The Birth of a Nation State in Kosovo. Is the Nation an Outdated Concept?

Essay 2008 10 Pages

Cultural Studies - East European Studies


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. The Nation – A Cultural Studies Approach
2.1 The Need for a National Identity
2.2 The Nation – An outdated Concept?

3. Kosovo: The Birth of a Nation State
3.1. Background Information: Kosovo
3.2. The Independence of Kosovo

4. Conclusion


1. Introduction

“There will be only one fatherland, the globe, and only one faith the happiness on earth” predicted Heinrich Heine in 1854 contrasting the beginning of the era of national unifications and later aggressive nationalism. Already before the bloom of nation states he doomed them to fail. Other important thinkers as Karl Marx or Herbert George Wells also contested the concept of nationalism: “Our true nationality is mankind” (Wells) foreseeing a future of world citizens without national identities. With respect to today’s conditions one could easily claim them to have been correct. European nation states are willingly passing on their sovereignty to higher law making bodies of the EU. Almost every state of this world is imbedded in supra- and international institutions or part of economic treaties or tariff organisations. Alone the United Nations assembles 192 of 193 states with broad international recognition; the sole state not being a member, Vatican City, has the status of a permanent observer (United Nations 2006). The individual is protected by universal human rights which are anterior to the state and overrule different national legislations. Apart from the apparent lack of national consciousness of nation states we find that our business world creates so called global players, multinational enterprises operating world wide without having significant connections to their countries of origin anymore. Even a company like the ‘Deutsche Post’ needs the suffix ‘World Net’ to prove their marketability in our globalized economies. When questions for the social responsibility of enterprises can be answered with the sentence: “The social responsibility of business is to increase its profits” (Friedman 1970), we better do not ask for their national responsibility. Cosmopolitan CEOs and international statesmen must also have an influence on their people. Do they as role models deprive their nation of its national identity with their actions?

On the following pages I will try to point out the key role nations still play today. What one associates with a nation forms the national identity which is – for many maybe subconsciously – a crucial element of the individual identity. In my opinion nations will always strive for nation states as they guarantee most reliably the protection of national and therefore personal interests such as cultural determination, security, political self-determination and financial and economic prospect. Kosovo is a recent example where the ‘denationalisation’ described in the paragraph above seems to be inversed. The former Yugoslavian province has become Europe’s youngest state, not only chronologically but also demographically. What motivates this young generation to stand in for a nation that has so little to offer to them? To understand the current developments I will discuss the status of the Kosovo and analyse why movements towards an independent nation state did not take place earlier. I will deal with the two sides of nationalism and describe how a moderate sense of nationality radicalised and drove the Balkans into the Kosovo crisis. Despite the negative consequences overreaching nationalism can bring about I will talk about the necessity of national identities and explain why the nation is not an outdated concept.

2. The Nation – A Cultural Studies Approach

2.1 The Need for a National Identity

A nation is growing stronger and closer together the more it is challenged by inter- and supranational institutions and organisation, multiculturalism, globalisation and the digitally connected world. Having a national identity is one of the essential needs of the modern human facing social and cultural uprooting. And it is strongest where it has a counter part, where it is opposed, where a dominant “Leitkultur” is limiting or a growing, upcoming one threatens it. Isn’t it astonishing that even the third generation of descendents of migrant workers coming to Europe in the fifties of the last century is said to be not yet integrated in the ‘host’ society or – broader spoken – nation? Couldn’t it be that this integration is not passively forgotten, but actively rejected in order to preserve or revive national traditions and customs? One’s nationality and the conscious of one’s origin – not only in case of migrants – give a feeling of belonging somewhere, create stability in times where little is permanent. One could go even further and claim that the complex structures within our states have grown so incomprehensive and can hardly be influenced by the individual that a process of regionalisation takes place (Weringh 2003). Local newspapers and radio stations serve as main source of information and agricultural products of the local region are labelled and bought in grocery stores.

In a broader sense nations and national identities play a decisive role in portraying our own identity and help us satisfy the need of self-definition by (partly) answering the question “Who am I?” This need finds its expression in the striving for nation states which symbolise the collective image of a people with its social, cultural and historical commonalities while at the same time securing and defending them (Guibernau 1999). But nation states will not continue to be formed merely for the sake of finding personal through national identity. They also serve more practical means such as achieving more economic power and political representation.



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Otto-von-Guericke-University Magdeburg – Institut für fremdsprachliche Philologien
birth nation state kosovo outdated concept



Title: The Birth of a Nation State in Kosovo. Is the Nation an Outdated Concept?