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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Why sovereignty matters : European populist-nationalist parties and the reconstruction of the concept of sovereignty McIntyre, Michael David


In the recent decade or so, the western democracies have seen a rise in the fame and electoral success of populist-nationalist parties and candidates, particularly in Europe. For example, French Presidential Candidate Marine Le Pen made it to the second round of the presidential election in 2017. Often, these parties are extremely concerned about state sovereignty and mention it in electoral campaigns, documents and speeches. However, it is unclear as to what populist-nationalists mean when they use the word ‘sovereignty.’ I seek to answer this question in this work. In other words, what does sovereignty mean to populist-nationalist parties? I argue that sovereignty means something different to populist-nationalist parties than what previously conceived definitions of sovereignty can offer. Furthermore, I argue that populist-nationalist parties are reconstructing why sovereignty matters and what it means. In order to do this, I utilize a concept known as cultural sovereignty which, with some modification, accurately portrays what sovereignty means to populist-nationalists. I define cultural sovereignty, differently than previous conceptions, as the aim to benefit, protect or maintain the culture of a particular group, the nation or nation-state and retain control over this particular culture or nation-state. I accurately demonstrate this by examining previous research, party documents, interviews, statements and journalistic articles in order to discern a common narrative which I then use to prove that my version of cultural sovereignty encapsulates what these parties mean by sovereignty. My conclusions arise from four general policy areas: aversion supra-national governance (Euroscepticism mainly), anti-immigration, cultural promotion and protection policies and lastly economic nationalism. The insights put forth by this work help us understand what these parties mean and help us understand their conceptions of the world as well as governance in general.

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