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Language Conflicts and Political Community*

  • Ronald F. Inglehart (a1) and Margaret Woodward (a1)

Must a viable nation be made up largely of one language group? If this is true, then there are almost insuperable difficulties in the way of establishing a European political community. Recent events in India, Canada, Belgium, Nigeria and several other areas give one cause to think that there may be some basis for drawing that conclusion.

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1 Cited in Roy Naresh Chandra, Federalism and Linguistic States (Calcutta, 1962), p. 158.

2 Poles immigrated in large numbers into the Polish corridor and Germans left the same region; in 1923, the Turkish minority of Thrace and the Greeks of Western Asia Minor were exchanged. For other examples see Dauzat Albert, L'Europe linguistique (Paris, 1953), pp. 108 ff.

4 See, for example, his sarcastic reference to stateless people speaking “some kind of integrated Esperanto or Volapük”. Statement of May 15, 1962, cited in Macridis Roy C. (ed.), De Gaulle: Implacable Ally (New York, 1966).

5 This definition is derived from the work of David Easton. See A Systems Analysis of Political Life (New York, 1965).

6 For a discussion of “social mobilization” as we will use the term, see Lerner Daniel, The Passing of Traditional Society (Glencoe, 1959). Cf. Deutsch Karl W., Nationalism and Social Communication (New York, 1953).

7 The Belgian case seems to reflect this tendency.

8 The union of the two Canadas was attempted in 1840 with very little success. The French clung more firmly than ever to their language, religion and outlook on life, and suspected that the British – having conquered and forcibly ruled them – were trying to destroy their identity.

9 See Preliminary Report of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism (Ottawa, 1965), pp. 7383.

10 Ibid., p. 78.

11 See Trudeau Pierre Elliot, “Some Obstacles to Democracy in Quebec,” Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science, XXIV (1955), pp. 297314; Malheux Arthur, “Democracy and the French Canadian,” in Douglas Grant (ed.), Quebec Today (Toronto, 1958), pp. 341362; and Pierre R. Amyot, “Factors Leading to Integrative or Non-integrative Attitudes Towards Canada among French Canadians of Quebec”, Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, Northwestern University, 1966.

12 Geyl Pieter, Debates with Historians (Cleveland, World Publishing Co., 1958), p. 216. At that time, a variety of dialects of Dutch were spoken in Northern Belgium, some of them mutually incomprehensible. The dialects were known as Flemish.

13 Flemish families in the Brussels region still have a tendency to learn French and “pass” as Walloons. See “Debat in Belgische Kamer Over Taalgemeenschappen’, Nieuwe Rotterdamse Courant, Jan. 27, 1966. Over a period of many years, this has contributed to making Brussels – once part of the Flemish region – a largely French speaking city.

14 Geyl , op. cit., p. 213.

15 Roy , op. cit., p. 121.

16 Rajagopalachari Chakravarti, Our Democracy (Madras, 1957), p. 45.

17 Within Austria, the most outstanding example was his creation of Illyria. See Herman Wendel, Aus dem siidslavischen Risorgimento (Gotha, 1921); and Kohn Hans, Nationalism: Its Meaning and History (Princeton, 1965), pp. 47 ff.

18 See Watson R. W. Seton, Racial Problems in Hungary (London, 1908), pp. 38 ff.; and Jaszi Oscar, The Dissolution of the Habsburg Monarchy (Chicago, 1961).

19 XWatson Seton, op. cit., p. 137.

20 While nationality was not supposed to be an obstacle to the holding of office, in 11 counties where Rumanians and 7 counties where Slovaks formed a majority of 66 to 96 per cent, no Rumanians or Slovaks were appointed High Sheriff for the succeeding generation. In 1891, in areas where 60 per cent of the population was Rumanian, only 5.8 per cent of the officials were of that nationality.

