What if sovereignty was just a misunderstanding? What if there was little or nothing behind the term, not only today, when it almost disappeared from political vocabulary, but also at the moment of its maximum splendor in Italy between 2016 and 2020? Even after reading a recently published volume by political scientist Thomas Guénole, Le Sovereignisme (Paris, Press Universitées de France, 9 euros), whose main aim will be to explain what it is, the assumption remains. It seems to us that the term has no “thing” attached to the end, that is, sovereignty failed to be neither a doctrine nor a political ideology (according to Michael Frieden’s classic distinction).
Above all, at least in Italy, it was a brand intended to make room for political marketing, as well as a peculiar polemical tool for opponents. Sovereignists had some difficulty defining themselves, while it was an easy task for their opponents to enlist them to legitimize them. This sovereignty is neither a doctrine nor a political ideology is evident from reading the book of a scholar who is certainly not hostile, given that he was an advisor to Jean-Luc Mélenchon. In fact, he categorizes such a variety of experiences as sovereign as producing the classic Hegelian effect in the night in which all cows are black. Sovereign, the separatist from French Quebec, who actually invented the term in the 1960s. There were autonomist sovereigns of all kinds, including Scots and Catalans, but also Zapatistas in Mexico. Sovereign to the Gaullists, who in 1992, contrary to the party apparatus, did not conduct any campaigns in Maastricht. Sovereign, living communist. and transformed into Podemos in Spain and Syrizia in Greece. Sovereign Jean-Pierre was a socialist of Chevenment who in turn broke away from Mitterrand and sided with the European Union. Rulers of Le Pen. In later times Brexiters are sovereign, but Trump is not sovereign. Sovereign, of course, 5 stars by 2019.
At this point we can also return to the category of anti-European, which is completely unsatisfactory, given that each of these actors swore that they were not against Europe, but against this Europe, that is, the European Union. . But it does at least explain why, if there was one common element, perhaps only one, holding together such different experiences, cultures, theories and ideologies, it was hostility to the European Union. But it was a bundle of purely negative forces, they only existed to oppose something, because then, as far as the reform proposals of Europe were concerned, each had a different one.
To give a slight order, Guenelle distinguishes between civil sovereignty, ethnic sovereignty, economic sovereignty: the first belongs to the left, the second to the right, the third is centered against a single currency. But economic sovereignty, as the author clearly shows, is clearly left-wing matrices of a socialist and Keynesian nature: right-wing sovereigns, lacking their own economic theory, have been forced to borrow. That is why during the golden years of the anti-Euro campaign, hearing about Marine Le Pen or sovereignists from other countries sounded like an old Social Democrat had heard. In his definition, Guenelle then fails to explain how sovereignty differs from nationalism. And in fact it seems to us that they are the same thing, except that in continental Europe, unlike the Anglo-Saxon world, the word nationalism had become taboo for a variety of reasons: we needed a euphemism, a word that would describe it. Used to be sweet, and here is the concept of sovereignty. Not surprisingly, in contrast to the great promises of contemporaneity, liberalism, socialism, populism, conservatism, the term exists only in Italian and French political vocabulary and is completely absent in the Anglo-Saxon world. At the same time, while parties of the past insisted on establishing their own political culture, be it socialist, popular, conservative, liberal, the so-called sovereignists adopted the anti-intellectual register of populism: which does not leave much room for reflection. for.
This is why till date, there are only three or four clauses that attempt to define the uniqueness of sovereignty. In short, it was probably impossible to build a political culture on the word, but no political actor even tried. The fact is that, as with the pandemic, many of the important ideas that come from sovereign opposition have been received by the European establishment: for example, an end to financial austerity and border controls. In this way, given that the European Union had become sovereign, the so-called sovereign parties were left without resolutions. It would therefore be appropriate to take the ancient categories of right and left and the old and beloved political cultures. And to ask those who still call themselves sovereignists to understand who they are and what they want, and then put themselves in one of them.
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