Another piece picked up from comment in free. This one grabbed my attention because it echoes a sentiment i keep encountering in my reading on migration studies and politics. Ulrich Beck holds forth on the idea that the nation-state as we know it (in this instance in Europe) is a thing of the past, something to be overcome the EU is to stride successfully into the future:

The decline of the nation-state is really a decline of the specifically national content of the state and an opportunity to create a cosmopolitan state system that is better able to deal with the problems that all nations face in the world today. Economic globalisation, transnational terrorism, global warming: the litany is familiar and daunting. There are a host of problems that are clearly beyond the power of the old order of nation-states to cope with. The answer to global problems that are gathering ominously all around and that refuse to yield to nation-state solutions is for politics to take a quantum leap from the nation-state system to the cosmopolitan state system.

This is a theme that, in various forms and expressed with varying degrees of urgency, I have encountered several times recently in my reading. There are particularly convincing passages in International Migration by Jonathan Moses, Stephen Castles’ and Mark Miller’s Age of Migration (very textbooky), and Migration and Its Enemies by Robin Cohen. Many major organizations that influence the lives of millions if not billions around the world have superseded the nation-state structure (I’m thinking of things like the WTO and the IMF). Many feel that as these trends in globalisation continue, the nation-state as we know it, will inevitable decline in importance and strength, and that the best thing to do is accept that, not fight it, and move on. Beck comments on Britain’s sometimes rocky relationship with continental Europe and points out that:

Cosmopolitan Europe was consciously conceived and launched after the second world war as the political antithesis to a nationalistic Europe and the physical and moral devastation that had emerged from it. It was in this spirit that Winston Churchill, standing amid the ruins of a destroyed continent in 1946, claimed: “If Europe were once united … there would be no limit to the happiness, to the prosperity and the glory which its four hundred million people would enjoy.”

And if the people of Europe can, in the near future, be convinced that such a unity is for their common good, isn’t it a logical extension to say the same would hold true for the “happiness, prosperity and glory” of the several billion inhabitants of the world as a whole? Too idealistic? Yeah, I know.

P.S. Kind of sad that while Beck cites the documents arising from the Nuremberg trials (which set a precedent for international law) as a first step in eroding the nation-state, the most powerful nation in the world increasingly flouts international law, reverting to increasingly shrill nationalist rhetoric. Sigh.

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