The Post-national World

Five or so years ago, I wrote at length on this blog about the coming disempowerment of the nation-state model of governance. Everybody thought I was a lunatic when I said that the nation-state and its institutions are withering away. And not because there’s an evil conspiracy but because that’s what people overwhelmingly want. It’s not good for them. The future they are ushering in will not be kind to them. But they will still insist on doing it.

Now we are seeing that this is exactly what’s happening. “Defund police” isn’t a plot by a few rich evildoers. There are real crowds who are really clamoring for it. There are even bigger crowds who sit vapidly by, not caring much. And there’s nothing the mayors, the governors, or the president can do. They don’t have the legitimacy needed to send the troops against the looting bastards.

Philip Bobbitt warned in The Shield of Achilles that once the nation-state institutions lose their legitimacy, it will all be about who can afford to live in a gated community and hire a private little security troop.

Only a few years later, this is exactly what we are seeing. The people who kept assuring me that the nation-state should go because that will do away with violence were already granting legitimacy to the new order.

This is the post-national world. Raging, looting, violent crowds, and the elites egging them on like Roman nobles egged on gladiators in the circus because it’s funny to see the dumb bastards pummel each other.

13 thoughts on “The Post-national World”

  1. More signs of post-national bliss…. Chechens and Algerians engaged in low-grade narco-warfare in Dijon…. imagine when they become as well organized as the Mexican drug lords!

    The Algerians have numbers but the Chechens have the edge in the fearless and crazy department.


  2. “nation-state model of governance”

    Your English is probably better than mine, so it’s not about that. I understand what you are saying but still…

    For greater clarity and to reduce ambiguity, in the formal study of international politics nation-state most commonly refers to an imagined ideal of cultural/linguistic/historical/biological homogeneity that arose out of the French revolution. (See David A. Bell, The Cult of the Nation in France).

    So, one would more commonly employ the concepts of state sovereignty and sovereign states to cover your topic here.

    “Neither is the state the same thing as the ‘nation’, as suggested in the term ‘nation-state’. The nation and the state are very different concepts, very different aspects of social and political life. It is rare, very rare, for a nation to correspond exactly to a state. The UK, for example, is not a nation-state. It is a state that comprises several clearly identifiable nations. The Kurds, meanwhile, are a nation spread across parts of the territories of several states. Essentially, the state is a legal concept that defines a structure of power. The nation on the other hand is composed of a people who share certain characteristics, among which are culture, ethnicity and history.”

    (Please forgive me I seem to be playing the role of a smarty-pants here, I’m sympathetic to the point you are making and only trying to help.)


    1. “The nation and the state are very different concepts”

      In American English ‘nation’ usually means ‘country’ (the two are more or less interchangeable). Also the term “A French national” doesn’t refer to a person’s ethnicity but rather citizenship…

      Yeah that’s out of step with usage in other countries and/or languages but that’s how it goes.

      All your other points had been addressed a few years ago when it was a major topic on the blog. I don’t know if those posts are still there (I think some were removed?) but if you search for Bobbit and/or Bauman and/or nation-state you can find them.


      1. “In American English ‘nation’ usually means ‘country’”

        Understood, but U.S. academics who make a professional study of international politics would use sovereignty and state sovereignty to discuss this topic without exception.


    2. That’s OK, I guess different disciplines use different terminology. We use “nation-state” and “nation.” In my field, it’s an atrocity to call Kurds “a nation.” 🙂 We don’t talk about “sovereignty” at all, unless it’s a discussion of a very early stage of affirming nationhood.


      1. “In my field, it’s an atrocity to call Kurds “a nation.””

        What about in Russian? In Polish Kurd’s are a ‘naród bez państwa’ (nation without a state) although an Iraqi Kurd I know (former colleague now retired to Iraqi Kurdistan) always talks about going back to Kurdistan and not Iraq…


        1. In Russian,we don’t use “nation” (“нация”) at all. It’s very associated with Nazism.

          I guess, Kurds are “narod” but this is another word nobody uses unironically. It’s very associated with the Soviet propaganda.

          I’d call Kurds or Basques simply Kurds or Basques.


          1. Also, I know you are aware of this but many people aren’t.

            In the USSR, “национальность” meaning “nationality” actually referred to ethnicity.

            Putin is currently changing this to promote his vision of “borderless nations” where a nation isn’t limited by national borders but, instead, kind of waft around in the air.

            It’s a fascinating subject. Ukraine is the Ukrainian word for “country”. But Russians always thought it means what the Russian cognate for the word means: outskirts.

            Country and outskirts – it’s a pretty big difference.


            1. ““национальность” meaning “nationality” actually referred to ethnicity”

              Yeah, Polish naród is basically ethnicity or ethno-cultural group and (post WWII it was almost entirely monocultural and so there wasn’t much soviet style politicking around the word – also after WWII Poles could never fully decide (and mostly still haven’t) if Jewishness was a narodowość “национальность” or wyznanie (religion) and so they were sort of both and neither at the same time…

              “Country and outskirts”

              Is that related to the ‘in’ or ‘on’ distinction?


              1. It’s a false cognate, like many things between the two languages. “Kraina” is country in Ukrainian. But “okraina” is outskirts in Russian.

                It’s like when my article came out in Ukrainian and it referred to me as “vidoma” meaning “well-known” in Ukrainian. N was surprised because in Russian the word means “easily led” and he knows I’m not that. 🙂

                Or like polish “uroda” means “ugly” in Russian.


              2. The reason why it’s U-kraina and not “kraina” is the same as when Spanish-speakers put “e” before “sp, st.” Espaguetis, Estocolmo. Two consonants together at the beginning of a word are avoided for melodic purposes.

                I love talking about this kind of stuff.


              3. ” “vidoma” meaning “well-known” in Ukrainian.” In Polish it means ‘sighted’ (as in ‘not blind’ which would be niewidoma)

                Kraina is more like ‘land’ in Polish (country is kraj) the title of Frozen is “Kraina lodu” the land of ice…

                I would have assumed that the U in Ukraina was a frozen preposition and didn’t realize it was euphonic

                Mostly it’s still “Na Ukrainie” in Polish but then it’s also “On Hungary” so it doesn’t have the same kind of connotation…

                Weird Slavic cognates are lots of fun – Polish and Czech have some great ones where they start with the same root and end up in very different places.

                Liked by 1 person

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