August 19, 2016

Nation Building through Normative Concept

Cars are being seen on Kokkine Overpass. Photo: Khin Maung Win
Cars are being seen on Kokkine Overpass. Photo: Khin Maung Win

On 28 January 2016, President U Thein Sein delivered the State of the Union address to the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, which was broadcast live and subsequently printed in all the media in Myanmar as well as in English.
In 2011, the President promised to implement policies and processes that reflect the then prevailing conditions in order to build a more stable and developed nation. As promised, his government has carried out political, economic, administrative and private sector development reforms in order to fulfill the wishes of the people to have peace, stability and development.
As a result of the reform process for five years, General Election was held on 8 November 2015. It was an important milestone in the democratic transition process that was held freely and peacefully.
In accordance with the election results, the National League for Democracy will soon assume legislative and executive duties. On 30 March 2016, the term of office of the incumbent Government will end.
The author of this article is a retired Myanmar diplomat and had served in various capacities in four countries and visited many foreign lands.
At a time of assuming power by a new administration in our beloved country — Myanmar, the writer would like to share knowledge with the esteemed readers on various aspect and ingredients in building a nation.
In this first article of Nation-building series, the writer has the honor to share “normative concept” in nation building.
Nation-building is a normative concept such as describing or setting standards or rules of behavior. In other words, it means different things to different people.
It started with conceptualization. It is the process of development and clarification of concepts by renowned personalities. In other words, clarifying one’s concepts with words and examples and arriving at precise verbal definitions.
The latest conceptualization is essentially seeking expertise and assistance in nation-building programs. Generally speaking such nations could be termed as dysfunctional or unstable or “failed states”.
In such backdrop, the economies are given as assistance in the development of governmental infrastructure, civil society, dispute resolution mechanisms, as well as economic assistance, in order to increase stability. Nation-building generally assumes that the administration or the government is doing the nation building intentionally for the betterment of the people.
It may sound simple, but not in the implementation.
However, it is important to look at the evolution of theories of nation-building across the world. It is also necessary to study at the other concepts of nation-building. It may have either step into the shoes of the former or integrated with the existing structure. Perhaps, both supplanted and included paradigm may involved.
Many people believe and accepted that nation-building is evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Usually it takes a long time and is a political, economic and social process that cannot be jump-started from the outside.
The evolution of the Italian city-states into a nation is one example.
The German city-states into the Zollverein customs union and later a nation are another example. Zollverein German customs union was established in 1834 under Prussian leadership. It created a free-trade area throughout much of Germany and is often seen as an important step in German reunification.
The multiple languages and cultural groups in France into the nation of France is also another interesting factor.
The development of China from the warring kingdoms, took a very long time. They were the result, not only of political leadership, but of changes in technology and economic processes. It started with the agricultural evolution and then industrial revolutions. It coincides with the development of communication, culture and civil society, and many other factors.
Seymour Martin Lipset (18 March 1922 – 31 December 2006) has called the United States as “The First New Nation”. Lipset was an American political sociologist, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and the Hazel Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University.
The United States, at first 13 colonies with diverse origins, came together to form a new nation and state. That state, like so many in contemporary times, faced the prospect of secession and disintegration in 1865. The United States took another 100 years for the integration of black and white, North and South, East and West.
This was a new type of nation-state, because its people were not all of the same ethnicity, culture, and language. The situation had been thought to be the case paradigm in the early defining of the concept of nation-state.
However, nation-building by one nation may destroy others. In the building of the US nation and others, aboriginal nations were erased or marginalized.
The Six-Nations Confederacy of the Iroquois had existed before the US nation. The “Six Nations”, comprising the Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora peoples.      The Iroquois, also known as the “Haudenosaunee Confederacy” was a historically powerful and important northeast Native American confederacy. It was thought by some to be a model for US. Today many “First Nations” are in the process of nation re-building, re-building the social, cultural, economic and political foundations for what is left of self-governance. First nations seek to re-build cultural identities as nations in order to challenge their disintegration by others in the creation of their own states.
The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development was released in 2001 by the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. It outlined the proposal of a Nation Building Model of Economic Development. The project defined Nation-building as: “Equipping First Nations with the institutional foundation necessary to increase their capacity to effectively assert self-governing powers on behalf of their own economic, social and cultural objectives.”
The study identified four core elements of a nation-building model.
(1)     Genuine self rule (First Nations making decisions about resource allocations, project funding and development strategy).
(2)     Creating effective governing institutions (non-politicized dispute resolution mechanisms and getting rid of corruption).
(3)     Cultural match (giving first nations institutions legitimacy in the eyes of their citizens). [Keys to successful community and economic development: Genuine self-government; Capable governing institutions.]
(4)     Need for a strategic direction with long-term planning.
What is nation-building?
Rand Corporation defines nation-building as “the use of armed force in the aftermath of a conflict to underpin an enduring transition to democracy.” [RAND Corporation is an American nonprofit global policy think tank originally formed by Douglas Aircraft Company to offer research and analysis to the United States Armed Forces.]
Comparing seven historical cases on Germany, Japan, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan, it could be seen “in which American military power has been used in the aftermath of a conflict to underpin democratization elsewhere around the world since World War II.”
