Douglas Holmes. The Sage Handbook of Nations and Nationalism. Editor: Gerard Delanty & Krishan Kumar. 2006. Sage Publishing.
Foreigners, in the lexicon of the whites-only British National Party (BNP), are not welcome here … But for some foreigners, the BNP puts its xenophobia on hold and tries to be nice. This week it invited Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the BNP’s much more successful French counterpart, the National Front, to lend support, if not respectability, for their effort to secure a seat in the European Parliamentary elections in June 2004. (The Economist, 1 May 2004: 58)
The author of this small insert in The Economist, with a picture of Le Pen surrounded by beefy BNP bodyguards, is clearly repelled by this encounter while drawing attention to the ludicrous character of the fêting of the French nationalist by his British counterparts who are inclined to define themselves in opposition to just about everything imaginable that is French. Yet even in this truncated journalistic account there is an acute observation; though meant no doubt sarcastically, the incident is described as evidence of an ‘international alliance of xenophobes.’
The curious encounter between these leaders hints at an important and rather paradoxical shift in the communicative space of European politics engineered in the last decade of the twentieth century allowing traditional cultural forms—typically glossed as ‘nationalism’—to be communicated in new ways to an expanding audience. The leaders of these groups understand viscerally that as the era of the nation-state is eclipsed their ideas and values can be communicated in innovative ways to a new European public. In this chapter I will examine how the complex sensibilities that have historically enlivened the idea of nationalism in Europe are being recast by those forces encompassed by advanced European integration.
My aim here is to outline an analytical framework for examining this decisive transformation in the political character of phenomena conventionally coded as ‘nationalism’ by linking it to ‘supranationalism’ via a third term, ‘integralism’ (Holmes 2000). I will argue that integralism mediates between nationalism and supranationalism as spheres of theory, analysis and practice. To navigate analytically among these three terms I will review some well-known and not so well-known intellectual lineages that tie together the lives and works of an unusual group of theorists and practitioners: John Maynard Keynes, Jean Monnet and, most significantly, Jean-Marie Le Pen.
I will demonstrate how Le Pen, drawing on the ideas and practices that animate integralism, broached the intricate architecture of supranationalism, inspired by Keynes and Monnet, translating its arcane technocratic language of market integration into a radical politics of contemporary Europe.
The communicative space of supranationalism coalesced in the 1940s out of the diplomatic agreements ushering in the current era of globalization. Created through a series of ongoing projects of market integration, this communicative space is predicated on a common and rather precise agreement by which
Language, contractual obligation, institutional relation, money, accounting, property, and hence deeper matters like the past, the future, the individual, and the exercise of the will, must be understood in similar ways … As a result, this communicative space has become the frame of reference for those who care about money or the things money buys, and, more broadly, for those who care about politics, and more broadly still, those who care about the efforts to make sense of our time that we call culture, art, literature, religion and such. (Westbrook 2004: 1)
Communicative action in the contemporary—the ways we collectively think, act and experience the world—is increasingly constituted in relation to supranational markets. How and why this has happened are the key questions of our time; questions that demand a comprehensive reorientation of our scholarship and our intellectual practices.
John Maynard Keynes and Jean Monnet, while seeking to resolve the most fundamental questions of the nation-state—war, trade and debt—arrived at solutions that yielded two radically subversive and interrelated projects: the Bretton Woods Institutions and the European institutions. Both Monnet and Keynes experienced World War II from within the bureaucracies and ministries that managed, supplied and financed the war efforts. They were aware of one another’s work; Keynes is reputed to have credited Monnet’s skill in orchestrating the Allies’ logistical efforts with shortening the duration of the war by a year. Both men understood the inner operations of the Leviathan; they knew how to manage the Wealth of Nations. Both were in fundamental ways economic nationalists and liberal internationalists and, to say the least, they both had a subtle understanding of the workings of capital markets. What they sought, however, was a deployment of markets to achieve a profound historical transformation. In the designs of the European and Bretton Woods institutions markets are recast as political tools to eviscerate the nation-state of its economic sovereignty and hence what Monnet and Keynes understood to be its most rapacious proclivities, as personified by Adolf Hitler, to organize its industrial apparatus for total war (Westbrook 2003). In its place they created a politics of a distinctive sort, a supranational politics that for very intriguing reasons defied expression as a wide-ranging political rhetoric; rather it operated as an obscure technocratic discourse that transformed the world in the second half of the twentieth century. Their veiled efforts were aimed at achieving, in Keynes’s words, ‘a new order,’ ‘a realizable utopia’ (Skidelsky 2000:208).
