Ye. Bystrytsky. State-building in Ukraine: ways of legitimation. Section III. Chapter 2. §1, §3, §4 in book: Ukrainian statehood in 20th century. Kyiv, 1996, P. 320-323, 326-348.
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Contradiction between a politically accomplished action and its sociopolitical consolidation in the form of a stable social system/political regime is one of the most essential features of so-called transition periods. This period of sociopolitical transformations is a constellation of a great many contradictions between the new, not yet legitimized, and the legally and morally old, which is in the process of passing away, of clashes between different ideological aspirations, group and corporate claims and demands; it is a time of general legal uncertainty — a hoped-for environment for socially active individuals, including adventurists, at all levels of turbulent and confused life. However, even in this period of social and political uncertainty, a certain "disorganized organization" still exists, life goes on; forms of community are ruined and come into existence; the dim outlines of a new social organization emerge from the dust raised by the collapse of the imperial edifice.
The vision of a transformed social system and political order depends precisely on the processes which hardly keep society from complete self-destruction, judicial lawlessness, and chaos in a transition period, and which define the future socio-cultural form: these are the processes of legitimation.
1. The Problem of Legitimation
In current social and political philosophy, the notion of legitimacy implies that there are sufficient arguments to warrant the claim that a given political regime is good and just. A legitimate order is a social and political system which deserves recognition. Legitimation is the process by which a given political organization of society is generally recognized.1
In postcommunist practice, the term "legitimation" is most frequently used in the narrowly pragmatic sense of the denotation that the political mandates of active politicians constitute "lawful" claims for political power.
In this sense legitimacy means only the legality of the actions of those who wield power and that of political power as a whole. Problems of legitimacy primarily hinge on questions of preserving or ruining one or another form of a social system and hence on more profound changes in the collective identity of people than on purely political transformations.
Legitimation is a complex process of uniting society on the basis of common values and of simultaneously demonstrating its capability to assume a collective identity from the standpoint of the political organization of society, primarily when new states and social institutions are formed. It is precisely this kind of situation which we witness in contemporary Ukraine.
In the strict sense of the word, only political orders can have and lose legitimacy. Only the political forms of social organization, and, first of all, the state, need be legitimized.2 This is especially vividly manifest in periods of social transformations.
State power as such is, of course, not in a position to establish by itself the collective identity of society; nor is it by itself able to effect social integration on the basis of community values which are in principle not at its disposition.3 We find it difficult to accept this after decades of domination by a state-imposed ideology and the violent, totalitarian imposition by the state of an artificial system of social identity (of the so-called "Soviet man"). This best enables us to understand the historic collapse of the unnatural values of communism which were long imposed "from above" by means of torture and lies.
This is why the communist regime was never truly legitimate. For it always ignored the values which are produced in a naturally historical way by human communities in their coexistence, and on which natural forms of social integration, including ethnic groups and nations, are based. Marxism gravitated toward what may be referred to as the bolshevik arrogance of self-legitimation: its ideology rested on its capacity for its own existential self-affirmation, or, as Marx put it, praxis.
Any political organization of society requires legitimacy, i.e., maximum acceptance on the basis of the values and forms of collective coexistence which a community already recognizes. But the process of being legitimized requires, in its turn, certain conditions, of which the main one is that of publicity, being accessible to all. Legitimization is a political discourse which evolves over time, a process of dissemination, discussion, deliberation, and, in the final analysis, demonstration of the collective validity and acceptability of legal norms, which by and large are established spontaneously and instinctively by the new political actors. This in turn testifies to the legitimizing potential of political discourse.4 Legitimizing potential represents the principles and motivations which can be mobilized to publicly demonstrate the legitimacy of a given policy and have the social force of creating consensus, which is the most essential precondition for legitimacy.
