Surviving the Americanizing New Right [*]

By Laxer, Gordon | The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, February 2000 | Go to article overview

Surviving the Americanizing New Right [*]


Laxer, Gordon, The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology


Benjamin Barber etablit un lien entre la mondialisation des entreprises et la resurgence des nationalismes ethnoculturels. Selon lui, ces deux phenomenes affaiblissent la democratie. Barber ne parle pas des effets de la mondialisation sur l'autre aspect du nationalisme -- le nationalisme civique, etatise, qui predomine dans les democraties comme le Canada. Get article etudie les liens qui unissent ethos traditions et Etat au Canada, et qui en font un pays different des Etats-Unis. L'auteur se demande si le nouveau liberalisme de droite des annees 1980 et 1990 n'a pas remis en question le caractere distinct du Canada. L'article presente aussi les tendances qui s'opposent a la nouvelle droite liberale au Canada.

Benjamin Barber draws a connection between corporate globalization and the resurgence of ethno-cultural nationalisms. Both weaken democracy, he contends. Barber does not discuss the effects of globalization on the other variety of nationalism--the civic, state-based kind that predominates in highly diverse, democratic countries such as Canada. This paper examines the state-based ethos and traditions that have kept Canada distinct from the United States and explores whether the new right liberalism of the 1980s and 1990s has eroded Canada's raison d'etre as a separate country. Counter trends to new right liberalism in Canada are also discussed.

WE LIVE IN A PARADOXICAL WORLD. As economic control shifts from democratic governments to global corporations, ethno-cultural nationalisms enjoy a resurgence. For Benjamin Barber (1995), the world is coming together and falling apart at the same time. He calls this paradox "Jihad vs. McWorld" and outlines how both trends weaken substantive democracy in the sense of citizens over rulers.

Globalization is the first side of the paradox. "Globalization" is the deepening and further penetration of capitalism (Meiksons Wood, 1996). It is a short form for a cluster of related economic, cultural and technological changes that express the triumphalism of Western capitalism. It is as much ideological spin about the historical inevitability of neo-liberalism as it is about genuine change. Much of it is not new. I have discussed these issues elsewhere (Laxer, 1995).

The market fundamentalist attack on activist governments involves the erosion of citizens' rights to public services and the abandonment of full employment policies. There is little room for the collective rights of citizens and wage earners in democratic communities. In the new Right ideal of pure market capitalism, people have legitimate roles only as individual consumers, partners, investors and stakeholders. Margaret Thatcher's quip, "there is no such thing as society," [1] perfectly captures this ideal. If consumerism is people's main role and source of identity, what holds a country together? What do consumers in the same country have in common that they do not share with consumers half way round the world? The market individualizes; it rarely builds communities.

Eroding ties-that-bind leads to the second side of Barber's paradox: the rise of ethno-cultural nationalisms. In reaction to market individualism, people yearn for "blood brotherhood" to recapture a sense of belonging, argues Barber (155). He is right that global capitalism impels people to seek sustenance in community. But why do they seek it in narrow, rather than inclusive nationalisms?

The rise of ethno-cultural nationalisms, I argue, is caused not only by market individualism, but also by globalization's erosion of democracy and the shared citizenship of democratic communities. As the glue binding heterogeneous countries and those self-defined as immigrant societies loosen, many turn to exclusive ethnic, regional or cultural nationalisms. New Right fundamentalism poses much less of a threat to relatively homogeneous nations or to nations defined by entrenched ethno-cultural majorities. Neither depend strongly for their continued existence on a broad public life and activist governments. …

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