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The Civilizational State

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Working Group Conception

Several states, none of which are fully “Western” and each of which has previously been an empire, are the forerunners in developing and deploying the notion of “civilizational state”. These include Russia, China, India, and Turkey, all countries both on the periphery of the developed capitalist core and with varying relationships with the “political” West. On one level, the group conducts comparative research on the discourses and imaginaries in these diverse non-Western cases: Ottomanism (Turkey), Indic civilizationism (India), Slavic civilizationism (Russia), Confucian-socialist civilizationism (China). All of these identity projects involve a redefinition of the nature of the state, the relationship with the West and the global order. 

In all the cases we study, civilizational state projects have important domestic and foreign policy components. This includes (1) civilizational memory politics: the recasting of the imperial past in new terms; (2) civilizational soft power: the repackaging of cultural statecraft; (3) civilizational state nationalism: using the template of civilization to legitimate the state order, which is often authoritarian in nature; (4) civilization and a new world order: the claim that civilization-states are the basic units of an emergent polycentric world order; (5) borderlands and the formation of civilization-states: the notion that civilizational difference will be manifested most in the borderlands, which are sites of “civilizational” competition. 

In studying civilization-states, real and imagined, the group does not purely view these developments as “illiberal” or “anti-liberal” reactions to US hegemony or liberal internationalism; there is also an organic component in the societies studied that grow from much deeper and indigenous roots. On the other hand, the group resists simplistic reification of the notion of civilization-state, which must be studied critically and analytically. 

Reading List

For the overall picture of civilisational states and the global order: 

For Europe/West: 

For Russia:

For Türkiye:

For India: