The "No to EU"
and the FIS in the eye of the whirlwind of global modernity
Although the European Union is internally divided along geographic
as well as political lines, and although its future development
is uncertain (a "Jacobinist" centralism confronts a
"Thatcherite" liberalism and a "Catholic"
or "German" federalism), the EU is without doubt the
gravitational centre of Europe economically, politically
and strategically. The relationship to the EU is a crucial element
in the foreign policies of its neighbouring countries from
Iceland to Egypt; from Norway to Morocco. The EU also offers a
wealth of research opportunities within the field of qualitative
globalisationlocalisation studies (cf. MacDonald 1993, Eriksen
in press) as patterns of political alignments and loyalties, consumption
and lifestyle, personal identification and genealogies are being
negotiated and re-negotiated during this extremely uncertain and
ambiguous post-Cold War period. Criticism of the EU, inside and
outside the union, is often tantamount to criticism of some aspects
of globalisation, seen as the universalisation of the capitalist
system of production and distribution, the ongoing erasure of
erstwhile boundaries inhibiting cultural flow, the loss of community
and local self-reliance, and processes of cultural homogenisation.
This essay amounts to a description and comparison of two powerful
social and political movements on the outer periphery of the EU,
which both contain strong anti-modernist elements; the successful
"No to EU" (Nei til EU) organisation in Norway,
and the no less successful Front Islamique du Salut (FIS)
in Algeria. The examples are deliberately chosen for their mutual
differences: if it can be shown that they have important features
in common, they might form a base for wider comparisons of anti-globalist
movements in Europe or worldwide. Such similarities in counterreactions,
if they can be observed, would also indicate that globalisation
can fruitfully be seen as a single phenomenon even if its expressions
are manifold and local. Although I do not explicitly engage in
the liberalismcommunitarianism dispute characteristic of
contemporary political theory, the present analysis is tangential
to it and, to some extent, informed by it.
The contrasts between the two countries (and their main localist
movements) are obvious. Norway is a cold, thinly populated Lutheran
(or post-Lutheran) country, a stable parliamentary democracy with
little public violence, a uniformly high material standard of
living and a strong welfare state. Algeria is a hot, densely populated
(that is, its inhabitable part) Muslim country, politically unstable
and economically crisis-ridden, with a deteriorating material
standard of living, currently a very high level of public violence
and serious problems of political cohesion. Two more different
countries in the hinterland of the EU could scarcely be found.
Yet, both have in the early 1990s seen the rise of strong popular
movements aiming at mitigating or even avoiding certain effects
of economic, political and cultural globalisation. Encapsulation,
withdrawal, closure: these are some of the terms which have been
used to designate both movements.
2. "No to EU": Europe as The Other
"I am very pleased to see that young people take part in
the No struggle. They have travelled by Interrail to EU countries,
and so they have seen what it is like there."
Anne Enger Lahnstein (prominent anti-EU politician)
Norwegian Labour governments have tried to coax their voters into
joining the European Community/Union twice. At these junctions
(25 September 1972 and 28 November 1994) referendums have been
held; at both occasions, the proposal has been turned down by
a relatively narrow popular majority (53.5 per cent in 1972, 52.3
per cent in 1994). On both occasions, public debate in Norway
has been strongly polarised (although nearly a third of the electorate
described itself as undecided as late as summer, 1994), and although
the actual rhetoric on both sides was very varied, it could be
argued that the two sides represented different value orientations
at the level of political rhetoric. At a very general statistical
level, there was an overrepresentation of women, farmers, fishermen
and rural people among the No voters. Northern Norway was massively
against membership, while the Oslo region was massively favourable.
The "No to EU" movement, founded before the first referendum
in 1972 (it was then "No to EEC"), which it won, and
revitalised around 1990, is a political alliance interesting for
its ideology and its following, which is extremely heterogeneous
in relation to conventional political classification. The No to
EU had members and activists from all political parties (albeit
few from the Conservative party), and its spokespersons repeatedly
argued, explicitly and implicitly, that they had a better understanding
of "the people" (depicted as a metaphysical entity)
than the pro-EU movement. In the months leading up to the November
1994 referendum, the "No to EU" was the largest political
organisation in the country, boasting some 140,000 members.
Not only the government and a clear parliamentary majority, but
the main newspapers and the two largest political parties as well,
were favourable to EU membership. The situation frequently described
by the "No to EU" was one of "the people against
the power" (see illustration overleaf), an image with a considerable
impact in a country where acquired memories of Danish colonisation
(13891814), enforced union with Sweden (18141905) and
German occupation (194045) are being kept alive through grand
annual public rituals, school curricula and popular books (more
than half of the total number of books published on "recent
Norwegian history" deal with the Second World War and the
German occupation). Indeed, the very word "union" was
seized by the "No" movement after the signing of the
Maastricht Treaty (1991-92) and used to equate the European Union
with the SwedishNorwegian union, which still has strong connotations
of national humiliation.
The loosely knit "No to EU" was not the only organisation
working against Norwegian EU membership, but it formed the ideological
centre of the No movement, encompassing all groups (farmers, urban
Maoists, conservative Christians etc.) who were opposed to joining.
It cut across established political boundaries, in the event creating
bedfellows who were more than a little strange, and its ideology
had to consist of common denominators for groups who conventionally
represented opposed interests in society.
The kind of mass appeal of the "No to EU" is evident
in its ability to mobilise considerable numbers of activists at
short notice. Large rallies in the towns and cities were organised
regularly during the months and years preceding the referendum;
volunteers wrote and distributed pamphlets and brochures; actually,
during the last two weeks of the campaign, a daily newsletter
("Ikke Dytt Nytt", lit. "Don't Push News")
was produced and distributed countrywide (daily, in cold and dark
November mornings) by volunteers. Its counterpart, the Yes movement
(the European Movement of Norway) and its associates, had a very
different experience and found it extremely difficult to mobilise
volunteers. Since the two blocs eventually turned out to be roughly
equal in size, this lends support to the common view that the
No side was strong on Gemeinschaft values and communitarianism,
while the Yes side was dominated by individualists with tight
Since it was committed to representing a wide variety of groups,
the ideology of the "No to EU" had to be carefully phrased
so as not to alienate any of its supporters. It is most comprehensively
expressed in the report "Norway and the EU: Effects of Membership
in The European Union" (Nei til EU 1994a), printed on recycled
paper in 50,000 copies, but its many less ambitious publications
are no less interesting, including notably the "No to EU
Reader" (Lesebok 1994), which contained short literary
contributions from 27 of Norway's leading writers and capsule
political analyses of core issues, published in 1.8 million copies
and distributed to all the households of the country in the spring
of 1994. I cannot undertake a complete analysis of this very diverse
material here; a few tidbits will have to do.
National sovereignty is a keyword in "No to EU" rhetoric.
The loss of national autonomy in political decision-making was
probably a decisive argument for many of those who voted No. In
the main report, a loss of democracy (described in populist terms
as "people's government", folkestyre) is described
as a necessary consequence of membership (e.g. pp. 46, 47). The
minuscule direct influence of Norwegians on EU parliament decisions
is stressed. The argument stating that because of internationalisation
and globalisation, supranational decision-making is necessary,
is countered by claims that the EU is inefficient in dealing with
environmental problems (which are supranational) and that international
cooperation is called for, but that it does not necessarily entail
EU membership. The "No to EU" bi-weekly paper Standpunkt
ran, as its cover story in the last issue before the referendum
(no. 19, 1994), an article on the possibly forthcoming "European
state" (the headline read: "Strong forces in EU wish:
THE EUROPEAN STATE").
Closely connected with this is the argument regarding property
rights and the perils of uncontrolled foreign investment. It is
noted several places in the main report (Chapters 4, 13) that
Norwegian industries will no longer be "protected" against
foreign investments, and that open competition from abroad may
have adverse effects on employment and general welfare in the
country. Regarding summer houses and mountain cottages, the report
states (p. 56) that as an EU member, Norway cannot prevent foreigners
from buying such property. Summer houses and cottages are mentioned
explicitly presumably because of their great significance as symbols
of independence and "roots". Some people established
a connection between the current situation of possible EU membership
and the German occupation of Norway during the Second World War,
but the "No to EU" did not officially endorse this view.
