Culture regions and so-called nation states

Culture regions. Dick Erixon, referred to in an earlier comment here at the Annors Development Blog, is trying to explain his vision for Sweden. He starts out calling Sweden a nation state – thereby using a terminology which does not take in account the existence of fourth world nations, i.e. nations without states. There is at least one very clear example of a fourth world nation in Sweden and that’s the Sami people.

I agree with Mr Erixon that the power of central government has to be reduced, and that citizens ought to strengthen their individual powers. But as Mr Ilan Sadé argues, there are a number of reasons for a strong regional level in our society. To put it straight forward: some tasks are too small for the central government and too big for the municipalities. To a great extent this is the case for infrastructure, education and culture. Regional parliaments are the place to take care of those issues.

Now, Mr Erixon will possibly argue that education and culture are matters to be decided upon by individuals and not politicians. He is in favor of a strong civil society. I agree on the importance of a strong civil society. But whether to hand out educational checks to the students, or to offer them government run universities for free, that’s a political preference that each region can decide on.

Concerning culture, there may be a number of activities that politics should’t interfer with. However, cultural policies are an integral part of the society. For example, Swedish is the only language used in the Parliament of Sweden. Is this neutral in relation to the individuals – for example any Sami Member of Parliament? Of course not. – We all possess both individual and collective identities and we all have both individual and collective human rights.

What I plead for is a Sweden where also collective human rights, and hence cultural human rights, are being respected. In practice that means a respect for the cultural and historical heritage of the various regions. Those culture regions all have their identities, may it be strong or not, and this has to be the primary starting point when Sweden is being regionalized.

But in spite that Mr Erixon seems to recognize the existence of cultural identities, he continues to believe – as does the political establishment – that there is mainly one cultural identity in Sweden. Hence, even though it’s rather clear that Sweden is not a nation state, Mr Erixon argues it is… Did he oversee that Sweden actually recognized five minority languages in 1999? Does he denie the critical reports from the Council of Europe on the Swedish government’s ignorance of the distinct cultures in Scania and Gotland?

Does he oversee that a basic ingredient in a society has to be self-identification and not identities imposed by the central government? And does he oversee that an indiviudal may possess several collective identities and ethnicities? – “Hallänning, svensk, europé”, as former prime minister Carl Bildt put it.

Mr Erixon asks for a definition of “region”. In the context of regional autonomy within a state there are four criteria that can be used:

– the logical geography
– history
– culture and identity
– ecology

You will get the background on this here and here.

Anders L. Hansson

About Anders L. Hansson

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