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The Nation-State in the Culture of Capitalism

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The Nation-State in the Culture of Capitalism







The mutual relationship of modern culture and state is something quite new, and springs, inevitably, from the requirements of a modem economy.

—Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism

Among the primary goals of the modern, post-Enlightenment state are assimi­lation, homogenization, and conformity within a fairly narrow ethnic and po­litical range, as well as the creation of societal agreement about the kinds of people there are and the kinds there ought to be. The ideal state is one in which the illusion of a single nation-state is created and maintained and in which re­sistance is managed so that profound social upheaval, separatist activity, rev­olution, and coups d'etat are unthinkable for most people most of the time.

—Carole Nagengast, Violence, Terror, and the Crisis of the State

Imagine an alien from another planet who lands on Earth after a nuclear holocaust has de­stroyed all life but has left undamaged terrestrial libraries and archives. After consulting the archives, suggested Eric Hobsbawm, our observer would undoubtedly conclude that the last two centuries of human history are incomprehensible without an understanding of the term nation and the phenomenon of nationalism.

The nation-state, along with the consumer, laborer, and capitalist, are, we suggest, the essential elements of the culture of capitalism. It is the nation-state, as Eric Wolf (1982:100) suggested, that guarantees the ownership of private property and the means of production and provides support for disciplining the work force. The state also has to pro­vide and maintain the economic infrastructure—transportation, communication, judicial systems, education, and so on—required by capitalist production. The nation-state must regulate conflicts between competing capitalists at home and abroad, by diplomacy if pos­sible, by war if necessary. The state plays an essential role in creating conditions that in­hibit or promote consumption, controls legislation that may force people off the land to seek wage labor, legislates to regulate or deregulate corporations, controls the money sup­ply, initiates economic, political, and social policies to attract capital, and controls the le­gitimate use of force. Without the nation-state to regulate commerce and trade within its



own borders, there could be no effective global economic integration. But how did the nation-state come to exist, and how does it succeed in binding together often disparate and conflicting groups?

Virtually all people in the world consider themselves members of a nation-state. The notion of a person without a nation, said Ernest Gellner (1983:6), strains the imagi­nation; a person must have a nationality as he or she must have a nose and two ears. We are Americans, Mexicans, Bolivians, Italians, Indonesians, Kenyans, or members of any of close to two hundred states that currently exist. We generally consider our country, whichever it is, as imbued with tradition, a history that glorifies its founding and makes heroes of those thought to have been instrumental in its creation. Symbols of the nation— flags, buildings, monuments—take on the aura of sacred relics.

The attainment of 'nationhood' had become by the middle of the twentieth century a sign of progress and modernity. To be less than a nation—a tribe, an ethnic group, a re­gional bloc—was a sign of backwardness. Yet fewer than one-third of the almost two-hundred states in the world are more than thirty years old; only a few go back to the nine­teenth century; and virtually none go back in their present form beyond that. Before that time people identified themselves as members of kinship groups, villages, cities, or, per­haps, regions, but almost never as members of nations. For the most part, the agents of the state were resented, feared, or hated because of their demands for tribute, taxes, or army conscripts.

States existed, of course, and have existed for five to seven thousand years. But the idea of the nation-state, of a people sharing some bounded territory, united by a common culture or tradition, common language, or common race, is a product of nineteenth cen­tury Europe. Most historians see the French Revolution of 1789 as marking the beginning of the era of the nation-state. Yet in spite of the historical newness of the idea, for many people nationality forms a critical part of their personal identity. Some of the questions we need to explore are: How did the nation-state come to have such importance in the world? Why did it develop as it did, and how do people come to identify themselves as members of such vague abstractions? Finally, why does the nation-state kill as often as it does ?

The question of killing is important, because today most killing and violence is either sanctioned by or carried out by the state. This should not surprise us: most defini­tions of the state, following Max Weber's (1947:124-135), revolve around its claim to a monopoly on the instruments of death and violence. 'Stateness,' as Elman Service (1975) put it, can be identified simply by locating 'the power of force in addition to the power of authority.' Killing by other than the state, as Morton Fried (1967) noted, will draw the pu­nitive action of organized state force.

