Multi-Lingual but Mono-National: Exploring and Explaining Switzerland's Exceptionalism
FEDERALISM, PLURINATIONALITY, AND DEMOCRATIC CONSTITUTIONLISM - THEORY AND CASES, Miquel Caminal and Ferran Requejo, eds., Abingdon, Routledge, 2011
32 Pages Posted: 22 May 2009 Last revised: 18 Aug 2011
Date Written: July 25, 2011
This chapter explores how statehood and patterns of collective identity have historically evolved in Switzerland and how they are interacting in the contemporary Swiss system. It shows that a sense of Swiss nationhood emerged before the creation of a Swiss federal state in 1848 and that it survived the pressures of 'linguistic nationalism' in the latter part of the 'long' XIX century to become fully consolidated in the XX century. While many features of the Swiss system today reflect the multi-lingual nature of its society, they also show rather clearly that Switzerland is not a multi-national federation. Subsequently, the chapter offers an explanation of why Switzerland, despite being multi-lingual and multi-cultural, has not become multinational, by arguing that this is best explained by a complex interaction over a long period of time of a unique set of factors, both internal and external. The chapter then considers the challenges likely to face the Swiss system in the mid-term and concludes by arguing that the characteristics of Swiss society and the strengths of its federal political architecture will likely enable it to remain mono-national in the foreseeable future.
Keywords: Nationalism, Federalism, Federation, State, Democracy, Switzerland, Identity, Multinational, Multilingual
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