Absent Nationalism, Civilization Founders

By Copley, Gregory R. | Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy, August 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Absent Nationalism, Civilization Founders


Copley, Gregory R., Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy


Modern societies - which naïvely believe themselves to be "globalized, and post-in- dustrial" - decry "nationalism" as a rem- nant of a dangerous past. Nationalism is viewed as the cause of wars and outdated by the "irreversible" advent of "globalization".

History shows that wars can occur regardless of nation- alism and nation-states. Globalization, too, has been seen before, with the sweeping rise of Genghis Khan in the 12th and 13th centuries CE. And it retreats. Often not without bloodshed. There have been other examples, all relative to the scope of the global population: the pax Romana, the pax Britannica, the pax Americana.

Significantly, the rise of civilization, and all its benefits in terms of the stability and spread of humanity, is depend- ent on structured building blocks of which the nation, and then the nation-state (particularly in the post-Westphal- ian sense), have proven critical. To weaken or remove the nation-state from the chain - in favor of, say, global gov- ernance notions, or even an absence of structure - is to fundamentally weaken the intricate web of human trans- actional arteries which enable the delivery of goods, ser- vices, social management, and many other essential ele- ments of human survival.

The world today is at a watershed, and not merely the "Western world". The expectation that prosperity levels will be sustained in a linear extrapolation of today is now - belatedly - being seen to be a utopian wish. That "globalization" can deter wars is also finally being recog- nized as utopian dreaming or, worse, a reversal of reality. So what must be done to prepare for a future of change?

Part of it must be a recognition that cultures are the ba- sis of a nation, and then a nation-state, and can also tran- scend a single nation or nation-state. A "modern" nation- state, in the 19 th and 20 th centuries' iteration of the West- phalian concept, is, in its skeletal formation, a gathering together of geography and the people and resources en- compassed by that geography.

In reality, a newly-constructed nation-state (the legal entity, particularly of the type recognized in the second half of the 20th Century) must either build a culture to achieve social unity and embrace the various population groupings encased in the geographic boundary, or it must adopt the culture of the strongest, or founding, group of the nation-state as a universal expression of the geopolit- ical entity.

Links between nation-states are often on the basis of shared culture (which includes language, beliefs, practices, etc.). The success of the nation-state is that it grows be- yond merely the cultural aspects to embrace a system of functioning which institutionalizes quantification and the measurement - or hierarchy - of success. Without going into detail (which I did in UnCivilization: Urban Geopoli- tics in a Time of Chaos), it is easy to see the chain of human society scaling-up to handle large numbers: the family, the clan/tribe, the culture, the nation, the nation-state, and then the civilization. Remove or imbalance any of the building blocks and the system transforms or founders. …

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