Visions of Sovereignty

Visions of Sovereignty provides a deep analysis of political activity within the Québécois and Catalonian national movements from a comparative perspective. This interdisciplinary study examines why some nationalists take a secessionist stance while others within the same movement chose nonsecessionist approaches toward greater self-rule.

Visions of Sovereignty
Nationalism and Accommodation in Multinational Democracies

Jaime Lluch

2014 | 344 pages | Cloth $75.00
Political Science
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Table of Contents

Introduction. Secessionism and Non-Secessionism in Substate National Movements
Chapter 1. Accounting for the Internal Variation in Substate National Movements

Chapter 2. Evolution Within the Catalan National Movement Between 1976 and 2010: The Rise of Independentist Nationalism
Chapter 3. Evolution Within the Québécois National Movement Between 1976 and 2010: The Rise of Autonomist Nationalism

Chapter 4. Shades of Nationhood and the National Consciousness of Substate Nationalists
Chapter 5. Elites, Militants, and Ideology: National Parties and National Consciousness

Chapter 6. Sovereignty and Procedure: The Ideology of Independentist Substate Nationalism
Chapter 7. Fragments of Sovereignty: The Ideology of Autonomist Substate Nationalism
Chapter 8. Shared Sovereignty: The Ideology of Federalist Substate Nationalism

Chapter 9. The Discourse and Attitudes of Substate Nationalists
Chapter 10. The Moral Polity of the Stateless Nationalist
Chapter 11. Conclusion: Substate Nationalism and Its Accommodation in Multinational Democracies

Appendix. Field Research Methodology


Excerpt [uncorrected, not for citation]

Secessionism and Non-Secessionism in Substate National Movements

Variation in secessionism among nationalists is part of one of the "great puzzles of ethnic politics" (Hale 2008: 1). Although Ukrainians and the citizens of the Baltic republics chose independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the Central Asian republics remained bastions of nonsecessionism. Nationalists in Spain's Basque Country, the Igbo territory in Nigeria's First Republic, and Québec in Canada have historically been more inclined toward independence than nationalists in Catalonia in Spain, Yorubaland in Nigeria, or Nunavut in Canada (Díez Medrano 1999; Hale 2008: 57). Most scholars who have focused on the problem of variation in secessionism have centered their attention on paired comparisons of national movements in which one case is clearly pro-secession while the other is nonsecessionist, such as comparing Ukraine with Uzbekistan or the Basque Country with Catalonia (Díez Medrano 1999; Conversi 1997). They have generally failed to investigate the complex heterogeneity of political orientations within national movements and their temporal evolution.

This book, by contrast, focuses instead on within-case variation, and opts for a within-case research design, choosing the relevant nationalist party (and its leaders and militants) as its primary unit of analysis. Another focus will be the within-case temporal evolution of national movements themselves. This book's remit is national movements in states with well-established democracies and advanced economies.

There is a dearth of systematic comparative research into the sources and patterns of internal variation in the political orientation of national movements within such states. This book examines why some nationalists opt for a secessionist orientation or a highly decentralizing orientation while other nationalists within the same national movement opt for a variety of non-secessionist orientations. In addition, temporal variation within these cases is examined; that is, I examine how national movements evolve over time, developing new political orientations that are secessionist or highly decentralizing and that may represent a radicalization of nationalists' preferences, when compared to previous orientations. The aim of this study is to uncover the sources and patterns of such within-case variation in national movements.

Variation in secessionism is also interesting because separatism "is widely held to be the culmination of national development, the peak manifestation of nationalism, reflecting a nation's collective desire to establish or protect its own state in the international arena, one that is equal or superior in status to all other states" (Hale 2008: 3). Yet, we find that many nationalists opt for a variety of non-secessionist orientations.

These differing orientations have a variable impact on the stability and on the continuity of state structures and institutions. Orientations can evolve over time; their strength and robustness is subject to variation, and new orientations can be created that represent a radicalization of nationalists' preferences. Within-case variation, therefore, constitutes an unresolved and under-theorized puzzle in the study of nations and nationalism. This variation may be expressed internally within a national movement, in the typical "trifurcation" that I shall show occurs in a movement and in the temporal evolution of the different orientations within a national movement. It may also be expressed externally, in the cross-regional comparison between national movements. This book will have less to say about the overall orientation of national movements and the cross-regional comparison between national movements. Instead, I am primarily interested in explaining the tripartite structure in the national movements examined here and the evolution over time of the diverse nationalist orientations that make up the national movement.

"Substate national societies" are historically settled and territorially concentrated societies that have developed national consciousness but do not have their own sovereign state. From a demographic standpoint, they may be a cultural and linguistic minority in the state in which they are located. A substate national society or "stateless nation" is a dynamic political entity, not a set of static ethnographic characteristics. It is not a unitary whole; it is a field of differentiated and competing stances taken by different parties, movements, or politicians, each jousting to "represent" the relevant nation (Brubaker 1997: 61). The national movements that are currently showing renewed strength and energy are those that stem from nations without a state (Guibernau 1996:133). This kind of "peripheral nationalism" emerges not from the state but from nations included in a larger state, and it presents fundamental differences in "origin and purpose compared with the nationalism instilled by the state in order to create the nation" (De Blas Guerrero 1994:34).

In the political party systems of stateless nations, there is a recurring empirical pattern. Although all nationalists pursue nation-affirming and nation-building goals, the national political parties of stateless nations tend to bifurcate and, at times, trifurcate into two or three basic political orientations: independentism, autonomism, or federalism. Thus, some nationalists seek their own fully sovereign state while others seek an autonomous special status or to become a constituent unit within a classic federation. These are competing forms of nationalism: They all agree that the nation exists, but they disagree on the degree of sovereignty the nation should seek. Hence, their different visions of sovereignty.

Internal variation within national movements is an undertheorized area in the study of secessionism, and to understand it one must also study non-secessionism among nationalists. In the social sciences, the more common research agenda has been to study "secessionism": how it arises and what can be done to control it (see, e.g., Hechter 2000: ch. 7; Lustick, Miodownik, and Eidelson 2004; Cornell 2002; Hale 2000). The most methodologically defensible way to study the political behavior of secessionist nationalists is precisely to compare and contrast them with the diverse varieties (and subvarieties) of autonomist nationalists and federalist nationalists. Placing variance at the center of our research agenda is more likely to provide us with the most significant advances in our understanding of secessionist nationalism and of its counterparts, autonomist nationalism and federalist nationalism (see Varshney 2002: 6; Mahoney and Goertz 2004: 653-54).

This book is a study of the "national movements" of two substate national societies, Québec and Catalonia, and their relations with the respective states that encompass them, Canada and Spain. The focus is principally on the contemporary period (1976-2010), although some reference to earlier epochs is made. The temporal endpoint of this book is 2009-2010. Reference is also made to the national movements of other stateless nations (e.g., Puerto Rico, the Basque Country, Scotland) whenever this will help to illuminate the arguments made here. Miroslav Hroch (2000) refers to "national movements" as movements that give an absolute priority to the values and interests of the nation, although he says that not all such movements are "nationalist." This book's focus is on the complex rainbow of political preferences expressed by the nationalists of stateless nations. The focus here is on identifying the nationalists and the variation in their express political orientation. The book problematizes the national movement itself and places intranational movement variation at the center of research and analysis. A national movement is a quintessentially political phenomenon, and the most methodologically fruitful way to study the institutionalized component of the politicized national movement is to investigate the political trajectory of national political parties and the discourse and attitudes of their leaders and militants.

This book is less interested in addressing "what is a nation?" or "what is the genesis of nationalism?" than in studying nationalism as the end result of the jousting and wrestling among nationalists. The relevant battleground is the political party systems of the "nation(s)" under study; thus, if one wants to understand the behavior of nationalists and the variation in their political orientation, one must study the discourse of the political parties (and their militants and leaders) that recognize the existence of the "nation" and take that recognition as a vertebrating principle of their ideology and action. Here I ask how nationhood is actually lived and practiced by the nationalists in the institutionalized forms one observes in the political sphere and how nationhood is expressed as a political category, as a typological scheme, and as a cognitive framework. How do the diverse and variable nation-promoting and nation-invoking efforts of politicized nationalists negotiate or compete with each other (Brubaker 1997: 16)? I partially agree with the general spirit of Brubaker's observation that "nationalism can and should be understood without invoking 'nations' as substantial entities. Instead of focusing on nations as real groups, we should focus on nationhood and nationness, on 'nation' as practical category, institutionalized form, and contingent event" (16). When studying nationalism and the national movements of a particular nation, it is especially important to avoid reifying the national movement of the nation in question. Instead, it is more useful to problematize the national movement itself and to disaggregate it, to focus on its component parts, and to compare and contrast these component parts. This book's focus is on the component parts of institutionalized national movements; the political parties that represent the variable political orientations within the national movement; and, thus, ultimately, on the nationalist militants and leaders who give life to these political parties.