The birth of the ‘new order’ emerged from a technical problem Keynes faced in 1941, a dilemma posed by a troublesome provision of the Lend Lease Agreement with the United States. The famous agreement is known for allowing the Roosevelt administration to provide aid to the British in the form of 50 surplus warships, against the backdrop of American isolationism prior to Pearl Harbor. Inserted in the agreement was a provision, Article VII, which the British found profoundly irksome and which bound the parties to an agenda that would define the future status of international trade in the post-war world. Article VII became part of a wide-ranging debate within the British Treasury and the Bank of England, already under way in 1941, on planning for the post-war British economy and, more broadly, the structure of international trade within and beyond the empire. Keynes played a pivotal role in these discussions, particularly in the debate on the relative merits for postwar Britain of planned trade, based on the illiberal Schachtian system of bi-lateral managed trade relations developed by Hitler’s banker and Economics Minister Hjalmar Schacht and Walther Funk, who succeeded Schacht as Economics Minister, and the laissez-faire approach of ‘non-discrimination in trade’ or ‘Hullism,’ espoused by the American Secretary of State Cordell Hull (Skidelsky 2000: 179-232). The former arrangement would, at least in theory have perpetuated the ‘imperial preferences’ of the Commonwealth; the latter would have decisively ended the political economy of empire.
Over a long weekend in September 1941 Keynes drafted two papers as rejoinders to Article VII, ‘Post War Currency Policy’ and ‘Proposal for International Currency Union,’ which Robert Skidelsky, Keynes’s biographer, described as ‘the most important he ever wrote in terms of their direct influence on events’ (2000: 208). In many respects these were incomplete and rather messy documents, yet together they constituted a major ‘fragment of a Grand Design’ that was to be fully realized in the Bretton Woods Agreements in 1946. At the center of this technical design were the mechanisms of an ‘International Central Bank (ICB) that would, as Keynes fatefully put it, ‘make a beginning at the construction of the future government of the world’ (quoted in Skidelsky 2000:223).
The negotiations over this plan, first within the British government and then crucially in response to the plan drafted by Harry Dexter White, a New Deal-appointed assistant to US Treasury Secretary Henry Morgentheau, yielded the now famous tripartite Bretton Woods institutional arrangement for global economic integration. What is most significant for our purposes is how these complex negotiations defined the space of technocratic intervention predicated on monetary issues. At stake in these negotiations were issues of highest national concern to the two parties, inspiring potentially divisive political confrontation in the midst of war. Yet the translation of these fraught political issues into technical terms opened the way to Keynes’s ‘realizable utopia.’ What this translation entailed was a conceptualization of ‘the supranational’ as a sphere of theory, analysis and intervention.
The creation of a supranational institutional framework also defined the role of a new class of actors, who Robert Reich (1992) describes as ‘symbolic analysts,’ specialists whose interests were no longer fully aligned with or reducible to those vested interests that defined the nation-state. These actors, Keynes being one of the first, were no longer constrained by its theories, methods and histories; indeed, by virtue of their institutional projects they sought to render the intellectual apparatus underwriting the nation-state increasingly irrelevant. What emerged from their labor was a discursive field of politics that operated increasingly through the idioms of capital markets and international finance and largely outside the realm of conventional political discourse and hence public scrutiny. Within a decade (9 May 1950) Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman had engineered in a remarkably similar fashion the founding of the European institutions.
Jean Monnet made a decisive discovery about the communicative possibilities (and limitations) constituted by supranationalism, a discovery that he relentlessly exploited and built into the fabric of the European project. Commenting on the journalists covering the announcement of the Schuman Declaration, Monnet notes their bafflement: ‘They were still uncertain about the significance of the proposal, whose technical aspects at first sight masked its political meaning’ (Monnet 1978: 304). It is precisely this bafflement that allowed one of the most important political projects of the twentieth century to develop in plain sight with little, if any, serious public scrutiny. In other words, the inscrutability of the European project and, for that matter, the Bretton Woods project was not merely the outcome of public inattention, but a consequence of how these projects displaced fundamental historical realities that endowed events with coherence.
