., political terms, after fulfilling certain requirements. Becoming a Canadian citizen
does not necessarily entail becoming Canadian in a metaphysical sense.
(30) Liah Greenfeld, Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992) 10.
(31) Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1870 19.
(32) Though neither established political sovereignty through culture, inevitably, as Eugen Weber shows in the case of France, "the
peasants had to be integrated into the national society, economy, and culture." Eventually the integrative powers of culture are
invoked to unite the populations of a territory. See Peasants into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1976) 5.
(33) Roderick Barman, Brazil: The Forging of a Nation, 1798-1852 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988) 5.
(34) D. G. Creighton, The Commercial Empire of the St. Lawrence,1760-1850 (Toronto: The Ryerson Press, 1937).
(35) Suzanne Zeller, Inventing Canada: Early Victorian Science and the Idea of a Transcontinental Nation (Toronto: University of
Toronto Press, 1987).
(36) At this time the state began enthusiastically to intervene in cultural affairs and buttress a national identity perceived to be
collapsing. Examples of this are the founding of the National Museum (1842), the National Gallery (1880), and later the Canadian
Broadcasting Corporation (1936). One of the most telling instances of this involvement was the launching of the Royal Commission on
the "National Development in the Arts, Letters, and Sciences" in 1949, charged with examining the institutions which express "national
feeling" and promote "common understanding." These policies had an adverse reaction in Quebec, which felt the federal government
threatened its cultural autonomy. See Richard Handler, Nationalism and the Politics of Culture in Quebec (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988).
(37) Fredrik Barth, ed., Ethnic Groups and Boundaries: The Social Organization of Cultural Difference (London: Allen and Unwin,
(38) "Scandinavia and the Rise of Modern National Consciousness," Nationalism and Internationalism, ed. Edward Mead Earle (New York: Columbia University Press, 1950) 468.
(39) Anthony Smith, The Ethnic Origins of Nations (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986) 21.
(40) Clifford Geertz, "'Ethnic Conflict:' Three Alternative Terms," Common Knowledge 2.3 (1993): 58.
(41) David Schneider, American Kinship: A Cultural Account, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980) 24.
(42) Loring M. Danforth, in The Macedonian Conflict: Ethnic Nationalism in a Transitional World (Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 1995), shows that, depending on their point of view, immigrants in Australia from northern Greece classify their identity as a relationship of either blood (inherited) or law (acquired).
(43) Nationalism, in other words, took root in societies overwhelmingly rural. This does not mean, however, that underdevelopment is a
prerequisite for nationalism. The Basque region, one of the most nationalist in Spain, is also the most developed area of the country.
Furthermore, democracy itself does not coincide with nationhood, another demonstration of the multiple interpretability of nationalism. Universal suffrage in Finland, for instance, was proclaimed in 1906.
(44) Johann Gottfried von Herder, Reflections on the Philosophy of History of Mankind, trans. Frank E. Manuel (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968) 159.
(45) Weber, Peasants into Frenchmen 485.
(46) German nationalism was primarily cultural until the beginning of the nineteenth century when it acquired a political dimension.
By mid-century, economics became the principal consideration of nationalists. While cultural nationalism receded in importance, it
never really disappeared. Harold James, A German Identity (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1989) 216.
(47) Johann Fichte, Addresses to the German Nation, trans. R. F. Jones and G. H. Turnbull (Chicago: Open Court Publishing, 1922)
(48) August Wilhelm Schlegel, A Course of Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature, trans. John Black (London: Henry G. Bohm, 1846) 5-6.
(49) James Sheehan, "What is German History: Reflections on the Role of the Nation in German History and Historiography," Journal of
Modern History 53.1 (1981): 5.
(50) Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Social Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics, trans. Winston
Moore and Paul Cammack (London: Verso, 1985) 93-94.
(51) Rationalization for Weber signifies that "principally there are no mysterious incalculable forces that come into play, but rather that
one can, in principle, master all things by calculation. This means that the world is disenchanted. One need no longer have recourse
to magical means in order to master or implore the spirits, as did the savage, for whom such mysterious powers existed. Technical
means and calculations perform the service. This above all is what intellectualization means." Max Weber, From Max Weber: Essays in
Sociology, ed. and trans. H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills (New York: Oxford, 1946) 139.
