System renewal. Challenging established notions. Reimagining our societies.

Let the idea of collaboration between nation states flourish again

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This article was first published in Het Financeele Dagblad. Original version (Dutch) can be found here

Author: Joe Zammit-Lucia

As we prepare for the upcoming European elections and the future of Europe, I have recently found myself pondering this question: with the waning of religion, ethnicity, geography, and common cultural norms as uniting forces in society, what is there that will hold us together?

The more I think about this question, the more I come to a single conclusion: what can hold us together is the cultural cohesion of the nation state.

Recent national elections across Europe, not least the latest election in the Netherlands, have shown the increasing appeal of the politics of national identity. Many have come to see such ‘nationalism’ as a retrograde step. But is it? Or is the nation state the last bulwark left against severe breakdown of our social fabric?

It is worth remembering that the nation state is not simply made up of a set of borders on a map. Nations are collections of a people with a significant degree of cultural cohesion, a shared narrative as to who they are, where they came from culturally, and why they belong together in mutual solidarity.

Colonialism ignored these principles when technocrats put together nations that did not fit such criteria. Many have since been riven by wars and fallen apart.

Intellectual laziness

In the post-colonial era, the threat to the nation state came from elsewhere – the rise of the politics of globalism. As economies became increasingly trans-national, the power of the nation state waned. ‘Global governance’ was the fashion. A liberal, cosmopolitan political elite looked beyond their own borders and imagined a harmonious, integrated world of multicultural societies. For the globalist tribe, nationalism became a dirty word.

Yet, what globalists ignored is that undermining the nation state risks tearing apart the social cohesion on which any democracy depends for its survival. Multiculturalism risks leading many to feel that that they have been robbed of their emotional home. In such circumstances, a backlash is inevitable.

Globalisation has also fractured the concept of the political economy. While political legitimacy remains largely national or sub-national, economies are increasingly global. The rise of multi-national corporations, large scale tax arbitrage, the globalisation of financial markets, social media and data flows that know no borders, all these developments have further undermined the power of the nation state. Economics has become dissociated from political legitimacy – and it is doubtful whether democracies can long survive such a fracture.

The nationalist backlash needs to be evaluated in this context. It is easy, unjustifiably condescending, and intellectually lazy simply to dismiss such forces as ‘populist’. They are a response to real political, cultural, economic and social changes – many of them a direct result of increasing globalism.

The United Kingdom

The danger is that our societies become tribalized – the globalists vs the nationalists. Maybe it is not surprising that these tensions have first come to a head in the longest established European nation and longest established parliamentary democracy – the UK – in the context of the Brexit debate. It would be complacent to assume that any other country is immune from succumbing to the same battle – even if in a different form.

What we need is to re-discover the concept of internationalism (or inter-nationalism) the nurturing of willingly given cooperation between culturally and socially cohesive nation states – rather than the more recent concept of a globalism shorn of any shared values and against which we see a widespread backlash.

For many years, many of us felt that individual economic prosperity driven by globalism and consequent economic integration should trump the cultural cohesion inherent in the nation state. How wrong we were.

An excessive focus on economics at the expense of cultural and social cohesion risks transforming communities and societies into an incoherent gaggle of self-centred individuals only out for themselves. The result will not be the cohesive society with a sense of shared solidarity that is the bedrock of any democracy and welfare state. Rather it will be a Hobbesian world of all against all.

To understand the importance of shared culture as opposed to economics, we only need to contrast the outpouring of solidarity after the tragic fire at Notre Dame, with the events during the Eurozone economic crisis where European countries were at each others’ throats. Where divisions were laid bare for all to see and where Europe was stressed to near breaking point.

Culture unites. Economics divides.

Integration

As we head towards developing a narrative for the European elections, we should ask whether the European Union can survive if ‘ever closer union’ can only be achieved at the expense of the nation state. We cannot afford to continue to put the two in opposition to one another.

Pushing integration too fast will emasculate the cultural and social cohesion provided by nation states well before European culture and solidarity are strong enough to have any hope of filling that void.