Inspired by Conrad Adenauer, first post-war chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, drafted by Robert Schuman, French Prime Minister, and Jean Monnet with a small group of aides, the founding document of the European Union explicitly aimed to end the possibility of war in Europe via comprehensive and wide-ranging market integration starting with the production of coal and steel. Monnet was struck at the press conference announcing the Schuman plan that the journalists failed to grasp its significance; the elite French intellectual community lacked a framework and language to understand what the document represented. Monnet expresses in his memoir initial disappointment with this tepid response to this remarkable declaration, but then, one guesses, he realized what a remarkable asset this pubic indifference could be: he could build Europe in plain sight without serious public scrutiny. He was free to pursue this staggering project because the journalists, the intellectuals, the political elites of France and Europe would be unperturbed, they operated within a cognitive purview and critical political agendas that were seamlessly tied to histories and theories from which his supranational ambitions were largely inscrutable (Rabinow 1999). Like Keynes, he had discovered the tightly defined communicative character of supranationalism: its technical language, and its goal of market integration. Monnet, one of the shrewdest minds of the twentieth century, recognized almost instantaneously that with the Schuman Declaration a vast political space was created that was virtually invisible and inaccessible from the standpoint of conventional political ideology and practice.
An explicit ethos and practice, designed by Monnet, was embraced by the founders of the European Union and could be used to fill this technocratic space of Europe. At its philosophical core were a comprehensive rejection of the nation-state as an instrument for managing human affairs and the development of an expert method—an administrative science of the supranational—that would impel the political integration of Europe. The founders of the EU were emphatic that their goal was to escape the blighted history of the European nation-state (Adenauer 1966; Haas 1964, 1968; Herzfeld 1993; Lipgens 1985; Zorgbibe 1993).
An Ever-Closer Union
David Westbrook has analyzed acutely how a particular appropriation of the market mechanism as a constitutional instrument yielded a new type of polity, of which the European Union is a decisive manifestation. He terms this polity created by the interleaving of European and Bretton Woods institutions, the ‘City of Gold.’ By shifting our theoretical preoccupations about capital markets from conceptualizing them in relationship to those commercial transactions organizing production, distribution and consumption to conceptualizing markets as constitutional devices, he provides analytical purchase on the forces giving social form and cultural content to the contemporary world.
[T]o understand the way we now live rests therefore on a restatement of politics as it appears in the context of supranational capital, legitimated through our faith in the institutions of money and property as opposed to the modern nation state, legitimized through the familiar mechanisms of the liberal republic … The communicative space formed by financial markets is the object of political thought in our time, as the nation state was for most political thought during the time we still regard as modern … (Westbrook 2004: 12)
These constitutional innovations were embraced unevenly in Europe until the 1980s, when two projects rekindled the agenda for integration: the ‘single market’ programme was established by the treaty known as the Single European Act (1986) followed by the project of European Monetary Union (EMU) codified in the Maastricht Treaty (1992). In 2002 the latter initiative culminated in a new common currency, the euro, initially adopted by 12 member states and the establishment of the European Central Bank to manage monetary policy within the newly established euro-zone. The creation of the single market and the pursuit of monetary union have been driving forces underwriting advanced European integration for the past two decades; they literally encompass the principles integrating a supranational polity that now embraces 25 member states and 450 million citizens (Connolly 1995; Delors 1989; Milward 1999; Moravcsik 1998).
What is poorly understood about this monumental project is how it redefines the fundamental nature of political discourse and how it recasts the way ideas of and about collectivity are communicated. In other words, European integration poses basic questions about how we confer meaning on social life generating in turn unusual possibilities for political innovation. The predicament of integration through markets yields a distinctive problem of meaning.
The market’s grammar, the dialectic between property and money, does not express many things important to being human. Capitalism is therefore radically impoverished as a system of politics. Insofar as we long for community, we necessarily experience life in capitalism as a sort of exile … The construction of markets—the creation and alienation of property rights—involves the destruction of meaning, and in longing for that meaning, we complain not only about the market before us, but about the arrangement of social affairs through markets per se. (Westbrook 2003: 164)
This abstract predicament was, in the early 1990s, given a radical interpretation by a very unlikely figure working within one of Jean Monnet’s supranational institutions, the European Parliament. The conundrum of community and meaning was forcefully diagnosed by Le Pen and from that analysis he sought to establish a strategic set of social and cultural issues as a key axis of struggle defining politics in Europe at the opening of the twenty-first century. Le Pen diagnosed how ‘society’ was being transformed simultaneously under the sway of the supranational market and by the eclipsing of the nation-state as the dominant institutional framework defining life in the new Europe (Berezin and Shain 2004; Holmes 2000; Wright 1998).