This book begins by setting the historical context for the study of the national movements of Québec and Catalonia. In the early chapters, I provide an explanation of the process that led to the establishment of the contemporary tripartite structure between independentists, autonomists, and federalists in these movements. Once the tripartite structure within the two national movements was established (in 1994 in Québec and in 1989 in Catalonia), they maintained (until 2010) this typical tripartite diversity of political orientations, which is at the root of the "nationalists' trilemma": the circumstance that the nationalists of stateless nations have three fundamental political orientations from which to choose. This book seeks to explain the political origins of the internal variation in substate national movements by first examining the political space occupied by stateless nations' nationalists; the national consciousness of the independentists, the autonomists, and the federalists; and the role of national parties in such movements. Then I examine the visions of sovereignty held by these three varieties of substate nationalism, and I will make reference to other cases of minority nationalism beyond Québec and Catalonia. Finally, I explain the political origins of the variation in secessionism and non-secessionism in national movements by examining in detail the attitudes and discourse of stateless nationalists, especially in Québec and Catalonia.

The focus on stateless nationalists and the internal variation in their national movements is an opportunity to observe how they translate their sense of identity and belonging into a political agenda. Thus, this book is an empirical investigation into the political processes by which nationalists' conceptions of political membership are translated into a concrete program of political mobilization. The national movement of which they are a part is the sum of a variety of political mobilization efforts that are observable in the tripartite structure of the national movement but have in common a unifying sense of political membership and identity.

National identity is one of the most consequential forms of political membership, often trumping other forms of identity. Nationality claims are infused with a high degree of intersubjectivity. As Max Weber ([1922] 1978: 922) noted, "'If the concept of "nation" can in any way be defined unambiguously, it certainly cannot be stated in terms of empirical qualities common to those who count as members of the nation.' The source of nationhood, for Weber, is not to be found in the objective differentiae of language and religious practice that might happen to separate the members of two different groups, but in the intersubjective awareness that the salient intergroup differences, whatever they might be, are sufficient to demarcate two nations" (Hechter 2000: 14). The use of intensive fieldwork techniques and of positivist-qualitative methods to study national political parties and their leaders and militants is, therefore, the most appropriate tool to elucidate these matters, as I argue in more detail in the Appendix.

The approach followed here, focusing on the nationalists' political parties and their militants, offers a promising perspective for advancing the frontiers of knowledge. For example, Lustick, Miodownik, and Eidelson (2004: 209) set out to focus on the "relationship between institutionalized empowerment of potentially secessionist groups and the appearance of secessionism." They developed a modeling platform that was used to create a virtual model state, "Beita," containing a disaffected, partially controlled, regionally concentrated minority; used constructivist theory to determine behaviors by specific agents in Beita; and then tested the most popular theoretical positions on this issue. Categories such as "secessionist group" and "regionally concentrated minority," however, are overbroad and overlook precisely what matters: A "secessionist group" is a variable category that, in fact, is often part of a trifurcated national movement, and it is this internal variation that needs to be studied and explained. Another common research agenda in the social sciences has been to study the presence or absence of nationalist or ethnic violence and radicalism in developing societies (e.g., Varshney 2002) or the puzzle of the differing success of the mobilization strategies used by ethnic groups in less-developed countries (e.g., Yashar 2005). Regarding nationalist violence in Europe, a typical comparison has been between the Basque national movement and the Catalan national movement (e.g., Conversi 1997; Díez Medrano 1999). Although studies such as these are important contributions, the cases of ethnonational violence are actually not as numerous as one might expect (see, e.g., Fearon and Laitin 1996). As Cordell and Wolff (2011: 3) put it, although ethnic conflict doubtlessly remains an important source of violence in the twenty-first century, not every conflict has regional or global repercussions, "nor are there, in fact, that many ethnic conflicts." Further, as Cordell and Wolff argue, although cases such as Kashmir, Sri Lanka, Northern Ireland, Kosovo, and Cyprus are about ethnic conflict, other cases, such as Canada, Estonia, Belgium, and France, are about identities and conflicting interest structures, "yet their manifestations are less violent and are better described in terms of tensions than conflict" (3). Much more common as a political problem, and nearly universal for stateless nations' national movements, is the question focused on here: In democratic states, stateless nations' nationalists have various political strategies available to them to achieve their nation-affirming and nation-building objectives; therefore, we need to investigate why some nationalists opt for a secessionist orientation while other nationalists within the same national movement opt for pro-autonomism or pro-federation orientations.

