Category Archives: National Identity

Trump/Brexit: Popular Legitimacy and the Rule of Law

Morten Morland's cartoon from The Times, November 4th.

Morten Morland‘s cartoon from The Times, November 4th.

The New York Times ran an editorial yesterday on what it called ‘a coup’ against the Supreme Court. The death of Antonin Scalia earlier this year, and the Republican Party’s refusal to entertain a replacement has rendered the previously nine, now eight judge court unable to resolve some important cases, split evenly as they are between four generally liberal and four generally conservative justices. The GOP Presidential Nominee, Donald Trump, has recklessly attacked other institutions in his scorched earth strategy that followed his poor showing at the debates, including the Military, the FBI, the President, the Federal Reserve, and the Media. Early on in the campaign, he attacked a judge who ruled against him, claiming the judge was biased because he was Mexican-American. He has threatened to jail his opponent if he wins, he has consistently attacked and undermined the electoral process itself, and encouraged voter suppression.  Every pillar of democracy in America has been weakened by Mr Trump’s candidacy whether he wins or not, and people love him for it.

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The Idea of France

Delacroix's <i>Liberty Leading the People</i>

Delacroix’ Liberty Leading the People. She – Liberty – is so much more than the country: she is the ideal and the aspiration, the unadulterated guiding principle. Her path remains clear; but have the people stopped following her?

As Francois Hollande transitions from the bureaucratic administrator of the Fifth French Republic to a wartime leader in the latest instalment of the rolling war on terror, decisions are being made about France. The latest pronouncements – from overbearing surveillance measures introduced in the Summer in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo killings, to the most recent introduction of a three month state of emergency in order to deal with the Paris attacks – diminish democratic governance and accountability, in the short-sighted interests of expediency and national security. But this disaffected progression is not new; perhaps the January and November attacks were more overtly offensive than before, and appear more obvious inflection points, but we must go back ten years to the riots of 2005 to try and understand what is happening. Furthermore, the decisions being made today are not merely reflective of missteps taken in the past, but instructive as to the kind of France that is emerging for the future. And for France, we can read Europe, and Western Liberalism.

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Scotland’s Future Empire

scotlandThe Scottish Independence vote on September 18th will decide whether the country secedes from the United Kingdom. Its impact on the UK will be significant, as are the ramifications across Europe for separatist regions like Catalonia in Spain, Flanders in Belgium, and Kurdistan in Southern Turkey / Northern Iraq. Separatism – Nationalism – is back in vogue.

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What is a Nation?

Samuel P. Huntington - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2008

Samuel Huntingdon: argued that Nation States would remain the most powerful actors in world affairs. Was he right?

Nationalism, and National Identity, have long been a passion of mine.  But whatever of its role in defining personal and community identity, as a structure it is in flux.  The concept of the nation state in many ways defined the history of the twentieth century: in the lead up to World War I, the subsequent establishment of the League of Nations and various boundary commissions, then World War II and its various alliances, and the establishment of the United Nations, the European Union and the retrenchment from Empire, establishing so many new nation states all over Africa and Asia in particular. The Nation was sovereign, and inviolable; what happened within the State was solely the preserve of the State, and no other State would intervene in matters domestic (until Kosovo, and after Rwanda).

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Platform, Identity, Capital, Regulation: The New State

Stuart Hall, who died earlier this year

Stuart Hall, who died earlier this year

So let’s say the State becomes a platform, like we talked about in the last post.  In order to participate in the State, in order to pay taxes, and get educational accreditation, access healthcare, and to get licensed to own dogs, own a gun, or drive a car, you need to subscribe to the platform.  Let’s say then that the platform allows for commercial entities to participate, to advertise their wares on the State Platform, to ‘compete’ for consumer attention based on big data analysis of citizen behaviour and experience.  What are the other things that are happening with technology that impact upon the evolution of the state?

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The Platformification of The State

big-brother-1984

Well, there is that.

Here at StateLegitimacy.com, we’re interested in two things. First, how we measure legitimacy, and how legitimacy is constructed, and second, how technology impacts on legitimacy. We’re going to ask the question: could Rousseau’s Social Contract be implemented in technology?  What if the state became a platform?

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Syria, Now

kerry, brahimi

Tough Job: US Secretary of State John Kerry next to United Nations-Arab League special envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi and Russian Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.

Twelve months ago it seemed inevitable that Bashar Al-Assad had no future in Syria, that it was merely a matter of time before his reign – and his dynasty – came to an end.  What has been consistent also, however, is that there has been no clarity in terms of who should replace him.  Furthermore, this has never been an internalised, isolated civil war; it is regional, strategic, and symbolic. Continue reading

British Exceptionalism and the New Isolationism

isolationismIn the early part of the twentieth century, Woodrow Wilson‘s America decided upon an Isolationist Foreign Policy concentrating their efforts on the battles at home. It wasn’t a new strategy – since the days of George Washington, the country as it emerged tried to distance itself from foreign entanglements, notwithstanding repeated encroachment on its borders by regional competitors and the death throes of European Power. The German ascendancy in the Atlantic finally forced their hand, and in order to protect the interests of America the country was forced into the war, and away from its isolationism. America, it appeared, could only advance her domestic interests if actively engaged on the International Stage.

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The Assault on British Legitimacy

Passport_to_Pimlico_film

Scotland, Northern Ireland, maybe Wales? What about Pimlico?

The United Kingdom is under tremendous strain of late.  It may not appear to be at first glance, but considering the following points.

First, there is the long struggle as retrenchment from Empire finally reaches its apotheosis, and the multicultural misfit that has wracked both The Netherlands and France.  Legitimacy amounts to different things for each cultural grouping, whether that is the legitimacy of the police service (amidst allegations of institutional racism), or the problem with British Muslim representation.

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Church and State; Law and Legitimacy

Trundling along through Fukuyama’s The Origins of Political Order, we have surged through the Chinese and Indian experiences, pushing past Islam and on to Christianity before moving into the Rule of Law in Part Three.  I had not really to this point considered the extent to which law and religion are part of my considerations; at least certainly not the law.  In thinking through the impact on state legitimacy of technology, it is most likely my view that the changing nature of identity is more important, and that that, by extension, undermines the state (insofar as identity is constructed substantially by associations with non-state or super-state groups).  To put it more simply, people associate less with community and nation, and more with brand and interest group, connected through globalised technology.  Identity is also being changed by the decline in religious tradition, at least outside of Muslim states.  However, I had a problem connecting that aspect of religion to my thesis, as it seems only peripherally attributed to the rise in technology.

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