Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Future of the Nation State

I asked this question a while ago on alt.history.future. I actually think we've hit on the follow-on to the nation-state already. Surprisingly, it's been around a lot longer than people think. In fact, it's been around for a very long time and I'm wondering if the nation-state wasn't simply a bit of ancient tribalism that occasionally washes up out of the a great 'memetic' sea from time to time.

To me, it seems there are two kinds of states out there right now. There are those that are inclusive in nature and those that are not. That is to say that people that move to that country have a culture that accepts their differences, adapts to them, and adapts them to the greater idea and cultural space: this is an inclusive state. The second is one that fights to keep itself pure especially from outside influences. If you don't adopt the their ways, you're unfit, unclean, without culture, uncivilized, an infidel or heathen.

The two models ought to sound familiar. The modern example that comes to mind immediately has been the traditional 'melting pot' of the US. Equally so Canada has been a good - no, actually, excellent! - example as well. In fact, most of the New World nations have followed this to one extent or another. Traditionally, the Old World is seen as the opposite: Japan and China from the East; France and Germany from the West; Russia and Iran from the Middle; the assorted tribes in Africa such as the very unfortunate Hutu and Tutsi.

Yet, surprisingly, despite the image of this exclusivist state that France, Germany, etc have the European Union is embarking on becoming this inclusivist and melting pot themselves. When the border restrictions within the EU are completely knocked down - including for the new members - that melting will take place: in fact, when I was in Rome a while back, I met a interesting couple. It was merely in passing. He was an Irishman, and she was a Pole (a stunningly good looking, blonde Pole at that!). Both were living in Rome. To some extent this has happened before, but the rate which this will happen will climb a lot over the next few decades (assuming the EU is a successful experiment in a neustadtism). Increasingly, being Polish, Irish, or German will fade to being European....much like what happens to immigrants to the US. Regionalisms will remain: The South, New York, California, and New Mexico still have their cultural quirks/bugs/features despite having had a nontrivial amounts of immigration. While the New York of 2005 is not the New York of 1905, its still definitely New York, not Mexico City nor London.

Why did I say that this was actually an old model being revived? The reason being is that the oldest inclusivist state that I can think of is actually the old pagan Roman Empire. They'd conquer, coopt, and adopt, often including the religion. The Rome of 3rd century BC was not the same as the Rome of the 2nd century AD despite the fact that people like think that things were relatively static the older cultures are.

Right now the US is having a crisis of identity. Are we going to be an inclusivist or exclusivist nation? The Conservatives of the Religious Right and the Anti-Immigration Crowd are pushing very hard right now to be an exclusivist state: their vision of the US is very narrow. VERY narrow. Equally so some of the far left is pushing for the same thing: their vision is equally narrow. Traditionally, we've been more of an inclusivist nation though: the Irish came and made an impact. Ditto the Italians and others. We were emphatetically not a perfect inclusivist nation but a work in progress. If either the extremes have their way, it'll no longer be.

I have a very strong feeling that the future is that we must an inclusivist nation and culture. The exclusivist nations are withering and their cultures are dying in the face of those that are willing to adopt and adapt. I am definitely thinking that the Inclusivist State, no longer the traditional nation-state is going to be the future for the next hundred plus years.

A footnote though is that the Inclusivist States and Cultures cannot so embrace themselves that they do not have a place of mixing. You take the salad bowl analogy too far and you end up with a lot of separate bowls that never mix. The importance is in the mixing and including the new ingredients. Hence the melting pot, not salad bowl POV here.

Anyways, just a long rambling thought.

Time for all of you, if you're out there, to take your potshots.

No comments: