Elite liberalism + mass nationalism = true

L'impasse national-libérale. Globalization and repli identitaire
Forfatter: Jean François Bayart
Forlag: La Découverte (Frankrike)
For political scientist Jean François Bayart, globalization and the development of national identity are complementary processes.


Anyone who has been interested in African politics for a while has heard of Jean François Bayart. Then the French publican released an English version of his L'État en Afrique (1989) – The State in Africa – in 1993, it quickly became a classic. Anyone who studied anything about politics in one or another African country read Bayart, though his empiricism was largely drawn from his doctoral thesis on the state of Cameroon from 1979. Then he was an 29 year old unknown French statesman; now he is 67 and can look back on a long career as a researcher, lecturer and professional writer. Today he still holds research positions in Rabat, Paris and Geneva.

Bayart has worked in several African countries, but in recent years has been more concerned with Maghreb (North Africa west of the Nile and north of the Sahara), the Middle East and Europe than of sub-Saharan Africa. He is still concerned with the state and its role and identity under the influence of globalization.

Illegal debt. I L'impasse national-libérale Bayart shows that it is not only the African state that he can analyze with certainty (critics of him say oblique). With great obviousness, Bayart refers to more or less well-known historical events in Asia, Africa and Europe to explain the backdrop to the ideologies and identities of states today. In the first part of the book, he devotes much room to France's warfare and intervention, "doomed to fail" (perdues d'avances), as he says, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and the Sahel (Mali, Niger, Chad). He explains why French foreign policy over the past 40 years – at least – has been a major contributor to the state crises as well as Islamist insurgency and separatist movements. Already in the 1970s France imposed on the countries of the Sahel belt illegitimate debt by borrowing large sums of dictatorial heads that the people became responsible for repaying. When they failed to do so, throughout the 1980s France (and the West) forced countries to liberalize economies and cut public spending. This led to the poor being given even fewer opportunities; poorer health services and cuts in wages and schooling, while the elite benefited from privatization by investing in infrastructure and state-owned companies.

Not for everyone. This further marginalization led to more poor people wanting to emigrate from the Sahel countries to France. But then Europe created the Schengen cooperation and closed the borders in 1990. People from the Sahel really felt on the body that the free flow of globalization did not apply to them. The aid volume decreased, while fewer could emigrate and send money home. The crisis intensified because of France's policy. The country broke ground to bomb Gaddafi in February 2011 – which, according to Bayart, makes it impossible to understand the logic of French foreign policy. He names the profiled philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy as then-President Sarkozy's useful idiot to legitimize the intervention in Libya, while wondering if the real reason was that Sarkozy had received financial support from Gaddafi during the presidential campaign. Such conspiracy theories, in my opinion, weaken the book's seriousness as a polemical debate post in French foreign policy.

French foreign policy has been a major contributor to state crises and Islamist uprisings and separatist movements.

Agreed. The fact that Bayart speaks just as much about Erdogan and Mac-
ron as if "Reza Zarrab" and "Ali Akbar Hachemi Rasandjani" enable two ways to read the book: either really study it, find out who these two are, google historical events and people, consult world history and read on in Bayart's book. Alternatively, skim through these parties and rather try to get the main message – which the book certainly has: It is a 230 page personal, polemical and political essay in which Bayart wants to change the French discourse on the state, nation and globalization. In line with Fernand Braudel's Wear – to analyze history in the light of the fact that events, structures and ideas have different rates of change – Bayart expresses his views on the world today, starting hundreds of years back in time.

While the rich take full advantage of liberalized trade barriers, they have poor visa denials and no money to buy cheaper, but still too expensive goods.

Although Bayart is a self-made member of the intellectual elite in France, one can be provoked by his confident style. Few footnotes and bombastic statements about how many others make the world make the provocation occasionally approach irritation. But Bayart's message is nevertheless interesting – it bears witness to his many media appearances, reviews and interviews in French newspapers and the weekly press after the book was published in March this year.

State for the elite. Bayart's core idea is that globalization and the development of national identity are complementary processes that reinforce each other and create synergies, and not, as many believe, processes that go in different directions. The world is global for the rich elite, while for the masses is characterized by increased nationalism, he believes: While the rich move freely and take advantage of liberalized trade borders, the poor are not allowed to move (visa denial) or money to withdraw Advantages of cheap goods from elsewhere in the world (which are still far too expensive).

The poor remain the losers of globalization compared to illegal migration, slave labor and unemployment. The world's elites understand the situation and fear the consequences if the unmediated should also be part of the globalization guild. Therefore, the rich countries exclude them from the community and protect their borders and goods even more fiercely than before. This is where the nation state comes in: The state becomes a strong protector of a national identity that the masses can identify with, while negotiating better global conditions for the nation's elite citizens. It is this policy, according to Bayart, that has led the world into the disaster we can now imagine the contours of.

Subscription NOK 195 quarter