The result is likely to be further social breakdown and further strengthening of nationalist political forces. Moving forward in these integrationist directions should be evaluated in multi-generational timeframes not electoral cycle ones.

Comments

  1. Stephen Gwynne says

    A European backdrop of people seriously engaging with the idea of nationalism as something positive is just what we needed.

    Thanks for sharing.

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(We will process your data in accordance with our <span class="pp"><a href="https://radixuk.org/privacy-policy/">Privacy Policy</a></span>. You may withdraw this consent at any time by &lt;a href=&quot;"mailto:[email protected]"&quot;&gt;emailing us&lt;/a&gt; or clicking “unsubscribe” at the bottom of our emails).' id='choice_2_4_1' tabindex='75' /> <label for='choice_2_4_1' id='label_2_4_1'>Please keep me updated on new website content and Radix news. (We will process your data in accordance with our <span class="pp"><a href="https://radixuk.org/privacy-policy/">Privacy Policy</a></span>. 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[gravityform id=5 title=false description=false ajax=true tabindex=64]
<div class='gf_browser_unknown gform_wrapper' id='gform_wrapper_5' ><div id='gf_5' class='gform_anchor' tabindex='-1'></div><form method='post' enctype='multipart/form-data' target='gform_ajax_frame_5' id='gform_5' action='/press/let-the-idea-of-collaboration-between-nation-states-flourish-again/#gf_5'> <div class='gform_body'><ul id='gform_fields_5' class='gform_fields top_label form_sublabel_below description_below'><li id='field_5_5' class='gfield gravity_head gfield_html gfield_html_formatted gfield_no_follows_desc field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible' ><h3>Get emails</h3></li><li id='field_5_1' class='gfield gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_hidden_label field_description_below hidden_label gfield_visibility_visible' ><label class='gfield_label gfield_label_before_complex' >Name<span class='gfield_required'>*</span></label><div class='ginput_complex ginput_container no_prefix has_first_name no_middle_name has_last_name no_suffix gf_name_has_2 ginput_container_name' id='input_5_1'> <span id='input_5_1_3_container' class='name_first' > <input type='text' name='input_1.3' id='input_5_1_3' value='' aria-label='First name' tabindex='65' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false" placeholder='First Name*'/> <label for='input_5_1_3' class='hidden_sub_label screen-reader-text'>First</label> </span> <span id='input_5_1_6_container' class='name_last' > <input type='text' name='input_1.6' id='input_5_1_6' value='' aria-label='Last name' tabindex='67' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false" placeholder='Last Name*'/> <label for='input_5_1_6' class='hidden_sub_label screen-reader-text'>Last</label> </span> </div></li><li id='field_5_2' class='gfield gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below hidden_label gfield_visibility_visible' ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_5_2' >Email<span class='gfield_required'>*</span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_email'> <input name='input_2' id='input_5_2' type='email' value='' class='large' tabindex='69' placeholder='Email*' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false" /> </div></li><li id='field_5_4' class='gfield gf-conf-check gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below hidden_label gfield_visibility_visible' ><label class='gfield_label' >Confirmation<span class='gfield_required'>*</span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_checkbox'><ul class='gfield_checkbox' id='input_5_4'><li class='gchoice_5_4_1'> <input name='input_4.1' type='checkbox' value='Consent' id='choice_5_4_1' tabindex='70' /> <label for='choice_5_4_1' id='label_5_4_1'>Please keep me updated on new website content and Radix news. 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<div class='gf_browser_unknown gform_wrapper' id='gform_wrapper_6' ><div id='gf_6' class='gform_anchor' tabindex='-1'></div><form method='post' enctype='multipart/form-data' target='gform_ajax_frame_6' id='gform_6' action='/press/let-the-idea-of-collaboration-between-nation-states-flourish-again/#gf_6'> <div class='gform_body'><ul id='gform_fields_6' class='gform_fields top_label form_sublabel_below description_below'><li id='field_6_5' class='gfield gravity_head gfield_html gfield_html_formatted gfield_no_follows_desc field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible' ><h3>Before you go!</h3> <p>Stay up to date with what's happening at Radix. 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