They review the events as the lessons learned. This definition of nation-building is substantially different than those which see nation-building as the province of people within a nation.
The definition centers on the building of democratic processes. However, many argue that the use of the military to bring about democracy may be naturally contradictory. Whether nation-building can be imposed from outside is one of the central questions in this field, and whether that can be done by the military is a further part of the question.
What is a nation?
To understand the concept of nation-building, one needs to have some definition of what a nation is. Early conceptions of nation defined it as a group or race of people who shared history, traditions, and culture, sometimes religion, and usually language. Thus the United Kingdom comprises four nations, the English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh.
The people of a nation generally share a common national identity, and part of nation-building is the building of that common identity. Some distinguish between an ethnic nation, based on race or ethnicity, and a civic nation, based in common identity and loyalty to a set of political ideas and institutions, and the linkage of citizenship to nationality.
Today the word nation is often used synonymously with state, as in the United Nations. But a state is more properly the governmental apparatus by which a nation rules itself.
Today, however, we have to say that a state is a human community that successfully claims the domination of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory. The term “territory” is one of the characteristics of the state. Specifically, at the present time, the right to use physical force is ascribed to other institutions or to individuals only to the extent to which the state permits it.
In approaching the question of nation-building, and in particular its relationship to state-building, it is important to keep in mind that this definition specifies the legitimate use of force.
The Evolution of Nation-Building Theory
The term nation-building is often used simultaneously with state-building, democratization, modernization, political development, post-conflict reconstruction, and peace building. But each concept is different, though their evolution is intertwined.
The concept of nation-building came to be used especially among American political scientists a decade or so after World War II. It aims to describe the greater integration of state and society, as citizenship brought loyalty to the modern nation-state with it.
Reinhard Bendix [RB (25 February 1916 – 28 February 1991) was a German American sociologist] focused on the expansion of citizenship and of rights to political participation.
Karl Deutsch [KD (21 July 1912 – 1 November 1992) was a social and political scientist from Prague. His work centered on the study of war and peace] focused on the role of social communication and national integration in nation-building in Western societies. Others began to apply it to non-Western societies as well.
Almond and Coleman have the view for the functional approach to understand and compare the political systems of developing countries. [Gabriel A. Almond (12 January 1911 – 25 December 2002) was a political scientist from the United States; James Scott Coleman is Dean, College of Humanities and Sciences Virginia Commonwealth University.] They argued for the interdependence and multi-functionality of political structures. They were of the view especially that the input functions of political systems could help to distinguish stages of political development.
They defined input functions as follows.
(1) Political socialization and recruitment.
(2) Interest articulation. (It is the expression of an idea in words).
(3) Interest aggregation. (It is to put together different items).
(4) Political communication.
Output functions are as follows.
(5) Rule-making.
(6) Rule application.
(7) Rule adjudication or negotiation.
Most nation-building after the end of the Cold War seems to focus more on the above mentioned output functions.
Lucian W. Pye (21 October 1921 – 5 September 2008) was a political scientist, sinologist and comparative politics expert considered one of the leading China scholars in the United States.
Lucian Pye linked modernization with Westernization and “the diffusion and dissemination of a world culture,” what we might today call globalization. He identified political development with the following aspects.
A world culture is based on advanced technology and the spirit of science. The move toward is on a rational or balanced view of life, a secular and worldly approach to social relations. It is to seek of a feeling for justice in public affairs. Above all, it is on the acceptance in the political realm that the prime unit of the polity (a society as a political unit) should be the nation-state.
A nation state is a geographical area that can be identified as deriving its political legitimacy from serving as a sovereign nation. A state is a political and geopolitical entity, while a nation is a cultural and ethnic one. The term “nation state” implies that the two coincide, but “nation state” formation can take place at different times in different parts of the world.
Lucian Pye identified multiple meanings of political development, among them:
•    as prerequisite to economic development,
•    as politics typical of industrial societies,
•    as political modernization,
•    as administrative and legal development,
•    as mass mobilization and participation,
•    as the building of democracy, and
•    as stability and orderly change.
He identifies “equality” as one of the basic themes running through all of these. While nation-building after 9/11 [The September 11 attacks (also referred to as September 11, September 11th, or 9/11) were a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda on the United States on the morning of Tuesday, 11 September 2001.] still incorporates many of these meanings of political development, however, “equality” does not seem to play a major role in practice.
Dudley Seers (1920–1983) was a British economist who specialized in development economics. After his military service with the Royal Navy he taught at Oxford and then worked for various UN institutions. He was the director of the Institute of Development.
Dudley Seers, in his presidential address to the Society for International Development in 1969, presage and foretell what has become the concept of human development. He said:
The questions to ask about a country’s development are therefore:
What has been happening to poverty?
What has been happening to unemployment?
What has been happening to inequality?
If all these have declined from high levels, then beyond doubt this has been a period of development. Dudley Seers goes on to identify a number of objectives for development for developing countries.
The author of this article intends to share knowledge with the esteemed readers of the Global New Light of Myanmar on the explanations of Dudley Seers in conjunction with the UN Development Programme, the NGO efforts and the World Bank in the next article in the context of nation-building.


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