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Tuesday 3 January 2012

Some Thoughts On Nationalism

Some Thoughts On Nationalism
January 2nd, 2012
My buddy Jack called me and we got into a discussion on the nature of Nationalism and Liberalism. He called himself a classical liberal, i.e. he is making some money, and he declared nationalism to be neutral.

I then argued with him over the nature of nationalism, that it was born in the 18th century out of French and German theory and the French Revolution, and to a lesser extent the American Revolution. A bastard child of the Enlightenment, itself a mutant descendant of the Reformation, Nationalism is certainly not neutral, being a root cause of most of the wars in the 20th century. Nationalism can be progressive as a form of liberation from the old rule of the aristocracy-church-kings in Europe, but in the modern era, hyper nationalism is only useful in separating the mass of humanity from their real interests. In a world of interconnected realities the only purpose of nationality is if it aids in resisting corporate globalism. But with international law trumping national law, there is little purpose for nationalism unless it is in creating islands of resistance to corporate rule.

There are forms of tribal identity that might be called proto-nationalism, speaking a common tongue, having a common culture, the things that anthropologists consider when they look at what makes a people, these are what might be called natural nationalism, to the extent that any particular identity is permanent. Anthropology teaches us that humanity is infinitely flexible. The question comes, do we as the over culture have the right to destroy sub-cultures, languages, etc., simply because we are dominant? Nationalism could be seen as a resistance to dominance, but in the 18th century it was the dominance of the Kings, churches and aristocracy of warriors. Now it is the dominance of the multinational corporate mega state.

International solidarity, based on the concept of a universal working class uniting to oppose the ruling classes, is one construct, but it does not seem to be as emotionally compelling as the feelings of loyalty to hearth and home. World War One seems to have proved that point when the international socialist movement fell apart and separated into nationalist parts. When the shit hits the fan, the fans go back to the tribe and the family. Perhaps the Romans were not all that far off building loyalties out of family connections and adoptions.

But there still is a human solidarity that although not proscribed by the concept of working class, but does mean the interests of the vast majority, the 99% who do not control the wealth of the world, against the new aristocracy or perhaps oligarchy of the class of the few who have, and the many who have degrees of less. This is the solidarity of we want. But there must be more, there must be a - we dream, we desire, we love, something that was more evident in the spirit of the sixties. We are more than our demands, we are a growing sense of the human family as one, not as a series of warring tribes. If the 1% must be sacrificed for this unity to come, then let the scapegoating begin. If they will simply give up, dissolve, then we must be capable of filling the void with other than the multinational corporations; after all it is the product of the end of history, capitalism triumphant. The only future is to step into democratic socialism, we working together.

The German philosopher Herder with his emphasis on the Volk, is to a great extent the father of modern nationalism in the sense of the culture of the people and developing the modern intellectual underpinnings of nationalism.

But there could be an argument that the reformation is the root of nationalism. Although much of the thinking that emerged as nationalism started in French society conversations in the salons of Paris, what is less well known is what the thinking was among the intellectual poor of the time.

Byron and the romantics presented nationalism as the next step in human liberation from the old empires.

This is an excerpt from article on Herder.

"Along with Wilhelm von Humboldt, Herder was one of the first to argue that language determines thought, a theme that two centuries later would be central to the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis. Herder's focus upon language and cultural traditions as the ties that create a "nation"[1] extended to include folklore, dance, music and art, and inspired Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in their collection of German folk tales.

Herder attached exceptional importance to the concept of nationality and of patriotism – "he that has lost his patriotic spirit has lost himself and the whole worlds about himself", whilst teaching that "in a certain sense every human perfection is national". Herder carried folk theory to an extreme by maintaining that "there is only one class in the state, the Volk, (not the rabble), and the king belongs to this class as well as the peasant". Explanation that the Volk was not the rabble was a novel conception in this era, and with Herder can be seen the emergence of "the people" as the basis for the emergence of a classless but hierarchical national body.

The nation, however, was individual and separate, distinguished, to Herder, by climate, education, foreign intercourse, tradition and heredity. Providence he praised for having "wonderfully separated nationalities not only by woods and mountains, seas and deserts, rivers and climates, but more particularly by languages, inclinations and characters". Herder praised the tribal outlook writing that "the savage who loves himself, his wife and child with quiet joy and glows with limited activity of his tribe as for his own life is in my opinion a more real being than that cultivated shadow who is enraptured with the shadow of the whole species", isolated since "each nationality contains its centre of happiness within itself, as a bullet the centre of gravity". With no need for comparison since "every nation bears in itself the standard of its perfection, totally independent of all comparison with that of others" for "do not nationalities differ in everything, in poetry, in appearance, in tastes, in usages, customs and languages? Must not religion which partakes of these also differ among the nationalities?""

From article on Nationalism

"The term nationalism was coined by Johann Gottfried Herder (nationalismus) during the late 1770s. Precisely where and when nationalism emerged is difficult to determine, but its development is closely related to that of the modern state and the push for popular sovereignty that surfaced with the French Revolution and the American Revolution in the late 18th century and culminated with the ethnic/national revolutions of Europe, for instance the Greek War of Independence."

From an article on the legacy of the Reformation.

. "The fall-out of the religious intolerance was that the rulers of every state in central and Western Europe, whether they were Catholic or Protestant sought to base their political unity on the religious unity. Hence, they used their power to compel their subjects to adopt one official kind of Christianity. Since the time of Pope Leo X, who faced the Lutheran revolt, he and succeeding Popes banned Protestants and urged secular rulers to suppress heresy by force. On the other hand, Luther made an appeal to the secular rulers to use force against Catholics. Even Calvin, who was considered as an apostle of religious tolerance did not permit either Catholic or dissenting Protestants to reside in Geneva."
An excerpt below.
"Economic and Social Conditions in France during the Eighteenth Century
The peasants, from the beginning of the Middle Ages, were completely freed from servitude in most parts of France and came to own the land they cultivated, with the right to will it to heirs, or to sell or exchange it. This property, however, was burdened with dues imposed by the manorial system, made particularly irksome because of the latter's practices and abuses. And yet there is reason to believe that the continuation of the manorial system up to the Revolution helped toward the consolidation of peasant ownership. This seems to us all the more plausible if we reflect that in England, where the manorial system was considerably weakened toward the end of the Middle Ages, peasant ownership was ultimately eliminated almost altogether in favor of the landed aristocracy."

This is interesting and may be one of the factors in the earlier development of industry in England than in France. Labor was available in England, partly due to the enclosure movement which was the process by which the landed aristocracy were able to push peasants off the land. It is naturally more complicated than that. England was able to implement agricultural reforms that increased productivity that in theory was developed in France. This was largely the use of "four field crop rotation" adapted from the Dutch, enclosure, selective breeding and some mechanization were causes of the British Agricultural Revolution. This allowed for labor to be released to the cities where insipient industrialists were investing in early factories. By allowing the peasantry to retain land ownership, the French were suffering from inefficiencies, bread shortages, and ultimately revolution of a political nature. Whereas in England the people were channeled into the factories, but in France there were shortages of labor, as most people were still attached to the land. (My own theory, but I am getting off track).

The end result now is that movement to the next level of human interdependence, must be procured by an intellectual revolution in conceptualizing the way forward. Stumbling blindly or regurgitating old methodologies simply won't make it, we must build upon our Marxism's, and other relics of the Romantic revolution in imagining the individual man as a free agent. We must now reimagine him/her as an interdependent agent, sort of like being suspended in Jello.

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