Home Societal / Political Freedom Authority, Identification and Nationalism: The Future of Freedom in Estonia

Authority, Identification and Nationalism: The Future of Freedom in Estonia

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If there is no future for Estonia, then what will be the fate of this country? Are those living in Estonia left with only short-term hopes–that might often be aligned with the immediate consumption of goods and services? Are Estonians vulnerable to the soft form of authoritarianism that Erich Fromm described? Are they also vulnerable to a more virulent form of authoritarianism that is activated by a search for national identity and perhaps even continuing identification with aggressive forces?

What then are we to conclude? What are the implications of predictions I have made (and other observers of Estonia have made) regarding life in this country during the coming 10 to 20 years? Is nationalism on the rise or on the decline? Does this mean the rise or decline of authoritarianism in its various forms? What about identification with commodities and the market orientation I previously identified? Will soft authoritarianism that is sprinkled with some xenophobic hard authoritarianism prevail in Estonia (and other European and North American societies)? What about the enduring relationship between Estonia and other Western societies? Is Estonia truly free of the Eastern influences that were accelerated during the period of Russian occupation?

More generally, the question remains open regarding the future of democracy and nationalism in other European countries (and many countries elsewhere in the world). The path of the EU in Europe is hardly clear at this moment, even after years of political and psychological preparation. For Estonians, the many sources of ambivalence are great. As one of the Estonians I interviewed during the early 1990s noted: “If I had the experience of a hundred years of democracy coupled with consistent national autonomy and identity [as is found in many Western European and American countries], then I could be a cosmopolitan and an internationalist, too.” Which will be the outcome in Estonia? Will we find cosmopolitans or nationalists? Consumers or reformers? Those who embrace true freedom or those who seek to escape the profound challenge of freedom? Stay tuned . . .

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