Thursday, November 11, 2004

Political Science 1101 Exposure Module

Political Science 1101 Exposure Module

For people now piahing for this module, perhaps I can provide a little help. I've just got back my term paper and it was very well done, so I'd like to share it with everybody, hopefully some sense can get through in you if a similiar question or a question on Federalism comes out.

Presenting, Joan Ang's grade A political science paper...
(with end notes too!)

Is federalism the only option for governing multi-ethnic societies? Why or why not?

Federalism according to Andrew Heywood “refers to legal and political structures that distribute power territorially within a state”[1] and according to Cynthia H. Enloe it is “a solution to ethnic fragmentation”[2] hence it would be an option for governing multi-ethnic societies. However, to say that it is the only option would be a sweeping generalisation. I think that even though federalism is an option for the governing of multi-ethnic societies, it is not the only option as it is also possible to govern a multi-ethnic society under a unitary government. In some cases, these minority ethnic groups too fall under the rule of the central government but in some cases, there can be an autonomous rule within the unitary government. Still, a federal government might be more effective in dealing with ethnic issues thus it can be a preferred option of governing a multi-ethnic society. Nonetheless, the type of government which suits a state most also depends on what type of state it is as in some cases federalism might not be the best option of government. In fact, E. O. Awa thinks that ethnic and cultural forces “do not appear to be particularly important in inducing territories to form themselves into a federal union”[3].

Federalism is not the only option for governing a multi-ethnic society as some states with multi-ethnic society is under unitary governments and these strong central governments are successful in ensuring peace under their form of rule. This can be seen in the case of Britain where although it has a relatively large number of minorities living within, it remains a unitary state with the central power, the Parliament having “unrivalled and unchallengeable legislative authority”[4]. However, according to Enloe, “a unitary system [in multi-ethnic societies] may be feasible only in the presence of exclusion, coercion, or inequality”[5]. This can be seen in Britain where minority races are assimilated into the British society at the cost of their culture and identity and in some cases still deemed as inferior to the majority of whites. Still, even though this assimilation policy might undermine the minority races’ culture, these minorities have been living peacefully alongside the majority whites. Another unitary government alternative to federalism was the granting of autonomous status to the minority groups as a “tacit acknowledgement of the limited capacities of the central government”[6]. However, the central government would only do so as a last resort. For example, in China where the central government granted special autonomous statuses to the “non-Han Chinese peoples along the northern borders of China”[7] only because it was far out from then central and that these minorities had little to do with the majority of the other Chinese. With these other options, we can see that federalism is not the only option as government of a multi-ethnic society.

However, when there is a strong central rule without the government granting autonomous status to the minority races, other problems may also appear. For some other states especially the larger ones a strong central government has led to uprisings and rebellions of the various ethnic groups seeking independence or autonomous rule. This can be mirrored in Indonesia where despite a strong central government, there are many cases of rebellions and uprisings in various minority outlying islands. In such examples of multi-ethnicity and government, I think that perhaps federalism might suit Indonesia better than the present situation where outlying islands like Aceh and the already independent East Timor used force to attempt to achieve independence from Indonesia. Even so, it must be noted that Indonesia had started out her independent government as a federation and it was due to the rise of rebellions and freedom calls that forced Indonesia to turn to a strong central military government and used force to clamp down on these rebels to establish a unitary state. The failure of this federal system could be an inherent failure of federalism in general and hence it can be seen quite clearly that it is not necessary for a multi-ethnic society to have a federal government in power.

Under federalism, these individual states after experiencing a degree of self-government might fall under the impression that they can govern themselves independently and hence attempt to break free from the central government to form a new state. This was the reason for the failure of the Republic of the United States of Indonesia in 1950.[8] However, for Indonesia, it seems like even under a unitary government, it cannot fully control its various minority states from wanting to break free from the central government, hence, this might not be totally a failing of federalism but of problems pertaining to Indonesia itself. Still, federal rule can lead to ethnic fragmentation as the diverse ethnic groups do not have the chance to mingle freely with the other ethnic groups. This could lead to the eventual splitting up of the state as it was the case for Czechoslovakia where neither the Czechs nor the Slovaks was willing give in to each other for a compromise.[9] Other than such mutual disharmony, mutual suspicion and prolonged clashes between the various ethnic groups can also lead to a failure in federalism. This was part of the reason that Singapore was expelled from Malaysia in 1965, when there was disharmony, suspicions and clashes between the Malays in Malaysia and the Chinese in Singapore.

While large multi-ethnic states expose the failings of federalism, we might induce that perhaps smaller states would have a better succeed rate in federalism. However, for small multi-ethnic states like Singapore, it is clear that it is also possible for a unitary government to rule the state with little “exclusion, coercion, or inequality”[10], but this is not a very widespread opposite to the general norm as Singapore is really a very small state and a history of general peace and stability among the different ethnic groups. Even in a successful multi-ethnic federal state like Malaysia, ethnicity was not a consideration when the choice of government was made. According to Awa, “the Union of the Federated Malay States [which led to the formation of later Malaysia] formed in 1895 was largely a result of the demands by the various commercial, agricultural and mining interests”[11] and not due to ethnic diversity. When the Federation of Malaysia was faced with ethnic conflicts between the Chinese and Malays, she reacted by the “expelling [of Singapore] from the union”[12] to relieve ethnic tensions between the two dominant races. In many cases of federalism being seen a tool for the governing of multi-ethnic societies is not so in reality as there might be other reasons for a federal state and the diverse societies can always be under some other form of state rule.

