VII. The Contemporary Period, 1945–2000 > A. General and Comparative Dimensions > 1. Changing Global Patterns > c. Globalization and Special Identities
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
c. Globalization and Special Identities
During the second half of the 20th century, a complex relationship developed between two major historical dynamics. One was the intensification of the globalization of all aspects of human life and the other was the continuing affirmation of special human identities. By the 1990s, globalization had not resulted in the emergence of either a single, global society or a network of fundamentally similar societies. Instead, special identities coexisted with global communications and economic networks and new transnational and regional structures. These developments are clearly visible in two major areas: 1) the development of ethnic and national identities, and 2) the evolution of identities based on particular ideologies and religions.  1
ETHNIC AND NATIONAL IDENTITIES. The emergence of nationalist opposition to the old empires in the period following World War II was an important factor in the nature of nationalist identities. Old ethnic and special cultural identities were associated with particular languages or historical traditions. However, the state boundaries that had been created by the imperial powers often did not match the regional boundaries of those old identities. When NATIONALISM developed, it did so within the framework of the imperially created political units, and it was those states that became nationally independent; existing state identities were the basis for the most effective nationalist movements. Movements for broader unity had only limited success. ARAB NATIONALISM developed in the first half of the 20th century as a broad regional sentiment, but nationalist movements in the Arab world were identified with the individual imperially created states, such as Algeria, Syria, and Palestine. The formation of the Arab League in 1945 was an important manifestation of Arab unity, but it was a coordinating organization of sovereign states. During the 1950s, enthusiasm for substantive Arab unity was encouraged by Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser and resulted in the creation of the United Arab Republic (UAR), joining Egypt and Syria. However, the UAR only lasted for three years (1958–61), and other projects for Arab political unity remained unimplemented. PAN-AFRICAN NATIONALISM had roots in movements in the first half of the 20th century, and as many African states became independent, there was a hope of greater African unity. When the British colony of the Gold Coast became independent as Ghana, under the leadership of KWAME NKRUMAH in 1957, it assumed a leading role in African unity. Nkrumah was host to two pan-African congresses in 1958, but when the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was formally created in 1963, its charter affirmed the independence and territorial integrity of the individual member states. The OAU was effective in mediating disputes between African nations, and it coordinated expression of African views in international bodies, but the pan-African vision of a unified Africa was not realized. In the period from 1945 until the early 1970s, state-based identities remained the most effective, even when the states had been arbitrarily created by imperial and political settlements. Along with broader unification efforts, separatist movements also generally failed, as was the case in Congo (Kinshasa) (1960–64), Nigeria (1967–70), and among the Kurds in the Middle East. States created by partitions that were assumed to be temporary following World War II were still in existence at the beginning of the 1970s: the two Germanies, the two Koreas, and the two states in Vietnam.  2
Ethnic revival and nationalism. In the early 1970s, increasing attention began to be given to cultural-linguistic sources of identity, and ethnic groups in new forms emerged as important elements in individual societies and on the global scene in general. The development of groups like the Black Panthers in the United States during the 1960s was an early signal of the change. Movements affirming black identity in the U.S. were not necessarily separatist or nationalist, but they strongly affirmed a distinctive ethno-cultural identity in the face of pressures for uniformity in modern society. In countries where there was a strongly established “national” identity, there was a rise in the importance of local ethnic traditions. In Great Britain, Welsh nationalism succeeded in achieving parity for Welsh with English in governmental matters in Wales in 1967. The Scottish National Party had been organized in the interwar period but remained unimportant until the 1960s. By the 1990s, the party had become a small but important part of the British political scene, regularly electing members to Parliament. In Canada, there was a major revival of French-Canadian separatism in Quebec. In many countries, activist—and sometimes violent—movements of ethnic identity gained strength after the early 1970s. A number of cultural-linguistic groups began to have more success asserting their identity in political ways. In 1971 the Bengali eastern part of Pakistan seceded and formed the new state of Bangladesh, and Vietnam was reunited by the communist victory in 1975. In the late 1980s a major political reorganization of countries based on historic cultural identity began as the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia broke up into their constituent republics, and the reunification of Germany also took place. By the 1990s, throughout the world there were active movements affirming their cultural and linguistic identity in many different ways. These included continuing separatist movements among the Tamils in Sri Lanka, the Basques in Spain, on Timor in Indonesia, and among many groups in the former Soviet Union, such as the Abkhazians in Georgia. Tensions between Hutu and Tutsi peoples in Rwanda resulted in 1994 in one of the bloodiest of these conflicts. Other groups affirmed their special identity in other ways—by reviving older customs or seeking cultural autonomy—as was seen among some Native Americans in the Western Hemisphere, the Swedish-speaking minority in Finland, and in the continuing definition of the relationship between the Flanders and Wallonia in Belgium. By the 1990s it was clear that the social and technological globalization of the second half of the 20th century had not dissolved cultural-linguistic boundaries between peoples. Instead, through new media for communication and interaction, the conditions of the new, globalized world societies seemed to encourage affirmations of special identity and made such affirmations more effective.  3
IDEOLOGICAL AND RELIGIOUS IDENTITIES. Some of the major global conflicts in the 20th century were drawn along lines of ideology and worldview. The competition between the world visions of Wilson and Lenin and the rise of fascism in the interwar era are part of this. In the era of the cold war, the conflict had a major ideological dimension as a conflict between communism and democratic capitalism. The main ideologies of the 20th century were global in their scope and vision. As nationalism developed, it reflected the different ideological frameworks; nationalism emerged in democratic, liberal forms or in Marxist, radical forms in the era following World War II.  4
