Thursday, December 3, 2009

Postnationalism and Postmodernism,

and the Idea of World Government

This week we were introduced (and reintroduced) to four terms: nationalism, postnationalism, internationalism, and transnationalism. I thought the discussions on nationalism and postnationalism in Mohammed Bamyeh's "Postnationalism" were particularly interesting and insightful.

Nationalism, as we have learned from Hobsbawm's Age of Empire, is the staunch support, primary importance, and (perhaps) irrational pride a polity gives and associates with their nation. Such fierce nationalism was a key cause of the First World War, as the great (nationalistic) nations of Europe were pushed into the war in-part because of their nationalistic tendencies. In Bamyeh's view, the solidarities (religion, education, etc.) in a nationalistic society are necessarily solely within the nation.

This is in contrast with postnationalism, where the solidarities exist at the supranational level. The consensus on the origin of postnationalism seems to be globalization. That is, the reach of capitalistic culture has eroded the borders that once so firmly separated nations and their nationalistic attitudes from one-another. Nations learned that they could benefit from (relatively) lucid trade between/amongst different countries, and that it doesn't hurt to learn a little about other nations and cultures (at least this was/is true in so-called learned circles).

However, I believe there is a step-sister to postnationalism: postmodernism. Postmodernism (the social philosophy) is a radical relativism and skepticism; it is also relevant to today's world. Postmodernism, like postnationalism, seems to have arisen out of the negative effects of nationalism. Postmodernism purports that globalization and its effects on the world are evil. That is, the negative effects on cultures worldwide (sweatshops, exploitation, immorality) have corrupted and destroyed many societies. Thus, postmodernism would like to see a curbing of the effects of globalization, and a return to the "better days" in which cultures were relatively independent of one-another. (Hence, postmodernism is often seen as an alternative and answer to globalization.)

But, in response to this, I think postnationalism would say that such a return to cultural independence and relativism would be a return to nationalism. Such nationalism would close borders and cut-off the exchange of ideas.
Concerning the idea of "world government", I think too many people have dismissed this idea too easily. Of course, the idea of 6 billion+ people popularly electing a single leader, or even a coalition of leaders, seems impossible. However, I think we need to consider the idea of a world confederacy. Such a confederacy would not necessarily have leaders who would be elected by constituencies consisting of billions of people. It would instead be a system of government where the sovereignty of individual nations would still be held in high regard; such postnational federalism would make it easy for nation-states to govern national matters, while an inter-/transnational government would govern/facilitate international matters such as trade and justice (although hopefully the latter would not be needed).

A question(s): will such sociological trends (post-, trans-, and inter-nationalism) lead to a world government?


  1. The idea of a global confederacy is an interesting one, and one that I have not heard thus far. Perhaps a less demanding government like this one is actually possible on the world stage. maybe not at this point in the global community, with certain factions that might be difficult to reconcile, like the west, east, middle east, and Africa, but perhaps at some point in the future we confederacy may be possible.

  2. I HIGHLY doubt that there will ever be a world government, no matter how much the world may seem to be "coming together". Every culture is so content in how they are running things and afraid to be in a defenseless position that i dnt think it would ever get that far. just my opinion