Ye. Bystrytsky. Why "Nationalism" cannot be a Science // Political Thought. 1994. N. 2. P. 136-142.

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Yevhen BYSTRYTSKY

WHY "NATIONALISM" CANNOT BE A SCIENCE



"The Third Way" of Some Political Scientists of Ukraine


In autumn 1993 the Ministry of Education of Ukraine sent out a letter of instruction with a syllabus of a new "subject" scientific nationalism to higher educational institutions. The syllabus begins by expanding upon the topical desideratum of restituting to Ukraine its scientifically fathomed political history upon the scientific study of the Ukrainian political life, history and political thought. But soon this indisputable thesis takes on somewhat different overtones. The authors of the letter maintain that the "so-called general politology. 'conceived' largely by Western science", is not characterized by a clearly defined research object.Moreover, it is a mere set of "abstract theoretical claims which, at best, can be useful as a certain universal political vision thereby constituting a general part of the national political sciences". The latter is given the name "scientific nationalism" as a characterization of a certain academic discipline and research field (1).

But this undoubtedly testifies to the fact that the authors of this new syllabus in Ukrainian politology do not limit themselves by a traditional approach to the study of political reality, its history and present-day state when political processes themselves become the object for scientific cognition to the extent that scientific notions arc applied nowadays within the framework of the division between natural sciences and social sciences and the humanities. In the syllabus being introduced by the Ministry of Education, Ukrainian nationalism itself, as well as its outlook and ideology are regarded as a science (i. e. in the capacity of a scientific theory).

In other words, it is held that Ukrainian nationalism itself can be a theoretical basis of political sciences, that it can represent by itself a particular methodology of scientific comprehension of all possible political processes. "The Ukrainian national bias as a scientific objectivity" this is how the thesis is worded by the authors themselves (2).

This bureaucratic development in the depths of Ukraine's higher educational system could be regarded as a specific example of careerist obsequiousness or piety before the new political powers on the part of former lecturers of "scientific communism" and the Education Ministry officialdom. But this is not the case. The syllabus in Ukrainian politology, to be introduced shortly, is a professionally elaborate manual that is indicative of the traditional level of University instruction which was established during many years of the Soviet power. The fact that it makes the idea of "scientific nationalism" public among broad circles of the national academic community implies that behind it are concealed the most alarming theoretical confusions and muddled quests for political signposts among the intellectual elite of Ukraine.

In order to understand their direction, it is necessary to recollect one more fact related to the politological syllabus published by the Ministry of Education. At the time of its dissemination among educational establishments, the mouthpiece for the same Ministry the weekly 'Osvita' ("Education") also published a feature article which expounded upon the national liberation value of 'Ukrainian nationalism', and emphasized that it was due to 'nationalism' that Africa cast off its fetters, that the postwar France revived, and that Finland withstood the Bolsheviks' attacks and preserved its independence (3). Equally doubtful in this matter is the identification of French national enthusiasm during Charles de Gaulle's republic with the ideology of a nationalism that could not entertain any hope for political supremacy. No less accidental in the context of the article is the reference to Africa. The notorious concept of "Negritude" as a special way of development for the black population of Africa lurks behind this reference (perhaps contrary to the author's intention). Nevertheless, all of these facts lead one. to conclude that Ukrainians have to employ pecuhar ideological and theoretical quests for the "individual" road of their nation into the modern world. It is the reflection of these quests in the theoretical framework of "scientific nationalism" that is suggestive of the political thought orientation of a certain fragment of the Ukrainian Establishment.

