How We Walked Away From the Nation-State

Let’s be honest, people, we turned our backs on the nation-state first and now can’t act all surprised that it shrugged its shoulders and started waking away from us, too.

A society of consumers is neither willing nor capable of participating in the sort of give and take that the nation-state model requires. Just look at how we engage politically. Our main political tools are a protest, a petition, and at the very best, a public collective action where we detail our complaints but never offer anything, not even a list of actual requests. More often than not, we can’t even be bothered to figure out what it is we want. Remember #Occupy? The movement kept declaring how proud it was of not having the slightest inkling of its own goals.

As you surely remember, protester was declared the person of the year 2011. A protester is a person who protests, who addresses a list of what he or she finds unacceptable to some nebulous authority. A protester is actually proud of having no vision of what an alternative would look like. Abolish greed, ban bossy – these lists of infantile demands directed to some all-powerful magical authority are the only way in which consumers are willing to engage in politics.

The basic contract between the state and the people in a nation-state was, initially, that the state would ensure the well-being of the people and the people will be ready to die defending their state. Of course, we are not prepared to die for the state’s goals. But somehow the model has transformed into nobody being willing to do anything at all, tolerate the slightest bit of discomfort to make this state model function.

The great political movements of the nation-state have degenerated into Twitter wars, trigger warnings, and endless inane discussions of how everybody is feeling. Even the Salaita affair, which should have given academics a great opportunity to discuss the principles of academic freedom, has been bogged down in ridiculous childish speculations as to what Salaita’s emotional state was like and what his area of specialization is.

We have put an enormous burden on the nation-state and refused to carry even a small portion of the load. How can we be surprised that the nation-state cracked?

Evidence of Collapse

Here is an example of one of the ways in which the nation-state is collapsing. Note that this is taking place in Honduras, a country where the state isn’t managing to fulfill its part of the bargain and provide for the welfare of its people. 

Now, a nation-state can break down on both ends, that of the state and that of the citizens. Honduras is breaking down on the side of the weak state that is becoming increasingly irrelevant to the people. We will also see evidence of citizens becoming increasingly irrelevant to all-powerful states, though. It is crucial to keep in mind that these are parts of the same process.