In the postcommunist situation, legitimation is a problem in several cardinal senses. First, there is the problem of turning back to the practice of legitimation after nearly a century of domination by an illegitimate, self-legitimized, regime. Second, there is the issue of the artificial imposition (by means of targeted propaganda and planned ideological actions) of a system of values which should have been formed in a natural historical way (in culture, traditions, language, everyday life, etc.), and which create that legitimizing foundation and potential of the new political system. Third, postcommunism as the state of "postcommunist society" can in reality rely only on previous traditions and habits of a pseudolegitimate political regime. It is the point of a legitimizing potential available in society — those ideological constructs, level of individual self-understanding, general values — which is a living conglomeration of various principles of the legitimation of postcommunist power and the new political regime. Let us examine this more closely.
3. The National Idea, Civil Society, and Political Nation
Specifically, this most general problem has an exact designation: the political organization of current Ukrainian society. In this regard, we have in mind ways of making a Ukrainian political nation. But, in contrast to the notion of nation seemingly obvious today, the issue of political nation remains, for various reasons, complicated or simply unattainable.
The most general problem resides in the fact that the notion of political nation is difficult to define. When emphasis is laid on political characteristics of national community, first of all peculiarities of national community as a political association of people are implied. "Political" is derived from "politics." It is absolutely inadequate to treat politics in the trivial and hackneyed terms of "the art of the possible" or "the concentrated expression of economics."
As early as at the beginning of its appearance, "politics" meant the desire and ability to live together in a polis. According to Aristotle, a political community (body politic) implies the division of "honors, property, and everything else which can be divided among fellow citizens of a certain state system (structure)."7 In other words, it is not only a matter of division of power at the top level of collective coexistence, but also the level of everyday life of the "microphysics of power" (Michel Foucault) — a division of powers and rights to own property and even "pay themselves tribute" among fellow citizens, and, in general, making use of social advantages before other compatriots. To put it differently, the notion of the political implied not only the processes of division of power at the top echelons of state institutions and the political elite. Political power rests, not least, on the personal or individual self-affirmation of man in his everyday life world. This is why a political community is a society viewed from the point of view "of a distribution of roles, tasks, advantages, or losses, which are felt by members of society in case they all wish to live together and which turns society into a unified whole."8 Today there are sufficient theoretical grounds to speak of politics as the regularities of existence and division of power and authority among people, extending from the level of everyday existence up to the complex processes of delegating and dividing power between the top echelons of power-holders.
From this perspective, a political nation is a community which in a certain way works out the principles, rules, procedures, and rituals of power division. The problem of forming a political nation is primarily a problem of organizing a division of power and prerogatives among people at all levels of social life.
In the first years of Ukraine’s independence, the greatest publicity, largely of a publicistic-literary character, was won by the national — Ukrainian — idea.
The sense of the national idea as a basis for organizing (and, specifically, constituting) a Ukrainian community is rather unambiguous. It originates from definitions suggested in his time by Dmytro Dontsov, the main theoretician of Ukrainian integral nationalism. His historical discovery was that he clearly defined the political essence of the Ukrainian idea (as well as other "national ideas" of the twentieth century) as the power-based liberation of the Ukrainian national community on the principle of will to power — and here Dontsov borrows from Nietsche’s primer — and thereby to achieve Ukrainian independence.
The essence of the "Ukrainian idea," according to those who held such views, lies in a natural historical binding of the Ukrainian community with a single will for political self-affirmation. To use the vocabulary of the late twentieth century, this collective identity may be treated in very different ways, depending on how radical are views expressed by its interpreters, that is, defining national unity on the basis of cultural and blood relationships, arguing for common historical traditions, destiny and religion, calling for an immediate solution of the language question (for to attain of linguistic homogeneity) or rhetorically asking "Isn’t Ukraine for Ukrainians?"
The real essence of the national idea lies in a pre-political (natural-ethnic) understanding of social unity. Simultaneously, the true political significance of the national idea resides in solving the problem of legitimation, in Ukraine’s case by making a new, postcommunist power, another political regime customary.
