From Hobson's Choice
Sectionalism has been used in two closely related senses. One refers to a regional division, such as a group of states (i.e., divisions of a country) or provinces. The other refers to a division of society that makes its money a certain way. The two concepts are closely related, since sectional divisions of a country usually correspond to reliable generalizations as to the source of each section's wealth.
Sectional interests often come into conflict, but typically the parties involved are aware of the unlikelihood of a victory in open struggle. There are a few historical cases in which sectionalism has erupted into civil war; this site takes the position that most allegedly "ethnic" or "sectarian" conflicts are actually sectional conflicts caused by a breakdown of sectional comity.
In the United States
The obvious example of a sectional conflict is the one that raged between the CSA and the northern states, or residual of the United States. Here, the most compelling difference between the two sections was that one relied heavily on slavery, while the other found slavery threatening. More schematically, one relied on the endless expansion of exactly the same system (gangs of slaves working on freshly cleared land to produce the same cash crop in ever-greater volume); the other was a diversified economy which ranged from semi-subsistence farming to large-scale industrial enterprise. The "sections" of the Union advanced fundamentally incompatible claims to the vast amounts of territory that the USA either bought, seized, or divided. Even when significant numbers of actual slaves were not present (Kansas) or never could be (as was alleged with New Mexico and Arizona), the dividing sectional principle was too basic to be resolved peacefully. A crucial claim of the Southern partisans was that, regardless of the merits of slavery, restrictions on slavery in the territories (or, for that matter, the states themselves) represented a violation of the equal protection of Southern slaveowners per se. Under slavery, captive humans in servitude were capital, but if slavery was illegal in a territory—or even in a neighboring state—then one type of capitalist was not allowed in. And while the great majority of Whites in the South owned few or no slaves, slaveowners were the politically decisive class.
|Battle of Antietam, 1863|
Click for larger image
After the Civil War, the sectional interests shifted somewhat. The South was still hypersensitive to costs, such as taxes and rising wages; the North was still responding to rapid changes in technology and high fixed costs for plants. But Southern planters could no longer control the entire political structure as easily as before; there were now rival bases of political power (between 1868 and 1898, African American voters were such a base). At the same time, the interests in the North who had demanded a strong government hand in the economy to ensure the creation of power industrial corporations, by the end of Reconstruction, were increasingly at swords points with the burgeoning populism of their workforce and small farmers. Tariffs were high, but labor was militant and populist democracy was corrupt; while the robber barons had tended to champion a strong government leading up to the Grant Administration, and bribed the one they had on a prodigious scale, they were faced with a sinkhole of malfeasance. In response, they favored the creation of the firm as surrogate to the state: the modern industrial corporation. This was to be the ultimate counterforce to social democracy in the United States, and it meshed with the sectional interests of the planters. Not only could planters form a permanent coalition with the corporate elites to defeat social democratic legislation at the federal level, they could also continue to use their rising economic hegemony as a unifying enemy for poor Southern Whites. The South remained totally dominated by one political party (the Democrats) until the late 1960's, but in Southern states the party actually housed multiple rival factions; the politically conservative faction sided with Northern Republicans, while the populist faction sided with the (weak) Northern Democrats.
Since the time of the Civil Rights Movement, sectional alignments have evolved further; they still have a decidedly economic orientation, with the Democratic Party corresponding to industry and the Republican Party corresponding to resource extraction, farming, financial services, and business management. Casual observers usually assume the Democratic Party is liberal (and hypocritical), while the Republican Party is conservative (and sincere). In reality, both parties are conservative, but oriented towards different sectional interests. The Democratic Party favors public education, public works, and a robust regulatory regime; the Republican Party sometimes claims it does also, but its position towards all three is hectoring and unsupportive. The Republican Party, in turn, favors minimal government role in the economy, and a compensatory maximal role of the state in enforcing market incentives. These are compatible with the "night watchman state" popular among extractive industries such as factory farming, mining, and fossil fuels; and the punitive enforcement of incentives popular with financial services and business management (as a separate political section).
|PLO militia member outside Beirut, 1982|
Click for larger image
During the 1958 Crisis, the main challenge to Maronite political hegemony was from Sunni Muslims; still armed with decisive demographic power, plus a growing expat population of Palestinians, the Lebanese Sunni and their (mostly Sunni) Palestinian neighbors were initially critical of Pres. Camille Shamun's persistent support of European allies in the wake of the '56 Suez Crisis. But as Shamun plotted his re-election (and an amendment to the constitution to make it legal), the crisis became much more serious.
Episodic feuds, personal slurs, grievances, and minor provocations normally dismissed as tolerable manifestations of a fractious political culture were transformed [by the 1958 Crisis] into sources of bitter hostility and polarization. Any move by either side became suspect and was always interpreted as motivated by the worst possible intentions. Parliamentary debates, electoral campaigns, political pronouncements became forums of exchanging insults and invectives. Being barred from entering parliament was, suddenly, a legitimate justification for armed insurrection. Attribution and demonization of the "other" evolved into common strategies for rationalizing belligerency. Insurgents became "outlaws," "infiltrators," "terrorists," "unanchored masses" wreaking havoc in society and undermining its sovereignty and autonomy. Loyalists became a malicious "clique," a den of "criminals," "traitors," "western stooges" and "infidels"…. Emnity, in such a charged political milieu, can become highly combustible. It is then that politics becomes, to borrow Henry Adam's axiom, "the systematic organization of hatred."Khalaf's characterization of the emotional dynamic of civil war is universal and cannot be overlooked. In Lebanon and elsewhere, civil war erupted partly because of conflicting sectional tensions (and the belief on the part of sectional leaders that they could muster extrapolitical support for hegemony within society), and partly because the great masses of people were sucked into sectional hatreds.
