Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Nationalism and universalism

Thoughtful article today by Umut Özkirimli, political scientist at the University of Lund.

Lund is in the deep south of Sweden, the power-base of the far-right Sweden Democrats. But it was also the author's experience of Swedish state and society, both for good and ill, that's produced the not so predictable questions raised here. 

Particularly struck by the starting point forfa model of cosmopolitan social contract, based on a negotiation of universal rights with the duties of citizenship. Extract follows:


I had to understand that the central question is, as the Swedish historian Lars Trägårdh puts it, whether it is possible to resolve the fundamental tension between, on the one side, “universal moral rules founded in notions of human rights”, and on the other, “nationally bounded claims derived from the idea of citizenship in particular nation states”.

My answer is yes, and the formula is simple: emphasise the connection between rights and duties; speed up the process of integration of newcomers (refugees or migrants) without demanding that they fully assimilate into the dominant culture, but asking them to respect the existing social contract; foster a sense of common destiny that does not necessarily require myths of common ancestry; and engage with the demand for recognition in a fair and equal way, without privileging either minorities or majorities.


Umut's perception that political correctness involves a "vigilantism" that denies empathy is worth pausing on, too.



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