(52) Edward A. Tiryakian, "Dialectics of Modernity: Reenchantment and Dedifferentiation as Counterprocesses," Social Change and
(53) Art's function, according to Weber, was to provide "a salvation from the routines of everyday life, and especially from the
increasing pressures of theoretical and practical rationalism" (From Max Weber 342).
(54) See Joachim Bumke, Courtly Culture: Literature and Society in the High Middle Ages, trans. Thomas Dunlap (Berkeley: University
of California Press, 1991).
(55) Peter Uwe Hohendahl, Building a National Literature: The Case of Germany,1830-1870, trans. Renate B. Franciscono (Ithaca:
Cornell University Press, 1989) 196. We should not forget, however, that Prussian plans for unification, though affected by this cultural
nationalism, aimed at the construction of a strong, Prussian-dominated state.
(56) James Sheehan, A German History,1770-1886 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989) 173.
(57) Sheehan, "What is German History?" 17.
(58) Hans Kohn, Prelude to Nation States: The French and German Experience,1789-1815 (Princeton: D. van Nostrand Co., 1967)
(59) Hagen Schulze, The Course of German Nationalism from Frederick the Great to Bismarck, 1763-1867, trans. Sarah
Hanbury-Tenison (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991) 89.
(60) Reinhard Bendix, Embattled Reason (New Brunswick, NJ:Transaction Books, 1988) 301.
(61) Helmuth Plessner, Die verspätete Nation: Über die politische Verführbarkeit bürgerlichen Geistes (Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer,
(62) Sheehan, A German Identity 14.
(63) Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Hamburg Dramaturgy, trans. Helen Zimmern (New York: Dover Publications, 1962) 262.
(64) John Hutchinson, The Dynamics of Cultural Nationalism: The Gaelic Revival and the Creation of the Irish Nation-State (London:
Allen and Unwin, 1987) demonstrates this point in the context of Ireland, though his study is limited in presenting cultural nationalism
as a response to the crisis of legitimation in modernity; see especially 37, 33.
(65) David Harvey, The Conditions of Postmodernity: An Inquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989)
(66) Alain Touraine believes that "revolution is at the heart of the Western representation of modernization" and that the principal
agent of progress is the nation. "The Idea of Revolution," Global Culture, ed. Mike Featherstone 121-22.
(67) J. B. Bury, The Idea of Progress: An Inquiry into Its Origins and Growth (New York: Macmillan, 1932) 85, 274.
(68) The situation was much more complex than my necessarily schematic synopsis here implies. The possibility of national
independence, for instance, far from being a universal objective, began to be raised only in the latter part of the nineteenth century.
While some westernizers like Adamantios Korais (1748-1833) favored an autonomous state, others like Rigas Phereos (c.1757-1798) promoted a pan-Balkan empire united by Hellenism.
(69) The battles, as I illustrate in Belated Modernity and Aesthetic Culture (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991) were
conducted within the space of culture and with its resources. By the end of the nineteenth century the ostracized supporters of the
demotic language had sought refuge in the enclave of culture from which they subsequently marched out to take over one by one the institutions of the state.
(70) Enormous by any comparison, the support of cultural matters by this mercantile bourgeoisie took many forms: subsidizing the
publication of books, establishing schools and libraries, financing scholarships, and generally endowing cultural institutions well after
the consolidation of the state. On cultural developments in Wallachia and Moldavia see Ariadna Camariano-Cioran, Les académies
princières de Bucarest et de Jassy et leurs professeurs (Thessaloniki: Institute for Balkan Studies, 1974) and Cléobule Tsourkas, Les
débuts de l'enseignement philosophique et de la libre pensè dans les balkans: La vie et l'oeuvre de Théophile Corydalée (1570-1646)
(Thessaloniki: Institute for Balkan Studies, 1967; 2nd ed.). Both books highlight the polyethnic, rather than national or racial, character of Hellenism at that time.
(71) Liah Greenfeld uses this term, originally coined by Nietzsche, to discuss the envy and hatred felt by those who, having discovered
the inferiority of their nations, must borrow western ideas to improve their lot. The sociological condition of ressentiment can lead to
the rejection of the west or to a transvaluation of values. See Greenfeld, Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity 15-16.
(72) Madame de Staël, De la littérature considérée dans ses rapports avec des institutions sociales, vol. 1, ed. Paul van Tieghem
(Paris: M. J. Minand, 1959) 243.
