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The state of affairs at the end of the 19th century was the scrabble for empire.  The stability enjoyed by wealthy Englishmen who rang round the empire before WWI is overstated.  There were any number of imperial conflicts and skirmishes before and after the war between the European powers-think of the Great Game in the Middle East- and with the never-quite-tame locals- the Irish were a real problem.  The ease of those years was quite one-sided.  Were Indians contemplating the glories of world trade in 1915?  The radical critic Hannah Arendt following John Hobson trances nationalism, and more particularly totalitarianism, back to the megalomania of European capitalist expansionism.  She argues that capitalists at the end of the 19th century came to the limits of economic expansion within the borders of their own countries and turned to foreign markets for investments and resources.  To create the access they needed, and the stability for their investments they would need afterward, they turned to the military power of the state.  They preferred above all to run the accumulation of markets and resources without the "consciousness" of the home nation-state which would try to meter out justice where economic interests were to reign supreme.  In essence the capitalists and their sympathizers in government wanted to privatize the power monopoly of the nation-state.  They convinced the nation that their class interest was the interest of the all.  Jingoism and the patina of liberal goals for the conquered peoples (they were of course called "liberated") were necessary to cover the private and illegitimate nature of the imperial project.  How else can the brutality of invasion and occupation be legitimized to a nation whose own liberal laws prohibited such arbitrary and exploitative violence?  In any event the nationalism of jingoism and the noble cause of the White Man's Burden tends to awaken nationalism in the conquered people.

For Arendt the endless accumulation of wealth is followed logically and necessarily by the endless accumulation of power.  A society based on power accumulation, as opposed to say natural rights and human capacity, is one in which each member is degraded in a power accumulating-machine.  Nationalism results when identity with the in-group, and the leader, and the national cause, comes to fill the void of belonging created by rootlessness.  Power, which is survival, for the nation, in which the individual disappears, is all that there is in life.

If we accept Arendt's thesis the abandonment of the nation by the capitalist class for the highest profits to be found should result when imperial control gives way to organized and secure flow of capital across the world.  Contempt for the nation is evident when whole cities or whole regions of a given country are called natural failures in the winner take all world of Manchester Capitalism.  Parliament should not reflect the interests of the nation, which does not exist in Darwinian struggle, instead it should reflect in interests of the elite winners in the global game.  Unfortunately the flow of capital is secured by agreements between states.  A system of prosperity that only benefits a super-national minority living within the borders of the state will result in the national conscience taking control of the policy making apparatus.  

by bellumregio on Fri Aug 15th, 2008 at 01:17:21 PM EST

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