The point is that "scientific nationalism" by name is opposed to the previously dominant ideology of "scientific communism", which was also taught doctrinally and universally at all "Soviet" higher educational institutions. But at the same time this new idea is equally opposed to the system of liberal-democratic values (and consequently to prevailing Western political conceptions of social development which are oriented towards universal human values) as was "scientific communism". While in the context of the collapse of the communist empire, the theoretical distancing from Marxist ideology is regarded as altogether reasonable, the anti-democratic theme of "scientific nationalism" is kept. naturally, in the background. But its ideological sources can be clearly understood as turning to authentic texts of Ukrainian nationalism classics. The most lapidary of them charged in 1940 that "a nationalist fights all other false theories down to their extermination", including "Marxism, international socialism... liberalism" which are "invented by enemies in order to corrupt and devitalize the nation, and then to hand it over to alien plunderers for tearing to pieces' ' (4). Thus, intentionally or unintentionally, the conception of ' 'scientific nationalism" is nothing less than a reflection of extant pohtical efforts to define, pursue and achieve a distinctively Ukrainian "third way" between the "Scylla" of Communism and the "Charybdis" of Western Liberalism, between conservative values of Ukrainian life and the threat to traditional Ukrainiandom by nationally denigrating values of the modern civilization, between the lofty political objective of creating an independent national statehood and the West European processes of economic integration of nations on democratic principles. All these contradictions are real conflicts in Ukrainian political thought.

But in the present political life, which is in a state of elementary political structuring and incomplete ideological stratification, pursuits of an "individual" way exist, virtually, in the "creative potentiality" of the Ukrainian ruling and opposition elites. Likewise, the notion of "scientific nationalism" rashly suggested by some politologists is, in fact, a sort of ideological "centaur" a theoretical construct composed of two antagonistic ideological worldviews those of communism and liberalism. Its theoretical fuzziness reflects the existing indistinctness and lack of clear vision of political movements in Ukraine today. That is why it is sensible to consider in greater detail the real meaning of concept "scientific nationalism" in order to have a better grasp of the future.




The Neo-Bolshevist Bent of Scientific Nationalism


It is fortuitous that the syllabus in Ukrainian politology, where the idea of "scientific nationalism" is detailed, has been disseminated by the current power structures. A historical specificity of civil legitimacy of post-communist power should be considered as the political basis for the official propaganda of the national world outlook in Ukraine beginning with a special emphasis on traditional values, a single common language, and spiritual unity, and ending with assessment of international developments and cultural phenomena in the world in light of the recognition and consolidation of the Ukrainian nation.

Since the time of perestroika the ideas and ideals of cultural isolationism and national self-determination have been viewed by the masses as identical to the general political slogan of "separate national state-hood" thereby serving as the main factor to a wide recognition of national leaders. After the sweeping criticism of communist doctrine during the period of glasnost and openness, it was replaced by the Ukrainian national idea tliat embraces all forms of hope for a better future, which can only be built on the basis of national and cultural unity. These include people's feeling for their national identity (in the marginal social situation of the collapse of the Soviet empire), their collective experiences as a state being different from other national communities of the former USSR, and their cognizance of lifestyle peculiarities of interpersonal relations that were established strictly on the territory of Ukraine all these taken together with such motivation of their political will that is based on the priorities of national unity. It is natural that in the real political practice, the realization of general visions of the Ukrainian national idea by the new leaders makes certain features of the classical Ukrainian nationalism prominent.

In order to understand the objective factors of merging national independence ideals with nationalistic ideology in current political actions, it must be noted that during the time of ideological restructuring of political life, Ukraine bad been and continues to be very reluctant to discard the old dilapidated foundation of the command system of administration and management. So, too rash efforts to implement national ideas and values for the sake of political legitimation acquire a form of direct command, unofficial administrative interference, and total control characteristics of any totalitarian state.

There are many examples of this, beginning with the current economic policies towards the preservation of national self-confinement rather than towards profitability. But.the most striking of them, given the lack of clear political vision of economic restructuring in Ukraine (suffice to recollect the notorious catchphrase of one former Prime-Minister about the necessity of defining what social system Ukrainians are constructing), can be found in cultural and artistic life.