(73) Paschalis Kitromilides, "The Enlightenment East and West: A Comparative Perspective on the Ideological Origins of the Balkan
Political Traditions," Canadian Review of Studies in Nationalism 10.1 (1983): 51-70, 55-57.
(74) Paschalis Kitromilides, Enlightenment as Social Criticism: Iosipos Moisiodax and Greek Culture in the Eighteenth Century
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992) 327. Greeks knew very little of western societies before the 1750s as few "western" books
had been translated into Greek. K. Th. Dimaras, Ellinikos Diafotismos (Athens: Ermis, 1989; 5th ed.) 137.
(75) Iosipos Moisiodax, Apologia , ed. Alkis Angelu (1780; reprint, Athens: Ermis 1976) 24.
(76) Foreword, Ithiki Philosophia (1861) in Kitromilides, I. Moisiodax (Athens: Educational Foundation of the National Bank, 1985) 339, 330.
(77) Moisiodax, Apologia 82, 155.
(78) Foreword, Ithiki Philosophia 338. This had become the classic argument Enlightenment scholars used to counter western
orientalism and to persuade Europeans to support the Greek cause. Benefiting from the philhellenic spirit towards modern Greece and
exploiting the pivotal position of Hellenism in Europe, they showed that, as heir of the founders of western civilization, modern Greeks
were really Europeans. By helping Greeks intellectually, economically, and militarily, Europeans were only repaying them for what
they had borrowed from the ancient Greeks. It was expressed brilliantly by Korais in his "Report on the Present State of Civilization in
Greece"  in Nationalism in Asia and Africa, Elie Kedourie, ed. (New York, 1970). The enthusiasm shown by liberal Europeans in
the Greek cause points to a cosmopolitan dimension of nationalism at the time.
(79) The language question has been covered by many authors. In particular see Margaret Alexiou, "Diglossia in Greece," Standard
Languages: Spoken and Written, ed. W. Haas (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1982); Robert Browning, Medieval and
Modern Greek (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983; 2nd ed.); Peter Mackridge, The Modern Greek Language (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985).
(80) In this they clashed with other interests, particularly the aristocracy (Phanariots) and upper ecclesiastical authorities, both
representing the eastern, Byzantine tradition which prospered under Ottoman rule.
(81) In modernity each place becomes more vulnerable to direct influence from the outer world either through commercial ventures,
communication ties, or military action. See Harvey, The Conditions of Postmodernity 240.
(82) While many features of globalization are novel developments, particularly in the economy and communications, the
phenomenon itself is as old as time. Countless mini-global systems have existed as either world religions or polyethnic empires. The
intermixing of populations through migration or forced dislocations is the rule in world history, McNeill reminds us, ethnic homogeneity
conformable to national boundaries the exception. William McNeill, Polyethnicity and National Unity in World History (Toronto:
University of Toronto Press, 1986) 19. With the intermingling of peoples came much cultural borrowing and exchange, particularly in
the Mediterranean where the extent of mixing was extensive. Fernand Braudel, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in
the Age of Philip II, vol. 2, trans. Sian Reynolds (New York: Harper and Row, 1973) 763. This mixing, Herder observed, defined
humanity. If every nation "had remained in its place, the Earth might have been considered as a garden where in one spot one human
national plant, in another, another, bloomed.... But as men are not firmly rooted plants, the calamities of famine, earthquakes, and
war, and the like must in time remove them from their place to some other more or less different." In that new place it would be
"impossible for them to remain eternally the same...." Reflections on the Philosophy of the History of Mankind 160.
(83) Scott Lash and John Urry, The End of Organized Capitalism (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1987).
(84) Lash and Urry,The End of Organized Capitalism 85. My analysis in this section relies heavily on their book.
(85) "International Flights Indeed,"New York Times 1 Jan. 1992: 21.
(86) Karl Otto Hondrich, "World Society versus Niche Societies: Paradoxes of Uni-directional Evolution," Social Change and Modernity 354.
(87) Roland Robertson, Globalization: Social Theory and Global Cultural Change (London: Sage, 1992). To be sure new
developments in communications may actually aid the maintenance of ethnic diversity. Turkey, long isolated from the Muslim
republics of the Soviet Union, plans to bind them culturally in a network of satellite broadcasts. Diasporas, scattered abound the globe,
strengthen their links by communicating with each other through satellite and audio and video cassettes. Culture paradoxically is today
both the flood of damnation and the ark of salvation, menacing our way of life yet a way of saving it.
