The present and the future of small non-state communities in Europe, like Catalonia, mentioned above, was discussed in a recent international colloquium organized in homage to Juan J. Linz by the French, Italian and Spanish associations of political science.
My participation in the panel on Nation-building and State-building can be summarized as follows.
* First, I identify and discuss several of Juan J.Linz’ findings on the case of Spain:
1) Spain is a case of frustrated state-building and failed nation-building.
2) Modern Spain can be conceived as a multinational state, the first of its kind in Europe. Building a nation-state in Spain is nowadays both unfeasible and undesirable.
3) Democracy, however, can exist and survive, in spite of the absence of a nation-state, on the basis of federal and consociational politics permitting the accommodation of multiple national groups. The Spanish 'state of autonomies' can be an appropriate institutional frame to create legitimacy for the Spanish state and prevent secession and conflict.
* Second, my own points, which are either additional or partly contradictory with some of Linz', are the following:
4) It was the failure in colonial empire-building that weakened state-building and led to failure in nation-building in Spain. Consistently, new alternative political movements, especially in Catalonia and to some extent in the Basque country, not only pretended to build alternative nations, but also alternative states and even alternative empires.
5) Against old expectations, the establishment of democracy in Spain in the late 20th century has weakened even further the project of building a nation-state. Democracy has favored the integration of Spain into a new type of democratic and market 'empire', the European Union, which has thinned the Spanish state and lowered the cohesion of the Spanish nation. It has also induced the development of increasingly self-governing small nations, led by Catalonia and the Basque country.
6) The Spanish 'state of autonomies' is not in equilibrium, in the sense of a stable institutional solution for the relations between different territorial communities, but it has become a frame for competition among territorial governments developing increasing demands for self-government. Homogenization of language and culture in Spain has decreased during the last decades.
In short: The Spanish state will not, thus, be what it could have been, perhaps in the 19th century: a uniform nation-state under the Westphalian and French models. It actually tends to move increasingly away from that model.
The topics discussed in the symposium are not only nation-building and state-building, but also democratic breakdown and consolidation, democratic and non-democratic institutions, and elites and leaders. Participants include Guy Hermet, John Higley, Jean Léca, Al Stepan, Ezra Suleiman, Klaus von Beyme, among others.
All the papers can be found at:
By the way, the symposium was in Montpellier:
- A historical trading center of Jewish, Muslims and Cathars.
- A former possession of the kingdom of Aragon-Catalonia, transferred to France, which became a stronghold of Protestant resistance to the Catholic French crown.
- Today’s capital of the French region Languedoc-Roussillon, which forms a transfrontier Euro-region with Midi-Pyrenees, also on the French side, and Aragon, Catalonia and the Balearic Islands on the Spanish side.