IL POLITICO (Univ. Pavia, Italy) 2012, anno LXXVII, n. 3, pp. 68-90
HUMAN NATURE, NATIONALISM AND COSMOPOLITISM by Guido Montani
“It is a known fact in human nature, that … [as] a man is more attached to his family than to his neighbourhood, to his neighbourhood than to the community at large, [so] the people of each State would be apt to feel a stronger bias towards their local governments than towards the government of the Union”. Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist, XVII
1. Nationalism and cosmopolitism: rival or compatible ideas? Globalization is changing the daily life of billions of people and compels social scientists to revise their theories. A key topic of this cultural renewal concerns the relationships between nationalism and cosmopolitanism, a very old problem, today at the core of the debate concerning the future of the international order. For instance political scientists supporting the project of a cosmopolitan democracy1 come up against the obstacle of nationalism, which sometimes is considered a rival ideology to cosmopolitanism and sometimes the necessary intermediary step. Before proposing a new approach to this old problem, it can be useful to reconstruct its history briefly. The shortest and most effective way to illustrate the role played by nationalism in the cosmopolitan vision of history of the 18th Century is to recall the intellectual evolution Professor of International Political Economy at the Faculty of Economics of the University of Pavia (Italy). 1 See G. W. BROWN, D. HELD (eds), The Cosmopolitanism Reader, Cambridge, Polity Press, 2010; and especially the essay by Kok-Chor Tan, “Nationalism and Cosmpolitanism”, pp. 176-90.
of Friedrich Meinecke (1862-1954), the great German historian who, during his lifetime, observed the rise and fall of the German Reich passionately. In his first great work, Cosmopolitanism and the National State, published in 1907, Meinecke shows how the roots of the German state were well grounded in the cosmopolitan culture of the Enlightenment philosophical and political movement. But during the 19th Century it was necessary to abandon these generous and romantic ideals in order to seize the historical occasion for national unity. The end result was that the humanistic nation, imagined by Schiller, produced Bismarck’s nation state2. Nevertheless Meinecke did not think that the original cosmopolitan project had been abandoned. In a Preface to the new 1915 edition he says that the war was shaping a universal people: Germany was going to embrace the double ideal of cosmopolitanism and nation state. The outcome of WWI persuaded Meinecke to look for the profound reasons behind power politics: what position and future did Germany have in the European concert of nation states? And how could German cosmopolitan values be reconciled with power politics? In Die Idee der Staatsräson, published in 1924, he says: “For each state at each particular moment there exists one ideal course of action, one ideal raison d’état”3. Therefore the government of a nation state must follow a policy line, in internal and external affairs, which is not dictated by some ideal of morality and justice, but by the inner necessities of the state. The politician wanting to acquire power and to maintain it should not follow personal inclinations and values but only the course of action dictated by the raison d’état. The relations between moral law and power are obscure and problematic because: “Kratos and Ethos together build the state and fashion history”. The virtue of the political leader is to follow the complex path between these two great historical shores: “Between Kratos and Ethos, between behaviour prompted by the power-impulse and behaviour prompted by moral responsibility, there exists at the summit of the state a bridge, namely raison d’état”4. If we apply this general observation to the world system of states we 2 F. MEINECKE, Weltbürgertum und Nationalstaat. Studien zur Genesis des deutschen Nationalstaates, München und Berlin, Verlag von R. Oldenbourg, 1928, p. 308. 3 F. MEINECKE, Die Idee der Staatsräson, Munich, Oldenbourg Verlag, 1924; English translation Machiavellism. The Doctrine of Raison d’Etat and its Place in Modern History, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1962, p. 1. 4 F. MEINECKE, Machiavellism, cit., pp. 4-5.
should also admit that, since a world government does not exist, peace can endure only in a situation of equilibrium among the great powers, but when this equilibrium is shattered, as happens when a great power aims at hegemony and the other powers object to that, war becomes inevitable. After a scholarly excursus of the theory of the raison d’état, from Machiavelli to Treitschke, Meinecke concludes observing that the League of Nations, the only bulwark against power politics in international affairs, was doomed to fail. International anarchy can be brought to an end not by the League of Nations, but by “the worldhegemony of the Anglo-Saxon powers, in whose hands the strongest physical powers of the globe are already concentrated”5. This realistic observation also explains the German refusal of Anglo-Saxon hegemony. During Hitler’s regime Meinecke fell into disgrace due to his liberal positions. After the German catastrophe, in one of his speeches, Meinecke admitted that the old European system of great powers needed to be completely reformed: it was now necessary to build the United States of Europe. The old nation states had to accept to integrate their own raison d’état into a collective European raison d’état. Now Germany had to follow this new course of action in foreign policy6. This short summary of Meinecke’s anguished historical journey from the cosmopolitan ideas of the Enlightenment to German power politics and to European Unity shows that the present experience of European integration should be examined carefully by every scholar of international relations: Europe is at a crossroads between nationalism and cosmopolitanism. In the following pages we try to show that Europe, after WWII, thanks to supranational institutions, was able to overcome the main contradictions between nationalism and cosmopolitanism paving the way for a supranational community of national peoples. In order to base our argument on solid theoretical foundations we first take into consideration the notion of human nature, because – as Alexander Hamilton remarked – it seems reasonable to assume that people feel more sympathy for their neighbours than for some distant and unknown person, but this sympathy does not prevent them from belonging to a wider political community. This behaviour is the basis for a federal system of government of national peoples. F. MEINECKE, Machiavellism, cit., p. 431. S. PISTONE, Federico Meinecke e la crisi dello stato nazionale tedesco, Torino, Giappichelli, 1969, pp. 480-81. 5 6
There is a crucial difference between internationalism and federalism. In a system of sovereign nation states nationalism and cosmopolitanism are necessarily rivals, though in a federal system “national identity” is compatible with a “cosmopolitan identity”: a German citizen can also be a European citizen and a citizen of the world. The notion of human nature is the basis for our research. Thanks to the impressive advancement of the studies on the origin of the human species carried out by paleo-archeologists, anthropologists, biologists and evolutionary psychologists, Edward Wilson criticizes social scientists who “have paid little attention to the foundations of human nature, and they have had almost no interest in its deep origins”. He prods social scientists to answer the question: “what unites humanity?” Real progress in social sciences is possible only on the basis of a common accepted theoretical basis. Wilson says: “social sciences are intrinsically compatible with the natural sciences. The two great branches of learning will benefit to the extent that their modes of causal explanation are made consistent”7. Here we try to contribute to a more comprehensive social sciences methodology examining the relationships between human nature and the ideas of nationalism and cosmopolitanism. 2. Human nature, cooperation and conflict Charles Darwin observed: “As man advances in civilisation, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races”. And, later on, Darwin says: “Sympathy beyond the confines of man, that is humanity to the lower animals, seems to be one of the latest moral acquisitions”8. Here we try to show that advances in civilisation become possible when human beings overcome artificial barriers – created by themselves – from tribe to national allegiance. We start our inquiry recalling the notion of “human universals” elaborated by Donald Brown who says: “Human universals – of which 7 E. O. WILSON, Consilience. The Unity of Knowledge, London, Abacus, 2006, p. 203 and p. 208. 8 C. DARWIN, The Descent of Man, London, J. Murray, 1871, pp. 100-101.