The Paradox of Jean-Marie Le Pen
The presence of Le Pen and his associates at the European Parliament itself poses important questions. The cynical view—which I held initially—was that the parliament provided the Front National, Le Pen’s party, with a forum within which to articulate its resolutely French political agenda. Lacking the electoral strength to secure seats in the National Assembly, the Front National took advantage of the European Parliament’s different electoral rules and the propensity of the French electorate to view European elections as an opportunity to register protest votes, to win seats in the European Parliament and thereby gain a measure of political legitimacy. This is, no doubt, a correct assessment. However, circumstances conspired to make Le Pen a far more consequential figure in European politics. One formulation was decisive in this transformation: by linking key elements of nationalism to the emergence of a multicultural and multiracial Europe, Le Pen and his associates defined acutely the terms of political contestation that have broad relevance across Europe. Indeed, their inventory of political imperatives has moved from the margins to the center of political struggle in Western Europe.
Le Pen, from his vantage point within the European institutions, discovered that his message, designed to address a tiny conservative, if not reactionary, French public could be re-crafted to give it wide currency that could inspire radical forms of activism beyond the borders of France (Simmons 1996; Stoler 2002; Taguieff 1988, 1989, 1991a, 1991b, 1994). This newly crafted political framework, that broached the discursive field of supranationalism, I have termed integralism. As Le Pen’s integralist agenda evolved during the early 1990s it was gradually adopted by his colleagues representing similar small regionalist and nationalist groupings within the European Parliament and then, later in the decade, by a wide range of new or reconstituted political movements across the EU. Thus, by the opening of the twenty-first century Le Pen had crafted a model of political engagement which has entered the political discourse across the 25 member states of the EU; it is a model for activism that, despite its often cloying appeals to nostalgia, is emphatically about the fundamental nature of contemporary European society (Holmes 1993; Holmes and Marcus 2005; MacDonald 1996; Smith 1992; Stolcke 1995).
In the remainder of this chapter I will describe the insurgent character of integralism and its relationship to advanced European integration. The focus will continue on Le Pen, who created a conceptual architecture for integralism that allows critical interpretation of society undergoing fundamental transformation. He and his associates have made a series of decisive—though largely implicit—theoretical innovations that disrupt the categories by which we appraise modern political phenomena.
My aim here is to render this theory explicit by tracing its intellectual lineage and contemporary expression. I use integralism as a theory of society that, among other things, translates between nationalist and supranationalist idioms, thereby providing analytical purchase on the shifting nature of collective life, transformations of the public sphere, and realignments of human intimacy. In the next section, I examine how integralism can serve as a framework to analyze how mundane forms of collective practice can be linked to sublime political yearning, how varied and contradictory political ambitions can be synthesized within an overarching integralist agenda, and how integralism can draw on a specific European intellectual tradition for its form and substance (Boyer and Lomnitz 2005; Hertzfeld 1987).
Integralism is often cloaked in the rhetoric of ‘nation,’ but when integralist agendas are scrutinized it becomes clear that they encompass far more than just fidelity to the idea of nation, rather they draw authority from a wide range of collective practices that implicate family, town and country, language groups, religious communities, occupational statuses, social classes, and so on (Alter 1994; Boyer and Lomnitz 2005; Handler 1988; Holmes 1989). At the opening of the twenty-first century these collective practices and the sensibilities that infuse them are being re-aggregated. In other words, the ideas, sentiments and values that have historically animated various expressions of European nationalism are now enlivening not merely elements of national collectivities, but other collective groupings, aligning them in complex fashion to the supranational imperatives of European integration. These new alignments attaining articulations within this supranational communicative space reveal the unsettling potential of integralism to join, fuse, merge and synthesize what might appear to be incompatible elements imparting a distinctive and volatile power to this kind of politics. In the following sections I will briefly describe the historical character of integralism and how integralism gained articulation as a modern social, cultural, aesthetic and political phenomenon. My purpose is to provide insights on how and why contemporary expressions of integralism appear both profoundly familiar and distinctly alien.
Isaiah Berlin (1976) sets out ‘three cardinal ideas’ that he draws from the work of Johann Gottfried Herder that have historically endowed integralism with social form and cultural content. Populism, expressionism and pluralism provide both the basic conceptual structure of integralism and locate its roots in European intellectual history. Populism is ‘the belief in the value of belonging to a group or a culture …’ (1976: 153). Berlin draws from Herder’s distinctive orientation to the vicissitudes of human association, an orientation that envisions patterns of association crosscut by the possibility of loss and estrangement. The stranger, the exile, the alien and the dispossessed haunt the margins of this populism. ‘[Herder’s] notion of what it is to belong to a family, a sect, a place, a period, a style is the foundation of his populism, and of all the later conscious programmes for self-integration or re-integration among men who felt scattered, exiled or alienated’ (1976: 196-7). Though Berlin acknowledges that Herderian populism embraces views of collectivity that are not necessarily political and ideas of solidarity that need not be forged through social struggle, he is clear that populism, by taking dispersed human practices and beliefs and by conferring on them collective significance, creates singular political possibilities.
