UNIVERSITY OF TARTU Centre for Baltic Studies. Master s thesis. Lelde Arnicāne - PDF


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UNIVERSITY OF TARTU Centre for Baltic Studies Master s thesis Lelde Arnicāne POPULAR SUBJECTIVITY IN LATVIAN POLITICS: NATIONAL IDENTITY, EU MEMBERSHIP AND THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE Supervisor: Prof. Viacheslav Morozov Tartu 2016 This thesis conforms to the requirements for a Master s thesis...(signature of the supervisor and date) Submitted for defense... (date) I have written this Master s thesis independently. Any ideas or data taken from other authors or other sources have been fully referenced. I agree to publish my thesis on the DSpace at University of Tartu (digital archive) and on the webpage of the Centre for Baltic Studies, UT.... (signature of the author and date) 2 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to thank my supervisor Viacheslav Morozov for his patience and trust in helping me to develop this project and carrying it out in its present form. My initial idea for the thesis is brought very close to reality, and this road is often the hardest. For inspiration in theoretical perspectives and constant guiding in sharpening the arguments I, again, thank my supervisor. 3 ABSTRACT The thesis deals with the issue of popular political subjectivity in the context of attitudes towards the European Union. In it its focus is Latvia where the public is more distanced and skeptic towards the EU membership than the political class. I argue that in order to explain this difference it is necessary to examine the discursive situating of the main subject of democratic politics the people. Drawing on post-foundationalist analysis I show that in Latvia the people are cemented as the founding power but not constructed as an active subject of established power. This in turn blocks the constitutive role of politics as any articulation of identity is assigned to only the politicians not the people. The unattainable wish that require for politicians to create an ideal state results in constant disappointment with the actual political process. The barring of the people from politics consequently impacts the perception of the European Union in regard to which the people are constructed to have no agency while suspicion towards the actions of the politicians remains strong. Based on post-structuralist research design, the argument is established by two-fold analysis: the first part genealogically discusses the conceptual history of the categories of the people and the state in Latvia, and the second part provides an empirical analysis of the contemporary public debate on the Latvia s presidency in the EU Council. Thus, the implications of the discursive constellation of Latvian popular subjectivity that is mapped out in the genealogical part are explored in regard to the Latvia s EU membership. The thesis gives an original standpoint to continuous debate about the EU s democratic deficit by highlighting post-foundationalist interpretation of popular politics as well as sheds new light on significance of the categories of the nation-state in national political processes. Keywords: political subjectivity, Latvia, European Union, post-foundationalism, poststructuralist discourse analysis, national identity. 4 CONTENTS INTRODUCTION CONSTRUCTING THE POLITICAL SUBJECTIVITY OF THE PEOPLE The political subject in post-foundationalist reading The political and the people Nation, state and people categories of subjectiveness METHODOLOGY Key premises of the post-structuralist research design Analyzing the discourses on the Latvian subjectivity Research design Selecting sources Limitations CONSTRUCTING THE LATVIAN NATIONAL IDENTITY: PAST AND PRESENT Constructing the people Constructing the state National identity during the authoritarian regime National identity after Us and them: the people against the politicians THE PEOPLE IN THE DEBATE ABOUT LATVIA S EU PRESIDENCY Blocking the popular subjectivity: official discourse Interests but not the voice: the public debate The tension between the people and politics CONCLUSION BIBLIOGRAPHY INTRODUCTION When the ten year anniversary of Latvia s EU membership was approaching on May 1 st 2014 and local media outlets reminisced about the benefits that Latvia had acquired as EU member, they also had to grapple with puzzling statistics of the public opinion on the EU. If in the 2004 referendum 67 percent of the population voted for joining the EU, today this number would be just 38 percent (LSM, ). Just two months before Latvia joined the Eurozone in January, 2014, public support for the Euro maintained the low 20 percent (Neatkarīga Rīta avīze, ). The Latvian public continually has affirmed itself as distanced or even sceptical towards the European Union while the political class has been very EU-supportive. How it can be that the determinate pro-integration course which has been so characteristic to all Latvian post-communist political elite (e.g. Pabriks, Purs, 2001: 124) meets so little public support? At the same time, it is also difficult to speak about a clearly formulated opposition to the European Union in Latvia. Eurosceptic positions are not popular among political parties, and policies of European integration, like adoption of the Euro or signing the Lisbon Treaty, have not met public protests or even sparked substantial political debate. It is indeed more precise to speak about a lack of opinion about the EU in the Latvian public. On the Eurobarometer survey question about whether the membership in the EU is a good or bad thing, dominant answer (fluctuating between 43% to 51%) for respondents in Latvia continually has been that it is neither (Eurobarometer 2005; 2007; 2009; SKDS surveys 1 ). So, while the political elite have actively pursued Latvia s integration into the EU, the public has remained unmoved or even skeptical. The thesis approaches this puzzle from the perspective of the construction of popular political subjectivity in Latvia. I suggest that the relation between Latvia and Europe should be examined from the perspective of political subjectivity, that is, as the quest to situate the Latvian popular political subject, who, inter alia, creates and maintains relations with Europe. I place Latvia in a post-foundationalist reading of politics and ask the question: where are the people when political decisions in regard to Europe are made? In this reading, politics is seen not as a 1 SKDS, an independent research centre in Latvia, has over years inquired the same question. In November 2014 number of undecided was 43%. However, since March 2014 had increased number of those who think membership is a good thing (40%). 