Environmental security is also an important issue in many of
the documents, and the main report contains separate chapters
on the environment/resource management and genetic engineering,
as well as mentioning environmental issues elsewhere. Generally,
the message is that conditions are worse in the EU than in Norway;
the EU countries are more polluted, and the high priority on economic
growth has led to a deteriorating natural environment. Their brochures
state: "The EU puts the market forces before the environment
and people's health".
At a more fundamental level, the No to EU juxtaposes EU=culture
with Norway=nature. For example, it is stressed in the main report
that Norway has a more restrictive view on genetic engineering
than the EU; that economic growth (the explicit goal of the EU)
cannot be reconciled with environmental security; and that the
political structure of the EU "favours wealthy industrial
interests at the expense of popular environmental organisations"
(Nei til EU 1994a, p. 121). The contrast between capitalism/industry
and nature/the people is evident here and elsewhere. In an interesting
passage, it is claimed that "history has shown that whenever
man has tampered with the building-blocks of nature; the molecule
(chemistry), the atom (nuclear physics) and the gene (genetic
technology), it has created consequences we were unable to predict"
(p. 128). What is interesting about this statement is not so much
its content, but its location in an official report about the
relationship between Norway and the EU.
Farming and regional policies were also focused strongly upon,
and the "No to EU" were often caricatured by their adversaries
as a mix of ignorant peasants, urban romantics and cynics whose
only aim was to maintain a high level of subsidies to the rural
areas. It is nonetheless easy to identify links between Norwegian
nationalist symbolism, the "No to EU" defence of marginal
agriculture and concepts of national identity connecting belongingness
to "roots" (a common botanical metaphor in Norway and
elsewhere these days) and to the land. Norway is noted for its
scattered population, and an overwhelming proportion of the population
agreed, according to a poll conducted in June/July 1994 (MMI 1994),
that it ought to be a major political priority to maintain this
pattern. The "No to EU" tried to show, in their main
report (Chapter 16) and elsewhere (e.g. Mønnesland and
Kann 1994), that EU membership would devastate the countryside
because of changing economic conditions and regional policies.
Most parts of the country have distinctive dialects, and unlike
in say, France, to speak a rural dialect is generally considered
a virtue in relation to nation-building and patriotism. The EU
is depicted as inherently centralising and based on an alienating
economic rationality placing profits before people. This alleged
contrast between the EU and Norway was a cornerstone of the "No
to EU" argument throughout the campaign. Norway was depicted
as decentralised, egalitarian and environmentally conscious; the
EU was centralised, hierarchical and ruthlessly exploitative in
its relations to nature. The vice-chair of the "No to EU"
said, at a meeting in 1992, that "whenever I go to Brussels
I feel like a peasant", and drew a nationwide round of applause
for the statement. Again, in their most widely circulated publication,
the "No to EU" (1994b) state: "In Norway, we have
made an effort to create a healthy interrelationship between viable
local communities (...). The EU centralises the power and moves
it from elected bodies to the market."
The nationalist symbolism of Norway links its "soul"
to farming and the countryside (cf. Larsen 1984), and many Norwegians
describe their country as "a country of farmers" despite
the fact that less than five per cent of the population is actively
engaged in agriculture (cf. Eriksen 1993 for a full analysis).
The marginal farm is metonymically linked to Norway in this imagery,
and decline in agricultural subsidies, with the accompanying disappearance
of thousands of farms, thereby symbolises a grave threat to national
integrity although it may affect a small percentage of the population
In the summer of 1994, the national farming cooperative warned
consumers against buying imported chickens from the EU since they
had been dealt with in uncleanly ways during slaughtering and
preparation for sale. Rumours about salmonella infested food from
the EU were relayed by the mass media, and numerous campaigns
from "No to EU" and associated organisations gave the
impression that Norwegian food was cleaner and produced in more
environment-friendly ways than EU food. As the "No to EU"
brochure on food and the environment states unequivocally: "Through
EU membership, the quality of Norwegian food will deteriorate,"
and it goes on to describe the industrialised character of EU
food production, focusing on chemical fertilisers, diseases, germs
and additives. According to Standpunkt, Danish newspapers
summed up a proposed policy on additives in baby food by stating
that "EU proposal threatens babies' health".