Expressionism encompasses all aspects of human creativity orienting analysis of society towards ‘inner truths’ and ‘inner ideals.’
[H]uman activity in general, and art in particular, express the entire personality of the individual or the group, and are intelligible only to the degree to which they do so. Still more specifically, expressionism claims that all the works of men are above all voices speaking, are not objects detached from their makers, are part of a living process of communication between persons and not independently existing entities … This is connected with the further notions that every form of human self-expression is in some sense artistic, and that self-expression is part of the essence of human beings … (1976: 153)
Expressionism thus encompasses virtually the entire compendium of collective practices, the varied fabrications of culture, from rustic cuisine to high religion (Holmes 1989). Herder posits an inner logic and internally derived integrity to these creative enterprises and thus a unifying dynamic.
Pluralism is for Berlin ‘the belief not merely in the multiplicity, but in the incommensurability of the values of different cultures and societies, and in addition, in the incompatibility of equally valid ideals, together with the implied revolutionary corollary that the classical notions of an ideal man and of an ideal society are intrinsically incoherent and meaningless’ (1976: 153). Significantly, Berlin’s rendering of pluralism can yield tolerance of difference among discrete groups with their own enduring traditions and territorial attachments. However, when cast against a ‘cosmopolitan’ agenda based on universal values and ‘rootless’ styles of life, it is a ‘pluralism’ that can provoke fierce intolerance. In its embrace of ‘incommensurability,’ it creates a potentially invidious doctrine of difference, which holds that cultural distinctions must be preserved among an enduring plurality of groups and provides, thereby, a discriminatory rationale for practices of inclusion and exclusion (Anderson 1992).
There is one more concept that Berlin also derives from Herder, which has relevance for the articulation of integralism, the concept of alienation. Berlin notes that it ‘is not simply a lament for the material and moral miseries of exile, but is based on the view that to cut men off from the “living center”—from the texture to which they naturally belong—or to force them to sit by the rivers of some remote Babylon,… [is] to degrade, dehumanize, [and] destroy them’ (1976: 197). This is a view of alienation that emphasizes cultural estrangement over and above socio-economic oppression. Crucially, estrangement can also be figurative; it can be instilled by the ‘emptiness of cosmopolitanism’ without entailing any physical dislocation (pp. 198-9).
These ideas delineated by Berlin are postulates about the essence of human nature and the character of cultural affinity and difference that can potentially imbue fervent political yearnings and foreshadow a distinctive political economy. Taken together they constitute the basis of a distinctive intellectual and cultural movement in European history, which assumed its most sophisticated manifestation within the humanistic triumphs of Romanticism and most malevolent expression in the politics of fascism. The enduring significance of these concepts is that they reveal how, under the guise of ‘tradition,’ new cultural forms and social distinctions can proliferate and, as we know too well, how these distinctions can yield tainted and incendiary discriminations of human difference (Stoler 1995, 1997a, 1997b).
Fundamentally, these postulates formulated by Berlin represent a theory of society, a distinctive project of human collectivity. What is most significant about integralism and easily overlooked is its potential to take what might appear to be nostalgic cultural configurations and continually refine and recast them as future-oriented collective ideals demarcating a formidable societal milieu in which human creative potentials impart a distinctive dynamic of change and transformation. Indeed, it is the way that integralism has become virtually inextricable from the progressive dynamism of the modern world that demands scrutiny.
A tiny dissident movement emerged in France at the close of the nineteenth century that translated the key assumptions of integralism into a modern theory of industrial society. The collective ideals of populism, expressionism and pluralism were recast and interleaved as ‘nationalism’ and ‘socialism’ yielding a political movement that devastated Europe and became the rationale for European integration. In the following section I review this decisive historical episode whereby integralism became a vertiginous politics.
Conceived by George Sorel and developed by his followers within groups like the Cercle Proudhon, the movement pursued this translation through an implausible, if not bizarre, revision of virtually all the basic tenets of Marxism. Indeed, ‘revisionism’ hardly captures the thorough evisceration of Marxist doctrine accomplished by the Sorelians. What started as revisionism, in fact, opened up an entirely new ideological path upon which a virulent synthesis of socialism and nationalism took form. This synthesis jettisoned virtually the entire intellectual tradition of the European Enlightenment and circumscribed a wholly novel terrain for modern political radicalism. In the process it liberated ‘new’ forces to propel political insurgency: the power of the irrational, the unconscious and the intuitive.
