Borders and Warders

“The simple solution to our problems is to just not buy anything made in China,” asserted the very earnest union man in our discussion group. The goal, he announced, was to force big box retailers to buy only American made products and thereby save our jobs.

This was a so-called “lefty” group. I saw the flags unfurl in blinkered eyes, and I cringed.

Maps have national boundary lines. The planet does not. At the intersections of “nations”, except for the cultural and governmental signposts of language, custom, currency and clothes, one cannot really tell one country’s citizens from another. People mix — their genes slopping around a global pool of more or less related folks. Thanks to evolution’s Cuisinart, we are all highly blended bipedal mutts: there are no flags in DNA; the genome knows no borders.1

Nationals and Transnationals

What is this thing with nationhood? In every aspect of American popular culture the fetishes of Old Glory, the pledge, the singing of the anthem are driven home and driven home and driven home again. Everywhere, one hears the catch-phrases of patriotism: we have the world’s best this and the world’s best that, from health care to democracy. When things are bad, it’s always better here than over there.

Such is the catechism promulgated for commoners. When you scan the economic spectrum from country to country, the national lines blur and finally disappear as you ascend the ranks of power. In the alpine resort of Davos, Switzerland2 The economic and political elite regularly meet to kick back, to relax and to share good times among their own. They, like the multinational corporations that they own, owe allegiance to no flags. They sing no anthems. They have the best of everything money can buy, and they jet to wherever in the world they want to get it. They are, on average, healthier. They eat better, live better and more comfortably than than the rest of us.3 They are Black and White, mostly Male and occasionally Female, European, Asian, North and South American , Jewish and Christian and Hindu and Muslim, and they are all of them very rich, very powerful and very determined to stay that way. They all think, if they think about it at all, that it is in our interest, too, that they remain as powerful as they are.

This is not a cabal of conspirators, per se, but a globalized aristocracy. Their natural class interests make them act and think like the transnational citizens they are. Although they share all the usual human foibles of petty jealousies and greed, they will often overcome their competitive vices in the service of common selfish interests. It is a natural collusion because they all want the same thing: ownership and control of everything.4 Consequently, they often think alike, they act alike, and they help one another out, so far as they can without undercutting themselves in the process. Theirs is just like a tight little virtual neighborhood of plutocrats. Their international gated community is truly the “best”. Our big national community clearly is not.

How did it happen, that there would be just a few über-wealthy Citizens of the World and the rest of us common citizens relegated to so many divided “nations”? Why do we need passports and visas and currency exchanges, and they need none? How did they become the Internationals Without Borders and we the walled in Prisoners of Patriotism?

National Liberation Movements and their Corruption

In Europe, the royal houses of 18th and 19th Century France, Spain, Austria, Prussia, Great Britain and Russia were all “family”, an inter-married clique of “internationals” who viewed “their domains” as incidentally containing the taxed-and-laboring populations of servants and serfs. Their lands’ inhabitants — totally oblivious of any “national” identity — were traded back and forth like so much chattel, exchanged as dowry, gifts, bribes and spoils of war.

Consciousness dawned slowly on the European masses. It began with movable type and printing. The Enlightenment was spurred by microscopes, telescopes, calculus, Spinoza, Darwin and steam. They led inexorably to startling conclusions that the earth was not the center of the universe nor was “Heaven” ten feet above our heads, that the church held no patent on the truth and that those few blue-bloods who stood on top of the heap of humanity were no worthier of their eminence than those at the bottom. In earlier centuries there had been “uprisings” and “rebellions” against feudalism, but never a determined political revolt against the fundamentals of the ruling system.5 Now, having tasted of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, there would be the only revolution that matters, a revolution of the mind.

Nationalism was initially an instrument of revolution against the international character of feudalism. Although there were earlier “national” movements in Europe, the modern nationalist trend began, more or less, with the American Revolution. This was, however, primarily a movement of America’s mercantile and property owning classes declaring their independence from English commercial monopolies. The American Revolution was not uniformly “revolutionary” (it served more to solidify than abolish the institution of slavery, for example). Many of the brighter lights of the new nation — like constraints on the development of a standing army, the inalienable right to abolish an abusive government and institute a new one, the power of impeachment, the right of public dissent, and the Congress’s exclusive power to declare war — have, over time, all become severely degraded. The American Revolution did contribute, nevertheless, a valuable rhetoric of enlightened idealism that has beckoned humanity ever afterwards.