A chapter in the main report deals with "intoxicating substances".
Norway has more restrictive policies relating to drugs and alcohol
than the EU countries, and the chapter notes that in this regard,
"the decision of the EU to remove border controls may lead
to considerable problems for Norway if it were to become a member"
(p. 255). This fear of loss of clear boundaries is the main ideological
point in the chapter, which also notes that drug policies in several
EU countries have moved in a liberal and experimental direction.
Many issues dealt with by the "No to EU" have been
ignored in this context, but these should be sufficient, at least
provisionally, for an assessment of its underlying world view
and ideological relationship to global modernity.
Was the "No to EU" nationalist in character? The answer
is obviously yes to the extent that it championed the right to
self-determination of nations. Its relationship to ethnic nationalism
was, however, more ambiguous. On the one hand, the symbolic emphasis
on positive isolation and on "Norwegian tradition"
suggests a hostile attitude to immigration and poly-ethnicity.
On the other hand, the No to EU occasionally criticised EU refugee
policies for being too strict (although Norwegian policies were
stricter) and aid policies for being to closely linked to vested
interests in the donor countries.
Ethnic nationalism in Norway, unlike in many other European countries,
cuts across the otherwise still well established leftright
divide. In 1975, Maoists dressed in folk costumes (bunad)
organised their own rally on Constitution Day, and the Maoist
party was opposed to Third World immigration for years during
the same period. Interestingly, even May Day rallies, traditionally
internationalist and socialist, took on a strong folkloristic,
nationalist, anti-European character in the two or three years
leading up to the referendum.
The "No to EU" emphasis on the integrity of place
and "Norwegian tradition" (invoked not only in discussions
of language and customs, but also when dealing with politics and
the economy) highlights the uniqueness and moral superiority of
Norway. A sentence present on all brochures distributed by the
"No to EU" reads: "The common foreign policy of
the EU would prevent Norway from building bridges between poor
and rich parts of the world".
To be pro-membership was considered un-Norwegian by the "No
to EU". Ethnic nationalism, while never promoted explicitly
(unlike in the 1972 campaign, when the best known slogan was Nei
til salg av Norge, "No to the sale of Norway"),
was an unquestioned premise for the campaign since it did not
only demand the continued political sovereignty of the territory
of Norway, but also drew on notions of "Norwegian values"
in its dichotomisation with the EU. In its discussions of the
potential role of Norwegians in central decision-making in the
EU, it is taken for granted (i.e. not discussed) that Norwegian
delegates would vote in their capacity as Norwegians and not according
to political views.
Cleanness in both a strict and a metaphorical sense is
a common denominator for many "No to EU" arguments.
The need to protect oneself against European filth is clearly
articulated in several of the documents. The EU is irresponsibly
polluting the environment; EU food is full of dangerous germs,
artificial colouring ("food makeup", as the Danes call
it) and laboratory genes; the animals are mistreated and fed with
nasty substances, and the perfect shape and colouring of EU tomatoes
is an effect of genetic manipulation and excessive use of chemical
fertiliser. (Der Mensch ist was er ißt, as the German
saying goes.) The EU is throroughly industrialised and alienated
from nature; Norway is faithful to traditional values and close
In this perspective, the "No to EU" appears as a classic
puritanist, Protestant movement trying to keep the inherent creolisation,
bastardisation, ambivalence, alienation and complexity of modernity
at bay, opting instead for a simple way of life in tightly integrated
communities with profound respect of nature, morality and the
legacy of a mythical past. It was also a nationalist movement
arguing the virtues of political self-determination and cultural
self-sufficiency. The main contrasts created in their propaganda
material, then, were the following (listed in a random order).
Although some of these dichotomies may be contested (e.g. by social
scientists who were active in the "No to EU"), they can
easily be justified by referring to official "No to EU"
publications, as I have shown tentatively above.