Two radical ‘alterations’ of Marxist theory, formulated on or about 1910, were crucial in casting a new revolutionary politics that ultimately set the course to fascism. On the one hand, the economics of capitalism were superseded in the Sorelian scheme by the psychology of myth as the driving force of class struggle and the catalyst for revolutionary action. On the other, the ‘proletariat’ as agent of revolution was supplanted by the ‘nation,’ unified across classes, as the moral framework for radical action. This section touches briefly on the innovations represented by the Sorelian and fascist legacies as a way to introduce the politics of Jean-Marie Le Pen. Le Pen is neither a Sorelian nor is he a fascist, but in the late twentieth century he and those leaders who have modeled themselves on his activism drew on these two traditions to define an integralist politics for Europe (Rémond 1982; Weber 1962, 1964, 1986).
Sorel’s faith in the working class was disclaimed abruptly in the face of what he and his followers believed to be a monumental historical impasse, an impasse that led them to repudiate the proletariat as the agent of revolution.
The proletariat of the great industrial centers of western Europe corresponded to the portrait [Gustave] Le Bon had painted of it: it too was only a crowd, and a crowd is conservative … This proletariat was no longer and would never again be, an agent of antibourgeois revolution. One had therefore either to follow it into its retirement or find an alternate revolutionary force capable of destroying liberal democracy and rescuing the world from decadence … [T]he ineffective proletariat would be replaced by the great rising force of the modern world, born of modernization, wars of independence, and cultural integration—that is, the nation. The nation with all its classes [was thus] joined together in the great fight against bourgeois and democratic decadence. (Sternhell 1994: 26-7)
During the first decade of the twentieth century Sorelian socialism migrated toward the nationalism of Charles Maurras and his followers affiliated with Action française. These activists sought a socialism with a national character drawing its inspiration from ‘the old French socialism of Fourier and Saint-Simon, Considerant and Louis Blac, Lamennais, and George Sand and Eugène Sue—not from German intoxicants like those produced by Marx and Engels’ (Weber 1991: 266). The social order imparted by this socialism became, under the sway of nationalism, anti-materialist, illiberal and resolutely authoritarian. ‘Where Charles Maurras differed from the Socialists was not in matters of social concern, but in matters of social order—denouncing their egalitarian myths and their belief that authority stems from the masses when, to him, authority is clearly established only by the natural hierarchy of competence and birth. Maurras, then, opposes socialist democracy; he also opposed socialist internationalism’ (Weber 1991: 264). This of course implies a radical inversion of the Durkheimian telos of modern society, it is a ‘socialism’ founded on an ersatz ‘mechanical solidarity’ and predicated on renewed sentiments of rootedness as revolutionary principles (Noiriel 1996).
Through the intellectual work and activism of Maurice Barrès, George Valois, Pierre Drieu la Rochelle, Marcel Déat and Robert Brasillach an incendiary course was set in the direction of a ‘national revolution’ that culminated in Vichy.
Thus, it was quite natural that a synthesis would arise between this new socialism, which discovered the nation as a revolutionary agent, and the nationalist movement, which also rebelled against the old world of conservatives, against the aristocrats and the bourgeois, and against social injustices and which believed that the nation would never be complete until it had integrated the proletariat. A socialism for the whole collectivity and a nationalism that, severed from conservatism, proclaimed itself as being by definition the messenger of unity and unanimity thus came together to form an unprecedented weapon of war against the bourgeois order and liberal democracy (Sternhell 1994: 27-8).
The advocates of this national socialist synthesis addressed forcefully, if not obsessively, solidarity and the nature of human collectivities. They did not, however, focus their radical interventions solely on social or economic structures, but rather they emphasized the potential of a cultural assemblage—orchestrated around populism, expressionism and pluralism—to serve as the basis of collectivity. Their socialism, unified across classes, dissolved ‘society’ into the ‘nation,’ thus creating a nationalism that could become, not just an idiom of solidarity, but a vehicle for social justice. They sought to formulate a politics that could circumvent a disintegrating ‘bourgeois public sphere,’ and engage directly the human substance of integral lifeworlds. These are the dissident maneuvers that connect Jean-Marie Le Pen to the Sorelian legacy and the fascist synthesis.
