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ETHNOS AND GLOBALIZATION: Ethnocultural Mechanisms of Disintegration of Contemporary Nations

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They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel — because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

(Genesis 11: 1–9)


Most long-term forecasts of global development at the end of the twentieth century that were based on widely accepted scientific approaches and empirical patterns predicted the evolution of globalization as the establishment of a new global social community (a social entity) of a supranational kind and the all-encompassing dominance of cultural and political unification and convergence.

However, the current reality of globalization demonstrates that a global social community is not being formed despite the establishment of a global market, global digital (information) space, and manifold growth of temporary and permanent migration. Furthermore, as economic and informational globalization is expanding, the fragmentation and differentiation of cultures, civilizations, ethnicities and confessions, the “ethnicization’ of the collective consciousness, singling out ethnic identity as the leading one, is skyrocketing universally.

That means that, besides nation states and transnational corporations, global development entities (actors) are joined by an increasing number of social entities of a non-economic and non-state (non-political) nature, including ethnic communities (ethnoses).

Futurologists have had to face the unexpected: the growth of divergent tendencies; the growing number of actors participating in global processes; the revitalization and acceleration of the influence of ethnic and religious communities; the exacerbation of old ethnic and religious conflicts and the appearance of new ones. This contradicts the concepts that were formed in the twentieth century that postulate that humankind’s progress towards convergence, unification or universalization is irreversible; such concepts were based on the idea of continuous ascending progress, a multi-stage approach and economic determinism.

Therefore, social sciences are facing not only a fundamental scientific problem, but also the pressing social and pragmatic task of creating of a new paradigm of sociogenesis that will function in a brand new environment of globalization in a new historical age and that will allow analysis and prediction of the evolution of the leading social processes of our time, including ethnic and cultural phenomena.

Such leading ethnic and cultural phenomena that require theoretical understanding in terms of their social and philosophical positioning include the re-emergence of ethnic communities, ethnicity and ethnic consciousness that is taking place amid the crisis and erosion of modern nationalities.

The concept of globalization as a category of a wider sociopolitical and scientific discourse became widespread in the scientific community after 1991, when the falling apart of the USSR and of the system of its allies eliminated all obstacles to the establishment of a global market of goods and services, including media, allowing significant growth of international trade and migration as well as the global implementation of neoliberal reforms that had been tested not long before that by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

That explains why globalization was seen generally (above all, by Henry Kissinger and Margaret Thatcher, its creators and supporters) as a politically determined and largely economic process of spread and universalization of the neoliberal variant of the western economic model and its global victory. All of this created an impression of the imminence of the creation of a global supracommunity, similar to the “end of history’ explored by Fukuyama and the creation of the global empire with a Euro-Atlantic civilizational nucleus and several circles of dependent subject-less periphery.

However, as the results of the establishment of the “united world’ have been manifesting themselves, the need has arisen to study a brand new social reality that is not limited to the phenomena of economic nature and trends of cultural unification and westernization.

The basics of the sociology of globalization were laid down in the works by Wallerstein, Bell, Giddens, etc.

Philosophers, such as Kant, Marx, Teilhard de Chardin, Vernadsky, Russell, Toynbee, Jaspers etc., who were developing and substantiating the concept of the gradual ascension of humankind to the united global community were the forerunners of modern studies of globalistics.

The geo-economic and geopolitical aspects of globalization have been studied in the works by Buzgalin and Kolganov, Delyagin,, Inozemtsev, Utkin and others.

The influence of globalization on the national state and state institutes has been studied by Beck, Bauman, Kissinger, Martin and Schumann, Stryker, Soros, Drucker, Butenko, Delyagin, Rieger and Leibfried, Kara-Murza, Kagarlitsky, Podzigun, Pantin and Lapkin, Pozdnyakov, Panarin, etc.

The world-systems approach to globalization as a process of an increasingly multi-faceted and all-encompassing interaction of social actors and entities was used by Wallerstein, Braudel, Amin,, and others.

The synergistic approach, based on a somewhat incorrect extrapolation of the pattern in natural science of the emergence of ordered structures in non-equilibrium thermodynamic systems into the social form of being, was used in the works by Budanov, Kapitsa, Moiseyev, Podzigun, Panarin, Fuller, Shadzhe and others. An indisputable advantage of the synergistic approach is a general presentation of a problem in the creation and gradual sophistication of new structures and entities as a result of the dispersion of flows of energy and matter, which, when applied to social phenomena, may mean the development of divergent social processes.

The problem of the genesis of local social groups — ethnic groups and nations being the most important among them — has an evident interdisciplinary character and is studied under sociology, ethnology, social anthropology, conflictology and ethnopolitics, as well as within history-related disciplines.