21 Ibid., pp. 150–155.

22 Ibid.; see also Jaszi , op. cit., pp. 279 ff.; 304 ff.

23 Kann Robert, The Multinational Empire (New York, 1950), I, p. 239.

24 Ibid., p. 241.

25 Kann , op. cit., p. 199.

26 See May Arthur, The Habsburg Monarchy (Cambridge, Mass., 1960), pp. 325 ff.

27 Quoted by Kann , op. cit., p. 211.

28 Each economic class of the minority linguistic groups turned to language as a rallying symbol against the central government, even though the basic interests of some of these classes (such as peasants versus nobles) were diametrically opposed. For a discussion of this point see Jaszi , op. cit., pp. 284–86.

29 Language conflicts remain a potential problem in the former Austrian lands. In March, 1967, President Tito of Yugoslavia “angrily warned” Croatians and Serbs to stop stirring up linguistic disputes. See The New York Times (March 27, 1967), p. 1.

30 Out of 28.6 million people in 1950, there were 5 million Catalans – a force to be reckoned with. An equally discontented group are the Basques, but as of 1950 they only numbered a half million people. (Dauzat , op. cit., p. 155.)

31 Brenan Gerald, The Spanish Labyrinth (Cambridge, 1962), pp. 2628.

32 In the Basque country conservative nationalism also failed, but the people were too religious and concerned with tradition to turn to the left. Instead, extremists urged Basques to learn English or French instead of Spanish. See Carr Raymond, Spain, 1808–1939 (Oxford, 1966), p. 556.

33 Brenan , op. cit., pp. 2934; 63–67; 83; see also Thomas Hugh, The Spanish Civil War (New York, 1963), p. 29. The bibliography on Catalanism is quite extensive. One of the most useful works is Punal Jaime Carrera, Historia politico de Catalonia (Barcelona, 1958), especially vols. VI, VII.

34 Dauzat , op. cit., p. 177. In 1800, 4 million Irishmen spoke Gaelic, yet by 1921 there were only 300,000.

35 Watson Seton, op. cit., p. 38.

36 See Leites Nathan, The “Europe” of the French (Rand research memorandum) (Santa Monica, 1965).

37 See Ronald Inglehart, “An End to European Integration?”, American Political Science Review, March 1967. Cf. Rabier Jacques-René, L'Opinion Publique et l'Europe (Brussels, 1966). Support for European nation building is most pronounced among those groups which have attained the greatest measure of prosperity.

38 By “extensive”, we refer to a polity which goes beyond the scale of a city-state or tribe: where political activity can no longer be based on face to face communication.

38 Latin, Mandarin, French, German or English, as the case may be in states with a multiplicity of parochial vernaculars.

40 Ongoing research by Ronald Inglehart, Douglas Scott and Arthur Stevens, using data from Arthur Banks S. and Textor Robert, A Cross-Polity Survey (Cambridge, Mass., 1963); Russett Bruce R. et al. , World Handbook of Political and Social Indicators (New Haven, 1964); and data coded by the investigators. Another aspect of this curvilinear relationship is stressed by William McNeill: “Pervasive uncertainty arising from the breakdown of immemorial rural routines – in large measure a by-product of the spread of industrialism – lent special emotional intensity to late nineteenth-century nationalism … Incandescent nationalists of eastern Europe were in effect attempting to project their idealized memories of tight-knit village life upon an entire nation. The total failure of national self-determination to achieve any such idyll after World War I, and the passing of the acute phase of initial adjustment to an industrializing world, may account for the remarkable fading of linguistic nationalism as a live issue in European politics since World War II. The virulent and sometimes politically disruptive nationalisms of Africa and Asia since 1945 seem, in this respect, to recapitulate the earlier European experience.” The Rise of the West (New York, 1965), note on p. 819.

41 The absence of a Western colonial experience is important because of its tendency to produce native modernizing elites, educated in the colonizing country and/or trained in the colonial army or administrative bureaucracy.

42 A small number of intermediate cases exist, in which no one group makes up at least 85 per cent of the population, but which lack any minority group of substantial size; these were excluded from analysis, as ambiguous for our purposes.

43 Cited in Sondages, 1963, number 1, p. 41.

* The authors are indebted to David Appel, Raymond Grew, Duncan MacRae, Jr., Richard Park and David Segal for critical comments on an earlier draft of this paper.

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Comparative Studies in Society and History
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