The Death Of Nations And The No-Nation ParadigmPolitics / GeoPolitics Jun 22, 2014 - 08:16 PM GMT
The Neolibs Said
Concerning western societies and nations, the “new economy” ideologues of the early 1980s can be blamed for the rot. They intensely argued for the total triumph of a magic disembodied thing called “the market” which would sweep away all traces of antique leftovers from the 18th century – the nation states. Everybody would move up and on to “the market”. It would be self-organizing and self-running, and (of course) capitalist, reproducing the Adam Smith paradigm of individual greed somehow producing or resulting in collective good. That can only make sense!
The British historian Eric Hobsbawm is an authority on what are called “modern nation states” and the nationalist movements which produced them. He dates the process to a precise period of about 1750-1800. Before then, nothing like what we call “modern nation states” existed.
As we know, in 18th century Europe, the terms “political economy” preceded the term “economy” and both of them followed the terms “natural philosophy”. From philosophy to economy, and from the nation state – and since the 1980s - to a global state of no-nations held together by the globalized economy. This was the supposed evolutionary path.
The neoliberals could argue that before the nation state, there already existed a global economy, albeit informal and person-to-person or company-to-company, notably based on trade. The absence of national currencies and laws was no handicap. The “interlude” of the nation state only added an unnecessary new barrier to the global economy, and they said it would wither and fall away.
Accelerating Decline of The Nation State
Today we are rapidly becoming aware of the coming death of nations. We have the probable coming three-nation Iraq, the already de facto three nation state of Libya, the possible separation of Scotland from England, Catalonia and the Basque country from Spain, the Tyrol north from Italy, the real and recent separation of the two Sudans – with almost inevitable border rivalry and conflict mostly driven by oil. There are also separatist movements active in Mali and many other African states, Xinjiang separatists in China, multiple challenges to the Russian Federation including separatist movement in Tatarstan, Chechnya and elsewhere. Even the small state of Belgium is menaced by movements for local autonomy extending to full declaration of independence by two new states.
Hobsbawn analyzes the historical trends of “modern nationbuilding”, finding that as early as the 1840s and 1850s it was already confronted by overreach. Too large nations were created too quickly, from over-diverse components, sometimes using completely fanciful claims to separate identity generating their own internal-separatist movements. Examples he gives include the Garibaldi movement founding modern Italy and the so-called Pan-Slavic nationalist movement, which played a leading role in founding modern Russia and the multiple warring states of the Balkans, whose rivalries between themselves and with external powers helped spark World War I.
The post-1945 world, according the UN Charter, was going to be constructed on “indivisible and recognized” nation states which however accepted power-sharing for the goal of peace and economic development. The UN Security Council was going to be the final arbiter on just or illegal attempts at changing national frontiers, defining the key concepts of national aggression and war crime, marshaling “the international community” to punish aggressors and criminals.
The “UN system” can therefore be called a process trying to defend the concept of modern nation states and, due to real world trends accelerating the breakdown of nation states, is dysfunctional. As we know from at least the three past decades, secessionist and separatist movements, sometimes aided and abetted by existing nation states have denied the existence of supposedly “historic” nation states occupying national territories which are “recognized by the international community”. Over and above resource issues and competition for resource ownership and related economic power, other factors like mass population movements also related to the economy, have radically weakened the 18th century notion of the “modern nation state”.
Imperialism and Religion
Alongside Imperialism – which denies national borders and identities – religion has always exercized an anti-national role except in certain highly specific cases where the mix-and-mingle of ethnic and religious sentiments could be exploited in the nationbuilding process. Historians like Hobsbawm focus the role of anti-religious and anti-imperial movements in the “historic era” of modern nationbuilding which as already noted, had overreached by as early as the 1850s. In turn this created the concept of “non-confessional and egalitarian” nationalism, ideally suited to growing democratic movements in the increasingly urban and industrial societies of late 19th century Europe, the US, Russia, China and other existing or future national states. The modern nationbuilding concept therefore won itself an extension of its shelf life, also extended by the anti-imperial independence movements in former European colonies, before and after World War II.
It is likely that reprieve is now long gone. The “modern nation state” is not only menaced by resurgent religion, especially in regions where Islam is the dominant religion but also by economic globalization, Internet, mass media advertizing and mass communication. Convergence is a reality. The will to fight for “the nation” is inversely proportional to the intensity and degree of public sentiment that “the nation” is worth defending and for this to be true, “the nation” has to have special virtues.
To be sure Iraq and Ukraine are the current key examples of “failed states” where a layer-by-layer process of denial of the nation state has reached a tipping point. Supposed “surprise” by US glove puppet media journalists that Iraq army personnel “are abandoning without a fight” can be attributed to their total ignorance of reality on the ground. For Sunni personnel in the Iraq army, ISIS fighters paid for by Saudi Arabia and by other Gulf petromonarchy, anti-democratic, autocratic minority Sunni regimes cannot really be treated as mortal enemies. Obedience to Shia muslim prime minister Nouri el-Maliki can even be construed, by Sunni Iraqi army personnel, as a form of treason.
The Short 20th Century
Another book by Hobsbawm used this title to underline that if the 19th century of Imperialism on one hand, and nationalism on the other dragged on a long time, the 20th century of the “modern democratic state and liberal market economy” had a short but riotous lifespan. The European middle class petit bourgeois concept of “the liberal market economy” was at all times confronted by communism, imperialism, crony capitalism and the bankster cabal, resurgent religion, and pure anarchy, called “ungovernability” today. It was born to fail and went down fighting - but only the path and process of that failure interests us, today.
Hobsbawn uses other metrics and time intervals, but we could say his “short 20th century” possibly only existed from 1945 to about 1995, giving it a 50-year half-century span. During that time, the myth of the “indivisible nation state” and the myth of the “liberal market capitalist economy” could run together, and could fool a lot of persons as to their life expectancy and credibility.
Since that time, well before Y2K, the bastard offspring of modern liberal market capitalism – Marxism – has been totally discredited and denied. Marxism was purely and simply a “reverse video” childlike inversion-and-reversal of market capitalism, so it is no surprise to any intelligent person that Marxism had to fail. The failure of Marxism only proved that its model and mentor of liberal market capitalism was a failure – nothing else. Communism nevertheless speeded up the death of nationalism.
Attempts to keep the flame of “perpetual revolution” alive, especially Mao Tse Tung's Great Leap Forward were defended, by him, as a counterweight to resurgent Chinese nationalism. Today's so-called Islamic Resurgence can be called another bastard offspring of the failed process of pseudo nationalism – in this case Arab nationalism - in which ideological Imperialism is mixed-and-mingled with racism, disguised as nationalism, to produce a cocktail only able to spark wars, ethnic cleansing, purges and mayhem. Following this historic interval and the real end of the 20th century today, nation states as we presently know them will disappear.
By Andrew McKillop
Former chief policy analyst, Division A Policy, DG XVII Energy, European Commission. Andrew McKillop Biographic Highlights
Co-author 'The Doomsday Machine', Palgrave Macmillan USA, 2012
Andrew McKillop has more than 30 years experience in the energy, economic and finance domains. Trained at London UK’s University College, he has had specially long experience of energy policy, project administration and the development and financing of alternate energy. This included his role of in-house Expert on Policy and Programming at the DG XVII-Energy of the European Commission, Director of Information of the OAPEC technology transfer subsidiary, AREC and researcher for UN agencies including the ILO.
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