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Counterreactions

The "No to EU" and the FIS in the eye of the whirlwind of global modernity

(1995)

Thomas Hylland Eriksen

 

1. Introduction

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 time budgets.

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 directly.

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 to nature.

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).

 Norway  EU
 Egalitarian  Hierarchical
 Nature  Culture
 Authentic  Alienated
 Rural  Urban
 Clean  Filthy
 Considerate  Ruthless
 Decentralised  Centralised
 Democratic   Non-democratic
 Small-scale  Large-scale
 Gemeinschaft  Gesellschaft
 Traditional  Modern
 Innocent  Guilty
 Solidarity  Egotism


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 implode.

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 elections.

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 "Westernisation".

 

 Islam   The West/Westernised Algerians
 Clean  Dirty
 Consistent  Inconsistent
 Modest  Overconfident (hubris)
 Logical  Confused
 Predictability  Uncertainty
 Moral  Immoral
 Collectivism  Individualism
 Rules  Choice
 Gemeinschaft  Gesellschaft
 Security  Freedom

4. Parallels

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 of Brussels.

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 takeover bids.

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 modernities/traditions.

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 movements specifically.

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.


5. Conclusion

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 twenty-first century.


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©Thomas Hylland Eriksen 1996



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