Politics is the real embodiment of the division of one thing, power, among the members of society, and knowledge of the rules governing this distribution. The national idea is the knowledge and feeling (conscious experience) of the natural and cultural kinship of people. However, resorting to images of the national idea in post-Soviet political discourse supplants the political organization of society per se. Here, an a priori legitimate political organization of community is meant, which so far struggles for the right to freely approve powers distributed among its members (citizens). After Rousseau and the French Revolution, such a community came to be known as a nation, the sovereign people, who, first of all, have become aware of their political freedom and have already solved justly the major political problem — the problem of the national division of power. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, beginning with the 1848 Springtime of Peoples, national liberation movements, including Ukrainian nationalism, added to this definition their understanding of nation as the people who have freed themselves from outside oppression and colonial dependence. This is why a nation is a people which has liberated itself in all senses — both domestically and in foreign policy.
The national idea is not in itself sufficient to characterize a nation’s political organization. It is a manifestation of a proto-legal, proto-political — natural-historical assocition of people, their tribal "organization" (consolidated by "land" and "blood"). Of course, this name can be used to designate the sphere of the political — that of power division. But in this case the national idea is not and cannot be a notion of the political realm of human relations per se. Its mystery is in how it legitimizes a given political regime. Identification of the national idea with the regime which acquires social and political legitimacy on its basis is conducive to the dangers of self-legitimation and political despotism. One-sided political interpretation of the national idea inevitably leads to a na¿ve, uncritical and simplistic understanding, favoring the authorities and according them a supposedly natural legitimacy. Any power based only on "national" ideology is extralegal, for it can have no objective extrinsic criteria for assessment, judgment, and truth. When an act of legitimation on the basis of national feelings is identified with a redivision of power, an environment arises favoring moralists of various kinds who assume the role of self-proclaimed spokespersons of the collective identity.
Collective identity is established in a natural historical way, in the course of everyday life. This is why invoking the general values of the national idea always resorts to and converts the customary norms of coexistence, or a sphere of moral views. But moral truth or so-called historical justice (say of the restoration of the ancient Ukrainian state) are simple apologetics. Calls for moral justice on behalf of the whole community pass over the question of the political justice for its individual members. One should never assume that demands for political justice based on democracy are secondary in planning political steps from the first act of collective liberation to how the state provides for advances in the economy, culture, science, technology, etc. First, independence, with the rest coming afterward. The experience of the developed democracies testifies to the opposite. Social progress derives from a just, maximally democratic, political regime.
However, the division of power, as is demonstrated by political history, is not a matter of "tribal love" and "brotherly relationships" within an ethnic stock: it is a rationalized affair, and according to, say, Machiavelli, it is a cynically calculated struggle for power and recognition, which does not lapse into sentimentalism and openly mocks "non-violent resistance." This is why any concept based on the national idea is always, in fact, be they of a sentimental-moral or activist-volitional character, an attempt to legitimate one’s own political power or that of one’s ethnic relatives.
The latency and misunderstanding of the fact that the national idea only overlaps with political organization of society per se and is merely a basis of political legitimation of power regime becomes apparent with time through actual political developments, which are destructive to the organization of social life. This is most vividly manifested in the mass disillusionment with the narrow nationally-oriented state policy of the first Ukrainian President’s Administration and, especially, in the speedy transformation of the national democratic elite into a neonomenklatura, in its narrow-minded "corporativism" based on ethnic "purity" and, hence, conducive to assimilation by the similar, if formally different, old nomenklatura nepotism of Kravchuk’s successors. Along with the general awareness of their failure to cope with the task of politically unifying the Ukrainian nation, it is reflected in the further and still greater tendency to counterpose the national idea to the ideals of civil society.
Indeed, the idea of civil society bears directly on the problem of the political organization of society. And an extension of this concept testifies all the more to the fact that in society groupings (Hegel, author of the idea of civil society, would use the terms "corporations" or "strata") should exist through which the people associated in them can exert real influence on the organization of political power in society, simultaneously maintaining maximum independence from the state. Civil society is an aggregate of separate, independent individuals (each with their own needs and private interest), where groups of citizens are formed according to various principles of association, constituting corresponding self-governing groups. The cells of civil society are created in order to defend the private interests of individual citizens who are independent from one another. The only thing connecting them is the requirement that they abide by legal norms and moral restrictions.
