Fairoz Maliha Afra

Understanding the American Nation:
unraveling the concepts of Renan, Stalin and Connor

For millions of individuals around the world, the United States of America has been a country for the fulfillment of their dreams. The nation is so full of promise and opportunities for everyone, which only serves to increase its allure. Maybe, this is why, the term-the American Dream came into existence. 

The United Colonies, later known as the United States of America (in the year 1776) was founded by its founding fathers- George WashingtonThomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, James Monroe, John Adams, Benjamin FranklinJames Madison and America got independence from mainland Britain (under King George III)  through the American Revolutionary War

United States is commonly termed as a land of immigrants, who migrate from various parts of the world. Starting from Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and even from its neighboring countries like Mexico, people take risky attempts to enter the United States of America. 

This essay focuses on understanding the American nation through the ideas of Nation, provided by Joseph Stalin– former leader of Soviet Union, Walker Connor– an American Political Scientist and one of the founders of the interdisciplinary field of nationalism studies; and Ernest Renan –French philosopher and writer of the 19th century.


Understanding the American Nation through the lens of Stalin:

The Soviet Revolutionary- Joseph Stalin, in his article- ‘The Nation’, defined a nation as “A historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.” (Stalin, 1994)

In the United States of America, English is widely spoken by the vast majority of its population. However, there are a minimum of 350 languages that are spoken in total, throughout the country. 

The second most spoken language in the US after English is Spanish and other languages that are spoken by millions of speakers include Chinese, Vietnamese, French and Tagalog (the national dialect of the Philippines). 

We know that language is powerful and the most interesting thing is that as the United States is made up of immigrants, the Texans and people from Florida and New Mexico are mostly Spanish and they are very much comfortable in speaking Spanish alongside English. 

Again, in Hawaii, the Hawaiian language is spoken all across the island. It is worth mentioning, their tradition and culture is far different from that of the other U.S. states. Hawaiian is a Polynesian language of the Austronesian language family that is derived from the name Hawaiʻi.  

Spanish is spoken in states like- California (the big orange) and Arizona as well. In fact, according to a report by the Guardian, US has now more Spanish speakers than Spain! 

Initially, it can be thought that they only speak this language, but in recent times, they also prefer to write Spanish for their ease and own comfort. In fact, in many places of Texas and California it is found in billboards and even in elections, there is written and documented form of Spanish.

A table is provided below to show the top 10 states in the USA, the population of which speak Spanish the most:

CALIFORNIA

10,462,968

TEXAS

7,666,020

FLORIDA

4,376,716

NEW YORK

2,702,957

ILLINOIS

1,596,614

NEW JERSEY

1,368,165

ARIZONA

1,358,980

GEORGIA

781,103

NORTH

CAROLINA

736,886

PENNSYLVANIA

615,972

Again, the common psychological makeup, manifested in a common culture is not present in the United States. America, before the colonization might have had a common culture within the Native Americans, but not anymore. 

Due to its cosmopolitan nature, this state now has multiple cultures and is also positively more inclusive in its ways and thus presence of a common psychological makeup, manifested in a common culture is absent. 

A common economic life and economic cohesion is not very much present in the United States of America in recent times, where unfortunately, there are growing disparity in economic aspect between people. 

Not to mention, a lot of people are becoming billionaires and millionaires on one side and a large number of people are losing their jobs on the contrary. According to a report of the American cable business news channel, CNBC- recently in November 2022, giants like- Meta, Lyft, Amazon, Netflix have cut a lot of jobs.

A statistics is shown below on this regard:

COMPANY

JOBS CUT

META

About 11,000

TWITTER

About 3,700

LYFT

Around 700

STRIPE

Around 1,100

COINBASE

Around 1,100

SHOPIFY

Around 1,000

NETFLIX

Around 450

MICROSOFT

Less than 1,000

SNAP

More than 1,000

ROBINHOOD 

31% of its staff

CHIME

ABOUT 160 

Also, the company of one of the most economically well-off man in the world- Tesla, has cut 10% of their salaried employees.

However, the owners of these companies are getting wealthier every single day and getting to put their names on the wealthiest men in the world and Forbes magazine- both of whom belong to the same land.

Thus, according to the article of Joseph Stalin, we only have a nation when only all the characteristics mentioned in his definition are present and the absence of one characteristic in this regard is not accepted, from which it can be said that the United States of America, according to the criteria provided by Joseph Stalin doesn’t fully qualify as a nation, nor will any other state in the present global context and in an increasingly cosmopolitan world; due to migration and diaspora continuously happening around the world and in a world where citizens are often becoming global citizens. 

But, there is no doubt on the fact that- Politically, the United States of America is a nation.

We can go further on the article to prove that the United States of America is a nation.

The concept of ‘Melting pot’ and the United States of America:

Walker Connor has provided the concept of ‘Melting pot’ on the regard of United States, being a land of immigrants (Connor, 1994). 

Literally speaking, a melting pot is a kind of pot in which metals and materials of various kinds are melted and mixed together. 

However, the concept of melting pot, the way he (W. Connor) wished to describe, fails in this regard, because the immigrants from various nations of the world, settling in the US could not be assimilated together. 