Samir Khalaf (2002), p.144
Traditionally, the powerful families of Lebanon maintained retinues of clients that sometimes numbered in the thousands; this, rather than the conventional right-left divide, was the key rift. It divided all of the confessional communities, including the particularly close-knit Druze. However, since it was urgently necessary for the notable families to pay for their retinues and ensure that they were reliably on the winning side, they usually associated with business and financial interests.
World War I
|Battle of Passchendaele, 1917|
Click for larger image
The Central Powers of World War I had dreams of extra-European colonial empires, but these did not correspond to comparable sectional interests, since no major colonial-oriented commercial sector existed. The German cabinet had drafted war aims that included de facto spheres of influence in the colonial territories of France, but this was anticipated as a big windfall to the existing commercial interests of Mitteleuropa. These corresponded very roughly to those of the Antebellum CSA (see above), with massive Junker estates in East Prussia and urban business consisting of a vast multitude of small, vulnerable family ateliers. In both France and Rhenish Germany, business enterprises had traditionally been very small and dominated by bourgeois proprietors. In effect, Germany and Austria-Hungary represented economic regimes that were superficially modern, but really throwbacks to the 18th century. The autocratic regimes were not nearly as repressive as the future Third Reich, but still commanded high degrees of obedience from the ordinary populace; this was essential to preserving the system.
As a word of caution, there are problems with characterizing World War I as a sectional conflict. The national states of that fought in the war had very strong individual identities, and a sectional analysis adds relatively little to understanding the "natural alliances" of the war. There were very strong industrial competitions among the Allies, and little prospect of an explicit governing power over the belligerents. Membership in the groupings of belligerents was frequently the result of byzantine alliances or dynastic arrangements (e.g., Romania's surprising entry into the war on the side of the Allies, or the Ottoman Empire's somewhat unexpected entry into the war on the side of the Central Powers). However, sectionalism does explain the rift in nationalist interests that emerged prior to the War.
In the cases mentioned above, there was a case of a federal republic whose sections consisted of blocs of states under a central government; a unitary state whose sections consisted of rival networks of families; and an informal grouping of nations with no ultra-governmental entity, whose sections included blocs of nations. The primary binding attribute were overriding industrial interests: the South was minarchist, while the North was developmentalist; the Eddés were compradors, while the Khouris were developmentalist; the Central Powers were latifundist, while the Allies were neoliberal.
While major wars in all three theaters seemed to resolve the sectional conflict, in reality the sections were altered in character and geographical position.
- ↑ On the number of slaveowners, see "Statistical view of the United States" , The Seventh Census of the United States: 1850, p.95 (page 15 in the actual PDF; table XC). Note there are 347,525 holders of slaves, of whom 50% owned >6. The total population of the slave-holding South that year was 14,321,476. Of these, 6,134,409 were white, and probably 1,600,000-1,700,000 of these were adult men, so 21-22% owned slaves.
- ↑ For an outline of these issues, see "Sectional Issues 1815-1860," Sage History.
- ↑ Matthew Josephson, The Politicos Harcourt (1938); Henry J. Sage, "Politics in the Gilded Age," Sage History (2005-2006)
- ↑ For German enterprise, see Frederick L. McKitdrick, "Government's Economic Role: German Artisanal Corporatism in the Postwar Period," Department of History, Monmouth University (1998); for France, see Hubert Bonin , “'Blue Angels,' 'Venture Capital,' and 'Whales': Networks Financing the Takeoff of the Second Industrial Revolution in France, 1890s-1920s," Institut d’études politiques de Bordeaux (2004); for a broader survey, see Leslie Hannah "Multinationality: Size of Firm, Size of Country, and History Dependence," Professor of Business History, London School of Economics (1996). This paper and book-length studies (e.g., Alfred D. Chandler's classic, Scale and Scope) deals with comparative implementation of economies of scale from the Wilhelmine era (1870-1918) to post-World War II.
During the Wilhelmine era, Germany had developed a structure of large business enterprises analogous to the great corporations of the USA. But these remained cooperative and dependent on financial ties. They remained very sophisticated accretions of professional ateliers with state boosterism. In the USA, in contrast, the big corporations early on became a parallel state mostly reliant on the gigantic domestic market.
For German war aims and overseas colonial goals, see Gregor Dallas, [1918: War and Peace], Overlook Hardcover (2001), 1st chapter.
- ↑ With respect to the Romanian entry on the side of the Allies: the monarchy was from the German house of Hohenzollern-Sigmarinen, but Premier Ionel Bratianu was motivated by the cultural struggle with Hungary over Transylvania and with Bulgaria over the Dobruja. See Ronald D. Bachman (editor), Romania : a country study Library of Congress (1991), "The Balkan Wars and World War I." On Ottoman Turkey's entry into the War, see Ahmad Feroz , The Making of Modern Turkey, Routledge (1993), pp.38-52; clearly, the alliance with Germany and Austria against Russia and Britain was determined by the Committee for Union and Progress (CUP) and its particular conflict with the British; the British had erst backed the liberal parties in Istanbul. If it were not for the CUP, then Turkey would logically have favored the Allies; of it were not for Hungarian Premier Istvan Tisza (s.1913-1917), and his policies of forcible Magyarization in Transylvania, Romania would logically have sided with the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Bulgaria.
- Adel Beshara Lebanon: The Politics of Frustration--the Failed Coup of 1961 Routledge (2005)
- Samir Khalaf Civil and Uncivil Violence in Lebanon: A History of the Internationalization of Communal Conflict, Columbia University Press (2002)
James R MacLean [03:03, 4 September 2008 (PDT)]