Global political ideologies. In the era of the active cold war, the framework for ideological competition was the conflict between Marxist radicalism and Western liberalism. Movements asserting distinctive national identities expressed their nationalism in terms of these conflicts. As the Third World emerged by the 1960s, the Nonaligned movement developed, at the core of which was a group of nationalists strongly influenced by Marxist political radicalism. The new and most visible Third World leaders of the 1960s were Nasser in Egypt, Sekou Touré of Guinea, Nkrumah of Ghana, Fidel Castro of Cuba, and Sukarno of Indonesia, all of whom developed and advocated an ideologically radical nationalism. Their more conservative rivals, like Muhammad Reza Pahlavi in Iran, Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, and Houphouët-Boigny in the Ivory Coast, also expressed their visions in terms of politically ideological nationalisms. Leninism, Wilsonianism, Maoism, radical nationalism, and conservative nationalism all shared the character of being political ideologies of modernization. They were not clearly identified with existing religious traditions and accepted many of the modern assumptions about progress, modern science, and rationalism that were the basic characteristics of Western European thought as it emerged from the 18th century. By the early 1970s, the cold war entered the full détente stage, making the Soviet-U.S. rivalry less acute in the Third World, and important new ideological changes took place in many areas. The student demonstrations in Paris in 1968 (See May–June), the antiwar movement in the U. S., and other demonstrations in the late 1960s reflected the growing disillusionment with all of the major ideologies. The New Left rejected much of Soviet-defined Marxism; radical nationalisms in the Third World had created repressive states; modernization and economic “progress” was beginning to be recognized as disastrous for the environment; leaders like the Shah of Iran and Marcos of the Philippines, who received support from democratic liberalism, were creating oppressive dictatorships. There was a gradual shift in worldview to a less ideological pragmatism and also to activist approaches more explicitly tied to the major religious traditions.  5
Global religious revival. In many areas of the world, changing conditions and attitudes supported a revival of religions. Some of this took the simple form of increased adherence to existing rules and greater sensitivity to the message of religion in the modern context. The ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH was an early leader in this revival of religious activism. The great Ecumenical Council, VATICAN II (1962–65) (See 1962, Oct. 11), issued many important documents defining the Roman Catholic Church and its role in the modern world. Vatican II had a worldwide impact and was especially important in the development of political ideology in Latin America. A 1967 papal encyclical, Populorum progressio, and a major conference of the Latin American bishops in 1968 in Medellin, Colombia, clearly defined a position of opposition to social injustice and oppression. Building on this foundation, a movement of LIBERATION THEOLOGY developed that presented a clearly defined theological position in the writings of people like Gustavo Gutierrez and advocated and worked for significant social change. This brought some Catholic leaders into open conflict with social and political conservatives, and in the civil war in El Salvador, Archbishop Oscar Romero was murdered in 1980. Priests like Ernesto Cardenal in Nicaragua were active in developing new structures, such as “base communities,” and participated in the Sandinista revolutionary movement.  6
Movements of religious activism and revival developed in virtually all major religious traditions. Many of these took a form that is frequently referred to as fundamentalism, calling for a return to traditional beliefs and moral codes. Fundamentalists were not always literally traditional—for example, many were less tolerant than their religions had previously been—and they often used new methods of propaganda. Protestant fundamentalism became more assertive in the United States in the 1980s, and also spread rapidly in Latin America; after 1989 there was also growing missionary activity in Russia. In the ISLAMIC WORLD, many revival movements developed. Some, like the Muslim Brotherhood (See 1928) in Egypt and the Jamaat-i Islami in South Asia, already had a long history. Others emerged as important forces in the 1970s, and by the 1990s, explicitly Islamic organizations were either the largest opposition group or an important part of the government in virtually every country where the majority of the population was Muslim. The ISLAMIC REVOLUTION IN IRAN (See 1978–79) in 1978–79 overthrew the Shah and established a republic that became the most visible Islamic government in the world. An Islamic movement also came to power in Sudan through a military coup in 1989. In Algeria the Islamic party was about to win the parliamentary elections of 1991–92 when a military coup prevented the completion of the elections. A HINDU religious revival became an important part of Indian history by the 1980s. In the early 1990s, the Bharatiya Janata Party, which supported an actively Hindu program, emerged as the largest opposition group in the Parliament. In 1992, Hindu extremists destroyed a mosque in Ayodhya, and hundreds of people were killed in the subsequent Hindu-Muslim rioting. Also in India, the SIKHS experienced a revival. In its militant form, the revival involved the demand for an independent Sikh state in the Punjab. The formation of Akali dal in 1980, an organization advocating Sikh independence, began an era of conflict. BUDDHISM experienced revivals in a number of areas as well. In the conflicts in Southeast Asia, Buddhist priests were sometimes involved, and with the disintegration of the communist world, some areas, such as Mongolia and Laos, experienced a revival of interest in Buddhism. In Japan, Soka Gakkai, a major Buddhist organization, grew significantly as did Buddhist groups in North America.  7
At the same time that some aspects of the religious revival emphasized distinctive identities, globalization of religious organizations also occurred. The Roman Catholic Church had long been a global organization, but its most rapid expansion has been outside of the West. In 1974, less than 15 percent of the world's Roman Catholics were in Asia and Africa, but by 1994, more than 25 percent of the estimated membership in the Church was on those two continents. Among the other Christian churches, the formation of the World Council of Churches in 1948 created a global organization that continued to be a voice throughout the rest of the century. The global nature of religious life, as well as the continuing importance of the distinctive traditions, was emphasized by the convening of the Parliament of the World's Religions in Chicago in 1993. This was held on the centennial of a similar parliament convened during the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, emphasizing that the processes of globalization were long-standing in religion. The parliament was basically a gathering of representatives of different traditions rather than a convention of believers sharing a common creed, reflecting the complex interactions between the processes of globalization and maintenance of distinctive identities in the 20th century.  8
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.