Monday, June 05, 2006

The Death of the Nation-State

Last weeks' Wanderer sported a column by Pat Buchanan with the title given to this post. What caught my eye (and thoughts) about this whether the idea of the Nation-State is good or bad-theoretically, and secondly how does this relate to the US, if at all.

Let's take a look at the article first. Basically Mr. Buchanan is relating recent history where the consolidations of peoples into large countries (nation-states) which began in earnest some 400-500 years ago is starting to break apart, especially in Europe. Soviet Union has broken into 17 different entities based on culture and ethnicity. Same is happening in (former) Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, etc.

There is no denying that people feel more comfortable interacting and intermarrying with people of the same ethnic and cultural background. There are practical reasons for this, especially when considering marriage. At one extreme, mixed faith marriages have always proved difficult when one or both spouses are devout. But to lesser extents this is true of many cultural characteristics. (Don't get me wrong, I am not advocating pure segration of peoples-just noting natural and sometimes practical tendencies. For example people from the same class will tend to have the same types of economic expectations in marriage and thus one potential problem is eased. Of course there are many exceptions - the exceptions make the rules.)

As the people of different cultures are forced together, two things may happen. In some cases, the cultural differences become pronounced and segration and clashes become more common. In other cases, the cultures melt together. Both have their problems. Ethnic violence for ethnicity's sake is to be deplored, but so also is the loss of some culture. American's have formed their own culture, but at a high cost of losing much that was good in the cultures that melted together.

So if we separate into "tribes" as it were, then we preserve culture. Can we interact peacibly with the other tribes? Well mankind has proven over and over and over and over (must I go on) that we can't.

However, might there be a saving grace? Small "tribes" cannot often raise the level of fighting and destruction to the same extent as a Nation-State can. First, the tax base is less. Secondly, besides localized disputes over territory, etc. the motivation to war is usually more of self-defense for a "tribe".

Of course any "tribe" will occasionally spawn a leader with more global intentions. In these cases as in the past, tribes band in alliance against the common enemy.

Just some thoughts on the demise of the Nation-State. Is there more than meets the eye? Am I missing something? I am reminded of the Anti-Federalist papers which argued that a weak central government would be less likely to go to war. And that monarchy (before the absolute monarchies of the more recent centuries) was also less likely to wage major war becuase the monarchy was not absolute but depended heavily on the allegiance and arms of the lords and barons in the area. (Thus we see that today's 'republic' in America may actually be closer to an absolute monarchy in some respects than to the monarchies of the Middle Ages.)

How does this play in America? Haven't figured that out yet.

1 comment:

TS said...

Thought-provoking post. I don't know what the answer is but it reminds me how in the corporate world we constantly centralize and then decentralize, usually in five year increments. In other words, there is a consolidation of power in a strong centralized form, and then, when the pitfalls are noted, we de-centralize. Then when those pitfalls are noted, we go back to centralized power. And on and on and on it goes... Because none of the alternatives to governance are very good.