The French Revolution of 1789, on the other hand, was a truly radical event. It began with the violent storming of the Bastille in Paris and led, ultimately, to a universal declaration of the rights of mankind, the secularization of society and the public beheading of the French king and queen. The royal houses and financiers who owned most of the world at that time could live with the American Revolution; they were appalled, however, by the French Revolution. They were doubly appalled when in 1791, the Black African slaves in the French colony of Haiti rose in rebellion, inspired by the French Revolution. Ultimately, Haiti’s slave rebellion led to the establishment in 1804 of only the second independent nation in the Western Hemisphere — and a Black, former slave nation, at that!

The romantic atheist poet, Percy Shelley6 wrote in the preface to his early 19th Century poem “Hellas”:

This is the age of the war of the oppressed against the oppressors, and every one of those ringleaders of the privileged gangs of murderers and swindlers, called Sovereigns, look to each other for aid against the common enemy, and suspend their mutual jealousies in the presence of a mightier fear. Of this holy alliance all the despots of the earth are virtual members. But a new race has arisen throughout Europe, nursed in the abhorrence of the opinions which are its chains, and she will continue to produce fresh generations to accomplish that destiny which tyrants foresee and dread.

The American and French Revolutions inspired more-or-less national liberation movements in Mexico (1810-1821), South America (1810-1825), Italy (1859-1860), India (1857), Hungary (1848-1849), and Greece (1821-1829); and, in the 20th Century, Ireland (1916, 1919-1921), Russia (1917), Indonesia (1945-1950), Vietnam (1946-1975), China (1927-1950), Algeria (1954-1962), Zimbabwe (1970-1978), Eritrea (1961-1993), and Palestine (in progress), among others. Unfortunately, the notion of the universal rights of mankind originally espoused by the French Revolution was lost as one revolution after another degenerated into either the establishment of a new “one-of-our-own” king or aristocracy, or a “nation” based on race, ethnicity, culture or religion. Some began to sense that although nationalism as a doctrine had ‘market appeal’, it really did not mean very much in itself.

In the face of disappointment with the superficiality of “nationalism”, there was a moment in time, bracketing the turn of the 19th and 20th Centuries, when working classes, in addition to the elite upper classes, began to think internationally. Barely a hundred years ago, the proponents of socialism, communism, syndicalism, the Industrial Workers of the World and anarchism were tentatively reaching out to like-minded colleagues around the earth. But these movements, too, either proved to be too naive, too impractical, too race-conscious, too doctrinally unfocused, too parochial, or too feeble to resist the temptations of incremental personal betterment. Tempted with a few pennies higher wage over here, working men abandoned coworkers over there. Those who had small emoluments of employment betrayed friends who also wanted to have them. Sentiment for change proved to be broad, but shallow, vociferous but not deeply understood, and, in the end, susceptible to manipulation and perversion.

Finally, in the face of the “patriotic” onslaughts of the First and Second World Wars, the internationalist movements almost completely dissolved.7

Post War Nationalism

The bounty of the 20th Century’s age of petroleum began to be harvested in the post War years of the 1950s. Thanks to profits unleashed by energy extracted from cheap, plentiful fossil fuels, there were economic crumbs sufficient for even the Lilliput8 majority in the United States. An America fattened on the profits of arming a whole world at war could afford the economic Fordism that facilitated the brief efflorescence of America’s White Middle Class. The impetus toward socialism and anarchism ebbed. American unions’ vision narrowed and became downright provincial, and their membership numbers began their downward slide.

In Europe and Asia, by contrast, the cumulative effects of the First and Second World Wars had destroyed all industry, all commerce, all infrastructure, all agriculture; their economies were dead, their currencies worthless. People were left homeless, unemployed and hungry. Like in the 18th Century, hunger, unemployment and homelessness can provide the sparks of revolution. At the end of the Second World War, the old elite’s power had utterly collapsed in France, Italy, Greece, Germany, China and Japan, and England, too, was tottering. In each, an exhausted people was literally on the brink of electing Communist governments because the old capitalist regimes had been utterly discredited. Contrasted with the likes of Vichy collaborators, Communists could honestly boast that they steadfastly resisted fascist occupation in France, Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia and China. Only through massive US economic intervention, and US subversion of Europe’s and Japan’s elections was the “threat” of communism mostly averted.9

Unlike Europe and Asia, the US infrastructure of the second half of the 20th Century was practically untouched by the wars. Except for the United States,10 The world’s armorer, financier and the only Victor of 1918 and 1945 — life on earth in the early post World War II period was primitive. People outside the United States wanted fundamental changes. Decades of brutal war had scarred peoples’ psyches. Other than in the United States, myths of national or racial superiority had been obliterated, like their battle flags and their cities. After the wars, people might root for their national football teams, or denigrate their neighbors customs, but in the wake of war’s death and destruction, no rational European, for example, believed anymore in his or her national “supremacy”. Thus, in Europe in particular, faced with a surly population that was living on the edge, the remnants of the ruling class had to strike a bargain for their own survival.