Fascism wished to rectify the most disastrous consequences of modernization of the European continent and to provide a solution to the atomization of society, its fragmentation into antagonistic groups, and the alienation of the individual in a free market economy Fascism rebelled against the dehumanization that modernization had introduced into human relationships, but it was also very eager to retain the benefits of progress and never advocated a return to a hypothetical golden age … Fascism presented itself as a revolution of another kind, a revolution that sought to destroy the existing [bourgeois] political order and to uproot its theoretical and moral foundations but that at the same time wished to preserve all the achievements of modern technology It was to take place within the framework of the industrial society, fully exploiting that power that was in it. (Sternhell 1994: 6-7)
Sternhell further notes, ‘fascism was only an extreme manifestation of a much broader and more comprehensive phenomenon … an integral part of the history of European culture’ (1994: 3). It is this broader phenomenon, deeply rooted in European experiences of modernity—collective experiences of modernity that are no longer fully encompassed by notions of nation and state—that I seek to capture with the idea of integralism.
Le Pen discovered how the discursive field of supranationalism as something other than a technical discourse could be broached. He made a fundamental translation of the arcane technocratic language of market integration into a contemporary political idiom. By so doing he solved the central conundrum, the core riddle of advanced European integration. He asserted that the European Union, which presents itself, as an immense economic undertaking, is in fact a radical social and cultural project, a project aimed at creating a vast multiracial and multicultural Europe. Moreover, the project as he understood it was unfolding unmarked, unrecognized and un-narrated. He had assumed for himself the task of giving voice to this process, giving the project of European integration a language and thereby a new political reality.
Le Pen’s ambition in the early 1990s was to define the discourse on the emergence of a multiracial and multicultural society by eviscerating its moral and intellectual foundations. He thereby escaped the tightly sequestered world of right-wing French nationalism and established the premises of a supranational politics of Europe, a politics emphatically opposed to integration. Indeed, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Le Pen was the first to elaborate what could be construed as a new political articulation, a rancorous articulation, of what is at stake in advanced European integration. in this final section I will outline how the projects engineered by Keynes and Monnet provided a framework for the alignment and the configuration of communicative action to coalesce and to circulate beyond the institutional ambit of the nation-state: antagonistic to or unconstrained by its regulatory conventions and its intellectual traditions. I will continue to personify these innovations in terms of Le Pen because, as I have argued above, he has been largely responsible for discovering this space and refining the techniques for entering and exploiting it politically. That said, there are now numerous agile political leaders across Europe who have explicitly or implicitly modeled their practices on Le Pen’s and are now pursuing his conceptual and tactical strategies with equal if not greater zeal. Hence, I am using ‘Le Pen’ figuratively to stand for a series of political innovations that Le Pen, the person, initially worked out, but which now operate beyond his control as an inchoate politics of Europe (Holmes and Marcus 2005).
1. Le Pen asserts that as society framed by the bourgeois nation-state is eclipsed a space is created for a radical politics that draws on latent cultural idioms for the conceptualization of collectivities. He narrates the usurpation of the nation-state and its significance not just for those traditional political constituencies displaced and estranged by this process—most notably the working class—but for all Europeans. He has conjured a complex emotional landscape for a supranational Europe upon which sublime longings and desires are crosscut by acute fears and anxieties. He recognized that integration is paradoxically creating new domains of alienation and estrangement in which radical formation of meaning can establish the terms of struggle over multiracial and multicultural society (Holmes 2000).
2. Le Pen’s theatricality is renowned, his performances are widely acknowledged to be masterful and compelling despite (or because of) their extremist character. He prides himself on the texture, the subtlety and the range of his emotional message. What others consider distasteful about his performance, Le Pen claims as the distinctive means by which he engages the intimate struggles that circumscribe the lives of his public (Herzfeld 1997). Underpinning the theatrical and emotional dimensions of his political practice is the formidable intellectual tradition of the ‘Counter Enlightenment’ from which Le Pen distils what he believes to be the essence of human nature and the character of cultural affinity and difference, ideas that imbue ardent political activism and foreshadow an exclusionary political economy (Stoler 2002). Le Pen’s outlook exceeds what is conventionally understood as ‘politics,’ rather he conjured a complex sociology and metaphysics that tether the new political economy of the EU to emerging existential struggles taking shape in the lives of virtually every European (Stoler 1997b: Taguieff 1989).
3. Le Pen’s decisive insight is that the communicative space of supranationalism renders the bourgeois public sphere largely irrelevant permitting new forms of communicative action. In this space he substitutes the authority of ‘experience,’ shared experience, as the basis of legitimacy, credibility and truth (Stoler 1997a). He recognizes that a particular kind of message—an integralist message—can be communicated in ways that are not susceptible to the forms of rational scrutiny and intellectual mediation that characterized the era of the nation-state, but can enter the lifeworlds of a new European public and be accepted, as it were, on ‘faith’ (Eley 1994: 298; Habermas 1987, 1991).
