In an increasingly globalised world, previous clear understandings of what constitutes a nation are no longer valid. As the documented history of the human communities of the world grows, the more complicated the definition of the modern nation becomes.

Discussing resilience in multinational societies

In an increasingly globalised world, previous clear understandings of what constitutes a nation are no longer valid. As the documented history of the human communities of the world grows, the more complicated the definition of the modern nation becomes. Nations around the world face the need to build their foundations repeatedly. Daily international news makes it clear that this is one of the biggest political challenges of all time. All groups in society must understand the foundations of their nation and accept them. A society defined as a nation becomes a critical set of values​​ that guides the attitudes and behaviours of its members. Although this may be difficult for historical, cultural or religious reasons, it must be achieved, as an undefined or ideologically dispersed society is a threat first and foremost to itself and the wider world.

An increasing body of scientific research shows that isolated and dissatisfied sub-communities in the broader society may in themselves be very resilient, but not to the wider community. When societal stress levels increase, and conditions suddenly become tense and unfavourable, isolated subgroups can quickly become hostile. Triggers can often be seemingly indirect or insignificant social, political, historical or religious cues. The more polarised society is, the more likely it is that any slight dissent will culminate in a large-scale conflict. The conflict poses a threat to public security and national and international confidence in the leaders or political forces. In situations where a nation faces some major threat, such as pandemics, artificial or natural disasters, mobilising a fragmented society to stand up for the common good may be a Herculean task for those responsible. However, practical efforts to prevent rather than respond to crises can include systematic, well-thought-out and evidence-based nation-building.

Over the last two decades, social scientists have thoroughly researched the concept of resilience in human societies. However, resilience at the societal level is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that one discipline alone cannot solve. In my work, I propose addressing the national component of resilience in public policy from three interrelated fields: psychology, education, and politics. Let me give below a brief overview of what they all have to offer to strengthen the nation's resilience.

The definition and composition change over time, and national resilience is an eternally dynamic process influenced by constant communication between society, communities, and individuals. From a psychological point of view, we can define resilience as a set of capabilities expressed in all these components. Often, resilience is an individual characteristic, but it is neither justified nor sufficient to rely on personal robustness as an argument for community or national resilience. There is evidence that good cooperation in society can contribute to individual resilience and that, in some cases, the relationship between the components of resilience can even be harmful! Strategies for influencing the individual, community, and social elements of resilience may vary, depending on the focus of interest in a particular period. Efforts to increase national resilience in modern global societies are somewhat unbalanced. A lack of balance occurs because there is an inadequate study of implementing a comprehensive model of resilience and its components. Measurement problems can also lead to additional complications.

The role of identity is functional, providing a meaningful understanding of the world and oneself. The role and relevance of education are well established in the development of identity in terms of suggesting specific directions, giving meaning and presenting oneself. A society understands nationality through nationally compatible education systems, including adult education, newcomers and established citizens. From the point of view of identity education, it is essential to understand that the development of identity takes place throughout a person's life and results from theinteraction of a person, their environment and relationship patterns. The role of well-thought-out value building in identity education is becoming increasingly important in international societies, as ethnic communities from different backgrounds stand up for shared values and follow commonly agreed rules. Primarily used to support effective integration, there is also a potential risk that nations will use educational power to convey an unbalanced set of identity elements.

From a political point of view, emphasising the interchangeof social processes will simultaneously change the dialogue on both sides, the individual and society. The concerns of different stakeholders in multi-ethnic societies are interrelated and can cause anxiety, affecting agents of behavioural intentions such as attitudes, norms, and perceived behavioural control. Studies demonstrate that the boundaries of ethnic groups change over time, influenced by socio-economic circumstances and depending on political behaviour. To be effective, policies designed to increase the cohesion of society and promote integrated resilience must be systematic and evidence-based, or at least evidence-informed. Addressing resilience at the societal level must be a strategically planned activity that carefully examines significant societal interactions to identify impacts on national cohesion. In the event of unrest or considerable change, adequate monitoring of society's resilience and its various communities would allow important predictions about society's security and future direction.

In conclusion, the cause and values that members of society believe in and are willing to stand for significantly impact their national self-determination. Loosely integrated individuals and sub-communities pose an asymmetric threat to societal security and even political stability, especially in times of distress or unrest. Therefore, nation-building has become a topic of close interest in culturally and ethnically diverse societies, where society members may have a blurred understanding of national identity. Promoting resilience in this open society includes preventive measures such as educational or communicative interventions and active dialogue to address socially critical challenges in an empathetic and respectful manner with all parties.

Merle Parmak, PhD

February 13, 2021


Dr Merle Parmak

Dr. Merle Parmak is an opinion piece contributor to NISR

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