Inside the United States, no bargain needed to be made with a fat-and-happy middle class. In Europe, by comparison, the political and ownership class had no choice but to permit more participation in government for the common classes, more and better safety nets like socialized medicine, free higher education, guaranteed retirement pensions, public transportation, fair wages; shared business decision-making between workers and owners; subsidized or guaranteed housing, state supported retirement homes, stronger unions, and a flattened wealth distribution curve that would make America’s corporate moguls gasp. Thus did stridently unhappy European citizens get what America’s satiated and complacent citizens would not.11 The bargain worked: Europe did not “go communist” and power remained, though somewhat attenuated, in the hands of the same economic class as before the wars. Even the post-war programs of denazification in Germany and the disempowerment of the imperialists clique in Japan was sacrificed on the alter of preserving each as Cold War capitalist bulwarks against the so-called Red Menace.

Among the sacrifices made after 1945 was Europe’s abject failure to repatriate and do justice by the numerous Jewish refugees and concentration camp survivors created by Nazi Germany and its west and east European abettors.12 Instead of facing up to the sins born of its own nationalism, Europe’s political class (cooperating with Zionism, yet another flavor of “nationalism”) avoided responsibility for having created the problem by passing it… to Palestine. Having thus, in a sense, completed the Nazis’ antisemitic ethnic cleansing of Europe, the stage was set for decades more ethnic cleansing, this time of Levantine Arabs.

Humans transmit technology from age to age, but little wisdom. The failure of Europe and Asia to make clean political and economic breaks with their pasts led to another human trait: that subsequent generations quickly unlearn traumatic lessons learned by their predecessors. Old habits of the worst sort of nationalism crept back into vogue as the war-scarred generations died out. Worse, the heirs to the old feudal aristocracy — the elite community of industrial and commercial monopolists, financial finaglers, and merchants of debt – proved smarter than the old nobility that they supplanted. Rather than butt heads with democratic movements, they learned how to co-opt them and how to subvert them. Rather than fight national liberation movements, they learned how to multiply the fires, then how to set them against each other, and then how to fan them into self-consuming conflagrations. It was the old Roman and British Empires’ rule of divide and conquer, polished and updated for modern times.

On the geopolitical stage, the new, smarter elites used the ugly side of “nationalism” based on religion or ethnicity to dismember the model socialist state of Yugoslavia, encouraging spin-offs of “independent” Croatia, then Serbian, Bosnian, Kosovar, Macedonian and Montenegrin statelets. Likewise did the West dispatch the Soviet Union as a military and economic competitor through “nationalist” disassembly.13 So, too, was the fate of India at the end of the English colonial occupation when it fractured into Hindi and Muslim antipodes. Soon, American and Israeli machinations, with the assistance of their allied Arab satraps in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, will have partitioned Palestine into multiple tiny statelets of Gaza, the West Bank and a checkerboard of Bantulands. Before your very eyes, the US, in Somalia and in Sudanese Darfur, will foster the civil wars that it ostensibly decries. Then (in the name of peace, democracy and self-determination), the US will help carve out more oil-juicy mini-states which, if they will survive, will need massive multinational “loans” and technical “aid” … in exchange, perhaps, for a controlling share of the local petroleum reserves and a military base or two.

Such is also the planned-for fate of Iraq, once the most advanced, best educated and most secular Arab state. After its Occupiers will have intentionally fanned the flames of sectarian violence long enough and hot enough, the Sunni, Kurds and Shia may, indeed, find it impossible to coexist. Thus, with crocodile tears, will the US and not-so-Great Britain reluctantly and as a last resort to keep the peace, create a brace of impotent, dependent little statelets, the easier to rake off their profitable resources.

In Asia, the United States is dangerously abating the rise of Japanese nationalism qua militarism. Japan, with America’s blessing, is on the verge of amending its post-war pacifist constitution to allow the creation of much more than a defensive military capacity, and a nuclear one. Japan, too, is forgetting its past, as nationalists again rise to political power while anti-nuclear advocates for peace, like the late mayor of Nagasaki, are squashed.

American Nationalism in the 21st Century

And what of American nationalism? Truth be told, citizens within the United States are manipulated in exactly the same way as are citizens in foreign countries. The State, of course, does not “conquer” its own citizens, it merely keeps them docile and under control. So if foreign policy mandates that other peoples be divided and conquered, US domestic policy fosters not racial or ethnic integration, but separation and reciprocal suspicion. The high pitched “nationalist” reaction to the 9.11 event, for example, with its full racist suite of anxiety, fear and loathing, six years later continues to “justify” US policies that flatly dis-serve citizens’ interests.

A similarly whipped-up nationalism stirs the construction of America’s new anti-immigration walls, which, not coincidentally, serve to wall in parochial Americans as much as wall out the “strange”, the “threatening”, the “foreign” and the “nonwhite” cultures and peoples of the world.

American labor, too, is in thrall of State orchestrated nationalism. Obviously, US economic policy (at least in the present political system) will never, ever seek to “save our jobs”. The primary objective of “free trade” and globalization, after all, was to emancipate capital from national boundaries and to shop labor wherever it is cheapest. This is the legacy of NAFTA, CAFTA and the WTO, and they were brought to us courtesy of both Democratic and Republican administrations working hand in hand with the world’s ownership class. It must not be forgotten that whenever the Federal Reserve Bank, the Treasury or Wall Street talk about “inflation,” they mean one thing and only one thing: the cost of labor. Thus, “free trade” and globalization were specifically intended to keep inflation under control by keeping wages down in the US by forcing laboring people everywhere, once again, to be divided against themselves.

Therefore, when workers are egged on to national appeals to “buy American” or to not buy Chinese14 They should realize that the State’s goal is definitely not to “save good American jobs.” Heaven forfend, real job security inevitably leads to less “freedom” for capital and produces an uppity, demanding, politically engaged working class. Rather, the “buy American” campaign (like every one of the many “buy American” campaigns of the past) is nothing more than a domestic instrument of foreign policy directed against another economic power. If China will not enhance western multinationals’ profits by boosting the value of its currency; if China will not commit to continue buying US treasuries and thus support western militarism; if China will not continue to accumulate and hold hordes of rapidly depreciating US dollars when others are starting to eschew them, then the US will punish China’s business class. Thus were PR campaigns unleashed against “unhealthy” Chinese products and Chinese “slave labor” along with nationalist sloganeering to “save our jobs.” 15 The point is not whether China’s business practices have sometimes been reprehensible (they have been); the point, rather, is how the prominence of the issue is regulated to coincide with foreign policy objectives. Our emotional, “nationalist” buttons being thus pushed, the mass of people predictably will fall in line with the State’s foreign economic policy. It is also predictable, however, that once the policy goals have been achieved, then the nationalistic “save our jobs” campaign will instantly stop and the “globalization” of “our jobs” will pick up where it left off.

The No State Solution

We should be careful not to throw out the good with the bad when we criticize nationalism. There is a difference between the “government” and the “state”, the former providing ordered and civilized services that most of us need, the latter comprising the elite of anti-democratic aristocrats. We do not desire to return to tribalism and the stone ages, nor should one be deluded about the insensate “joys” of living a hardscrabble life in an isolated village inhabited only by your own blood relatives. We cannot be Luddites, for how could we have communicated without the technology of this age?

There are some within the world’s communities who use nationalism as a psychological defense against feelings of inferiority (sometimes imagined, and sometimes justified). There are some within the world’s communities to whom nationalism gives an identity, a sense of belonging, albeit a rather specious one. Nationalism once served its role as a rallying point in rebellion against colonialism. As a form of group insecurity counseling, nationalism has also served a minor role. But as a stand-alone and complete political theory, nationalism is utterly inadequate. Do we really want a polka-dot world of “states” segregated by race, ethnicity or religion. Does a “Jewish State” make any more sense than a “Catholic State”, a “Shia State”, a “Southern Baptist State”, a “Shinto State” or a “Lutheran State”, each comprised of citizens of just one stripe? Shall we boot out all non-Gallic people from France and all non-Etruscans from Italy in order to preserve a “French State” or an “Italian State”? Are we trying to categorize people by DNA and phenotype so that we can place them within their “proper” national boundaries? Should we have Blond Nations and Brunette, Short and Tall People’s Nations, Does greater Palestine call for a three state solution, a two state solution or a one state solution? The threshold question is to define what exactly is the problem that needs a solution. The next question is: why not a no state solution that would encompass the whole region?