3. The FIS and modernity
Although the Norwegian EU controversy was a heated and bitter
one, it led to no casualties. This cannot be said of the Algerian
situation, where an estimated 40,000 have been killed since the
invalidation of the election results of December 1991. Even the
most cursory look at very recent Algerian history gives the impression
of a country torn by violence, ridden by fear, threatening to
Algeria is a country divided along several axes: The Berbers,
a sizeable minority concentrated in the western part of the inhabitable
north, have periodically voiced demands for autonomy and linguistic
recognition. The relationship with the former colonial power France
(whose effective colonisation began as early as in 1830) is ambivalent
and complex; this is also true of the French language, which is
widely used in Algeria and which until recently enjoyed a privileged
position in the public sphere along with Arabic. Since French
is associated with Westernisation and secularism, it became an
early target of Islamic revivalists, whose battle against what
they see as a corrupted modern morality is focused upon here.
Although the ruling FLN (Front de Libération Nationale)
party officially acknowledges Islam as the legitimate religion
of the country (unlike socialist parties elsewhere) and has always
paid lip service to "traditional Arab culture", it is
widely perceived, locally and internationally, as a modernising
agent. During the first decades of independence (achieved in 1963),
industrialisation and economic modernisation were the primary
aims of the FLN. Education of the European type was boosted, and
women were encouraged to take employment. Despite the avowed socialist
stance of the FLN, there was a movement towards not only secularism
but also individualism. The ruling party of Algeria since independence,
the FLN moved towards liberalisation in the late 1980s, legalising
a number of rival parties and promising local as well as general
A further element of the context for the rise of politicised
Islam was the economic crisis and the general deterioration in
living conditions in Algeria during the 1980s. Citizens complained
of a bloated and inefficient bureaucracy, growing class differences,
scarcity of necessary commodities, loss of career opportunities,
inflation and a number of other problems. The time was, in other
words, ripe for an alternative to the FLN; what surprised many
foreign observers as well as many Algerians, was the fact that
the only alternative which proved popular among Algerians, was
a militant Islamic movement, the FIS.
A long and complex history of confrontations and attempts at
Islamic revival preceded the formation of the Front Islamique
de Salut (usually translated as the Islamic Salvation Front) in
the summer of 1989. As early as 1976, Islamist students gained
control of the faculties of humanities and social sciences at
the university of Constantine, and immediately introduced new
rules: male and female students should no longer engage in shared
social activities, and women should wear "Islamic dress".
A few years later, in 1982, a student explicitly supporting a
secular state was killed by other students in Alger. The current
polarisation (some would say schismogenesis Bateson's, 1972,
term) between Islamists and secularists is, in other words, not
entirely new although it has only recently come to permeate the
entire social fabric of Algeria.
The FIS, legalised a few months after its foundation, rapidly
became a major political force in Algeria, winning the municipal
elections in June 1990. In December 1991, it won a devastating
victory in the first round of the general elections. As a result,
the second round was called off, and a state of emergency was
declared by the FLN. Since then, Algeria has been a tormented
country, with frequent outbursts of lethal violence and an ever
deepening polarisation between the state and the FIS.
Much has already been written about the FIS. I shall concentrate
on its ideology, seeing it in relation to globalisation and modernisation.
Unlike the "No to EU", the FIS has no official programme.
When asked about the ideological objectives of the Islamic movement,
one of its self-appointed portes-parole, Abbas Madani,
described his programme as "broad". Asked about the
practical steps which needed to be taken, he added, "Our
practical programme is also broad" (Esposito 1993). Spokespersons
for the FIS often differ in their expressed views on democracy
and human rights issues, but unfailingly refer to divine law and
the Qu'ran when discussing the future of their country. The FIS,
in other words, calls for a "return" to the faith in
what is arguably the most secularised of the North African countries.
In the early 1990s, the FIS accordingly set up its own mosques,
denounced as "anarchist mosques" by the government,
all over the country, thereby distancing itself from the "tepid"
and "bureaucratic" official Islam represented by the
state. In addition to scorning the state for corrupting Islam
through aligning it with the socialist policies of the FLN, the
preachers in the "free" mosques attack alleged tendencies
towards "Western decadence"; alcoholism, drug addiction,
prostitution, emulation of Western forms of conduct, loss of shame
among women etc. The leader of Algeria's only fully secularist
party, Saïd Sadi, is condemned as a "local Salman Rushdie";
a filthy and shameful unbeliever.