In New York- although it is a more cosmopolitan state than many others, a person belonging to this state is often termed as a New Yorker- often by their unique way of living, their standard of living, their weather conditions, which are a bit different from Texas, Alaska or that of Hawaii. 

Again, in Hawaii the people value the expression of ‘Aloha’ more than any of the other state residents. Their culture and way of living is very much different which is based on various age old legends.                   

The Texans, Californians and New Yorkers are proud in their own ways to become residents of these individual states. This differs due to their dissimilarity in many aspects and even language in many terms, where we have seen above that a large number of Texans, or people in Florida and even a large number of Californians, speak the Spanish language or prefer to use Spanish, but a large number of New Yorkers don’t. 

Again, their ways of life, association with former colonies which are still present in their nature and attitude makes them different from the other with pride. In fact, these states even have their individual flags. The sovereignty of this nation in no way is questioned in this regard. The United States of America is undoubtedly, a sovereign nation. 

Apart from its political implications, the flags also represent the own individuality of these 50 states which is a symbol of their difference in history behind the formation of these states, their distinct culture and tradition. 

For example- The flag of Texas is well known for its prominent single white star which gives the flag its commonly-used name: ‘Lone Star Flag’. This lone star, in turn, gives rise to the state’s nickname: The Lone Star State. The flag is flown in the state, highly popular among Texans and is treated with pride and esteem within Texas.

Again, there were a lot of Grizzly Bears in California and the grizzly bear was a symbol of great strength. In fact, California was known as the Bear State.

Walker Connor mentions further, that it becomes more difficult for Americans to perceive the idea of nation in the same dimension and lucidity as a Japanese, Kikuyu or Bengali, because it lacks ‘a common origin’ (Connor, 1994). 

Although initially, the British came here and settled from Britain, itself along with a few other colonies, this piece of North American land is now what people from more than hundred other nations call home. He mentions, the Americans are not Americans in the way a German is a German or a Frenchman is a French. (Connor, 1994)

But, then again, according to Ernest Renan, in his 1882 lecture, ‘Qu’est-ce qu’une nation? (What is a Nation)?’- the will of the individuals must ultimately indicate whether a nation exists or not.” (Renan, 1882)

In my opinion, the residents of the United States of America connote a very positive sign in this regard and the will of their individuals is very much evident as well. 

These individuals are very much involved in their internal, as well as external policies to a lot extent and ultimately their voices clearly seem to have an importance. 

Starting from the Roe vs Wade law (relating Abortion rights), protests on Black Lives Matter, Gun Laws, they have an active participation in all spheres of their nation and possess a space to share their opinions regarding the affairs for the betterment of their homeland, which I believe, is really important. 

The individuals residing in the US expects, with all their heart for this nation to exist. Although there are a very few exceptions, like that in the U.S state of Hawaii, where a vast majority of Hawaiians demand for a Free Hawaii with de-occupation, it must also be remembered that the case is very minor and exceptions can never be examples.

A nation does not always go through a very swift process. Like other states, the United States of America also had to go through hard times and had to go through bumpy rides.

The Capitol attack in the year 2020 can be sighted in this regard. Many scholars have expressed their concerns regarding the fact that the Capitol attack by mobs, incited by a President, who was still at office explicitly showed the internal division within the US and it definitely posed a horrific threat to the nation as expressed by various scholars. 

The vandalism by the mobs to places of National importance like, breaking into the United States Capitol, damaging the significant elements were a matter of concern and is a highly condemnable, which is not acceptable by any means. 

The very majority of the people of this country along with most politicians and lawmakers also highly condemned the incident and saw it with utter disgust, leading to the impeachment of former President Donald Trump by the US Congress. 

The silver lining in the cloud is- politics could not divide the country at such a difficult time, because Republican senators too voted in favor of the impeachment of TrumpIt expresses the solidarity of the people in the United States of America as a whole, at such difficult times and the removal of their political differences in this regard.


Conclusion: 

Thus from the aforementioned discussion, it can explicitly be said that although all of these individuals don’t share the same opinion- which obviously is very common in all democracies, at least these individuals have their say in regards for making their homeland a better place from their own perspectives.

This zeal, enthusiasm for a reformation and their say on the table- directly through protests or indirectly through their votes, ‘their will’ is clearly evident, for which, it can be said that in spite of going through bumpy rides and not so cooperative means among the individuals, the United States of America is a nation. 



References:

  • Ernest Renan, Qu’est-ce qu’une nation? (What is a Nation?), Retrieved from: John Hutchinson & Anthony D. Smith, Nationalism, Oxford University Press, New York: 1994, pp. 15-16.
  • Walker Connor, A Nation is a Nation, is a State, is an Ethnic Group, is a …, Retrieved from: John Hutchinson & Anthony D. Smith, Nationalism, Oxford University Press, New York: 1994, pp.36-46.
  • Joseph Stalin, The Nation, Retrieved from: John Hutchinson & Anthony D. Smith, Nationalism, Oxford University Press, New York: 1994, pp.18-21
irinsightss

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *