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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Monday, August 11, 2008


The end of the Nation State

posted by Aziz P. at Monday, August 11, 2008 permalink View blog reactions
Josh Trevino argues that Russia's incursion to Georgia represents the end of the Western order (ie, NATO), and that the blame may be layed squarely at the feet of the Kosovo issue as precedent. Daniel Larison argues the opposite, that Russia's action is inherently limited and far from representing a Soviet resurgence, is really a natural reaction to the provocation of the Western order (ie, NATO). Neither of their analyses are without their own bias, but despite being polar opposites they still labor under the same inherent assumption that the natural order of things is for sovereignity to be defined as the nation-state level, a concept that some historians argue dates to the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. The concept of Westphalian sovereignty itself seems to be fundamentally flawed, however.

Except in truly immigrant-majority societies like the US (the "melting pot" or "salad bowl" analogy), the tendency (especially in Europe) seems to be towards self-rule by ethnic canton rather than artificial boundaries drawn by ancient powers based on old lines in the sand or mere geographic boundaries (the latter having once been significant in civilizations' infancy but are rendered irrelevant in the modern era of highways and planes and Internets). Why not let Kosovars and Abkhazians and Ossettians and Flemish people have their own cantons of self-rule, and adopt a more federal form of loose government to tie them together into "states" for organizational and logistical purposes only? Why shouldn't these cantons choose which umbrella government to join? Speaking specifically of Europe, doesn't the existence of the supra-national EU now render the individual nation-state a relic of a bygone era? Why have more layers to the hierarchy than necessary? Why not remove the middleman?

Civilizations are perhaps a more useful concept now - America, Europe, China, India, Arabia, Oceania, etc. Within such, there can be lesser units (states, provinces, etc) with varying degrees of autonomy. There should be freedom of movement and currency and labor within the civilizational boundaries, to reduce friction and internal tension. Somehow I think that by century's end, the pragmatic reality will be towards this type of organization rather than the post-colonial, post-imperial artificiality we have now.

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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.