Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Thank you, Benedict Anderson

By the time I got out of graduate school, I was a little tired of the ubiquity of the "imagined communities" rhetoric. Good idea, but damn if it didn't make its way into every dissertation and job talk of the 1990s. Still, I found myself thinking about it again as we near an apparent agreement on the Catalan statute.

Taxes, it should be said, have been a major sticking point--who gets how much of the revenue. But the major hold up throughout the process has been about the word "nation." All along, the Catalans have insisted that Statute define Catalonia as a nation, while the government has insisted that Statute define Catalonia as a place with a national identity. That may not seem like a difference worth holding up a pact that will utterly remake the nature of Spanish government, but trust me. And things got even more punctilious after that. Just days ago the government ceded a bit, and offered the concessionary "Some Catalan citizens feel that Catalonia is a nation"; when that was deemed too patronizing by the outraged Catalan parties, the government took off the "some."

Then, in the face of continued resistence, they revised it again. Now it says that "The Parliament of Catalonia...has defined Catalonia as a nation." Classic trick: say what somebody says it is, rather than what it is. But it seems to be working. The last hold out among the Catalan parties meets with Zapatero today, and I'll lay money that there's an agreement by the end of the day.


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