Several scholars engaged in the study of nations and nationalism have failed to recognize the internal variance in the nationalist camp and the rich diversity of heterogenous political orientations within substate national movements. John Breuilly (1993: 2), for example, argues that nationalism is a term used to refer to political movements seeking or exercising state power and justifying such action with nationalist arguments. The latter is a political doctrine built upon three basic assertions, including the idea that "the nation must be as independent as possible. This usually requires at least the attainment of political sovereignty." Ernest Gellner (1983) famously wrote that "Nationalism is primarily a political principle, which holds that the political and the national unit should be congruent" (see also Hobsbawm 1990: 9). Michael Hechter (2000: 7) argues that nationalism is defined as "collective action designed to render the boundaries of the nation congruent with those of its governance unit." He argues, however, that "groups seeking to advance the congruence of nation and governance unit (say, by promoting national sovereignty) are unambiguously nationalist. Still, nationalism is a variable, not a constant. To the degree that a given group aims for something less than complete sovereignty—or for goals that are quite irrelevant to its attainment—then it is perforce less nationalist" (8; emphasis added). Hale (2008: 244) noted that separatism may not be the only strategy to deal with the dilemmas of multinationalism within the same state, but he did not elaborate, nor did he focus on that puzzle. For Neil Davidson (2002: 15), national consciousness is the more or less passive expression of collective identification within a social group, while nationalism is the "more or less active participation in the political mobilization of a social group for the construction or defence of a state." Finally, for McAdam, Tilly, and Tarrow (2001: 229), a "nation" is defined as a "body of individuals who claim to be united by some set of characteristics that differentiate them from outsiders, who either strive to create or to maintain their own state." They only distinguish between state-led and state-seeking nationalism. The internal variation within national movements has been under-investigated, and this book fills the void.

In this book, I center discussion on the spectrum of political preferences expressed by nationalists. As Brubaker (1998: 276) has noted, "I do not think nationalism can be well understood as nation-based, state-seeking activity. In the first place, nationalism is not always, or essentially, state-seeking. To focus narrowly on state-seeking nationalist movements is to ignore the infinitely protean nature of nationalist politics; it is to ignore the manner in which the interests of a putative 'nation' can be seen as requiring many kinds of action other than, or in addition to, formal independence." We need to look at nationality claims not just through a sovereignty lens and to acknowledge that nationality demands can, therefore, be less than the demand for an independent state but more than mere regionalism (O'Leary 1998, 69; Keating 2001: 28). Secessionist nationalism coexists with other forms of non-secessionist nationalism within substate national movements, and identifying the sources and patterns of such internal differentiation is the focus of this book.