As is well known through international news media, liberal artists,
politicians, intellectuals and writers have been assassinated.
Bombs killing bystanders have exploded in the very heart of the
former colonial power, and the GIA, the militant wing of the FIS,
have assumed responsibility for several of them. Unveiled women
in Algiers have been disfigured by sprays of acid. The houses
of professional women living alone have been burnt down. In retaliation,
the government has slaughtered thousands of armed militants as
well as suspected FIS supporters.
Being a loose movement rather than a party, the FIS represents
a remarkable breadth in political methods. Acts of violence carried
out by militants do not necessarily represent the views of a majority
of those who voted for the FIS. On the other hand, the very considerable
following of the FIS reveals a profound and widespread discontent
with the modernisation strategies and practices represented by
the FLN. Studies of the FIS (and of similar movements in North
Africa and the Middle East) have emphasised the combined ideological
ambiguity and traditionalistic self-confidence as its recipe for
procuring mass support. Ernest Gellner (1992) regards "fundamentalism"
primarily as a closed cognitive system which removes the ambiguity
inherent in the (post-) modern world and provides a cosmology
composed of simple questions and simple answers.
In an essay on the FIS, the late novelist Rachid Mimouni (1993)
points out a number of immediate practical problems associated
with the integrism (Fr. intégrisme: ideology aiming
to integrate religion, politics and the economy) of the FIS; from
the impracticalities of the Muslim lunar year (which is about
ten days shorter than the solar year) to the catastrophic academic
consequences of the "Islamification" of university curricula
and the absurdities of a "Muslim economy", where one
is theoretically not allowed to take interest for loans. A fact
which is relevant here is that most of the specialists discussing
the issue, including Gellner, Mimouni, Bryan Turner (1994), Albert
Hourani (1991) and Olivier Roy (1992), account for North African
integrism by connecting it with failed modernisation. Gellner
(1992, p. 22) indeed sees it as an alternative modernisation strategy
blending local and global elements in order to achieve a locally
"rooted" modernity, while Turner regards fundamentalism
as "the cultural defence of modernity against postmodernity",
since it joined forces with the rationalising agents of the state
in attacking "magical beliefs, local culture, traditionalism
and hedonism" (Turner 1994, p. 78).
The long and, especially towards the end, brutal French colonisation
has, as Stora (1994) emphasises, had profound consequences for
the Algerians' relationship to Europe. After the long and painful
war of liberation, any European-inspired modernisation strategy
would have to be disguised as "Mahgrebin socialism"
or as "Islamic modernity" to gain support.
Is this the hidden agenda of the FIS?
This may be the case; a more interesting issue in this context
concerns its dichotomisation with "the West" and with
the FLN, which is considered a puppet of France and "the
West" -- although the FLN itself draws heavily on anti-colonial
rhetoric. The FIS, explicitly politicising religion (and thereby,
in the eyes of Mimouni and others, removing its truly religious
aspect), wishes to reinstate shari'a, Islamic law, and
to enforce the detailed rules for everyday conduct prescribed
in the Qu'ran. This includes, notably, elaborate rules for female
seclusion, modesty and "purity". Indeed, Mimouni (1993,
p. 29) compares the Islamist misogynist "fixation on women"
with Hitler's fixation on Jews. Male ambivalence and hostility
towards the Western "liberated" woman is evident not
only in violent acts towards "Westernised" Algerian
women and public statements by FIS leaders, but also in numerous
articles and works of fiction written by Algerians. However, the
demand for purity does not only concern women. Just as the hidjab
(authorised female gown which conceals the body completely) indicates
unfailing faith for a woman, the beard signifies male submission
to the cause. "Modern neofundamentalism," Roy (1992)
states, "is a reaction ... against adaptation to an alien
culture. This culture is nevertheless already there, and the Islam
one counters it with is a reinvention, a mimetic performance".