Even so, federalism can still be a good way to govern a multi-ethnic society as it gives the various ethnic groups “a range of autonomous powers and enjoy some measure of representation in central government”[13] while still under the large umbrella of a stronger state. Under this government, the various ethnic groups can draw up different sets of laws and legislations in accommodation to their culture and beliefs. This can be seen Quebec where its French speaking population differed with the majority of the other English speaking population. The federal government of Quebec under this system can thus exercise its difference without assimilating into the general population. However, such federalism without a mutual consensus between the central and federal government might lead to the “growth of separatism”[14] which might estrange ties between the two parallel governments as described earlier in the case of the split of Czechoslovakia.

I think that federalism is not the only option for governing multi-ethnic societies as examples have shown that multi-ethnic societies can also be governed by unitary rule, either by assimilating the minorities into the population of by means of granting a special autonomous rule to the minorities. In fact, in some circumstances like that of Czechoslovakia and Singapore, federalism not only did not alleviate the problem of ethnic conflict but also aggravated it thus forcing the ultimate decision for a split. Ethnic problems by itself is very complicated and the type of government to best govern a multi-ethnic society would be based almost entirely on the society itself. However, this does not mean that a unitary rule would be better than federal rule in a multi-ethnic society as there are also many problems that would afflict the unitary rule as seen in Indonesia where both federalism and a central government have failed to contain the separatist sentiments of ethnic groups in the outlying islands. Multi-ethnicity is a problem by itself. Perhaps the only way of solving these problems is to grant each ethnic group independence which would be also be unfeasible as these new states would be small and weak. In saying this, we must also note that it is not only multi-ethnic societies can be governed by federalism. Federalism can also be used to govern a single ethnic society like Germany.

End notes:
[1] Andrew Heywood, Politics, 2nd ed. (Great Britain: Palgrave Foundations, 2002), 161
[2] Cynthia H. Enloe, Ethnic Conflict and Political Development, (Boston: Little, Brown, 1973), 89
[3] E. O. Awa, Issues in Federalism, (Nigeria: Ethiope Publishing House, 1976), 35
[4] Andrew Heywood, Politics, 2nd ed. (Great Britain: Palgrave Foundations, 2002), 165
[5] Cynthia H. Enloe, Ethnic Conflict and Political Development, (Boston: Little, Brown, 1973), 135
[6] Cynthia H. Enloe, Ethnic Conflict and Political Development, (Boston: Little, Brown, 1973), 140
[7] Ibid
[8] Damien Kingsbury, Indonesian Military, (London and New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003), 18-19
[9] Jim Seroka, “The Dissolution of Federalism in East and Central Europe”, in Evaluating Federal Systems, ed. Bertus De Villiers (Dordrecht/ Boston/ London: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1994), 210-211
[10] Cynthia H. Enloe, Ethnic Conflict and Political Development, (Boston: Little, Brown, 1973), 135
[11] E. O. Awa, Issues in Federalism, (Nigeria: Ethiope Publishing House, 1976), 24
[12] E. O. Awa, Issues in Federalism, (Nigeria: Ethiope Publishing House, 1976), 19
[13] Andrew Heywood, Politics, 2nd ed. (Great Britain: Palgrave Foundations, 2002), 164
[14] Andrew Heywood, Politics, 2nd ed. (Great Britain: Palgrave Foundations, 2002), 165

So, this is my most pleased essay to date! And a grade A one too! And please give your comments about federalism, can drop me an email anytime.

I know that I do write well, but this grade A still came as a pleasant surprise as it can now be acknowledged that other people (like my dear tutor) do like my writings too. When my dear tutor read my essay outline, his comments were like I'd probably have trouble structuring my essay together to for a sustain argument, but I did it.

But before you guys start thinking that wow Joan's actually one smart girl contary to your thoughts, look at this,

Stupidity Symptoms 9
Joan was supposed to do her readings one night, and without thinking, she picked up a yellow ballpoint pen by her bed to highlight her readings and make notes. After completing the reading, Joan decided to continue to formulate ideas for her presentation of the readings the next day, so as usual, she did not do much thinking when she used the same pen to write down her points for her presentation. The next day, while doing her presentation, she realised that she can’t make out much of her writing. The reason was due to the fact that Joan forgot that she has astigmatism problems and she was wearing her astig-powered glasses the night before but wearing non-astig-contacts when she was doing her presentation and without the astig-powered glasses, the yellow was so light that words weren’t words, but yellow glob.

So there you see, she doesn't really have much common sense in her.

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