New "commissars" from the Verkhovna Rada (the Ukrainian Parliament) commissions on science and culture have attempted many times to impose their visions of society upon academics and other intellectuals, making use of typically Bolshevik methods of accusation of ideological national sabotage and insufficient national loyalty. The present political practice in Ukraine confirms by many examples the following apt remark of I. Lysyak-Rudnyts'kyi, one of the leading researchers of nationalism, that "Ukrainian nationalism is very similar in essence to a totalitarian movement: it strives to subject the whole life of the Ukrainian people, in all its manifestations, to its influence... The nationalistic movement has not limited itself to only political objectives, but has tried to control the cultural process" (5).

These attempts to directly shape the social life and control cultural processes in post-communist Ukraine, proceeding from a certain ideological system, form the corresponding prerequisites for the perception of the image of "scientific nationalism". The point is that the new proponents of national ideology adhere to the old policy of total interference into the people's life and use the same general methods which were employed by the adherents of scientific communism.

We use this latter notion without inverted commas deliberately because the Marxist vision of the historical process was oriented explicitly towards norms and ideals of European scholarship and those of natural philosophy. Completing the so-called project of Enlightment, the Marxist ideology professed a total rational control over the organization of human life and a Utopia of perpetual management of social processes, which in its authors' opinion, were to relay on laws of historical development of mankind discovered by reason. Nowadays there are very few people who doubt that the historical experience of one-sixth of the world proved (by its own example) that it is impossible to organize a political regime on the basis of classical theory of scientific methodology and Enlightment. In its essence, the concept of "scientific nationalism" is also based on much the same ideals of subjecting the diversity of human life to ideological principles and to "scientific" standardization and overall control. This conception, though , is essentially different in some respects to the very notion of "scientific quality" of nationalistic ideology.




Anti-scientism of Ukrainian Nationalism


One can be sure that scholars who put forward the concept of "scientific nationalism" have never taken into their hands authentic texts of Ukrainian nationalists, such as Dmytro Dontsov's classic on national thought. Likewise, the philosophical foundation of Ukrainian nationalism represented in well-known works of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Spengler, and Ortega-y-Gasset, has undoubtedly been left beyond their professional attention as successors to scientific communism. There is only one thing that is clear the idea of "scientific nationalism" was made possible owing to a striking coincidence of political orientations of communist and post-communist powers toward an activist and violent shaping of social and cultural life. But they are diametrically opposite in ideological and philosophical content.

This can be discerned from general definition of Ukrainian nationalism by any authoritative author of this ideology. In his concise work cited above Tkachuk points out that the "nationalistic ideology" is "a number of closely intenelated truths... that are the basis of development of life... and. hence, the life of a nation" rather than "artificially invented scientific theory " (6). In Dontsov's works the general thesis of Ukrainian nationalism takes on a central significance of his principle lifetime idea the idea of a basic difference of nationalistic outlook from the ideals of European Enlightment in general, and its successors is represented by positivism, scientific socialism, and scientific materialism in particular. It is for such scientific orientation of the latter that Dontsov subjects nearly all well-known Ukraiiiophils and Ukrainian democrats to his unsparing criticism beginning with Panteleymon Kulish and ending with Mykhaylo Drahomanov and his numerous intellectual followers, whom he scornfully calls as "Ukrainian Provencaldom" for their social Enlightment and prosocialist orientation (implying that they lagged behind the trendy European style of negative scientific rationality). At nearly the same time, but proceeding from the opposite philosophical assumptions as E. Husserl in the first third of the 20th century, Dontsov elaborates independently upon the idea of a crisis in European culture and European nations (see: Nationalism. Lviv; Zhovkva. 1926 (in Ukrainian)). A more refined exposition of the idea can be found in: "Where are We to Look for Our Historical Traditions". Lviv. 1937 (in Ukrainian). Just like Husserl. he perceives the causes of such a crisis in the orientation of Europe towards the ideals of Enlightment and scientific Reason, i.e. in its rationalism. But unlike the well-known phenomenologist, the Ukrainian thinker arrives at opposite conclusions.