Some simplistic dichotomies may sum up the cosmology represented
by the FIS, which hinges almost entirely on dichotomisation with
|| The West/Westernised Algerians
|| Overconfident (hubris)
Both the FIS and the "No to EU" are loosely integrated
organisations led by non-politicians, drawing their legitimacy
from an alleged popular discontent with the countries' leadership,
which is in both cases castigated as immoral, inauthentic, ruthlessly
modernising, alienating and unfaithful to local traditions. Neither
has a detailed political programme. Both must be seen as immediate
reactions to perceived consequences of global modernity.
Notions of purity and purification are extremely central to both
FIS and "No to EU" rhetoric. In the case of the former,
the most important threats to purity are "dirty" beliefs
(failure to follow the straight path of Islam) and practices (most
easily identified in independent women). As mentioned above, purity
is important to the "No to EU" in the perhaps more literal
sense of environmental preservation, but it is also invoked metaphorically
in juxtapositions between the "simple, transparent"
Norwegian political system and the complexities and secrecies
About a year before the 1994 referendum, the term "The Different
Country" (Annerledeslandet) was coined by a Norwegian
politician and critic of the government's membership plans. The
term, quickly taken up (often mockingly) by other debaters and
by the mass media, depicted Norway as a unique country which ought
not to be contaminated by the standardisation resulting from EU
membership. In the rhetoric surrounding the term, the wholesomeness
and cleanness of the Norwegian countryside and vast uninhabited
areas were emphasised, as well as the continued viability of small
local communities scattered around the country. Although few,
if any, of the "No to EU" spokespersons envisioned complete
political, economic and cultural isolation of Norway, the symbolism
associated with positive insulation was powerful and justified
with a string of arguments ranging from principles of territorial
sovereignty to food quality and the perceived threat of German
The FIS is probably no more insular than the "No to EU"
in the economic field (although its programme is unclear), but
it is unanimous on issues of media censorship, where it seeks
to limit uncontrolled foreign influence.
Both movements can further be described as traditionalist and
communitarianist: they reject contemporary international trends
(the post-traditional order; disembedding and deterritorialisation)
and praise virtues of a distant or recent past. It should nevertheless
be noted that neither is wholly anti-modern; both seem to accept
modernity but to reject the breakdown of boundaries entailed by
contemporary globalisation. They aim at developing locally fashioned
Interestingly, both the FIS and the "No to EU" draw
their support from groups which are sociologically very different.
Their ideological leaders and spokespersons tend to be highly
educated (often at Western universities) members of the urban
middle class, while their rhetoric is chiefly aimed -- with considerable
success -- at peripheral and marginal groups; the poor and illiterate
in the FIS' case, rurals in the case of the "No to EU".
This link between middle-class entrepreneurs and marginal groups
is typical of populist movements in general, and of anti-globalist
Both movements contribute to a digitalisation of difference,
a polarisation according to which logic one cannot be a political
hybrid; where grey zones and ambiguities are washed away, where
only pure stances matter and where the two positions are perceived
as each other's opposites. The ensuing process is a schismogenetic
one where the opposing positions mutually strengthen each other
and the in-betweens are marginalised.
Finally, the respective criticisms of global processes are similar
in the two movements, even if there are substantial differences.
Both warn against the institutionalised immorality they see as
inevitable results of certain forms of globalisation ("No
to EU": loss of political accountability and democracy, profit
before people, centralisation; FIS: loss of only true faith, compromise,
individualism). Both accuse their leaders of maintaining unhealthy
links with foreigners and "selling out" to international
capitalism. And both lament the loss of purity and simplicity
entailed by global disembedding and the rapid, boundless flows
and intermingling of symbols, persons, values, commodities and
decisions in a deterritorialised world.
In an autobiographical essay completed years before the fatwa,
Salman Rushdie describes his "polyglot family tree",
the phenomenon of "cross-pollination" and the fertile
outcome of "cultural transplantation" (Rushdie 1991).
