Thursday, December 3, 2009

Bamyeh Essay

In “Postnationalism” Mohammad Bamyeh tackles the concepts of postnationalism, nationalism, transnationalism, and how all these ideologies relate to the age of globalization. Consequently, the essay was written based on a question Bamyeh asked the author Benedict Anderson at Cornell University—what is the future of nationalism in a growing age of globalization? Anderson refused to answer the question, asserting that nationalism is the ideology with the most modern solidarity and there is no possible alternative. Consequently, the essay argues that although certain scholars claim that nationalism has provided for human values such as interests, universality, freedom, and deep meaning globalization is changing this process. Globalization is dividing up these interests. Additionally, the author clarifies the terms for the reader—demonstrating the differences between nationalism, postnationalism, and transnationalism. Bamyeh makes clear that there are two important differences between nationalism and postnationalism—nationalism concerns value and moral judgments while postnationalism does not. Furthermore, nationalism is singular in character, following the exact model of how it was done in Europe.

Continuing his analysis, he concludes the United States does not have a postnational culture, but a new form of imperialism. He identifies six major “irrational” features that distinguish this new imperialism from the old imperialism. They are: 1) the coercive capacity of the state has not diminished 2)the imperial state has maintained and expanded its commitment to a hierarchical vision 3)the imperial state continues to find a common national interest even as globalization fragments nations 4)the imperial state isolates the “vanquished” and renders large markets inaccessible to global capitalism 5) the imperial state has reduced its social responsibility and maintained its military strength and 6) the means of defining conflict have shifted from economic to cultural and people of the world are being portrayed differently.

This new imperialism is one of the concepts I find most interesting in this essay. Bamyeh describes the difference between European and American nationalism. The US has harbored “nationalism that does not recognize itself as such” whereas Europe has thrived and expanded using nationalist rhetoric and intention. After the Cold War, Bamyeh argues, America fell into the idea of filling a “power void” rather than focusing on interdependence—hence it created a new type of imperialism which cannot be congruent with globalization. In the past decades, scholars like Friedman and Huntington have focused on the conflicts between cultures—the conflicts between “the imperialists” and the others. These theories portray other cultures and civilizations as static, unchanging and not open to globalization. Overall, I thought the work was very interesting and logical. It got us to see past the stereotypical image of the United States and learn more about the changing world with globalization and “new imperialism”.


  1. I think it is interesting when Baymeh compared European Imperialism to the United States's version because i think before hand i always thought that the united states was better and more 'about' imperialism but now, after doing this reading. I am slightly confused. I am not sure because it seems like the European model works.

    Dorothy Smith

  2. Kate, I agree - I also thought that Bamyeh's idea of new imperialism was very interesting. The U.S. has often seemed to be much more self-righteous than Europe in the past in that we profess to always take the high road. However, Bamyeh is telling us that this new imperialism is really just at odds with globalization because we are still trying to keep ourselves somewhat separate. I wonder what the U.S. will have to do in the future to reconcile those ideas?