6 realm where different social groups play out their interests in procedural mode but where social identities became constituted in the first place. For democratic political system, the locus of these articulations is the people, a wielder of extra-constitutional power and the subject of democratic politics. It is in this perspective I argue that the political subjectivity of the Latvian people is blocked by negating the constitutive power of politics and assigning the political subjectivity solely to politicians. In Latvia the form of politics which is not instituted in an existing constitutional frame, that is, embodied in the parliament and other political institutions, is nonexistent in the public discourses. I interpret this as disavowal of politics in terms of Jacques Rancière. Using his terminology, I argue that discursively the Latvian nation-state is constructed in arche-political mode where the nation and the state are linked in a single, organic body with the state assuming all political authority for the nation. However, the organic link between the nation and the state proves to be beyond reach moreover, as argued by Rancière, Ernesto Laclau and others, it is unachievable in principle. The longing for the impossible leads to the state being perceived as being too far away from the nation, switching the alternative mode metapolitics to take over which views all politics as corrupt and schemed. Both views form the dominant understanding of politics in Latvia and both of them block the entering of the people into political domain. Thus politics becomes unresponsive and distanced towards the social identities of the people and can even lose its democratic character. My analysis on historically rooted discourses on the Latvian nation-state as well as current discourses on Latvia s presidency of the EU Council confirms this argument and shows how the particular constellation of political subjectivity impacts Latvia s relation with Europe. Genealogical analysis brings forward categories that have been central in articulating the concepts of the nation and the state while the analysis of the EU presidency debate illustrates how the constellation of these elements relate to Latvia s EU membership. It shows how the politicians construct the people as only indirectly involved in political decision-making and mostly as onlookers and receivers of political decisions. At the same time in the public discourses politics is constructed as schemed, false and unresponsive to the needs of the people. The thesis thus provides an original argument to explain the discrepancy between the public and the politicians in their attitude towards the EU as well as gives an in-depth analysis about the construction of Latvian popular subjectivity. 7 Consequently, the aim of this thesis is to find out how the construction of the Latvian popular subjectivity impacts the public attitudes towards the EU by examining how specific, historically established ideas of the nation and the state condition the construction of popular political subjectivity. The research questions thus are: how the relationship between the people and the state has been constructed historically as well as in the recent times, and which implications these constructions have had for the popular subjectivity of the Latvian people. I am providing an answer to these questions by looking retrospectively at the debates about Latvian national identity as well as by analyzing the recent debates around Latvia's EU presidency. The research scope of the thesis thus encompasses analysis of secondary literature about conceptual history of the Latvian nation-state as well as empirical analysis of the official statements and media reporting made during the time of Latvia s EU presidency. The research material for empirical analysis consists of the government statements available about the EU presidency as well as commentary and opinion articles in the three biggest Latvian newspapers Diena (The Day), Latvijas avīze (The Newspaper of Latvia) and Neatkarīgā Rīta avīze (The Independent Newspaper of Latvia). This material was chosen to reflect the official positions of the political figures and other voices prominent in the public sphere. As a research method I use discourse analysis in order to determine that, in terms of Michel Foucault, regularity in dispersion (Andersen, 2003:8) which constitutes the perspectives on reality, meaningful for actors involved. The main focus of the thesis is precisely the hegemonic articulation of the national identity in the context of EU membership. I do not consider oppositional and marginal discourses. This is a limitation of this particular research design, which does not allow for a full mapping of the Latvian discursive field. However, given that the hegemonic discourse is shared by almost the entire political spectrum, as well as by the vast majority of opinion-makers, I consider my finding to be relevant, since they do reveal some crucial features of Latvian democracy, which might also exist in other countries and affect their democratic development. The following text is divided into four chapters. The first chapter establishes the conceptual frame under which the Latvian case will be interpreted. It is based on the postfoundationalist reading of politics and construction of popular subjectivity drawing on arguments put forward by Rancière and Andreas Kalyvas. It is combined with more constructivist outlook on historically sedimented notions of popular subjectivity, developed by Ole Wæver, which puts 8 emphasis on the discourses of the nation-state. The second chapter presents the general research methodology in order to proceed with genealogical and empirical analysis. The third chapter provides an analysis of historical discursive categories of Latvian nation-state and argues about how the particular constellation of nation-state impacts the construction of popular subjectivity. The direct implications of this constellation in the context of Latvia s EU membership is examined in the fourth chapter, which establishes the subject in the official and the public discourses regarding the EU presidency as well as discusses the relationship between the people and politics. The overall argument about the discursive relation between the nation and the state blocking the popular subjectivity is summarized in the conclusion. The case discussed in the thesis is illustrative both in a narrower and a wider context: firstly, in regard to Latvian context, it helps to shed light on why the Latvian public expresses little interest in the EU and feels distant from it; secondly, it points to the issue of the construction of the political subjectivity of the Latvian people that has consequences far broader that just Latvia s EU membership. In a wider perspective, the focus on who is the subject and the depolitization processes within member states adds another dimension to the EU democratic deficit debate and underlines the importance of popular subjectivity and nationally loaded concepts in how relations with Europe are constructed. 