It is now clear why the ideals of civil society are so sharply counterposed to the national idea, when it is argued that the only point of the national idea lies in creating Ukraine for all its citizens, Ukraine as a law-governed state, as a social state for all. First of all, it is a matter of establishing norms and values of legal organization of the political association of people within Ukraine. The political organization of a nation is sometimes identified with legal relations, which have a purely rational, universal, and formal basis, abiding by which constitutes just the main function of the state, the state mechanism, and the whole body of state power. This basis gives rise to fantastic day-dreams about the legal organization of our disorganized society, about a law-abiding, uncorrupted power, a non-criminal economy, etc. But if the question of the underlying basis of the people’s consolidation into a political whole of the nation only on the principles of civil society is raised again and again, the conclusions reached will not be reassuring. For the position of civil society is also based on certain views about principles of human coexistence. These are recognized, i.e., already legitimate, norms of law and legal conceptions, which are shared by the whole community. The point of highlighting ideals of civil society resides in, so to speak, the super-political formation of social unity, in unclarified identification of political organization, on the one hand, and a law-governed community, on the other hand, or, in other words, the identification of politics and law.
In the current political situation, proponents of the idea of civil society as the basis of the Ukrainian nation consciously or unconsciously incline toward high-sounding slogans of statehood building and etatism. To be sure, we need a universal discipline, legal protection, and law-governed state in order to put our life — economy, politics, education, etc. — right in Ukraine. And to do so, we need a strong power, strong state, strong apparatus, strong administration, and strong army — in a word, a strong state machine. Identification of the notion of civil society with the image of political nation results, in real life, in securing the administrative-neonomenklatura model of keeping the Ukrainian community in the trap of protonational unity. It is in the enthusiasm for statehood building that the views and interests of proponents of the national idea and representatives of the political Establishment coincide.
It is no accident that the new Administration talks so much about a statehood and a constitution. It is claimed that actions of the legislative and executive powers that be have allegedly obtained legitimacy. And it is no accident that the highest power does not break off, even symbolically, its relation to the state symbols, which so easily deceive Ukraine’s "National Romanticists" (or romantic Nationalists).
We see that, taken separately, the two positions, which are observed today in public opinion regarding the problems of creating a Ukrainian political nation, are not self-sufficient. On the one hand, there is a problem in identifying political power and the basis of its legitimation — the national idea. In other words, there arises an extralegal situation of self-legalization (self-judgment) of "corporative" views of a certain segment of the national community. On the other hand, the incumbent political power acquires a supralegal force.
4. Extricable Etatism
The very Ukrainian word for "state," derzhava, is rather revealing: the word is derived from derzhaty which means "to keep together"; it is a force that consolidates people into a single unit. State is a materialized all-togetherness, community of the people. It is an institutionally realized state of coexistence in the form of the army, the militia, and, to be sure, the officialdom, top bureaucracy, and, in addition, the institutions of law, moral, traditions, etc. On what principles are we put together into a single unit today? What is the basis of our state bonds which legitimizes power’s keeping us together in the state of Ukraine?
The first years of independence provided their answer (on behalf of the first set of independent authorities): the basis of legitimacy of the state power is our ethno-national unity, our wish to affirm ourselves as a certain ethnocultural form of coexistence. Statehood must be subjected to realization of the national idea. In the late twentieth century, consolidating its hold is the model of ethnonational legitimation of power, or, to put it simply, the ethnonational model of Ukrainian statehood.
According to this model, the state is necessary primarily to support and, especially, protect, an ethnonational community from the real danger (from within and without) of its disappearance or dissolution into other ethnopolitical formations. The state is an institution of materialized force to protect, support, and put into effect the national idea, i.e., the values of ethnonational cultural coexistence. The ethnonational model lays emphasis on such an understanding of the state, when the latter is regarded as primarily a protective force. Proponents of this model argue that if it is a matter of Ukraine’s survival, then it would be better to live in a monarchic Ukraine (to be understood as an authoritarian-neototalitarian ethnic state) rather than in a so-called democratic Ukraine for all the ethnic groups. Slogans calling for a strong state and "statehood" are the major features of this model and of this understanding of the current tasks of the Ukrainian state. The ethnic model of the state bets on a strong state power, but the state does not only protect people, it also has to bring them together, unite them, and keep them all together. How, according to this model, does the Ukrainian state maintain such unity? What is the main principle of organization (and, incidentally, constitution) of the people into the unity of the state of Ukraine?
