26 July, 2021

No Escaping The Nation-state

A nation-state is a state legitimised by the people.

No Escaping The Nation-state

A nation-state is a state legitimised by the People. Or to put it another way, a state constituted by a People is a nation, as opposed to a state based upon a hierarchical principle such as divine right, dynastic power or apostolic succession. The often-invoked People are theoretically equal citizens but they are not necessarily franchised. 

Most states in the world today either are or pretend to be nation-states. The People are variously defined, either by a Romantic rhetoric of blood, race and history or by the more democratic ideas of equality and freedom. For some, like Hegel, the nation-state was the end or goal of history; for others like Mazzini, it was a stage in the creation of a more humane world.

For most of the 20th century, an assortment of politicians and theorists have tried to dream up alternatives to the nation-state. The stairwell of my university department is plastered with posters pasted up by the Student’s Islamic Movement. They bear slogans that most internationalists would support. These slogans denounce...

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