Monday, 7 October 2013
Sovereignty is identity, so to talk about the future prospects of the nation-state in a world of disintegrating boundaries is—at least in the West—really to talk about our destiny. Will our uniqueness as peoples endure, or are we, instead, condemned to dissolution, reduced to denatured abstractions to be subsumed into universalist proposition states? What prevents a frank discussion of the various issues relating to identity in the West—e.g., immigration, citizenship, nationality, etc.—is the belief that equality is the highest moral good, since in its anti-essentialist assumptions it is antagonistic to the privileging of one category of citizen (or aspiring citizen) over another on the basis of ethno-cultural origin. While the nation state is associated with 19th-century nationalisms and hæmato-geographical romanticism, its design provides, in fact, a template for the gradual erasure of regional variation in the service of an all-encompassing, undifferentiated, and centrally regulated identity, a procedure originally intended for national unity that can be replicated at both the national and supranational level in the creation of proposition states. As an ethics, egalitarianism is the single most powerful impediment in the articulation of the traditionalist conception of nationhood. Since the ability to invent unique cultures—and find meaning through them—is integral to what makes us human, we cannot unquestioningly accept egalitarianism as a humanist project. On the contrary, it seems that tradition and cultural differentiation is the true form of humanism. The nation-state may or may no longer be an optimal formation for purposes of sovereignty, but the issues that lead us to ask ourselves whether it will survive, or should, is the real issue, and one which egalitarian ethics presently excludes from public debate. Egalitarianism is long overdue for a moral critique.