9 1. CONSTRUCTING THE POLITICAL SUBJECTIVITY OF THE PEOPLE The chapter outlines the conceptual basis of the argument put forward in the thesis. It first looks upon the difference between the politics and the political which plays an important role in anti-foundationalist thought on subjectification. The construction of political subjectivity in democratic societies is then surveyed closer through work of Andreas Kalyvas and Jacques Rancière. The chapter concludes with a look on historical analysis of subject categories of collectivity that in regard to several European countries was carried out by Ole Wæver and other researchers. Altogether, these analytical perspectives underline the present research on the construction of Latvian subjectivity in the public domain. 1.1 The political subject in post-foundationalist reading The question of subjectification is situated in post-foundationalist perspective on politics. This perspective holds that there is no essence or truth on which social order and relations can be built on while at the same time maintaining that it points out the contingency and partiality of any grounds not rejecting them altogether (Marchart, 2007:2). It is this contingency and partiality which marks any grounding moment as being political. Political theorist Carl Schmitt was first to propose a consistent differentiation between politics defined in a narrow sense as a competition between different parties, and political as principle of distinction according to which politics operate, namely that between friend and enemy. Since then many other theorists as Rancière, Slavoj Ţiţek and Ernesto Laclau have explored the difference between these categories and further expanded on significance of political in the political philosophy. This significance is understood as the constitutive effect of politics which is to be delineated from the political defined merely in terms of party competition. Rancière in Ţiţek s interpretation distinguishes between police and political where the former refers to the order and the institutions while the latter to the interventions in police in order to presented previously unrepresented (Ţiţek, 1999:172). Through political action new social identities are constructed and existing ones rearticulated. In the context of the thesis, the constitutive power of politics is framed in the question of generating the legitimacy in democratic societies: the process of popular subjectivization of demos, through the emergence of a part identical to the whole (Rancière, 1998:61). Rancière 10 speaks about politics as a refraction of equality of all in the name of the freedom of a part, however, the part speaks as if it was the whole. That is, when those who have not identified themselves with demos or the people, a part of those who didn t have a part (1998:61) began to claim their inclusion in demos, they do it by providing a new representation of the people. Politics emerges when a particular group challenges the existing social order but not only this particularity demands its voice to be heard and included in society; by doing it speaks in terms of universality claiming to represent the whole of the society (Newman, 2012:89). Meaning of the people thus remain target for constant struggle between different representations as pluralism is irreducible and there is always possibility to articulate new identity and demand that it becomes represented; in Laclau s terms the people is an empty signifier that always exceeds one definite definition but instead serves as a focal point for tying up various representations of the reality (Laclau, 2005:69). Because there is always a gap between the whole that is constitutive and represented in a given political system and different unrepresented identities of a part of no part, the process of subjectification can never be completed (Morozov, 2015:144). This, meanwhile, is the stuff of which politics is made; politics as such would cease to exist if the ideal, final version of political subjectivity the final demos would be achieved (2015:144). From this perspective, a political decision taken reflects more than the concrete situation and place; the decision-making does not come after the demos have already decided its social identity it is precisely the decision itself that constructs or affirms of who the people and their will are; the locus of the decision be it the parliament or revolutionary crowd, is where and what the people is, at this very instance (2015: ). Thus post-foundationalist perspective marks a significantly different approach to politics than others of more liberal, procedural inclination. Politics in this case is about the process of subjectification by recovering the ways how legitimacy in democratic societies is raised through representation of its varied demos. The people which is the locus of generating legitimacy in democratic politics serves as the focal point for such expressions. Political subjectivity reveals itself in more or less mundane political struggles over various issues because every political decision taken in the name of the people reveals who and where the people are at the moment, and the political in this perspective is understood as precisely the struggle between various articulations of the people. 11 1.2. The political and the people If in the post-foundationalist reading the politics is the moment where different subjectivities are crystallized and compete in order to achieve a hegemonic position, the question about the origins of democratic politics with its universal aim of equality and justice still remains. Andreas Kalyvas has made an important contribution in conceptualizing the start of democratic constitution and the people s involvement in the political order it establishes. Kalyvas speaks about the constitution of a political order and emphasizes that the collectivity which constitutes this political order should not be equalized with it (Kalyvas, 2007:298). Instead he distinguishes between three dimensions in the understanding of demos that constitute a democratic political system: the first dimension refers to the rare and singular instances of the foundings through collective action and activities by a people that are beyond any instituted ord
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