The ethnic model proceeds from the assumption that the unity of people already exists: this is our Ukrainian collective unity, spirituality, and community. For a nation, say the proponents of the ethnic model, as such is a spiritual, cultural, and blood-related society which is already held together due to common history and life, by strong ties of traditions, historical destiny, language, religion, customs, origin, territory, and a single will. This is why the state is necessary only as an outside force, which should protect the extant community of people and true citizens. And the stronger and firmer is the state, regime, and its ability to defend the extant ethnic unity by coercive means, the better that state is. A strong state is the natural slogan of this model.
But in reality this leads to the fact that ethnic etatist aspirations back up purely superficial, bureaucratic properties and functions of the state as a mechanism for ruling and coercion. They support a natural craving for power — of actual authorities, a present-day Ukrainian administration. In addition, this fact results in a further, still greater, alienation of the power and the people. For the people are considered to have been unified, all on its own, by the single idea: the Ukrainian ethnic unity is already present, mean the champions of the ethnic model. There is nothing here for a state to do, they say; therefore, let its force protect us from outside, since this is supposedly its main business and current historical task.
The new regime has just availed itself of the inertia of these ethnic projects of a strong state. Having removed the thick national coloring of the previous model, it left intact only one catchword — state building, with episodic ritual bows to yesterday’s nationalistic rhetoric. In fact, one can claim that an essentially new model, which should be referred to as one of the forcible legitimation of the state power or an administrative-neonomenklatura model, has arisen on the ruins of the national liberation movement. The national idea is no longer the principal one for the task of self-legitimation of the state power, while it is from time to time flirted with. It is alleged that the power is generally necessary in order to put life — economy, politics, education, etc. — right in Ukraine. And to do so, we need a strong power, strong state, strong apparatus, and strong army. A situation arises where the regime creates a certain realm of its separate existence, which is, in general, far from real life.
The national idea and the idea of state building proved to be a very convenient form of power claims in the postcommunist period. But they are not a sufficient condition for legitimizing an independent state at the end of the twentieth century. They pass over a major factor in modern statehood — the free recognition of the institution of the state by its citizens, which is precisely true democratic legitimation and consolidation of the state through the life, interests, work, and business of each individual citizen.
Both the ethnic and administrative-nomenklatura models are not capable of taking into account the self-government and civic activities of people. There is much evidence of this: the current authorities obviously are not able to influence from above the processes which arise as a result of postcommunist changes initiated by the course of history rather than by them.
1 See also: Polokhalo V., "Neototalitarian Transformations of Postcommunist Power in Ukraine," The Political Analysis of Postcommunism, (Kyiv, 1995), pp. 155-161.
1 In our treatment of the problem of legitimation we rely on Jü. Habermas’ theoretical insights in: Jürgen Habermas, Legitimation Problems in the Modern State, in Jürgen Habermas Communication and the Evolution of Society, (London, 1979), pp. 178-183. See, specifically: Aleksandr Zinoviev, Kommunizm kak Realnost’, 1980 (in Russian).
2 Ibid., p.179.
3 Ibid., p.180.
4 Ibid., p.183.
5 Pierre Bouretz, "Desir de transparence et respect du secret," Esprit, No. 211, Mai 1995, p.49.
6 Friedrich Nietsche,Works in Two Volumes, (Moscow, 1990; Russian translation), Vol. 2, p.447.
7 Aristotle, Nicomanean Ethics(V,1130, b.30-33).
8 Paul Ricoer, "Hermeneutics, Ethics, Politics", in: Paul Ricoer, Moscow Lectures and Interviews(Moscow, 1995; in Russian), p.49.
9 See: Theodore Adorno et. al., The Authoritarian Personality: Studies in Prejudice, vol. 1(New York, 1950), p. 768.
10 Juri Tynianov, Kiukhlya: Tales, (Leningrad, 1993; in Russian), p.349.
11 Michel Foucault, Serveiller et punir, (Paris, 1975), pp. 208-210.
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