What is methodological nationalism? An essay of typology
This article argues that there are at least three different versions of methodological nationalism: state-centrism (unjustified supremacy granted to the nation-state), territorialism (understanding space as divided in territories), and groupism (equating society with the nation-state's society). If these three versions are logically distinct, as it will be shown, the typology can serve as a tool to weight the influence of methodological nationalism in the social sciences. The paper has three sections arguing that 1) the three versions are all present in the literature on methodological nationalism without always being distinguished; 2) the epistemological problems raised by methodological nationalism are sometimes misunderstood as ontological or normative questions about globalization and national borders; 3) the three versions of methodological nationalism can be shown to be logically independent by a few examples.
The territorial trap: The geographical assumptions of international relations theory
Even when political rule is territorial, territoriality does not necessarily entail the practices of total mutual exclusion which dominant understandings of the modem territorial state attribute to it. However, when the territoriality of the state is debated by international relations theorists the discussion is overwhelmingly in terms of the persistence or obsolescence of the territorial state as an unchanging entity rather than in terms of its significance and meaning in different historical-geographical circumstances. Contemporary events call this approach into question. The end of the Cold War, the increased velocity and volatility of the world economy, and the emergence of political movements outside the framework of territorial states, suggest the need to consider the territoriality of states in historical context. Conventional thinking relies on three geographical assumptions (states as fixed units of sovereign space, the domestic foreign polarity, and states as "containers" of societies) that have led into the “territorial trap”.
From migration to mobility: How to go beyond methodological nationalism?
This paper aims to show that our awareness and framing of normative problems varies considerably, when seen through the lens and vocabulary of “migration” or through that of “mobility”. In order to do this I use two sets of studies: (1) on the one hand, studies focusing on the criticism of methodological nationalism; (2) on the other hand, studies developed in the wake of the “mobility turn”. The epistemological criticism of methodological nationalism leads us to switch from “migration studies” towards “mobilities studies”, and to propose other ways of allocating the rights and advantages usually associated with national citizenship.
Nation-states, mobility and citizenship in international migration narratives
In the past fifteen years, migrations have been subject to an internationalization process with states increasingly debating issues raised by the transnational mobility of people. This article focuses on how different international forums (international organizations, global forums, international committees) attempt to conceive of migration as a transnational process which calls for coordinated policies and forms of “global governance”. The international construction of migration constantly vacillates, as will be shown, between a transnational paradigm of interstate mobility understood as a normal feature of a globalized world, and a national paradigm which assumes national belonging to be crucial not only in developing the “governance” of migration but also in understanding migrants’ identity and the very nature of migration. The persistence of national frame is explained by both political factors (a working framework which is mainly intergovernmental) and intellectual factors (an inability to understand migration beyond state-centered schemes).
Methodological cosmopolitanism or internationalism
Criticizing methodological nationalism first amounts to attacking a myth of political interiority which would suggest that the state exists in itself and by itself, independently from foreign countries and foreigners. Highlightning the transnational phenomena of globalization, as the methodological cosmopolitanism does, helps to counter such solipsistic illusions. However, the critique of methodological nationalism is insufficient when it duplicates such a myth by ignorance or neglect of norms of international law. This is obvious in research on population migration. Cutting through methodological nationalism and cosmopolitanism, this paper proposes a methodological internationalism, that, against the myth of interiority, takes into account the immanence of the international in the national. This methodological proposal, here limited to its critical dimension againt methodological nationalism, is then developed into a thought experiment showing how the national can be coextensive with the international and foreign relations. The critique of methodological nationalism is all the more relevant and effective that it takes into account the international constitution of state phenomena.
Methodological Nationalism – Methodological Cosmopolitism: A paradigm shift in social sciences
This article argues that methodological nationalism is at odds with the “cosmopolitisation of reality” produced by a global awareness of crises and risks which are neither confined, nor intelligible, at a national level. The article clarifies the notion of methodological cosmopolitanism which is to be distinguished from both normative cosmopolitanism and other ways to cope with difference. The processes of cosmopolitsation are described in seven theses which untangle the conditions of possibility of a cosmopolitan imagined community.
Beyond methodological nationalism: The intercultural without essentialism
This article is programmatic. The “intercultural” is a polysemic notion which is increasingly problematic when it is used to describe postmodernity. Its association with the idea of methodological nationalism (“national culture”) has led to its critique. In this article, I question the “intercultural” and examine and problematise new forms of “-isms” that have appeared recently in order to replace methodological nationalism. I propose a few arguments which could help to solve some of these issues.