The Teaching Naked Book

OK, the person who told me that the Teaching Naked book was a load of steaming, stinky shit was absolutely right.

The author has no training in pedagogy and can barely string two sentences together without making wild generalizations. It’s all “human beings always this” and “every single person on the planet necessarily that.” The writing is miserable, the argument is based on very weak assumptions. If a student of mine handed this in as an essay, I wouldn’t be impressed. I only read 25 pages so far but I’m signally unimpressed.

What Comes After the Nation-State?, Part II

The nation-state model carried the seeds of its own destruction from the very start.

First of all, if the state is to provide for the welfare of the people, soon enough the people will clock on to the idea that there is no welfare without life and will become reluctant to lay down their lives to fulfill their part of the bargain. Thus, the basic social contract will be broken and the nation-state, frustrated in its central goal, will have no more reason to exist.

At the same time, by enhancing the well-being of the people, the nation-state created the perfect conditions for the flourishing of human creativity and the development of science. The neat, clear and impenetrable borders – one of the greatest inventions of the nation-state – could not resist the thrust of human talent.

These developments mean that both the form and the content of the nation-state were undermined. When a state form loses legitimacy, it is only a matter of time that a new model will arise. The new form of state is only now being created, so everything we can say about it – including its name – is still tentative.

Some people are referring to the new form of state as “market state.” This appellation makes me cringe because the word “market” had been overused to the point of being completely emptied of all meaning. This is why I want to leave the issue of naming this form of state aside for the moment and try to deduce its characteristics.

Let’s do this together. Once again, the nation-state strove to ensure that, in case of war, everybody would be involved on the war effort. Declaration of the Rights of Man, feminism, abolition of slavery, labor rights, civil rights, minority rights, the tiniest-minority-ever rights, the “let’s make sure nobody’s feelings are hurt” model of society – these are all results of the nation-state’s efforts to please and emotionally attach everybody to the state. What will happen when the state gives up on this goal?

What Comes After the Nation-State?, Part I

The nation-state arose to satisfy a very specific goal. In order to wage war on a massive scale, it was necessary to find a way to get people to die enthusiastically and for free. This goal was achieved, and the warfare that followed the creation of the nation-state was waged on a scale not known to humanity before.

A state’s greatest power lies in exercising violence and causing death. A state does that externally (by waging war) and internally (by turning its weapons on the citizens when they misbehave.) This is great power. Citizens should be in agreement that, for all its faults, the state must have the right to exercise violence on their behalf internationally and domestically. This means that there should be something that legitimates, in citizens’ eyes, this power of the state to cause death.

Since God has been taken out of the equation as a legitimating force (do you know anybody who sees the President and the Congress as God-given agents whom we should not dare to question?), a different sort of contract between the state and the individual had to be worked out. As we discussed before on this blog, a nation-state buys the citizens’ allegiance by promising to create the best possible kind of existence for them, to take care of them, protect them, satisfy their needs.

There is not a nation-state that hasn’t tried to deliver on this promise. Even North Korea is making every effort to convince the citizens that the state is looking out for them. And the citizens seem to believe the message, which is all that counts. Remember that the USSR fell the moment the overwhelming majority reached the conclusion that the Soviet model was not providing for their welfare as successfully as other states were providing for their citizens. Remember also that Franco had to swallow his ideology and go beg the hated Americans to teach him how to feed his citizens as well as the American state was feeding its people. The nation-state model simply doesn’t offer a choice: people need to be content.

We are so used to this model that we don’t even really notice it. For us, it is the only thing we know, and we rarely stop to think how historically recent and extremely innovative the nation-state is. The way people organized themselves into states before the nation-state was manufactured in the XVIII-XIX centuries was radically different. 

The nation-state model was extremely successful. There is no place on our planet where people are not either organized into a nation-state or struggling to organize into one. Everybody wants a nation-state because it is the first state model ever where the state derives its entire legitimacy from caring about the welfare of the citizens. It is a pity that this model is dying but it brought about its own demise. The seeds of a nation-state’s destruction were present in the model itself from the very start.

P.S. I know most of you got this part already, but I need to make a recap for those who are just joining us now. This is not a subject that one can process easily by approaching it in medias res. Questions are welcome. New readers, don’t be shy.