The processes of ethnogenesis, nation-building and (looking at it through a broader lens) the building of social communities are studied within three schools of thought: constructivism, instrumentalism, and primordialism.

Primordialism is based on an evolutionary approach to sociogenesis and ethnogenesis. It looks at large groups that have existed for a long time (in particular, ethnic groups and nations) as a result of the long and continuous evolution of social communities that maintain their agency even in the course of deep social transformations of society. Two leading strategies in the ethnology of the nineteenth century, evolutionism and diffusionism, as well as the evolutionist approach in linguistics that allowed specification of the genesis of cultural and linguistic communities, established the basis for the primordialist approach.

Primordialism has two major branches, sociocultural (cultural primordialism) and sociobiological, the latter focusing on the genetic similarities of social groups — ethnic ones above all — as well as on the special social role of an instinctive underlying cause of social behaviour

The leading approach of modern primordialism is undoubtedly cultural primordialism, which views the genesis of large social groups (ethnic groups and nations) as a result of the evolution of social institutes and social relations. Cultural primordialism in Soviet and Russian science is represented by the works by Bromley, Kozlov, Arutyunov, Mnatsakyan, etc.

The modern sociobiological movement, having overcome the legacy of racial sociogenetic theories of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, is mainly represented by ethnogenetic,,, and neurogenetic concepts close to behaviourism. However, despite its seeming attractiveness, the sociobiological variations of primordialism, at best, explain the formation of tribal communities in a simplified manner. They do not explain the genesis and the patterns of establishment and evolution of more developed and complicated communities, in which culture and politics play a systematically important role.

Constructivism believes the leading mechanism for sociogenesis to be a direct sociopolitical and socioeconomic construction of social communities from top to bottom by political elites, which is usually led through state institutions. Constructivists see modern ethnos as a sociocultural relic, an ideological phantom that the elites used to rule over the masses.,,

The instrumentalists also see this social group as an outcome of a target-oriented activity, not simply as an instrument of power and elites, but as a tool or instrument of the individuals that make up the group that allows use of membership of the group to reach certain goals or to fulfil certain social functions.

Fredrik Barth is considered the leader of this movement. Tishkov, Guboglo, Voronkov and Osvald, Shnirelman, Kulagin, Drobizheva, and Lurye, as well as recent works by Popov, Nizamova, Nimayeva, Ortobayev and others, should be mentioned among Russian scientists subscribing to the constructivist doctrine. Informational and symbolist (identificational) approaches to ethno- and sociogenesis are in line with constructivism and instrumentalism.,,,

Sociological research interested in the revitalization of ethnic and ethno-social processes in the south of Russia, includes works by Avksentyev,, Abdulatipov, Gasanov, Gadzhiyev, Markedonov, Tishkov, Tkhagapsoyev, Chernous, Denisova, Zhade, Sampiyev, Hoperskaya, Hunagov, Tsutsiyev, Shadzhe, Shakhbanova and others.

Chapter I. The crisis of nations and increase of importance of the ethnos during globalization

The main goal of social philosophy has always been to understand the leading tendencies of historical evolution that determine the fate of the society and the individual, to search for the few key patterns that allow us to see or even create the outlines of the future through the chaos of reality.

The key to understanding the world of today is, undoubtedly, globalization — the ever more complex process of qualitative sophistication, acceleration and integration of the development of humanity that is pointing with ever-growing certainty to the transition from the technical and social progress of the two preceding centuries towards uncontrollability and global catastrophe.

Globalization is, in the first place, a system of qualitative social changes that include the formation of not only a single global market, but also a global social and information environment, devoid of spatial and political borders, giving rise to the previously unseen sophistication and acceleration of social-historical processes. It also means the appearance of global informational openness, the appearance of new information technologies, directly and non-inertially, influencing individual and mass consciousness in real time, as well as a qualitative increase in contacts between geographically distant communities and individuals, including those that have not been facilitated by the state and its institutions.

In a more general sense, globalization can be defined as the process of intensification of all systems of social relations and the formation of a global interaction environment, which results in not only global, but local social phenomena too being formed under the weight of remote external reasons and influences, leading to the all-encompassing, global linkage of social communities, structures, institutions and cultures. The process of globalization helps form a qualitatively new system of social relations and institutions within which not a single phenomenon of the social being on the local level cannot be studied from outside the all-encompassing system of the links with other parts of the global system.

However, while not so long ago the world was a sum of relatively closed-off social systems, at the moment, all local social and economic systems assume an open character and cannot be studied unless in the global context.