(88) Samuel P. Huntington, "The Clash of Civilizations?" Foreign Affairs 77 (1993): 22-49. Huntington's thesis has provoked much
debate but, in giving primacy to culture, reduces the importance of other factors in global politics. He also does not explain why culture
"is becoming the dominant source of conflict" in the world today (22).
(89) Anthony Smith, "Towards a Global Culture?" Global Culture, ed. Mike Featherstone 185.
(90) For instance Nathan Glazer and Daniel P. Moynihan in their influential Beyond the Melting Pot (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1963).
(91) The revival of white ethnicity is to a certain extent a reaction to the black protest movement of the 1960s. Although this was a
racial and class struggle for justice, Richard H. Thompson writes, whites, like the state, interpreted it as a manifestation of ethnicity. See
Theories of Ethnicity: A Critical Appraisal (New York: Greenwood Press, 1989) 95.
(92) Herbert J. Gans, "Symbolic Ethnicity: The Future of Ethnic Groups and Cultures in America," Ethnic and Racial Studies 2.1
(93) Richard D. Alba, Ethnic Identity: The Transformation of White America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990) 306.
(94) Daniel Bell, "Ethnicity and Social Change," Ethnicity: Theory and Experience, ed. Nathan Glazer and Daniel P. Moynihan
(Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1975) 153.
(95) The postmodern emphasis on self-creation differs substantially from modernism's quest for self-understanding; Hans-Georg Betz,
"Postmodernism and the New Middle Class," Theory, Culture and Society 2.9 (1992): 93-114, 110.
(96) Frances Bonner and Paul de Gay, "Representing the Enterprising Self: thirtysomething and Contemporary Consumer
Culture,"Theory, Culture and Society 2.9 (1992): 86.
(97) Although whites have a certain freedom in fashioning their identity, they are nevertheless limited, Waters notes, by knowledge
about their ancestors, their surname, physical appearance, and special ranking of ethnic groups. To this list one should add the
ideology that portrays the making of identity as a voluntary act. Mary C. Waters, Ethnic Options: Choosing Identities in America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990) 19, 57-58.
(98) Bonnie Urciuoli, "Whose Quincentenary is it? Puerto Rican and Italian-American Class Identity in the U.S. in 1992,"
Commemoration, Resistance, and Revitalization: Reflections on the Columbian Quincentenary and Other Commemorative Events (forthcoming).
(99) Jean Baudrillard, For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign, trans. Charles Levin (St. Louis: Telos Press, 1981).
(100) Fredric Jameson, "Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism," New Left Review 146 (1984): 87.
(101) Georg Simmel, "Sociological Aesthetics" (1896), The Conflict of Modern Culture and Other Essays, trans. K. Peter Etzkorn (New
York: Teacher's College Press, 1968) 69. A contemporary version of this aesthetic theory is the ethic of aesthetics, proposed by the
French sociologist Michel Maffesoli, which considers everyday life a work of art: "it is no longer possible to say that any aspect of social
life, not cookery, nor attention to appearance, nor small celebration, nor relaxing walks, is frivolous or insignificant." "The End of
Aesthetics," Theory, Culture and Society 8.1 (1991): 8. Much of modern art, beginning with impressionism, was governed by an
insistence on expressing all of reality in a single word or brush-stroke and rendering the particular universal.
(102) This resembles the anthropological conception of culture as a way of life, developed in the latter eighteenth century. See my
(103) Lash and Urry, The End of Organized Capitalism 286. Their analysis does not reduce the significance of culture to mirroring
developments in the economy. They want to see, for instance, how features of contemporary culture "articulate" with those of disorganized capitalism rather than how they "reflect" them.
(104) Mike Featherstone, Consumer Culture and Postmodernism (London, 1991) 64, 84, 93, 125. See also Pierre Bourdieu's analysis
of this class in Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, trans. R. Nice (London: Routledge, 1984). Bonner and de Gay
look at the values of this class in their examination of thirtysomething, a popular television program in the 1980s.