4. Le Pen frames his political practice to embrace far more than fidelity to the idea of ‘nation,’ rather it draws authority from a wide range of collective ideas, that implicate family, town and country, language groups, religious communities, occupational statuses, social classes and so on. He understands that this kind of dynamic pluralism can be cast in opposition to the supranational imperatives of European integration revealing the potential of integralism to join, fuse, merge and synthesize what might appear to be incompatible principles of association within a common political movement or insurgency. Simple distinctions between left and right no longer serve as reliable guides within this communicative space where ‘socialism’ can be constituted in relation to illiberal assumptions and values of collectivity (Boyer and Lomnitz 2005; Holmes 2000).
I will conclude with two brief paradigmatic representations of how integralist ideas circulate across a newly contoured Europe: how populism, expressionism, pluralism and intensifying forms of estrangement are inciting ideas that can be communicated politically to a newly defined European public.
The initial trajectory of this hypothetical communicative action is, in the case of Le Pen, from his headquarters in Paris to the homes, bars, workplaces, sports clubs and so forth of French and now European citizens, where his narratives move in countless informal conversations, in press accounts and in the shop-talk of local politicians. These political narratives are interpreted and endowed with diverse meaning in these local contexts depending on whether they are configured across the borderlands of Ireland or Poland or within the working-class neighborhoods of Marseilles or Vilnius. In these varied sites Le Pen’s narratives are translated into ‘indigenous’ idioms to address human predicaments conferring on them a fraught conceptual and emotional substance. These volatile narratives can be refracted back to the political precincts of Paris, or Stockholm, Warsaw, Belfast, or Madrid, to the offices of all those who seek to emulate or to oppose Le Pen, where they can be re-calibrated and re-communicated aligning a complex discursive field, the communicative space of a supranational Europe.
If early in the twenty-first century one were to attend a public rally for Le Pen in France, or for one of the many political figures who model themselves on Le Pen elsewhere in Europe, and walk through the crowd one would see the embodiment of integralism, particularly its pluralist dynamic. As one surveys the audience, whether on the outskirts of Budapest, Antwerp, Lisbon or Prague, one can identify by vestments, demeanor, dialect or other overt characteristics the distinct groups that make up this notional audience. One would likely find: farmers, conservative Catholics, pensioners and military veterans, school teachers and other low- and mid-level government employees, factory workers, owners of small shops and businesses, university students and members of other often religiously sponsored youth organizations, a coterie of skinheads and, at the margins, the police, who alternately participate as security contingent and as attentive listeners.
The speaker typically acknowledges these groupings and addresses them on their terms: the audience need not divest themselves of their idiosyncratic identities, on the contrary, the only way their participation makes sense is from the standpoint of their own particular sensibilities and consciousness. Neither are they addressed as abstract citizens of a nation-state nor as citizens of a European Union and they certainly are not addressed as ‘consumers’ to be sold a political message. These groupings are equally hostile to the rule of the market and to the logic of technocracy. For them, political meaning can only be socially mediated through idioms of family, town and country, ethnic and linguistic assemblages, religious communities, occupational statuses, social classes and so on. Their faith and loyalty reside in experience reconciled through these collective entities, and thus through forms of solidarity that are simultaneously prosaic and radical. Again, the acute irony, that Le Pen so carefully configured, is that only from the perspective of these collective groupings is the ‘true’ meaning of Europe revealed, only from these vantage points can the supranational project be critically appraised and its ‘ominous’ meaning apprehended. What members of these groups share is a profound sense of encroaching estrangement that threatens the integrity of their diverse communities providing the common thread that weaves their pluralist agendas together. These are the manifold human predicaments gaining political articulation as integralism, an integralism that resonates across a supranational Europe and beyond.
The ‘alliance of xenophobes,’ alluded to at the outset of this chapter, is thus far more consequential than a ludicrous charade performed by ‘brutes in suits.’ Rather, as I have argued above, it is a manifestation of an expanding insurgency: an insurgency predicated on ideas about human affinity and difference that not only have deep roots in European intellectual history, but also represent a keen understanding of contemporary European political economy. Initially coalescing among a tiny group of activists, the ideas that animate this movement have relentlessly made their way into mainstream political discourse shaping the consciousness of an ever-wider community of adherents and sympathizers. These people no longer perceive the discriminatory values they embrace as extremist, but articulate them as a matter of fact.