Thursday, December 3, 2009

Postnationalism: Europe vs. America

Of the two readings this week, what I found most interesting was Bamyeh’s contrast of European and American attitudes towards postnationalism. While Europe gradually embraced the idea after WWII, America continues to resist and assert its own power.

Nationalism, Bamyeh says, only produced violence, isolation, and expense, and it “by far the most destructive ideology ever experienced by humanity.” Europeans learned this from the destruction of conflict and adjusted accordingly to achieve peace. But while Europeans took such steps as to ensure interdependence and reduce sovereignty, America believed the failure of peace after WWI was due to their own failure to establish hegemony at the end of WWI. While European nations practiced decolonization in favor of commonwealth systems, America developed “new imperialism.”

It is interesting to compare the patterns that Europe and America followed several decades apart. In Europe, transnational institutions such as the UN, NATO, and the Warsaw pact lessened the importance of sovereignty, paving the way to future postnationalism embodied in the European Union. At the end of the Cold War however, America stubbornly refused to relinquish its military power. Instead the US claimed that the fall of the Soviet Union created a “power void”, justifying their hegemonic behavior and backwards “irrational” new form of imperialism.

While Bamyeh made some very good arguments, he presented them in a very clearly biased way, blatantly favoring the European attitude over the American response to postnationalism. And while the European Union was an excellent example of how postnationalism has become very important in Europe, he failed to give supportive examples of his argument regarding the United States. Where, when, and over whom did America exert this new imperialism? He claimed that the still-nationalistic United States uses capitalism as an excuse to impose itself on weaker nations, but he does not name a single occurrence of this.

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