Model Others, Identity and Globalization: Tentative Theoretical Observations from a Case Study of Parliamentary Discourse in Israel

  • Abstract:

    The novel concept of Model Others – i.e. Others framed not as disparaged and degraded in relation to the national Self, but as peers potentially superior to it – is introduced to enrich our understanding of national identity. In this paper I explore its potential significance as an endogenous factor that impacts globalization. From a constructivist perspective, one would expect that ascribing high (or low) legitimacy to Model Others would create a discursive climate conducive (or resistant) to policy diffusion and globalization. To explore this proposition, I conducted a computerized search coupled with manual, in-context coding of a large corpus of transcripts from meetings of Knesset (Parliament of Israel) Constitution and Economics committees, in which 7,626 references to Model Others over the longue durée from 1950 to 2012 were identified and analyzed. Findings that show an increasingly frequent and positive appeal to Model Others in Knesset discourse from the mid-1970s mark a clear shift in Israeli identity. The nature and timing of this change suggest that internal social and cultural developments within Israel were at play, causing Europe, the US, and “the West” in general to be elevated as models by which to critically evaluate the national self, particularly for its deficient civility. I propose that these endogenous changes in national identity are a context that should be viewed as a catalyst for, rather than mere byproduct of, the rapid globalization that swept across Israel from the 1990s. This underscores the theoretical utility of Model Others as a concept that sensitizes research to yet under-studied but important social processes.