hundreds have been identified – consist of those features of culture, society, language, behaviour, and mind that, so far as the record has been examined, are found among all peoples known to ethnography and history”9. Human universals outline the main features of a world people. Among these human universals Brown lists “cooperation” and “conflict”, two aspects of human behaviour, which are crucial for social sciences. Here we propose to study the evolution of cooperation and conflict in human societies up to the creation of the state. There is some reason to think that the state is a human artefact not dissimilar from the family, the tribes, the village; it is a product of cultural human evolution. Marvin Harris10 aptly observes that, even before the first millennium B.C., in the Mesopotamian region, in the Nile valley, and afterwards on the Mediterranean shores, in China and the Americas, some institutions were created, which we now consider states: territorial communities monopolizing legitimate force, according to Max Weber. The weberian definition can be applied both to the modern and the archaic state. The birth of the archaic state can be considered a spontaneous outcome of independent evolutionary processes11. The population which moved from the Behring Strait into the Americas about twelve thousand years ago created the Maya, Aztec and Incas empires autonomously. It is a rare case of a social experiment, as happens in a laboratory when it is possible to repeat the chemical analysis of a certain substance. Genetic evolution and cultural evolution follow different patterns. Cultural evolution is based on the functioning of the human brain, which – we can assume – is the same in the Cro-Magnon man of 40 thousand years ago and in modern humans12. The real difficulty the social scientist has to face is to understand how the archaic societies at the end of the Palaeolithic era and the beginning of the Neolithic era worked, since we have at our disposal only skeletons, tools, ornaments and dwelling ruins. Notwithstanding this, some rough idea of the primitive societies can be traced thanks to the anthropological studies of surviving societies of foragers, nomads, hunters and gatherers, etc. Of 9 D. BROWN, Human Universals, New York, McGraw-Hill, 1991; the quotation is taken from D. BROWN, Human Universals, Human Nature and Human Culture, in “Daedalus”, vol. 133, n. 4, Fall 2004, p. 47. 10 M. HARRIS, Our Kind: Who we are, Where we came from, Where we are going, New York, Harper Collins, 1990, Chapters 96-99. 11 Brown considers “institutions” and not specifically the “state” as a human universal. 12 I. TATTERSALL, Becoming Human: Evolution and Human Uniqueness, New York, Harcourt Brace, 1998; see especially the last chapter.
course, our aim is not to provide details of the vast findings accumulated by anthropologists in over a century of research, but only to exploit their main findings. Johnson and Earl identified “the following levels of cultural evolution: the family, the local group, the Big Man collectivity, the chiefdom, the archaic state, and the nation state. These labels – they say – do not signify perfectly discrete levels or plateaus, to one or another of which all known cultures must be assigned; rather, they designate stations along a continuum at which it is convenient to stop and make comparisons with previous stations”13. We have now a comprehensive framework in which we can discuss the notion of cooperation and conflict. But first we need to specify that these different stations do not represent stages of an imaginary course of history: there is not a single cause explaining the transition from one station to another, but a plurality of causes. Karl Popper14 rightly says that there is not a law (or a theory) of historical development of human societies which allows us to predict their future. One of the features of these different kinds of societies is that they can be listed according to their relative size. The family group is the simplest organization model of cooperation and likely the oldest known. It comprises around twenty-five members, that is, five families living mainly by foraging. There is a division of labour between men and women, but the group does not have a chief. Families maintain relationships with other groups of the region. The Kung people, 13 A. W. JOHNSON, T. EARLE, The Evolution of Human Societies. From Foraging Group to Agrarian State, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2006, p. 245. 14 K. POPPER, The Poverty of Historicism, London, Lowe and Brydone, 1957. Recent researches on the origins of humans enlighten also the old debate on the Marxian theory of economic determinism, or the evolution of different modes of production, from hunters and gatherers to capitalist societies. The transition from foraging groups to agrarian societies was much more complex than the simple marxian deterministic model can explain. For instance N. WADE (Before the Dawn. Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors, New York, Penguin Press, 2006, chapter 7) explains that it is not true that agriculture led to settlement or stationary societies; on the contrary, the settlement way of life led to agriculture (for a similar point of view see I. TATTERSALL, The World from Beginnings to 4000 BCE, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2008; chapter 7). Relating to the same issue, J. Cauvin’s research (Naissance des divinités. Naissance de l’agriculture. La révolution des symboles au néolitique, Paris, Flammarion, 1997) provides extensive documentation of the cultural revolution of religious symbols which precede agriculture in village communities of the Middle East. According to Cauvin it was the symbolic revolution that brought about the transition from nomadic societies of hunters and gatherers to the domestication of plants and animals.
who nowadays live in Botswana, Namibia and Angola, do not live “as isolated families but are organized into camps of several families and joined by personal networks of exchange that interconnect families and their camps across broad regions. The importance of these suprafamily organizations in handling the daily risks of hunting and the longrange risks of an unpredictable resource base shows clearly the limits to family independence”15. We cannot examine in detail all the aforementioned societies. We need only to show that the division of labour in the family, its autonomy and the hierarchy among its members are related to a suprafamily organisation, which becomes more complex as the society expands. The local group could include roughly from one hundred to five hundred members at the time of the Neolithic revolution. The cohesion of this society, producing a small surplus, required a strong combination of ceremonial activities and leadership. The Big Man did not have coercive powers but he organized the local group and represented it in intergroup ceremonies. In the following stages, the chiefdom organized thousands or several thousand people. The development of intensive agriculture produced a substantial surplus, the stratification of society into classes and élite groups became inevitable: land property and precise social laws regulated the distribution of the surplus. In chiefdoms coercive power was necessary to organise production and to reduce violence among individuals and families. The autonomy of the family was reduced and its organisation was embedded in a wider social framework. Regional polities, or chiefdoms, “constitute the world of law and legal force that guarantees order among communities within the polity, as well as a coordinated response to the outside world of competing and cooperative states”16. In short, chiefdom societies announce the creation of the archaic state, when a permanent bureaucracy was set up. The archaic state organised populations of about hundreds of thousands or millions of different ethnic groups; it created roads, canals and long distance trade. Its most important achievement was the pacification of a number of warlike chiefdoms. This result was possible when the chiefs understood that it was more convenient to integrate the vanquished people instead of killing them. “Integration on a massive regional or interregional scale is a defining characteristic of states”17. 15 16 17
A. W. JOHNSON, T. EARLE, The Evolution of Human Societies, cit. p. 67. A. W. JOHNSON, T. EARLE, The Evolution of Human Societies, cit., p. 247. A. W. JOHNSON, T. EARLE, The Evolution of Human Societies, cit., pp. 327-8.
Cooperation and especially increased cooperation among human beings is the angelic face of human nature. Let’s now give a look at its satanic face. Anthropological research on violence in ancient societies has definitively proved the groundlessness of the Noble Savage myth. In his extensive study on violence in history, Steven Pinker shows that primitive non-state societies were much more violent than modern states. In prehistoric times violence was fairly common among men for the conquest of women, among tribes and chiefdoms and among families of the same tribe. Revenge for theft, adultery, vandalism and rapes frequently ended in massacres, because it was the most secure way to avoid further revenge. Taking into account a great number of anthropological researches Pinker states: “The average annual rate of death in warfare for the non-state societies is 524 per100,000, about half of 1 percent. Among states, the Aztec empire of central Mexico, which was often at war, had a rate about half of that”. If we examine contemporary history, the 20th Century, which is sometimes considered the bloodiest era in the history of humankind, is by far less violent than the times of the ancient societies. The annual rate of death for Germany, Japan and Russia/USSR was “144, 27 and 135 per 100,000 respectively”. Pinker’s conclusion is: “states are far less violent than traditional bands and tribes. Modern Western countries, even in their most war-torn centuries, suffered no more than around a quarter of the average death rate of non-state societies and less than a tenth of that for the most violent one”18. Here, we are not trying to give a comprehensive answer to the problem of the origin of the state – for instance we do not take into account population growth, the environment, technological changes, religion, etc. – but our aim is simply to shed some light on the evolution of cooperative behaviour. So far we have only shown that there is a negative correlation between more cooperation among individuals and less violence. But an empirical correlation is not an explanation. The following three observations can provide some ground for an explanation. A first basis for cooperative behaviour is given by Michael Tomasello19 who compares the skills of human beings and those of other primates, such as chimpanzees. Many animals have a social life, but 18 S. PINKER, The Better Angels of Our Nature. Why Violence has Declined, New York, Penguin Book, p. 52. 19 M. TOMASELLO, The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition, Cambridge Mass., Harvard University Press, 1999.
only human beings are able to create artefacts and develop skills that accumulate improvements across generations. Tomasello studies the cognitive development in human infants finding out that even in the pre-linguistic stage of communication they acquire the capacity to “understand others as intentional agents”. Human infants are able to collaborate with adults in joint activities. We need to recognize that “even young children already have some sense of shared intentionality … In shared cooperative activities, my individual rationality … is transformed into a rationality of interdependence … The universality of social norms, and their critical role in human evolution, is apparent”20. This human behaviour has a very old origin, it probably dates back to when the practice of monogamous relationships between females and males in foraging groups created a propitious environment. “There was some initial step in human evolution away from great apes, says Tomasello, involving the emotional and motivational side of experience, that propelled humans into a new adaptive space in which complex skills and motivations for collaborative activities and shared intentionality could be selected”21. Cooperation probably developed in little family groups. The second condition for the creation of the state and a high degree of cooperation is the domestication of plants and animals, in short the agricultural mode of production, the exploitation of the surplus and the stratification of society. The third fact at the basis of the archaic state is that it was built by humans who were not only able to speak but also to write. The development of writing was the necessary tool to organize a bureaucracy and send instructions from the metropolitan centre to the periphery of empires. The invention of writing happened independently in different regions of the ancient world during the process of state building: in Sumerian and Egyptian civilizations, in Greece, in China, in India and in the Americas. “Human mind – says Godart – reacted in the same way to the problems created by accountability needs of palaces where the riches of the region were gathered together”22. The writing technique was a cognitive skill crucial for the administration of the state.
M. TOMASELLO, Why we Cooperate, Cambridge Mass., MIT Press, 2009, pp. 39-42. M. TOMASELLO, Why we Cooperate, cit., p. 85. L. GODART, L’invenzione della scrittura. Dal Nilo alla Grecia, Torino, Einaudi, 1992, p. 118. 20 21 22
3. The nation state, nationalism and national integration In the last paragraph we saw how the archaic state favoured a high degree of cooperation, “integrating” different chiefdoms. Now we explore the same problem for modern societies, where social cooperation is organised by the nation state. We will see that the nation state, a political artefact, integrates individuals, removing feudal barriers and increasing the degree of cooperation, but it also causes divisions and wars among national peoples. National integration – we try to show – is nothing but a station of human cultural evolution. Here we explore how cooperation evolved emphasizing three features of modern societies: the civilizing process, the development of institutions, the nation state and nationalism. The civilizing process. Several studies on the transition from European feudalism to the modern era drew attention to the cultural, political or economic aspects of this great transformation. A new culture of individual liberties was the hallmark of the “Renaissance” in literature, figurative arts, science, technology and philosophy, which reached its peak in the Enlightenment. Other historians emphasize the revolutionary changes in trade, especially in long distance trade, and in urbanization, where a new bourgeois class challenged the aristocratic power. Other historians emphasize the political revolution in state building and in political thought, with the foundations of the great modern ideologies of liberalism, democracy, socialism and nationalism. Here we focus our attention on the birth of the modern state. This work was masterly carried out by Norbert Elias in his study of the civilizing process, where the cultural, political, economic and social aspects are examined in their close mutual relationship23. Elias shows how in the course of the transformation individual behaviour concerning the daily habits of sanitation and decency changed radically, becoming more civilized among the upper classes and the lower classes. The integration process demolished the barriers of the closed manor and increasingly 23 S. MENNEL, The Globalization of Human Society as a Very Long-Term Social Process. Elias’s Theory in “Global Culture. Nationalism, Globalization and Modernity” (ed. M. Featherstone), London, Sage, 1990; “It was in reaction to a prevalent overemphasis on economics that [Elias] tried to show the equal centrality of violence and its control, intermeshing with economic development and with the development of knowledge, in the overall development of human society” (p. 369).
larger political communities were built under the rule of some powerful baron, prince or king. The modern state is not the outcome of a precise plan but the result of endless struggles among feudal “chiefdoms”. Elias says that the main features of the transformation process can be described as follows: “the territorial property of one warrior family, its control of certain lands and its claim to tithes or services of various kinds from the people living on this land, is transformed with the advancing division of functions and in the course of numerous struggles, into a centralized control of military power and of regular duties or taxes over a far larger area. Within this area no one may now use weapons and fortification or physical violence of any kind without the central ruler’s permission”24. Under the pressure of competition social functions become more and more differentiated; moreover the centralization of political power and the enlargement of the territorial community were the crucial factor allowing for a more accurate and efficient organisation of social functions: individuals learnt to control, from their earliest years, their behaviour in a more autonomous and automatic way. It was this social, cultural and political transformation that paved the way for the industrial revolution, which originated in England but soon spread across continental Europe and the world. A new higher degree of cooperation was now possible, because civil society and the market became two aspects of human behaviour relatively independent of political power. Adam Smith was able to state: “the division of labour is limited by the extent of the market”, one of the fundamental laws of a new social science, political economy. Since then, social scientists and philosophers developed theories and models explaining the complex and many-sided mechanisms of human society. The development of institutions. Institutions keep modern society together: the family, the firm, the market, the sports club, the church, the state, etc. are institutions. The philosopher John Searle produced the most convincing explanation of this “clue” concerning human societies. Language is the basis of all institutions. “You can have a society that has language – says Searle – but does not have governments, private property, or money. But you cannot have a society that has government, private property, and money, but does not have a lan24 N. ELIAS, Über den Prozess der Zivilisation, vol. II, Frankfurt, Suhrkamp, 19802; Engl. transl. The Civilizing Process. State Formation and Civilization, Oxford, Blackwell, 1982, p. 202.
guage”25. This distinctive quality of language to create institutions is possible because individuals communicate intentional states, which are always about, or refer to, something: intentional states are about reality and a certain statement can be true or false. Therefore we can say that individuals communicate in order to describe the world as it is or to make commitments. An essential feature of language, says Searle, is that “it necessarily involves social commitments, and that the necessity of these social commitments derives from the social character of the communication situation”. To be more precise, language has a deontological power: it can create obligations when these obligations are socially recognized. In such a case we have an institution. If during a public ceremony somebody says: “you Mrs X and Mr Y are married” new mutual obligations are created. A certain piece of paper counts as €50 in the European Union because the European Union has the power to issue paper money and the European citizens believe that with this piece of money they can buy a certain amount of goods and services. “In human languages – says Searle – we have the capacity not only to represent reality, both how it is and how we want to make it be, but we also have the capacity to create a new reality by representing that reality as existing. We create private property, money, government, marriage, and a thousand other phenomena by representing them as existing”26. Concerning the topic of this paper, we need to distinguish two kinds of institutions. There are institutions such as money, the market, common law, the village, etc., which allow for better coordination of human action without a specific authority with organisational power: the rules can derive from tradition or from an external power, such as the government. But there are other institutions – for instance trade unions, firms, political parties, the state – which can work properly only with a specific organisation. “Organizations – says Hodgson – are special institutions that involve (a) criteria to establish their boundaries and to distinguish their members from non-members, (b) principles of sovereignty concerning who is in charge, and (c) chains of command delineating responsibilities within the organization”27. Let us now see how the nation state differs from other organisations. 25 J. R. SEARLE, Making the Social World. The Structure of Human Civilization, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2010, p. 62. 26 J. R. SEARLE, Making the Social World, cit., p. 86. 27 G. M. HODGSON, What are Institutions?, in “Journal of Economic Issues”, vol. XL, n. 1, March 2006, p. 18.
The nation state and nationalism. The nation state is an organisation, but it is an organisation with peculiar features. A firm, a tennis club, a political party have some power over their members, but this power is limited by their statute and external laws. On the contrary, the nation state has some power over their subjects or citizens limited by the constitution or by internal legislation, but towards other nation states it has unlimited – sovereign – power to employ military force to decide international controversies. A comparison with the archaic state can help to explain the features of the modern state. Francis Fukuyama, in his careful reconstruction of the origins of the archaic states, says: “The founding myths of the Greek, Roman, Hindu, and Chinese states all trace the regime’s ancestry back to a divinity; or at least to a semidivine hero. Political power in early states cannot be understood apart from the religious rituals that the ruler controlled and used to legitimate his power”28. The same statement is true for the Incas, Maya and Aztec empires. Religion legitimated a superhuman power of the ruler over the life and death of their subjects. But the archaic states in actual fact had no “international” problems: for instance no significant relations existed between the Roman and the Chinese empires. The archaic state was by and large a global state. Very different is the cultural context in which the nation state was built. The transition to the modern state was characterized by the secularization of political culture. Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu and all the philosophers of the Enlightenment worked out doctrines and theories to explain that the state is a human institution and that its power cannot be based on divine right, but on the will of the people. Over these centuries the great modern ideologies of liberalism, democracy and, later on, of socialism were shaped. At a certain point – and very likely the turning point was the French Revolution – the legitimating principle of the Monarchy by divine right was substituted by the principle of the sovereignty of the people. Sieyès, in Qu’est-ce que le Tiers Etat? says: “The Third State constitutes a complete nation”. The historian Nora states: “At the very beginning of the Revolution the Ancien Régime was refused and replaced by the nation, a new kind of state was born”29. 28 F. FUKUYAMA, The Origins of Political Order. From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution, New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011, p. 88. 29 P. NORA, Nation, in F. FURET, M. OZOUF, “Dictionnaire critique de la Révolution Française”, Paris, Flammarion, pp. 801-12, p. 803. In the same page Nora says: “Dès le
The amazing success of the nation state formula is not an excuse for not examining critically a political thinking according to which a national people and a state should coincide. If we consider the members of the UN it is difficult to find a “pure” example of nation state. If one of the tenets of a nation state is the sharing of the same language we see that some states, like Switzerland, Canada, India, are multilingual; on the other hand the same language, such as English or German is spoken in different nation states. A national people sharing the same culture can be considered an ethnic group; but – as Elias showed – during the process of civilization a certain king subjugated several feudal lords building a multiethnic kingdom, not a nation. The French case is a good example of a specific local culture and language, which were imposed to conquered populations. Though someone may maintain that ethnicity is always at the root of a nation30, the real problem is to explain why a certain culture becomes the dominant culture. The other criteria identifying the nation, such as a common history and a common race are more groundless; in fact they are founded on myths. An old European saying states: “A nation is a group of people united by a common error about their ancestry and a common dislike of their neighbours”31. In effect, the task of the social scientist is to understand why a group of people shares a common error. It is impossible to explain what is a nation state without taking into account the concept of ideology, not only as a political thinking, but also as a political thinking including some false statements. Mario Albertini defines nationalism as the ideology of the sovereign, bureaucratic and centralized state. The nation state has the power to demand “supreme loyalty” from its subjects. “Indeed the national value holds the first place along the scale of people’s values … the nation state is an organisation which demands its members to kill and to die (and therefore it cannot survive without an moment où les Etats généraux rejettent l’appelation qui le désigne depuis des siècles et débordent les raisons limitées qui avaient motivé leur convocation, la rupture est faite avec ce qu’on allait appeler dans l’été l’Ancien Régime, et la Nation est née”. 30 T. H. ERIKSEN, Ethnicity and Nationalism. Anthropological Perspectives, London, Pluto Press, 1993, says: “A nationalist ideology is an ethnic ideology which demands a state on behalf of the ethnic group. However, in practice the distinction can be highly problematic” (p. 118). And he concludes: “ethnicity does not necessarily arise from modernity, and it is not necessarily an end product.” (p. 158). 31 Saying quoted in W. CONNOR, A Nation is a Nation, is a State, is an Ethnic Group, is a…”, in J. HUTCHINSON & A. D. SMITH (eds), “Nationalism”, pp. 36-46.
ideology which places the interest of the group above the life of its individual members)”32. There is a religious aspect of nationalism – as the symbol of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier shows – which depicts the nation as a sacred community. As an organisation based on people’s sovereignty, the nation state had to conflate with liberalism, democracy and socialism. Indeed the nation state was the institutional container which facilitated the development of human rights, universal suffrage and the welfare state. Forced to incorporate these values, political power was domesticated within the nation state. But political power remained savage outside. The nation state is the champion of “state sovereignty” and of the international system founded on the Westphalia paradigm. According to nationalism, humans are by nature divided into nations and the controversies among them, in the last resort, are settled by war. Indeed it is in the international arena that the raison d’état shows the feral nature of human beings. As Meinecke observes: “Striving for power is an aboriginal human impulse, perhaps even an animal impulse, which blindly snatches at everything around until it comes up against some external barriers”33. When, during the 19th century, the national market became too small for the development of national economic and military power, the nation state looked for extra-national spaces, in Europe and in other continents. Colonialism, imperialism and two world wars were the methods utilized by the European nation states to integrate other peoples. Is nationalism a human universal? Being a modern ideology34 it was not a human universal. Today as each people wants to become a nation and to have a state, it is a human universal35. For the future, it will remain a human universal only if it agrees to settle international controversies through cosmopolitan laws and not by military force. 32 M. ALBERTINI, Lo stato nazionale, Milano, Giuffrè, 1960, p. 132; now in Tutti gli scritti, (ed. N. Mosconi), vol. III, Bologna, Il Mulino, p. 260. Unfortunately Albertini’s book was never published in English and so the English speaking scholars are more familiar with the analysis of nationalism worked out by E. Gellner, B. Anderson, A. Smith and E. Hobsbawn, though M. Albertini was the first scholar to provide a scientific analysis of nationalism as the ideology of the nation state. 33 F. MEINECKE, Machiavelism, cit., p. 4. 34 A. H. BIRCH, Nationalism and National Integration (London, Unwin, 1989) says: “Humanity is not naturally divided into nations … nations are relatively recent and relatively artificial creations” (p. 8). 35 E. WILSON, Consilience, cit., says: “Territorial expansion and defense by tribes and their modern equivalents the nation state is a cultural universal”, p. 188.
Now we should see how it is possible to build external barriers to nation state power and reconcile Ethos and Kratos. 4. European integration, the supranational state and cosmopolitism European integration sheds some light on the previous question. National integration creates the so-called “national affinity”, i.e. a citizenship based on exclusive loyalty to national government and rules, thanks to the adoption of a national language, compulsory (up to a few decades ago) military service, a national system of education, etc. European integration is the effort to integrate different national peoples, without submerging their national identity into a new national European identity. The European treaties state: “citizenship of the Union shall be additional to and not replace a national citizenship”. European citizenship is a multilevel and non-exclusive form of political loyalty. The European Union is an organisation of states and citizens endowed with the power necessary to achieve some common goals, such as a peaceful coexistence, an internal market, a monetary union, a common foreign and security policy, etc. The European Union is a supranational organisation. A comparison with an international organisation, the United Nations, can be useful. The main goal of the UN is to increase international cooperation in order to preserve peace, to prevent aggression, to encourage the respect of human rights, of international justice, etc. The functioning of the UN organisation “is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its members”. But this principle was infringed by the creation of a Security Council, with five permanent members endowed with a veto right. The five members of the Security Council are obviously more important than the others. Strictly speaking the “sovereign” of the UN is a group of five countries: in the last resort, international cooperation within the UN is based on the hegemonic principle and military force. On the contrary, the EU achieves its ends by means of limited, but effective power, which the member states confer to the Union: the EU is not based on the hegemonic principle and military force. In 1955 Jean Monnet so explained the functioning of the European Coal and Steel Community: “The sovereign powers are conferred to common institutions … which set up the first federal organisation of Europe”36. 36
J. MONNET, Les Etats-Unis d’Europe ont commencé, Paris, Robert Laffont, 1955,
The first competences conferred to the ECSC were limited to the organisation of the coal and steel market, and the Haute Autorité had the power to fix prices, to tax, to manage a budget: it was a supranational executive accountable to a Parliamentary Assembly and a Council of national ministers. A Court of Justice assured the compliance of European law by member states. Since then, the competences of the European Union have greatly increased: now there is an internal market for 27 states, a monetary union for 17 states, a small European budget which finances the agricultural policy, the regional policy, the research and development policy, etc. Briefly the supranational methods allow for more efficient cooperation among the member states because, when the competences are conferred to the EU, the Commission can become a “government” of the Union and the two chambers – the European Parliament and the Council – co-legislate. According to European jargon this decision-making method is called “communitarian”. Jean Monnet would probably have called it “federal”. The real – and confusing – problem is that there is a second Europe working alongside the “core” federal Europe. Concerning the competences not conferred to the Union, such as taxation and defence policies, the decision-making method is (almost) intergovernmental: every national government maintains a veto right. There is a supranational Europe and an international Europe which sometimes conflict. Now let’s see how, thanks to supranational institutions, it was possible to provide some crucial European public goods to the citizens of the European Union. The first major public good provided was the internal market, whose construction started with the Rome Treaties (1957), when a custom union was set up and the tariffs on inter-European trade were abolished. The second stage was performed with the Single European Act (1986) when all physical barriers to the free circulation of persons, commodities, services and capitals were removed. This process is is still going on, because some important sectors, such as energy, are under the control of national governments, but one can say that Europeans lived through some dangerous dysfunctional equilibria37 that existed in pre-war Europe. The first dysfunctional equilib37 F. Fukuyama in The Origins of Political Order, cit., describes a dysfunctional equilibrium as an institution or a system of institutions which cannot evolve towards a more efficient institutional set up. “The ability of societies to innovate institutionally – says Fukuyama – depends on whether they can neutralize existing political stakeholders’ vetoes over reform” (p. 456).
rium was the warlike mood of European nation states. The creation of the internal market – thanks to the regulating power of the Commission and of the enforcing power of the Court of Justice – was substantial not only for the stimulation of growth and welfare, but also to persuade citizens and politicians that a new war among Europeans was nonsense. Peace in Europe is a by-product of economic integration. The second dysfunctional equilibrium removed by the European Union was the monetary division of Europe. The success of the Common Market was based on the Bretton Woods agreements establishing fixed rates of exchange among the European currencies and the dollar. After the break down of the monetary system, in 1971, the project of the Common Market – the industrial and the agricultural markets – was seriously endangered: floating currencies caused the fall of intra-European trade, unemployment, inflation and huge public debts. In 1979, the European governments attempted to stop the threat of floating currencies by creating the European Monetary System, an island of stability within an instable world currency system. This imperfect device, after the fall of the Berlin Wall and German unity, was replaced by a straightforward Monetary Union. In 2002 European citizens were able to utilize a continental currency, without frontiers. But the Maastricht Treaty (1991) was a clumsy compromise: the Monetary Union was set up without an Economic Union, a Fiscal Union and a federal government. It was very easy to foretell that the construction was too weak to face the new global economic and political challenges. The financial crisis erupted in the USA and hit Europe in 2008. The EU, owing to its small budget, was unable to launch a recovery plan, as the US federal government did. National governments were obliged to increase their debts to save the banking system and to provide national recovery plans. This was only the first part of the European tragedy. The second act started with the Greek crisis, caused by an accountability fraud and an exorbitant indebtedness. The German government reacted harshly threatening the expulsion of Greece from the Monetary Union. At that point, international finance understood that the unity of the euro-zone was at risk and that every country was responsible for the reimbursement of its own debt. Other states excessively indebted, such as Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Italy were obliged to pay increasing and unsustainable rates of interest. In 2011, the survival of the Monetary Union was in doubt. At last, in December 2011, a “fiscal compact” was agreed among 25 governments of the Union: a Fund to help member states in financial distress was provided on condition that severe rules 85
for restraining national deficits and excessive debt are observed. Europe is perhaps getting over the third dysfunctional equilibrium. EU is a work in progress. Even if a Fiscal Union is on the assembly line two other dysfunctional equlibria loom on the horizon of European politics: European democracy and European foreign and security policy. European democracy is a problem that cannot be sidestepped any longer. In 1979, the European Parliament was directly elected by the citizens, but it was not able to become the engine of EU policies and institutional reforms: the European parties have little clout and the Commission is more accountable to national governments than to the European Parliament. However the creation of a Fiscal Union – which implies severe EU intrusions on national budgets – is not possible without involving the citizens in the democratic control of the EU: a federal government accountable to the European Parliament and the Council should be set up. This step will be carried out with great difficulties, owing to the lack of bold pro-Europeans politicians. It will be much more difficult to find a clear response to the problem of where Europe will stand in the new multipolar world. What will be the basic idea the EU will propose to other people in order to organise a peaceful and cooperative world? The answer to this question is included in the supranational feature of European institutions. As Jean Monnet said, the model of the federal state inspired the creation of European institutions. Since then the European nation states were obliged to support the European project and more and more competences were removed from the nation states and entrusted to the EU. Now, one can uphold that the European Union is a kind of supranational state38. The concept of “state” adopted here has a more general meaning than Weber’s definition of the state as “a monopoly of the legitimate use of force”. Security is a public good and, like every public good, it can be provided by a coercive power (a legitimate government). By state we mean a legitimate government cooperating peacefully with other governments and endowed with the coercive power necessary to provide certain public goods. Someone could say that the internal market, the monetary union and the fiscal union are European public goods, but that the most important public good, security, is still in the hands of national governments which control police and military force. This observation is correct, but it should 38 I discussed this point of view in G. MONTANI, Lo stato sovranazionale. Ordine cooperativo e ordine coercitivo nell’esperienza europea, in “Il Politico”, n. 2, 2010, pp. 27-52.
be noticed that we are now trying out a further phase of the civilizing process studied by Elias. The modern state was based on a peaceful civil society: the coercive military force at the disposal of a legitimate government was crucial for the provision of other public goods, such as property rights, free speech, etc. Europe was able to achieve a peaceful coexistence among its member states with other means. Historical circumstances compelled Europe to follow this path. Social scientists should accept that the way to build a supranational state may differ from the way followed in the past to build the nation state. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the break down of the USSR, the downsizing of the USA as a superpower caused by the emergence of new global players, such as China, India and Brazil, the history of European integration has taken on a new meaning. During the Cold War, European integration was considered nothing but a device for coordinating national policies within the US hegemonic area. Today a new multipolar world is developing at a brisk pace. Citizens and governments must face new challenges: global financial and economic instability, international migrations, regional wars, nuclear proliferation, terrorism and, last but not least, a global environmental disaster that might end the life of the human species on Earth. The process of European integration, with its supranational features, is becoming a model that can be followed for the solution of global problems as well. The future of a multipolar system can be either the clash of civilizations and great powers or a world cooperative system, with institutions providing global public goods, such as peace, international justice and ecologically sustainable development. In a few words, European integration can be considered a workshop for the reforming of the world’s institutions of cooperation, created at the end of WWII. Humankind is becoming a community of fate and the European Union can be looked upon as a regional experiment for the democratic organization of the future cosmopolitan community of nation states. 5. Cosmopolitan federalism Unfortunately the debate on the relationship between European integration and cosmopolitanism is blurred by the uncertain status of the EU, which is not a League of Nations and not yet a federation. Philosophers and political scientists can therefore maintain that, as Will Kymlicka says: “Many of our most important moral principles should be 87
cosmopolitan in scope – e.g., principles of human rights, democracy, and environmental protection – and we should seek to promote these ideals internationally. But our democratic citizenship is, and will remain for the foreseeable future, national in scope”39. We have seen that democratic citizenship – and other ideals – cannot be trapped within the nation state borders because all human beings can share the ideals of political equality, human rights and environmental protection. These ideals cannot be promoted only by international institutions. The federal state is the appropriate institutional model to realize them, within the nation state and among the nation states. In our century we can and must develop a policy to build a cosmopolitan democracy inhabited by citizens of the world (kosmopolitês). Let’s consider the climax of the nationalist age, the decades before the outburst of WWI. The national governments of the Great European Powers were engaged in imperial wars, fighting over a piece of land outside Europe. In Europe they incited their people to hate their neighbours. The good national citizen had to be first of all a good soldier. Now look at Europe today: the same national peoples have elected their representatives in the European parliament, where they can debate common problems, decide common policies and take part, with their national governments, in the improvement of European institutions. They discuss these problems in a common language, usually English, and their stance and resolutions have a real impact on the daily life of their countrymen. The EU does not yet have a federal government, but the European democratic deficit can be overcome by the incoming institutional reforms. The substitution, among European peoples, of wars, trenches and death camps with a common Parliament is not an exclusive European virtue. Every people can do the same. An interesting empirical research carried out by a team of evolutionary psychologists on the role of culture in early social cognition, in Peru, India and Canada, reaches the following conclusions: “Organisms inherit their environments as much as they inherit their genes. … In the case of humans, the genomes of individuals cannot ‘expect’ any particular constructed environment. Human beings must be equipped with whatever skills are necessary for becoming competent members of whatever culture they are born into. … basic social-cognitive skills as imitation, joint attention, and com39 W. KYMLICKA, Citizenship in an Era of Globalization, in G. W. BROWN, D. HELD (eds), “The Cosmopolitanism Reader”, cit., p. 443.
munication by pointing are things that humans do in unique ways and that, generalizing from the current data, they begin to do at roughly the same developmental period universally across cultural contexts. They are skills that humans have evolved for functioning in their self-built cultural worlds”40. If these findings are correct, the difference between an ethnic culture and a national culture is only the degree of complexity due to the different history of the peoples, including of course the creation of the nation state, which was able to impose a dominant culture. However, in Europe, the integration process among nation states shows not only that some competences were transferred from the national government to the EU, but also that a few competences, especially regional customs, finance, welfare services and – sometimes – languages, are claimed by local governments. Briefly, a multi level kind of government, the federal model, is the proper answer for a multinational and multicultural society. What is possible in Europe today can become a reality in the world of tomorrow. Humanity is becoming a community of fate. Dramatic global challenges are shaping a global society: the instability of the financial and monetary global system, the gap between poor and wealthy peoples, the proliferation of mass destruction weapons, national terrorism and the risk of an irreversible ecological crisis. International realism tries to answer these problems with the so-called state-centric approach: intergovernmental cooperation, when possible and war, if the latter fails. Yet there is a more effective alternative: building supranational institutions. This point of view is usually ignored by social scientists when they propose plans to policy-makers for the reform of the international political and economic order because it is necessary to abandon the fetish of national sovereignty. This is an error. Let’s consider the crucial idea of people’s sovereignty, before it was confused with national sovereignty. John Locke in The Second Treatise of Government says that political power: “is that power which every man, having in the state of Nature, has given up into the hands of the society, and therein to the governours … to the preservation of himself and the rest of mankind” (§ 171). The state so constituted “is nothing but the consent of any number of freemen capable of a majority to unite and incorporate into such a society”. (§ 99). Therefore any reasonable 40 T. CALLAGHAN, H. MOLL, H. RAKOCZY, F. WARNEKEN, U. LISZWOSKI, T. BEHNE, M. TOMASELLO, Early Social Cognition in Three Cultural Contexts, Monographs of the Society for Reasearch in Child Development, Serial n. 2999, vol. 76, n. 2, 2011, p. 114.
individual can freely decide to take part in the political community; no “national identity” is required. If one of the fathers of modern political theory upheld that the scope of the government is the preservation of the “lives, liberties and possessions” of all humans, why is it so difficult nowdays to imagine a plan to transfer some power from national to supranational institutions? The answer is certainly not plain and simple, since in some countries nation building is the prevailing issue, not supranational integration. But in many continents – Africa, Latin America and Asia – regional supranational integration is a chance and in the world society the industrialized countries have the duty, not only the possibility, to reform and democratize the institutions already in existence, first of all the UN institutions41. Therefore the simplest answer to our problem is that the fetish of national sovereignty is today the ideological fig leaf for the conservation of privileges and rents of national rulers. Today the citizens of many nation states elect parliaments and governments, which do not have the power to face global problems, including the fundamental problem of preserving the lives of their citizens. The nation state is the Procustean bed of democracy. To conclude, national democracy is in crisis because more and more problems are global and require a global solution. Global supranational institutions are the appropriate answer. But this new phase of the civilizing process can be covered only if cosmopolitan federalism and cosmopolitan democracy go along pari passu. Abstract - One key issue bound up with the cultural changes prompted by globalization is the relationship between nationalism and cosmopolitism. This paper explores the notion of human nature to look at why, though people feel more sympathy for their neighbours, this sympathy does not prevent them from belonging to a wider political community. Scholars of international relations should consider the present experience of European integration carefully. After WWII, thanks to supranational institutions, Europe managed to overcome the main contradictions between nationalism and cosmopolitism. National sov-
ereignties can – and must – be pooled in common supranational institutions. In a system of sovereign nation states nationalism and cosmopolitism are necessarily at odds; in a federal system national identity is compatible with a cosmopolitan identity. The essay concludes that national democracy and the nation state are in crisis because more and more problems are now global, and require a global solution. Global supranational institutions are the answer. This new phase of civilization can only be achieved if cosmopolitan federalism and cosmopolitan democracy proceed pari passu. Human nature is not an obstacle.
41 Some supranational proposals are worked out in R. FIORENTINI, G. MONTANI, The New Global Political Economy. From Crisis to Supranational Integration, Cheltenham, Edward Elgar, 2012.