Scholars who have extensively studied the Québec case seem to agree that all of the political parties that are present in the province's National Assembly are "national" parties. Both francophone and anglophone political scientists agree on this point. On the francophone side, Alain Gagnon has written "Québec's competing minority nationalism, . . . is represented across the board by all the political parties in Québec's National Assembly, and [at the time of this writing] singlehandedly by the Bloc Québécois in Ottawa" (Gagnon 2003: 298). Politicians such as Bernard Landry, former prime minister of Québec and chef du parti of the Parti Québécois (PQ) when I interviewed him, confirm this evaluation. Landry said that "all the political parties in Quebec are nationalist. This is why it is called the National Assembly . . . Well, there is a consensus in our society about the national fact, but some think that we can exist within Canada and some do not." On the anglophone side, Hudson Meadwell (1993: 203-4) has written, "Nationalism dominates Québec politics. Indeed, since the formation of the Parti Québécois (PQ) in 1968, one single question has increasingly defined political discussion and action: how much decentralization should govern relations between Québec and Canada? Unlike most other cases in which movements have produced a single ethnoregional party (for example Scotland, Wales, and Brittany), both the provincial Liberals and the Parti Québécois are nationalist parties that differ fundamentally on how much decentralization is desirable. This is a luxury that other movements do not often enjoy." Paul Hamilton (2004: 666), writing about Québec in comparison with Scotland and Wales, also agrees: "As in Scotland, all of Québec's political parties are nationalist, albeit with different visions of Québec's relationship with the Canadian federation."

In Catalonia, Miquel Caminal (1998: 162) has written that all of the parties (except the Partido Popular de Catalunya) in that stateless nation are "national parties," fundamentally committed to catalanism, and they all share in the affirmation and defense of Catalonia as a nation. A "national party" is one that assumes the existence of a political nation and identifies with it. Such parties may not be nationalist in a formal sense, in that they are not necessarily "independentist." In fact, as will be demonstrated, a national party may be either independentist, autonomist, or federalist in its political orientation. All national parties are strong advocates of the political sovereignty of the party within the systems in which they operate, whether at the state or at the substate level. The federalist parties may put an emphasis on the will, while the autonomists and independentists may emphasize being (2000: 325). Political catalanism is widely diffused and present in all the ideological options that find political expression in Catalonia. It is a political patrimony held by all political forces there (Molas 1988: 14). In this book, I will henceforth refer to the parties that compose the national movements under study as "national parties."

The fact that there are independentist nationalists is obviously unsurprising and uncontroversial: Their political orientation is along the lines of what one would expect of nationalist militants and activists. More novel is the study of autonomist nationalists and pro-federation nationalists. The latter two types are less examined and arguably more interesting because their orientation is contrary to the outcome that many would expect of nationalist militants and activists. The ideology of autonomist nationalists is premised on the idea—as expressed by Jordi Pujol, president of the Catalan Generalitat (government) from 1980 to 2003—that it is possible to be a nationalist without seeking the independence of one's own nation and that nations such as Catalonia may live and develop within the framework of larger political institutions (Guibernau and Rex 1997: 151). In 1989, he stated, "We are a nation without a state. We belong to the Spanish state but have no secessionist ambitions" (McRoberts 2001: 67). This curious form of nationalism "stems from the assumption that it is possible for a nation to live and develop within a multinational state if this state is genuinely democratic and allows enough space for its nations to feel represented and cultivate their difference" (Guibernau and Rex 1997: 150).

Similarly, profederation nationalists' ideological stance was well expressed by Benoît Pelletier (2004b), who was Minister for Intergovernmental Affairs in the Jean Charest provincial government from April 2003 to 2008, in a speech he gave on November 17, 2004 at the Catalan Parliament. "Catalonia and Québec are engaged in a process of affirmation . . . . These are national realities we are talking about here, and not simply regions or local collectivities. Nations are distinguished from administrative entities by their cultural effervescence, political dimension, and their predestination for autonomy. This does not mean that statist sovereignty, acquired or not within the context of secession, is a way possible for all nations. On the contrary, it is possible for nations to seek to fulfill themselves within . . . more vast structures. This is the case for Québec within the Canadian ensemble" (my translation; see also Pelletier 2004c). As we shall see in more detail later, the Québécois and the Catalan political party systems are so infused by a nationalist political culture that most scholars and analysts would assert that the majority of political parties therein are "national."

In sum, variation in secessionism and non-secessionism inside stateless nations' national movements is one of the remaining puzzles in the study of ethnicity and nationalism. There is a paucity of scholarship squarely centered on these issues. This book examines the political heterogeneity within the national movements of stateless nations and recognizes the full spectrum of secessionist and non-secessionist preferences available to nationalists. If we have national movements that are subdivided into a variety of political/constitutional orientations, all of which consider themselves "national," then we need to account for this internal differentiation as well as the evolution over time of these orientations, and we need to explain how nationalists' preferences are radicalized.