Dontsov argues that the crisis in Europe. which culminated in the outbreak of World War I in 1914, is the consequence of a maturation of national life worlds. It is a crisis caused by the confrontation of national wills for self-affirmation, and by the struggle to win over a separate place in the world. Proceeding solely from the latest modern philosophical tradition selfnamed as the "philosophy of will", voluntarism oi irrationalism, Dontsov argues that the ultimate basis of human life, outlook and ideology is human will rather than rational consciousness. Therefore the concept is called by Hit-author "volitional nationalism". Dontsov's notion of volitional nationalism is not fortuitous for the Ukrainian nationalistic movement as a whole. Being philosophically grounded, this concept reflects the major conclusion of Ukrainian classical nationalism formulated in this way.

Nationalism in the historically established sense of the notion, as it is used by classics of Ukrainian nationalistic thought, is a system of "volitional" truths as to the life of the nation. As for the philosophical concept of will, volition is but a general form of signifying the real attitude towards the realization of human wishes , desires and aspirations. It may also be a reflection of the real will to live, which is contained in all human feelings and experience and, which in its sources is not subject to rational reasoning, but is motivated by all factors of human vital activity. That is why for the Ukrainian nation, whose stale of unrealized will for nationally existential self-aftiimation is almost permanent, nationalism takes on a real social sense of will tor its own cullture and for an independent statehood existence. But, as volition and feelings cannot substitute reason, so likewise nationalism is not in a position lo perform functions of scientific knowledge and political theory.

Nationalism and nationalistic ideology are not and cannot be a system of views that arc based on facts of consciousness and reason. Nationalism can be based only on an extrascientilic fact of volition on the "national will" which is not related to any previous act of reason. "This will is the major feature of a nation and the principle point in nationalistic ideology" (7). Thus, nationalism cannot in any case be a science in its exact European sense.

Our "newfangled" nationalists artificially invented or simply fibbed about the concept of "scientific nationalism". Given their historical and philosophical unscholar-liness, one might well be reluctant to argue with them. But behind the idea of Ukrainian nationalistic politology lurks confusion, lack of political orientation and a real scientific crudeness and incapacity of would-be politicians who will use (and are already using) its pseudo-scientific claims.




Why Do We Need Just Scientific Politology?


At the end of his life Martin Heidegger, proceeding from his own tragic experience of the domination of nationalistic ideology and "German science", advanced the idea of the inherent "subjectivism of any nationalism" (in "A Letter About Humanism"). But anyone who is familiar with the philosophical contribution and life of this great German will not attempt to interpret his above-mentioned thesis as a vulgar denial of national idea or national existence. He meant genuine subjectivism, i.e. the unwillingness or inability to face the realities of life which the nationally oriented consciousness acquires when it takes on itself the functions of official ideology and scientific knowledge.

The point is that the subjectivism of nationalism emerges just in situations which are distinguished, on the one hand, by the fundamental inability to cognize and rationalize the whole variety of national volition and. on the other hand. by the craving of a certain group of people to have their nationalistic world outlook secured and codified officially by authorities as a rigidly rationalized "program", "methodology" or "ideology". This gives rise to a real theoretical and political situation where private, partial or monopartisan feelings, desires, wishes and hopes, (i.e. monodimensional, inadequate. deficient, incomplete and, therefore, not objective visions of social life) are presented as scientifically valid and indispensable "arguments". "proofs", "explanations", "explications", as quests for "regularities" etc. Historically, the direction and power of human volition is changeable. However, its codification in the form of an official ideological discourse or political "science" can spell the danger and triumph of political dogmatism, and this can mean that the society is doomed to see the demise of any form of democracy and the free reign of political despotism.