Whatever its legacy, nationalism has devolved into a crude control device. The borders that allegedly protect us from illegal aliens and terrorists are the borders of our own prisons. They are borders of the mind as well as geography.

It need not be this way. The threads of our commoners’ connections can, and should, span the globe, just like the connections of the ownership class. If they collude, then so can we. If they would play off cheap labor against more expensive labor, then let us level the playing field by increasing wages and benefits world-wide, rather than by just trying to hang on to “our” well-paying jobs, the devil take the rest. Only if they live better will we have the right to insist that we live better, too. If they would collude to propagandize us with faux news, then let us collude to disseminate real news.

We simultaneously can be local and cosmopolitan, members of a neighborhood community and members of an international community of like-minded people. Although we share all the usual human foibles of petty jealousies and greed, we, like elite society, must overcome our competitive vices in the service of common self-interest. We should be as knowledgeable, as economically and politically savvy and as networked as the new aristocrats. And more so. For most of us right now, there are national borders. There are none for our warders. We need to rethink why we need nations.

  1. Richard Dawkins in The Ancestor’s Tale makes the convincing argument that not only are all living people related to one another, but so are all species. Life appears to be a continuum, and there are no bright lines between species or between ethnicities. As for humans, “race” appears to be mere illusion, for there is no genetic basis for race classification at all. []
  2. Davos was the model for Thomas Mann’s novel, Der Zauberberg (Magic Mountain) (1924). The novel takes place in an isolated alpine sanatorium set high in the clouds. It is a retreat for the rich and powerful who were treating for, and dying from tuberculosis. Tuberculosis, in Thomas Mann’s literary imagery, was the disease of social and political decay. How fitting, then, that Davos’s reality mimics art. []
  3. Wealthy people may not be “happier” or “unhappier” than poor people, but objectively speaking, they definitely enjoy more material benefits. It is pure propaganda for consumption by the masses that poor people should not envy the “unhappy” ownership class. []
  4. See generally C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite (1956). []
  5. The Peasant’s Revolt in Flanders, 1323-1328; The Jacquerie in what is now France, 1358; Wat Tyler’s and John Ball’s (English Peasant) Rebellion, 1381; The Peasants War in what is now Germany, 1524-1525; The Croatian and Slovenian Peasant Revolt, 1573; The Cudgel War (Finland), 1596, etc. []
  6. Shelly was the paramour and later the husband of Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein. Percy Shelley’s own “cause” was the Greek Revolt against Ottoman dominion. []
  7. Some people stayed true to the cause, such as Eugene Debs, arrested and imprisoned (his conviction affirmed by the US Supreme Court) under the Espionage Act of 1917 for publicly opposing World War I. Debs ran for president while in prison in 1920 and received 3.4% of the vote as a socialist. []
  8. Jonathan Swift’s socio-political satire, Gulliver’s Travels, is as fresh today as it was when first published in 1726. The inches-tall inhabitants of the neighboring islands of Lilliput and Blefuscu are always at war with each other over which end of a boiled egg to eat first. []
  9. Spain’s fledgling republic was crushed during its Civil War, 1936-1939, when the western democracies took official positions of neutrality while indirectly helping Franco’s fascist insurgency. Even though Franco was a tacit ally of Nazi Germany during WWII, the allied powers left him in power after the war where he remained a fascist (but anti-communist) dictator for decades. []
  10. The primary beneficiaries of the post-war economic boom were citizens of the United States of European ancestry. The Civil Rights Movement would not really take off for nearly another two decades. []
  11. In Michael Moore’s excellent movie, Sicko, he contends that the reason why Europeans got socialized medicine is because they care more for one another than American citizens do. I suspect that this is smart politics on Mr. Moore’s part because it caters to American mythology that we are “good people” who were brought up to look out for one another. The reality is probably that in any cross-section of people around the world, here, there or wherever, the percentage of good or bad, responsible or irresponsible people is about the same. Europe’s people do not “care for one another” more than Americans; they made a logical, calculated political decision to implement a rational health care system — which, in the process, made manifest their “caring” for one another. []
  12. See Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951) for a cogent analysis of antisemitism in Europe. []
  13. The US financially promoted “national liberation” movements in the Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Tibet and Taiwan — all, of course, in an effort to weaken the Peoples Republic of China and Russia (and its predecessor, the Soviet Union). However, the US absolutely will not support nationalist movements in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Haiti or Guam because they are American colonies. []
  14. . This is all reminiscent of the campaign years ago in the 1950s, 60s and 70s to bash “shoddy” Japanese imports. Only a few decades ago, the public was whipped to a frenzy over the fear of the Japanese “buying up” America with their accumulated business profits. []
  15. Chinese companies and business executives who sacrifice human health on the alter of profit deserve to be severely punished. It seems to be a pattern of all rapidly industrializing nations to step on people’s heads as they step on the capitalist accelerator. As demonstrated by Upton Sinclair in The Jungle (1906), the American food processing industry has experienced the same type of practices as in China. What is disheartening, however, is that a century after the passage of the Meat Inspection and Pure Food and Drug Acts of 1906, the US has slid back into practices practically as reprehensible as what occurs in China. Thus, the USDA’s inspection for Mad Cow Disease is practically meaningless, the food industry has embraced viral food sprays and irradiation of food (under the misnomer of “cold pasteurization“), Monsanto pushes genetically modified animals and seed crops into every food pantry in the world, soda manufacturers have pedaled potentially carcinogenic ingredients in their pop (like benzene and Nutrasweet), and the fast food industry desperately tries to remove indigestible trans fats from their recipes. As for slave labor in China, it is as abhorrent as slavery was in the US. Generally, big business does not care too much about slavery and tends to turn a blind eye to oppressive labor practices around the globe, so long as the price of that labor is cheap. Inside the US, slavery cases also abound. []
Zbignew Zingh is a writer whose articles are CopyLeft, free to distribute, copy, reprint or repost in full with proper author citation and with the "Copyleft" designation. Read other articles by Zbignew, or visit Zbignew's website.