As the economies of several countries are being integrated, globalization continues moving past the economy, which supplied the initial terminology for it, and begins to take on a global, total character that cannot be reduced to particular patterns, giving rise to the unpredictable chaos of processes of different order that are happening in social, economic, political, cultural and other spheres of social life. From the perspective of these processes’ systemic interaction, they make up globalization with its integral but internally contradictory and unstable structure. That is why the analysis and prognosis of the development of globalizational processes is being impeded by the transition from the technical and social progress of the previous two centuries towards a growing uncontrollability and global catastrophe

Thus, globalization, as a leading social phenomenon of our times is the establishment, development and qualitative increase in the interconnection of the global environment — in particular, its economic, political, informational and social sphere. It qualitatively strengthens interactions within the society and therefore causes increasing conflict among all social entities.

As a result of this, crisis processes are sharply amplified in the time of globalization, which is a qualitatively new stage of historical evolution. Globalization is shown to be a progressively less stable system of crises and catastrophes on all planes of existence that feed into each other.

1.1. Globalization as a sociohistorical phenomenon

Globalization has a temporal dimension apart from functional dimensions such as economic, social, political and others.

Globalization is not a new tendency: intergovernmental, intercivilizational, and trade links and interactions have played a significant role throughout the history of humankind that has been through a few cycles of “globalization-localization’.

During the Hellenistic period and Roman domination, the prevailing tendency was for globalization (or, to be more exact, ecumenization, considering the isolation of the new world and the periphery of Eurasia and Africa). Conversely, regionalization and fragmentation of the territory into feudalistic and religious enclaves was the leading tendency of the Middle Ages.

The Age of Discovery became a new step towards globalization, bringing the previously isolated territories of the New World, Africa and Asia into the global historical and economic process. However, in terms of the degree of involvement in globalization of elites and local communities (including the European ones) up until the twentieth century, trade volumes were comparable to only a few percent of domestic manufacturing and transcontinental migration routes only concerned a small part of the population. The Hispano-Portuguese colonization of the New World that drew people out of parent states and streams of gold flowing into Europe were more of an exception proving the rule.

Globalization was preceded by the epoch of industrialism, which began with the creation of the railway tracks, steam fleet and telegraph that greatly changed the man-made environment and lifestyle in general.

It should be noted that globalization is traditionally considered to be preceded by the fight of the colonial empires over their share of Africa and the Second Boer War that ushered in the period of the global tug-of-war to remake the world order, including the two world wars.

It is not insignificant that the concept of imperialism, which was initially aimed against the domination of the British Empire, was fully formed and became a widely accepted political term by the beginning of the World War I.

On no account was Lenin’s famous work Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916) a first attempt to construct a theory of imperialism. It was, instead, built as a polemic debate with an earlier work by Karl Kautsky. It also contains references to other earlier works by German, French and British authors, in particular Hobson’s Imperialism.

Considering this work as a fait accompli, a century later one may see that Lenin, as a representative of the Marxist paradigm, was truly successful in singling out the essential features of a new stage of the development of capitalism that have fully shown themselves recently. They include not only the tendency towards monopolization of markets, which a hundred years ago had already come to replace “free competition’, a concept that became an ideological construct. The work also described the leading role of financial capital; the transition of incomes from the real sector to the financial; an outpacing development of export of capital; the transformation of metropolitan states into rentier states, or “Rentnerstaat’; and a new role of banks as the centres from which the economy is managed. Stock companies and subsidiaries that form — to put it in contemporary terms — transnational networks are given a special role in that work, as one of the key phenomena that defined the establishment of globalization as a qualitatively new stage of the sociohistorical evolution of humankind.

Lenin also remarked on the tendency of German capital to be exported into British colonies through the head of the empire, circumventing the colonial ownership — in other words, a tendency to move financial capital to jointly use less developed countries, a trend that fully manifested itself after World War II during neo-colonialism.

We can see that the theory of imperialism created at the beginning of the twentieth century within the Marxist paradigm contained all features typical of the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first: that is, it was capable of defining the key features of globalization a hundred years before it came about.

In fact, only a chain of terminological innovations prevents us from seeing the globalization of the twenty-first century as a direct continuation of imperialism from the time of Cecil Rhodes, which was interpreted by contemporaries quite adequately, as we may see today.

However, the theory of imperialism, quite well-formed and corresponding fairly well to the social practice, was undeservedly forgotten at the end of the twentieth century: at the time, the establishment of globalization was a leading systemic phenomenon that was behind the fight among sociopolitical systems which defined the course of the twentieth century, so globalization then seemed something essentially new.

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