There is only one acceptable way of being saved fiom the possible perilous consequences of subjectivism related to a transformation of national volition into a political "science" 'Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and render unto God the things that are God's'. In the context of our discussion this advice suggests that the national idea "the nationalistic world outlook" should be left as it is the volition of the Ukrainian nation for self-affirmation in national statehood and national culture in all those regionally diversified and socially changeable forms, in which this volition manifests itself in real life and political practice. This also suggests that one should be capable of perceiving nationalism a an integral part of the Ukrainian political structure, i. e. as a nationalistic ideology of a certain group of people, movements and parties in the form of an established system of views, thoughts and slogans. Finally, suggests that the main thing for our intellectual and political elites is the necessity for their familiarization with the global science of politics and policy-making, and for their involvement with the world political process which can deliver us from subjective fantasies of narrow-minded scholars confined by their world outlook.

To return to the concept of "scientific nationalism" advanced by them, it is worth noting that this concept emerged subjectively precisely because there is a lack of clear understanding of explanatory capabilities in contemporary Ukrainian political science. The "new" Ukrainian political scientist proceeds from the miserable state of our postmarxist social sciences (in general) and political sciences (in particular) in order to substantiate the total rejection of generally recognized standards of scholarship. For example. according to the syllabus on scientific nationalism . "The so-called politology... originated mainly by Western scientists makes it constantly necessary to apply their theses to Ukrainian political life and to the activities of Ukrainian politicians... This results in an artificial matching of our new political phenomena and facts to their theses" (8).

As is known, however, the intent of science is that which was declared by Kant in his time (and remains true today) it is the ability to reason or ability to find general explanations for particular cases. Humanitarian reasoning has paved new ways in this direction of scientific experience, which are grounded on modern advances of philosophical and methodological thought. The political knowledge available nowadays makes use of cognitive methods devised and tested in philosophical methodologies, beginning with explanatory procedures of the third positivism and ending with the application of phenomenological and hermeneutical approaches to the study of social processes. Ignorance of all this is not an argument in favor of national consciousness. Objectively, such nationalism runs counter the interests of Ukraine.

The use of the term "nationalistic" in an undefined sense, which now has become trendy among certain segments of the Ukrainian political elite, imparts on such subjective actions an air of nationally significant deeds. The consequences of this can be seen all around us. In the foreign mass media, these subjective actions are referred to as the "Ukrainization" of economy. One should pay heed to a similar "Ukrainization" of the Ukrainian political thought. Indeed, the science of politics and policy-making is essential for an objective cognition, that is based on up-to-date achievements of humanitarian thought and understanding of post-communist political processes. Reliance on scientific reason is necessary for a more pragmatic tackling of economic, international and domestic policy problems. But beyond human reason, as is demonstrated by world experience (including those of interethnic conflicts), there is no other basis for achieving civilized solutions. That is why the ascent of politology in Ukraine to the level of political sciences throughout the rest of the world is implausible without eliminating the syndrome of nationalistic subjectivism.




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1. Conceptual Foundations of Ukrainian Politology. Kyiv: Ministry of Education of Ukraine, 1993. Pp. 1, 5 (in Ukrainian). The authors of these "conceptual foundations" are Professors of Kyiv Taras Shevehenko University B. A. Hayevs'kyi, F. M. Kyrylyuk and Associate Professor M. I. Obushnyi.

2. lbid.,p.7.

3. See: Sokolov , P. "The Science of Nationalism" //0svita (the Ukrainian social and political weekly). N 35 (8 October , 1993) (in Ukrainian).

4. Tkachuk D. Ukrainian Nationalism. Prague: People's Library "Nastup", 1940, p. 10 (in Ukrainian).

5. Lysyak-Rudnyts'kyi 1. Ukrainian Nationalism // The Encyclopedia of Ukrainian Studies: Vol.5. Paris; New York. 1966. p. 1724 (ill Ukrainian).

6. Tkachuk D. ibid., p.5.

7. Ibid., p.8.

8. Conceptual Foundations of Ukrainian Politology, p. l.