Tribalism and the State: A Reply to Michael Walzer

Tribalism and the State: A Reply to Michael Walzer

The bipolar world is gone. The world’s states are careening toward some new equilibrium— or so we imagine, for no one can foretell what the new order will be. All that we know for sure is that it won’t resemble what went before—and that nationalism will count much more than before, both within states and in relations among them.

Nationalism was supposed to be an anachronism in the twentieth century—overwhelmed by the economic bounty and social universalism of the world’s “advanced” societies. With the collapse of the Soviet system, these notions join the vast array of once familiar certainties that now appear merely quaint. In the former Soviet empire, the process of political fission has begun. First the breakup of the old Russian empire into constituent national states; next, rebellion within those units, as Ossetians seek independence from Georgians, Russians from Moldavians, ethnic Poles from Lithuanians, and so on. And, should these new rebels make good their claims, will not still smaller units assert themselves against the victors, seeking to secure their own freedom in still smaller units?

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