I've argued in the past that de-tribalization is a necessary per-requisite for the adoption and sustenance of nationalism. Tribal societies do not -- on their own -- become "nations" (though some American Indian tribes are called "nations" in both law and custom. The one I'm most familiar with is the Cherokee Nation, but that's another story for another time.)
My premise for this series is that what are known as nation-states today are a concept and construct of Imperialism, dating back at least to Rome, and probably to well before the advent of the Roman Empire. The purpose was to establish local/regional loyalty to the distant Palace or to the Crown. The Nations might begin as Imperial Provinces, but over time the Provinces assume quasi-autonomous status and eventually, if they aren't absorbed by another Empire, they become independent of the Imperial thrall, nation-states, yet they still may be loyal to the ideals of the former ruling power.
As the Western Roman Empire disintegrated, the ruling concepts were maintained in the East, and periodic revivals of the Roman Imperial idea would occur in the West. While the disintegration of Roman rule in the West opened Europe to invasion and conquest by tribalists who had been kept outside the gates, as it were, by Roman Legions, and thus opened Europe to de-nationalization, re-tribalization in many respects, the Roman idea was never actually lost. Many of the elites of the conquering hordes from the East had already been Romanized before the fall of the Imperial state, and most of the conquered peoples were as thoroughly Romanized as any in the Empire. The Church, too, preserved, protected and defended the Roman ideals of governance, pomp and state.
Consequently, while re-tribalization did occur subsequent to the end of Roman rule in Western Europe, there was also a counter influence tending toward de-tribalization and nationalism -- a counter influence that eventually triumphed with the establishment of nation-states more or less derived from and patterned on Roman prototypes. Of course the hundreds of years that this process took meant that very little of the nationalism that emerged in Europe after the reintroduction of the nationalist concept (beginning, I would say, in the 16th century, but accelerating in the 18th and reaching a climax in the 19th century with the unification of Germany and Italy) looked like "Rome." And yet, without the influence of the Roman Empire, nationalism might not have taken root in Europe at all. For Europeans, it seems to me, are at root as naturally tribal a people as any on Earth.
But being de-tribalized, they could be and were subject to nationalism, which is a form of enforced loyalty to a nation-state rather than to a tribe, nationalism which under certain conditions can become an impetus toward Empire. Which was certainly the case in Europe from the 16th Century to the 20th until the whole enterprise exploded in World War II.
It was the End of Empire(s), something that is still assumed to be under way today, but I suggest that we're seeing essentially the opposite today, a reversion to Empire, but it is perhaps taking place under such an unfamiliar guise that it goes unnoticed or is not seen for what it is.
The key to re-Imperialization has been the numerous trade agreements that basically subvert and in many cases eliminate the concept of national sovereignty except to the extent the nation-state is loyal to a distant legal framework -- in effect, loyalty to a Palace and Crown, only now we're not dealing with crowned heads and their governments, we're dealing with corporate heads and their boardrooms. Much of the initial thrust during former Imperial periods was, of course, a product of the same institutions: corporations and their boardrooms, supported and defended by the Palace and Crown. The nation-states that emerged from post-imperialism remain in place, not as independent and sovereign entities but as dependencies of the sovereign corporations which assume the positions of the Imperial Palaces and Crowns of yore. The nation-states are not simply dependencies, they are factories of loyalty to their corporate overlords as well, much as was the case during previous periods of Imperial ascendency.
We're not quite there yet, but that's the trend I see emerging, and just as former Empires were imposed on both willing as well as unwilling subjects, I see a remarkable and somewhat unseemly tendency among some of those who should know better to pledge their loyalty and encourage the loyalty of others to the emerging corporate empire(s). It is as if reversion and devolution has taken hold of their minds.
Of course, I realize that a big part of my view of these trends -- and my revulsion -- is due to my age and the fact that I was socialized during the Post War de-imperialization period. To see a younger generation adopting a re-imperialization framework, and to see it happen through corporate entities which control governments, and to see it passed off as a Good Thing, is disheartening at best.
A counter movement is under way, in opposition to this trend toward corporate imperialism, but at this point it seems incredibly weak and powerless. The anti-globalist movement is certainly large, but because its foundations are for the most part based in the "non-violence" teachings of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, it seems to be getting nowhere. Of course King and Gandhi didn't seem to be getting anywhere for a long time, either, so I don't put too much emphasis on the ultimate weakness or powerlessness of the anti-globalist movement. We can't say yet whether "people power" will be unable to thwart this new imperialism.
On the other hand, we might ask what are the positive goals of the anti-globalists; do they ultimately want to revert to a status quo ante, a return to nation-state sovereignty as it was conceived post World War II, or do they envision something else? If something else, what?
That's where I'd like to carry this consideration next time.
To be continued...