The demise of the nation state


If users were citizens, Facebook would be the biggest “virtual” nation in the world today.

What does that tell us about the future of the nation state?

What if Facebook and similar “networks” had been invented and run by the likes of Hitler or Stalin?

A frightening thought, isn’t it?

A major problem of national governments in a globalized world is their lack of international trustworthiness. By definition, they are perceived to primarily pursue national interests and hence to be biased. And the distrust runs deep, which is probably why they are all spying on each other.

“Which is the best government? That which
teaches us to govern ourselves.”
(Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, writer and statesman)

Not only that, but we’ve also reached a point, when declaring human rights to be universal is being perceived as an intervention in national sovereignity by some. As oxymoronic as it may sound, imposing human rights and democracy wouldn’t be democratic.

Despite what many politicians seem to think, it is simply impossible to treat values like commodities and simply export them. Global trade and communication won’t lead to one global culture, although many would welcome one in terms of efficiency and from a business perspective. History is full of examples, when the attempt to export a certain way of life turned out to be counterproductive.

Furthermore, the world is less and less inclined to listen to – often Western – politicians claiming that their leadership is required to solve global problems, especially when these politicians don’t seem to be leading their own countries. What the West calls Universalism, others call Imperialism or – even worse – “Westoxification”. While Western culture is admittedly unique, it is far from being universal. Neither are others.

Do we really want one universal culture though?

Wouldn’t a peaceful and respectful cultural co-existence resulting in cross-pollination leader to better solutions to today’s pressing problems?

After all, these increasingly global problems simply ignore national borders.

We must also not forget that the West conquered large parts of the world through military force and not through the power of its ideas and ideals. The Western culture of individualism, political democracy and market economy is contradictory to many other cultures. And let’s not forget the Western double standards when it comes to democracy, nuclear weapons, human rights, free trade and so on.

Do in Rome as the Romans do only works for as long as all roads lead to Rome. Well, they don’t anymore and Rome is full of non-Romans nowadays.

I personally can’t think of one country that has the global moral authority to initiate the necessary change. Not one country that really leads by example rather than running around claiming to do so. That incidentally is preposterous and won’t enable a global spirit of co-operation sorely needed to solve the problems humanity has gotten itself into.

So, forget Pax Romana or Pax Americana.

“France has no friends, only interests.”
(Charles de Gaulle, general and statesman)

This is true for other nations as well, they just won’t admit it. Alliances are more often based upon shared interests rather than shared values.

And let’s be honest, there is no such thing as an international community yet either. Most international institutions were established in the 20th Century, but it was a different world back then. Unfortunately, these institutions as well as their member states have failed to adapt to the realities of the 21st Century.

It hasn’t always been this way, remember?

We only have one planet to live on – at least for the time being – and our challenges – pollution, climate change, sustainability, inequality, security, just to name a few – are global and can’t be solved nationally. A return to splendid isolation is no option. But neither is a global government, a monster bureaucracy that would put far too much power in the hands of a very few.

“We are made wise not by the recollection of our past,
but by our responsibility for our future.”
(George Bernard Shaw, playwright and co-founder LSE)

There is everywhere and we are all “the other guy”, whether we like it or not.

No culture, no civilization, no nation state knows best.

Pressure and force are the wrong tools to spread values.

In a multipolar world, we need a Pax Humanitas rather than a Pax Technologica or Algorithmica.

But is this realistic?

Can humans live in peace with each other?

Can we form a global, tolerant, multicultural society dedicated to a common good?

Who really owns a nation state, if not its people?

Is there a moral justification for the concept of a nation state?

Is it an absolute necessity?

The time has come to consider alternatives, to try something radically different. And by radically different, I don’t mean transnational corporations.

“We do not need more laws. No country suffers
from a shortage of laws. We need a new model.”
(Peter Drucker, management consultant and educator)

“The revolution is not an apple that falls when it’s ripe.”
(Che Guevara, revolutionary and physician)

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