Jon Fox and I wrote a paper on "Backdoor nationalism: EU accession and the reinvention of nationalism in Poland and Hungary". We presented it on April 2nd, at the 19th Annual Conference of the Association for the Study of Ethnicity and Nationalism (ASEN), London School of Economics.
Here is the abstract:
Contrary to popular expectations, the accession of eight East European countries to the European Union in 2004 did not sound the death knoll of nationalism in the region; rather, it signalled its reinvention and, in some respects, reinvigoration. In this paper, we combine perspectives from political science and sociology to examine three ways in which nationalism is accommodating itself in its new European home in two of the EU’s newest member states: Hungary and Poland. First is the reconfiguration of the left-right political spectrum in the region along an axis of national(ist) versus non-national(ist). The broad consensus on the desirability (if not inevitability) of European unification has had the effect of lessening the importance of traditional left-right party identifications. In its place, the ‘nation’ has provided a convenient fulcrum for interparty contestation. This has not manifested itself as the virulent nationalism of the early 1990s but rather a ‘softer’ version that serves to distinguish those political parties claiming to represent ‘the nation’ and those who, by extension, do not. This softer nationalism is characterized by the tendency of political parties to recalibrate non-national issues as national ones. Second, we examine the instrumental use of European discourses and institutions to accomplish the nationalist aims of kin-state politics (often inconsistent with the spirit, if not the letter, of those EU discourses and institutions). EU integration has provided nationalists in the region with a ‘backdoor’ for realising old nationalist ambitions - albeit in a postmodern way. This isn’t national reunification through territorial revision, but rather symbolic national reunification across the porous borders of the EU’s newest member states. EU integration has opened up a political space for the elaboration and reinvigoration of kin-state politics. If these first two trends represent a taming of nationalism in the pursuit of more symbolic goals, the third nationalist trend we identify points to the radicalisation of nationalism in the pursuit of more practical goals. Here in the third part of our paper we turn to the emergence and strengthening of radical nationalist organisations outside of the political establishment in Hungary and Poland. Concomitant with the marginalisation of certain far rightwing elements operating within the framework of the established political system in these countries, we pay witness to the renewed appeal of extra-political nationalist groups. For these groups, the threat does not come from without but from within: Roma, Jews and sexual minorities, among others. It is our contention that the taming of mainstream nationalism has contributed to the unleashing of these more virulent forms of nationalism operating outside of established political constraints. Together, these three developments signal important changes in the trajectory of nationalism in Hungary and Poland. Our examination links these changes not only to the domestic political culture of Hungary and Poland but also to the institutional and discursive constraints of the European Union.