The Baltic States and Their Region: New Europe or Old?

By David J. Smith | Go to book overview

The Baltic States and Russia in the new Europe: a neo-
Gramscian perspective on the global and the local

Viatcheslav Morozov

This article provides a neo-Gramscian perspective on the relations between the Baltic States and Russia in the context of the global war against terrorism. It follows the methodological line opened by Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, two contemporary scholars who tried to develop Antonio Gramsci's theory of hegemony in the spirit of Derridean poststructuralism. Laclau and Mouffe proceed from the Gramscian thesis about social productivity of ideology, especially as regards the constitution of the subject of political action and the ability of the ruling class to establish relations of hegemony by positioning itself as the representative of other group interests,1 but they come to the need to reject the economic determinism which is still inherent in Gramsci's writings. For Laclau and Mouffe, “the space of the economy is itself structured as a political space, and […] in it, as in any other 'level' of society, those practices we characterized as hegemonic are fully operative.”2 Accordingly, the whole domain of the social turns out to be the sphere of undecidability, where identities and practices can be more or less sedimented, but where any final fixation of meaning is impossible and where, as a result, any identity remains contingent. In their main book Hegemony and Socialist Strategy Laclau and Mouffe develop a poststructuralist neo-Gramscian theory, which holds that relations of hegemony emerge out of a struggle between antagonistic forces fix floating signifiers and delimit community borders. This struggle in the end leads to a constant redefinition of the identity of the antagonistic forces themselves.3

This article argues that the current political situation in the Baltic Sea region is to a great extent based upon a constant struggle to define “Europe.” This battle for Europe is especially important for the relations between Russia and the Baltic States. The tension which is very much visible in those relations cannot be properly understood if one disregards the fact that both sides claim for themselves a position within the European “core,” and both sides tend to deny this position as regards the other. This seems to be inevitable as long as there remain doubts about the external boundaries of political Europe: by emphasizing the allegedly nonEuropean elements of Russia's identity, the Baltic states confirm their right to be called Europeans, and vice versa.

In the current global setting this conflict seems to be losing its universal significance, being in part substituted by a new constitutive antagonism – the struggle between “the civilized world” and the terrorists. This paper argues, however, that such solution to regional problems

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