(105) Featherstone, Consumer Culture and Postmodernism 48. Another aim, of course, is the introduction and validation of new
methods and objects of study. The consolidation of cultural studies (the analysis of the signs and products of consumer culture, that is,
the cultural production of this new class) has been the most spectacular success of this strategy. On the loss of aura by literature and the
humanities today (the cultural products of the old bourgeoisie), see John Guillory, Cultural Capital: The Problem of Literary Canon Formation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993).
(106) This identity politics manifests the appearance of the new politics—the decline in importance of class and the rise of new
movements (women's, students', gay and lesbian, anti-nuclear, green). Paradigmatic of this "cultural" politics is the NDP, in power (at
this writing) in Ontario. From the debates concerning Athena's true color to the passions incited by Mapplethorpe's photographs, from
William Bennett's list of virtues to E. D. Hirsch's canon of facts, culture has become today the ideological battleground. More than
politics, Peter Brooks notes, it is cultural politics that "absorb much of our anxiety about values." "Aesthetics and Ideology: What Happened to Poetics?" Critical Inquiry 20.3 (1994): 509-523, 519.
(107) Daniel Bell, "Ethnicity and Social Change," Ethnicity: Theory and Experience, ed. Nathan Glazer and Daniel P. Moynihan 145, 169.
(108) Barbara Balls All, "Perspectives on Ethnicity: Old Wine in New Bottles," Ethnic and Racial Studies 6.2 (1983): 154-73, 166. In
this they are also conforming to outside categorization—both the state and the general population treat them as a single entity of Indians.
(109) Stephen Cornell, The Return of the Native: Amnerican Indian Political Resurgence (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988) 107,
126. This does not mean that specific tribal identities are disappearing but that a greater number of native peoples are also choosing
this supra-tribal consciousness, especially those born and socialized in urban centers.
(110) Felix M. Padilla, Latino Ethnic Consciousness: The Case of Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans in Chicago (Notre Dame:
University of Notre Dame Press, 1985) 151. Pan-ethnicity is nationalist in its implications. In asserting that Spanish-speaking people
can ameliorate their social lot by aggregating in large Latino groups, it eliminates obvious differences among Cuban refugees, colonized Puerto Ricans and Mexicans, documented and undocumented immigrants.
(111) These pan-ethnicities are obviously manufactured in the interaction with others in American cities rather than heritages brought
over from countries of emigration. This holds true for most immigrants. Italians, for instance, arrived as Sicilians, Neapolitans, or Romans rather than with a common Italian consciousness.
(112) A significant number of second- and third-generation Asian Americans, having been socialized in Asian-American institutions,
have more in common with other Asians born in the United States than with their foreign-born compatriots. Yen Le Esperitu, Asian
American Panethnicity: Bridging Institutions and Identities (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992) 17, 165-67.
(113) The configuration of pan-ethnicities among these racial groups has had a decided impact on white Americans. Richard Alba
sees the development of a white Euro-American identity in response to both the politicization of ethnicity among other races and the
disintegration of individual European identities. Thus, although boundaries among European groups are blurring, the prestige still
ascribed to ethnicity in the United States as well as state policies emphasizing ethnic (or racial) differences may be encouraging whites
to consider themselves a unified ethnic group, bound together by the immigration experience. The narratives of immigration, that is,
the arrival of destitute people to Ellis Island, their climb up to the middle class through hard work, the maintenance of strong family
values are central to American mythology and have been effectively exploited by politicians like Dukakis and Cuomo in their election
campaigns. Through this generalized ethnic identity white Americans of European descent would be able to differentiate themselves
from the new arrivals and locate their own family histories in the panorama of American history. See Alba, Ethnic Identity: The Transformation of White America 319.
(114) "The Political Fallout of International Migration," Diaspora 2.1 (1992): 3-42, 37. The groups best placed to claim this autonomy
in North America are its aboriginal peoples who have indigenous claims to their lands and who already see themselves as sovereign
nations. We may be seeing the possible creation by Innuit of an autonomous region called Nunavut in northern Canada.
(115) I discuss these issues in "Can Multiculturalism Disunite America?" Thesis Eleven 44 (1996): 100-110, and "Acropolis Now?"
boundary 2 23.1 (1996): 185-93.
(116) Nicholas Zill and Marianne Winglee, Who Reads Literature? The Future of the United States as a Nation of Readers
(Washington, D.C., 1989) 9, 10, 47.