He warns against the "ghetto mentality", arguing that
to forget "that there is a world beyond the community to
which we belong, to confine ourselves within narrowly defined
cultural frontiers, would be, I believe, to go voluntarily into
that form of internal exile which in South Africa is called 'the
homeland'" (ibid., p. 19). This world, closely paralleled
by the seamless world of creative exile and aesthetic bastardisation
invoked by intellectuals like Homi Bhabha and Edward Said, and
by the world of endless unbounded flow described by academics
like Giddens, Hannerz and Bauman, is exactly the world the FIS
and the "No to EU" are reacting against. The main programmatic
aims of the post-Maastricht EU (that is, free flow of capital,
labour, commodities and services), the infrastructural counterpart
to Rushdie's vision of unbounded cultural intermingling and bastardisation,
were often singled out by the "No to EU" as the very
symbol of the forces threatening the continued viability of local
Norwegian communities and humane values. Similarly, the complexity
and ambivalence inherent in modernity, and its morality founded
in individual responsibility and choice, is unacceptable to the
FIS. Both movements try to reinstate predictable, self-sustaining
Gemeinschaften liberated from the uncertainties, compromises,
flux and filth of global modernity. They are both favourable to
relative isolation, purification, "authenticity" and
small scale social organisation, and dichotomise against a world
order perceived as anarchic and immoral. This is essentially what
makes them comparable.
As some will have noted, I have avoided using the label "fundamentalism",
although many would not hesitate to describe the two movements
as fundamentalist. The concept of fundamentalism, which sometimes
refers to a closed cognitive system where unambiguous answers
prevent fundamental criticism (fundamentalists have all the answers,
but refuse to ask many of the questions seen as relevant by others),
may be convenient in everyday language and in polemics, but it
is extremely problematic as a comparative concept since fundamentalism
is a relative phenomenon: all cognitive systems, including science
(cf. Gellner 1992 for a different view), are to varying degrees
based on unquestioned premises. It nevertheless seems, at a first
glance, as though both movements are fundamentalist in Giddens'
(1994, p. 6, 48) sense, through defending tradition (Islam, Norwegian
uniqueness) by "asserting its ritual truth ... its separateness
and specialness (...) but in response to novel circumstances of
global communication" (ibid.). On the other hand,
the refusal of fundamentalists to engage in dialogue -- a defining
criterion for Giddens as well as for Gellner -- would partly disqualify
both movements, at least the "No to EU". Besides, it
could also be said of their adversaries that they refuse to engage
in dialogue with the FIS and the "No to EU" and that
they defend their traditions uncritically (Algerian socialism
and international capitalism), and so the issue of fundamentalism
remains a tricky one, even if if may serve as a regulative idea
in the Kantian sense. Actually, the word "counterreaction"
seems much more apposite as a descriptive term.
Scholars writing on globalisation have repeatedly stressed that
globalisation does not lead to uniformity but to ever new patterns
of variation and to the proliferation of localising strategies.
(Roland Robertson coined the term glocalisation a few years
ago to emphasise this duality of global process.) However, globalisation
imposes a certain uniformity of form because of the impact
of capitalism and the individual labour contract, globalised political
discourses about human rights and democracy, and equally globalised
discourses about local openness and closure; about "tradition
and modernity". It could be said in this regard that the
syntax is global, while the vocabulary is local.
The examples discussed above have indicated that variation can
mean conflict, and also that such conflicts and tendencies of
schismogenesis (escalating polarisation), between "traditionalists"
and "modernists", can fruitfully be compared at a formal
level. The parallels between the "No to EU" and the
FIS I have indicated suggests that since the globalisation of
politics, economy and culture is a global, disembedded
phenomenon, local counterreactions may be expected to take on
many of the same characteristics in very different settings. One
important such characteristic is the tendency to appear as a movement
representing a radical break with global modernity, while the
actual practice is much less radical and relates more to the politics
of identity than to economic policy. Another lesson to be learnt
from these popular movements is that although Bobbio (1994) may
be correct in that the leftright divide is still relevant
in political thought, there are crucial cleavages in contemporary
societies Northern as well as Southern which cannot
be understood in such terms, nor as "ethnic" or regional
cleavages. The contradiction between global modernity and local
self-determination is inherent in virtually every society, and
it may well prove to be the main political contradiction of the
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