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  1. Max Shields said on July 20th, 2007 at 6:01am #

    Also, why do you keep brining up South America and Canada. The largest exporter from their is Mexico. Isn’t that a “colony” of the US per NAFTA? As is Canada.

    Venezuela is the only renegade and the US was just complicit with a coup attempt. Look at our history in Latin America if you want to really see interventionism par excellence.

  2. David A. Smith said on July 20th, 2007 at 11:48am #

    Mr. Zingh – thank you for the thoughtful piece. I enjoyed your interpretation of history and generally agree with the thrust of your argument. I find a little fuzziness in your depiction of some of the key ideas you are exploring. Without ever really coming out and saying it, you seem to understand “nationalism” as ideational, and I would agree with you in that assessment. The way in which the ideational works with reference to the state, the people, to the movement of history is never made really clear. You just seem to deploy the argument when and where you need it to move your narrative along. This leads to some rather odd juxtapositions; pairing nationalism with religion is probably reasonable, but pairing it with genetics strikes me as odd and probably misleading (after all, people don’t “believe” in, e.g., being brunette, like they believe in a nation). Of course, I recognize that this may result from the limitations of space in a short article.

    I am less sanguine about your use of “government” and of “state.” And this second one is ultimately important to your proscription for action in the closing of your essay. Indeed, your definition of each in the first paragraph of the last section could be considered to be reversed (though, this is not precisely the case). There is a substantial literature and long history within (western) political theory which views the state as, in the words of Adorno, an apparatus. The state is the institution, a collection of organizational structures, assets owned, established procedures. You are correct in believing that the modern world “elite” own the state, but they are not the state. It is possible for one group to wrest control of the state from another. This is the case in a “revolution” but more often is simply one group of elites replacing another. I think this opens up strong possibilities for your over all argument as the contemporary modern global elite becomes more homogeneous and gains control of more and more “states.” This would, however, work against your desire for a “no state” solution unless you can figure out a way to disassemble the various state apparatuses.

    The issue with “government” is less critical, but important from an academic perspective – government is typically used in two ways, one to describe the form of the policy creation portion of the state (e.g. Democracy, Monarchy, etc.), the other to refer to the specific administration currently at the head of the state, especially in parliamentary forms of government. The common use of “government” to refer to the “state” is a reflection of the modern era notion of the “nation-state” where the ideal was that the “nation” controlled the apparatus of state. An ideal that we all know was never really achieved.

    One other aside, your pejorative tossing aside of tribal and “stone age” options for the organization of society suggests a rather uncritical acceptance of the modern western political theory belief in the superiority in civilization (which not surprisingly is coextensive with the rise of the state).

  3. ca said on July 21st, 2007 at 3:24pm #

    Read “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” by John Perkins. Enlightening but not astonishing. Corruption is everywhere – hope is not.

    Enjoyed your piece as well as the one referencing it at: