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The Swiss-ification of ethnic conflict: historical lessons in nation-building from the Swiss example

[journal article]

Wilner, Alexandre S.

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Abstract No modern nation-state has had as stable an historical legacy as that of Switzerland. In a world of explosive national and international discord, of recurring genocidal hatred, of chronic violence and ethno-cultural war, the Swiss example offers a light onto others, a veritable living political manuscript, outlining the historical methods that allow for the construction of highly stable and functioning multi-ethnic nation-states. Unlocking the Swiss case, then, provides us with the theoretical keys that will be necessary for avoiding “the coming anarchy” of the post-Cold War Era. The essay presents both an exploration of the historical development of Swiss nationalism and an evaluation of whether or not the Swiss example of post-primordial civic nationalism can act as an ideal model for others in Eastern Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. From the historical dialogue, three primary circumstances have guided the development of a stable national foundation in Switzerland; (1) the threat of an external ‘alien other’, (2) elite accommodation and consociation of the national project, and (3) an innate willingness and desire to behave and be governed as a unitary, yet multi-ethnic, nation. The conclusions suggest that while the Swiss case is necessarily an end-result of unique historical happenstance, the variables of stability are nevertheless universal and can be replicated by others living in distinct historical eras and geographical proximities. The lessons are of great value, then, to modern nationbuilding projects in Iraq, Sri Lanka, Israel/Palestine, Kashmir, Ireland/England, Spain and even in Canada. (author's abstract)
Keywords Switzerland; ethnic relations; ethnic group; nationalism; national identity; nation state; political movement; self-determination; minority; cultural identity; collective identity; ethnic conflict; multicultural society
Classification Political Process, Elections, Political Sociology, Political Culture; Political System, Constitution, Government; Cultural Sociology, Sociology of Art, Sociology of Literature
Document language English
Publication Year 2009
Page/Pages p. 1-27
Journal Federal Governance, 6 (2009) 1
ISSN 1923-6158
Status Published Version; peer reviewed
Licence Basic Digital Peer Publishing Licence