Politik und Gesellschaft Online
International Politics and Society 3/1998
About this issue

Simplifying somewhat, one can say that identity politics is the stuff of which world politics has been made since the Industrial Revolution - the painful emergence of the World of Nations and their mutual demarcation. The challenge of expanding Soviet-style socialism which characterised the era of the Cold War appeared in a different guise. But even then, politics was largely oriented on and motivated by the forces of collective identity. The present issue explores four different aspects of "identity", that immensely relevant, cohesive as well as disintegrative, political force. Klaus Pöhle, a former Director General in the administration of the European Parliament, takes a long, hard look at the meaning of the concept of identity and its political implications and discusses the conditions under which national identity can be supplemented or even displaced by an overarching supranational identity. His conclusion is unambiguous: European identity is a strong possibility and stands a good chance of growing in political relevance. This identity has less to do with the cultural legacy of a continent whose geographical borders are in any case difficult to determine and more with present-day political culture and civil society, an idea which is reflected in Michael Dauderstädt´s demand that membership of the European Union should not be excluded for non-European countries (on this subject, see also Matthes Buhbe in our last issue).

Unlike the question of an overarching European identity, the "Taiwan problem" dealt with by Gunter Schubert concerns the crystallisation of a separate identity which of necessity comes into conflict with opposing demands for integration. Winfried Veit's article on Israel examines the "search for identity" of a nation in no way disposed to question its own existence, but whose former self-image has been shaken by the challenge of competing self-images and the derision of one-time national symbols. Finally, Renate Dieterich's analysis of developments in Jordan introduces us to a state with which, since its very foundation, a large part of the population has failed to identify or which, in other words, has imposed itself on a large part of its population.

Whilst the conceptual triangle of "peoples", "nations" and "states" continues to shape the issue of the political division of the world, i.e. the attribution of rights to autonomy, the question becomes ever more salient of how to make use of such rights in view of increasing world-wide interdependencies. The current issue of INTERNATIONAL POLITICS AND SOCIETY considers a number of aspects of this problem.

The thesis that economic globalisation is taking place at the expense of social concerns has repeatedly been discussed in these pages. The feminist economist Elisabeth Stiefel gives this idea a radical twist by looking beyond all the issues of the remaining scope for national policies and focuses on the basic antithesis between social reason and the "unleashed" rationality of the global economy. The "classical" opposition between the ability of nation states to define rules and boundaries (legitimate or not) on the one hand and the borderless dynamics of transnational processes on the other hand is the subject of Alexander Gruhler's article, which focuses on the hitherto little-discussed field of information, which is now available without frontiers via the Internet, the virtual global news kiosk and reading-room.

How do states with limited sovereignty deal with one another? Two approaches are presented here. Adolf Kloke-Lesch, suggesting a reorganisation of German foreign aid, argues for essentially nothing less than a turning away from the pious ideology of development assistance and an open recognition of the fact that national policy attempts to shape - on behalf of the own country´s political aims - socio-economic conditions in other countries. A logical, if controversial, political response to the realisation that such conditions affect national interests! Robert Christian van Ooyen´s brief interim report on the efforts to set up an international criminal court should be seen in the context of the "civilising" of international society which has been on the global agenda for generations.

© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition bb&ola&juliag | März 1999