Dan Dungaciu*


The today’s European war is a cultural one. The most concrete expression of this war is identitary, expressed through the political trends, tendencies and movemnets of this kind which we call using a term which can describe everthing and at the same time nothing – populism. Is is illusory to through blame for the EU crisis on an external enemy – even if it might be the size of Russia. The fact that it is working to undermine the Euro-Atlantic and European coherence is undeniable. From its perspective it is normal and logic.

Moreover, as we highlighted in our analysis, we deal with deeper, internal and subtle phenomena that came to surface by catalizors such as migration, that ground the political evolutions and become processes and political expressions which are more harder to understand or to morally dismiss them.

In reality, the cultural war that we are witnessing is happening in a world of European forms which no longer find their national place on a national background that is not finding its European form.

The nation is dead! Long live the nation!

Nihil obstat – “Nothing stands in the way” – are the famous words engraved by the catholic censorship right after the title page on a book received the publication approval, meaning that is was purified by all moral and teological errors. “Nothing stands in the way” – meaning that nothing stands in its way to move freely, nothing stands in its way to manifest itself.

In our analysis, the phrase’s allusion and meaning is obviously different: after countless strong judgements, at the beginning of the 90s, according to which the nation and nationalism had died, their time passed, their moment passed, well today we are witnessing the unexpected, explosive and untimely resurrection of phenomena that were initially declared dead. Value judgements is not our interests – is it good, bad, desirable or pernicious -, but rather reality judgements.

How was this possible? How is it that from America to Russia, China to Europe, identitary trends, under different forms and labels, are becoming more and more visible on the political scene, assaulting the political mainstream, and these types of messages are more abundant? Things are not looking clearer anywhere in contrast, only on the old continent, where, despite all expectations and predictions, nationalism haunts again like (another) phantom of Karl Marx used to do, not long before our time (from Spain to Hungary, from Germany to Italy, from Great Britain to France, from Poland to Belgium).

At the end of the century and the beginning of ours had marked the peak, maybe the “golden age”, for nation and nationalism studies. The abundant of studies, debates, great, dominant personalities, that marked the field. They made the research about these subjects a primary theme. The literature is very rich.

“Minerva’s owl does not start flying until the fall of the evening”, wrote Hegel in a famous book: “Only in reality’s maturity the ideal reveals itself to the real and it constructs the same world, seised in its own substance, in the form of an intellectual area”.

In the context of debates upon nation and nationalism, the philosopher apparently suggests a deadend: the abundancy and explosion of papers, volumes or articles are dedicated to this area before and after the ‘90s – “the teaching about how the world should be”, using the expression belonging to the same philosopher. – would mark the “maturity”/ phenomenon’s peak and its fatal entrance, from now on, in decline.

Is this the case? The diagnosis is seductive, but also deceiving. To embrace it without question will give birth to many risks, regardless of the size or scale of the “defendant”. This happened to the famous Eric Hobsbawm who invoked Hegel in 1990, hurring to announce that nation and nationalism are becoming more and more “unimportant”, that their roles are going to become “rather minor” as well as the terms themselves – “nation” and “nationalism” – are no longer accurate to describe the phenomena and feelings that they denote (Hobsbaum 1992:191-192).

The British Marxist received a lot of answers from numerous experts in the matter in question, disapproving his theory, and also the events themselves which are hard to remember. In consequence, the shape of more than two decades that just passed have undermined the credibility of these predictions, at least when it comes to evaluating nation and nationalism – another one of the many Marxist failed prophecies (if we are talking about Hobsbawm) when it comes to “the national issue” …


Europeans are as European as they were in … 1992!

The phenomenon could not have ended, or to exhaust itself as long as European polls, the Eurobarometers that have been carried out with precision since 1992 till present, indicate, politically incorrect, but systematically and independently from the political and economic status of the continent, that almost 90% of Europeans declare that they are “nationals and Europeans” and “only nationals”. While those who are “only Europeans” and “Europeans and nationals” never exceed 10%.

For example, in the last available Eurobarometer uploaded on 5th of March 2017, for the question “how do you see yourself in the future: only European, European and national, national and European, only national”, got the following results:

Eurobarometer: autoidentification in 2017

  • Only European 2%
  • European and national 7%
  • National and European 54%
  • Only national 35%

We discover, some of us confused, even shoked, that only 2% of the European citizens are feeling only European and almost 90% of the European citizens are feeling in their identitary autoidentification (and) nationals. A gap that must be acknowledged, researched and assumed. In the end, those who speak “in the name of Europe and only Europe” speak in the name of (just) 2% of the citizens on the continent …

Ridiculous small number. With a comparison that complicates the picture even more, let us make another appeal to numbers.

In 1992, when the Eurobarometers started to be published with the following data:

Eurobarometer: autoidentification 1992:

  • Only European 4%
  • European and national 7%
  • National and European 48%
  • Only national 38%

The differences are disturbing. After 26 years of European integration processes, after expanding, growing markets and prosperity, starting enormous European-building processes, Euronews, Erasmus programs, Euro-lotteries, European flag and hymn, European president and “minster of foreign affairs”, today maybe tomorrow an “European army” etc. etc. we surly discover that nothing changed fundamentally. At least in identitary terms. Europeans have fallen from 11% to 9%, while nationalists have risen from 86% to 89%. It is like the whole European process was carried out right next – above and beyond – to the identitary preocupations and adhesions the population living on the old continent had.

The book assumes, without any predjudices, the questions mentioned above and starts with these daily challenges trying to discover or, at lest, in relation to them, ask the correct questions. It starts with today’s realities and descends, searching for answers, to those of yesterday. What follows is not an explicit theory of nation and nationalism, but a rather an attempt to propose a sketch for a possible theory (which will be presented directly or indirectly, through comments and critical exegesis along the volume).

The following study will be a critical selection in the field, starting with the modern period and finishing with the challenges that the Post-Modern thought or Post-Modernity as itself brings nationalism in its various aspects. Everything, starting from today’s challenges that rotates around the European identity issue. Europe is the text, but also the pretext for this book.

What happened and is currently undergoing between Europe and its nations on all levels of its relational becoming – political, economic, social, identitary – is a legitimate question. Briefly, the reader who turns these pages now should know that they originate in this kind of interogations: trying to understand, until reaching a certain usable theoretical sketch, such an ubiquous and crisp phenomenon which is too stuborn to make its presence felt, the more it is denied.

(Excerpt from the book Nihil Obstat. Elements for a theory of nation and nationalism, that will be published at Editura Libris)


*Dan Dungaciu – member in the LARICS expert team.