Mohammed Bamyeh’s “Postnationalism” begins by defining nationalism, postnationalism, and transnationalism. He asserts that the difference between nationalism and postnationalism is that nationalism must be viewed as either good or evil whereas postnationalism can be amoral, and nationalism was based in Europe whereas postnationalism cannot be based in any particular area of the world. On the other hand, the purpose of transnationalism is to support national sovereignty. It continues to identify groups of people mostly by their nationality, whereas postnationalism does not have the necessity to be the same as the ideology of the state. Postnationalism also does not seek to give identity but rather to encompass identity. Bamyeh then describes how nationalism was born and how it inadvertently caused both World Wars. However, after World War II, postnationalism began to take root, mostly in Europe, through the ideas of the interdependence of nations, the dilution of sovereignty, and the withdrawal of an imposed national culture following the relaxation of the imposed idea of a strong nation state. However, following the Cold War, Bamyeh concludes that the United States developed a new kind of imperialism which is used to justify its global magnitude. He also believes that imperial or overdeveloped states will not be able to deal with the adverse affects of globalization, whereas postnational states are more equipped to do so. Bamyeh’s point is that postnationalism accepts fragmented perspectives, and its culture is not the same as state ideology but emphasizes expansive action in the world. His main thesis is that political, cultural, and economic practices and beliefs are currently no longer totally linked. Therefore, Bamyeh believes that the goal of the nations should be to create political structures that facilitate the further development of a postnational culture. He defines postnational culture as the means through which people are connected above and beyond the nation. These means include spiritual solidarities, material solidarities, humanist solidarities, and life-emancipatory solidarities.
I thought it was very interesting that Bamyeh blamed World War II and other violent events on nationalism. That was a cause and effect that never really occurred to me, but it does make sense. Since nationalism promotes the banding together of the people of a country through the idea that their country is awesome, it should naturally follow that the people would then view their country as superior to others. If they believe that, then a war based on this concept does seem to be the rational outcome. Although other political events instigated the conflicts, Bamyeh’s point that those turned into wars because of nationalism seems to be valid.
One issue with this article is that I disagree with a couple of Bamyeh’s “irrational features” of what he calls new imperialism. First, although a global society is continuing to develop, that does not mean that the need for coercion in order to integrate peoples has disappeared. Thus, it is not irrational for new imperialism to still have an aspect of coercion, even if that is not the best policy. He then asserts that capitalism “no longer identifies itself with the welfare of any specific country,” which I think is a false claim (5). Although I agree that new imperialism continues to encourage a common national interest, I think that capitalism has not yet disentangled itself from the self-interests of nations. The economy may be more global, but that does not mean that any country would sacrifice advantages for itself in order to benefit the whole, which is greatly propagated by capitalism. I still think that Bamyeh believes the world to be more advanced than it really is. I have hope, for example, that globalization will win out over imperialism, but I still think that the transition will be more difficult and is not as far along as Bamyeh expects.