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2008 Malaysian Elections: The End of Malaysia's Ethnic Nationalism?
Unformatted Document Text:  that rulers and the ruled both share a common culture (Ernest Gellner's "nation"). Because religion constitutes a fundamental source of power, 3 the state can either marginalize it (secular nationalism), appropriate it to secure the assent of the dominant ethnie 4 (ethnic nationalism), or organize the nation as a religious community (theocratic nationalism). The three paradigms of nationalism all assume the three basic features of the nation-state: a well defined territory, a common national culture, and a centralized bureaucratic state. 5 The selection of a state-religion paradigm is far from inconsequential. It determines the parameters of the nation -- the core political community: who is a citizen, who can join the political leadership, who has access to state resources, who has access to public space, and the semiotics of public space. Furthermore, it frames the state: the basis for the state's legitimacy, the basis for public political discourse, and the shared political symbol system. This leads us to the competing nationalisms thesis which argues that at independence one of three state-religion relations will be selected as the basic template for the country's state-building project. While one of the three relations will become the official paradigm, the other two variants will remain to resist and contest the centralizing nation-building project (see van der Veer 1994). This will help us understand the basis for many inter ethnic conflicts and the conflictual and contested nature of the post-colonial state-building project. 3 R. Arakaki - MPSA 2008 5 The nation-state is the preeminent "power-container" or model of rule of the modern era (see Giddens 1987:120). The concept of the nation-state is an ideal type; very few countries possess the uniform culture or ethnic grouppresupposed in the nation-state model. 4 The term "ethnie" is taken from Anthony Smith's The Ethnic Origins of Nations (1986). Ethnie consists of groups of people having a sense of solidarity and share a common ancestry, history, or culture and are usually associatedwith a particular territory (1986:32 ff.). Rather than use Smith's unconventional term, this paper will be using themore conventional term "ethnic groups." 3 See Michael Mann's The Sources of Social Power (1986:22-28).

Authors: Arakaki, Robert.
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that rulers and the ruled both share a common culture (Ernest Gellner's "nation"). Because
religion constitutes a fundamental source of power,
3
the state can either marginalize it (secular
nationalism), appropriate it to secure the assent of the dominant ethnie
4
(ethnic nationalism), or
organize the nation as a religious community (theocratic nationalism).
The three paradigms of nationalism all assume the three basic features of the nation-state:
a well defined territory, a common national culture, and a centralized bureaucratic state.
5
The
selection of a state-religion paradigm is far from inconsequential. It determines the parameters
of the nation -- the core political community: who is a citizen, who can join the political
leadership, who has access to state resources, who has access to public space, and the semiotics
of public space. Furthermore, it frames the state: the basis for the state's legitimacy, the basis for
public political discourse, and the shared political symbol system.
This leads us to the competing nationalisms thesis which argues that at independence one
of three state-religion relations will be selected as the basic template for the country's
state-building project. While one of the three relations will become the official paradigm, the
other two variants will remain to resist and contest the centralizing nation-building project (see
van der Veer 1994). This will help us understand the basis for many inter ethnic conflicts and
the conflictual and contested nature of the post-colonial state-building project.
3
R. Arakaki - MPSA 2008
5
The nation-state is the preeminent "power-container" or model of rule of the modern era (see Giddens 1987:120).
The concept of the nation-state is an ideal type; very few countries possess the uniform culture or ethnic group
presupposed in the nation-state model.
4
The term "ethnie" is taken from Anthony Smith's The Ethnic Origins of Nations (1986). Ethnie consists of groups
of people having a sense of solidarity and share a common ancestry, history, or culture and are usually associated
with a particular territory (1986:32 ff.). Rather than use Smith's unconventional term, this paper will be using the
more conventional term "ethnic groups."
3
See Michael Mann's The Sources of Social Power (1986:22-28).


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