The use of force, however, is not the only characteristic anthropologists emphasize in identifying the state; social stratification—the division of societies into groups with differing access to wealth and other resources—is also paramount. Yet even here the state is seen as serving as an instrument of control to maintain the privileges of the ruling group, and this, too, generally requires a monopoly on the use of force (see Cohen and Service 1978; Lewellen 1983).

Thus to complete our description of the key features of the culture of capitalism we need to examine the origin and history of the state and its successor, the nation-state.


The Origin and History of the State

The Evolution of the State

States represent a form of social contract in which the public ostensibly has consented to assign to the state a monopoly on force and agreed that only it can constrain and coerce people (Nagengast 1994:1116). Philosophers and political thinkers have long been fasci­nated by the question of why the state developed. Seventeenth-century philosopher Thomas Hobbes assumed the state existed to maintain order, that without the state life would be, in Hobbes's famous description, 'nasty, brutish, and short.' However, anthropologists have long recognized that some societies do very well without anything approaching state orga­nization; in fact 'tribes without rulers,' as they were called, represented until seven to eight thousand years ago the only form of political organization in the world. Government in these societies was relatively simple. There might be a chief or village leader, but their powers were limited. In gathering and hunting societies most decisions were probably made by consensus. Village or clan chiefs may have had more authority than others, but even they led more by example than by force. Power, the ability to control people, was generally dif­fused among many individuals or groups.

The state as a stratified society presided over by a ruling elite with the power to draw from and demand agricultural surpluses likely developed in the flood plains be­tween the Tigris and Euphrates in what is now Iraq four to five thousand years ago. The fortified cities of Uruk and Ur, forming the state of Sumeria, had populations of forty thousand. States developed independently in Egypt, the Indus River Valley of India, the Yellow River Valley of China, and, later, Mesoamerica and Peru.

Anthropologists have long been concerned with the idea of the origin of the state (see Lewellen 1992). Why didn't human aggregates remain organized into small units or into villages or towns of 500-2,000 persons? What made the development of densely set­tled cities necessary? Why, after hundreds of thousands of years, did ruling elites with control of armed force emerge to dominate the human landscape?

One theory is that as the population increased and food production became more complex, a class of specialists emerged and created a stratified society. Who comprised this class or why they emerged is an open question. Karl Wittfogel (1957), in his 'hydrau­lic theory' of state development, proposed that neolithic farmers in the area where states developed were dependent on flooding rivers, such as the Tigris, the Nile, and the Yellow Rivers, to water their fields and deposit new soil. But this happened only once each year, so to support an expanding population farmers began to build dikes, canals, and reservoirs to control water flow. As these irrigation systems became more complex, groups of spe­cialists emerged to plan and direct these activities, and this group developed into an ad­ministrative elite that ruled over despotic, centralized states.

Others propose that an increase in population, especially where populations cannot easily disperse, requires more formal means of government and control and will lead to greater social stratification and inequality. These theories of state development emphasize the integrative function of the state and suggest that it evolved to maintain order and direct societal growth and development.


However, another framework emerges from the work of Marx and Engels. In this framework early societies were thought to be communistic, with resources shared equally among members and little or no notion of private property. However, technological devel­opment permitted production of a surplus of goods, which could be expropriated and used by some persons to elevate their control or power in society. Asserting control permitted this elite to form an entrepreneurial class. To maintain their wealth and authority, they created structures of force.

The major criticism of this framework from anthropologists is that there is little ev­idence of this kind of entrepreneurial activity in prehistoric societies; moreover, it is diffi­cult to apply notions such as 'communism' and 'capitalism' to early societies. However, Morton Fried (1967) proposed that differential access to wealth and resources creates stratification, and once stratification emerges it creates internal conflict that will lead to either disintegration of the group or to the elite imposing their authority by force.

Yet another view proposes that external conflict is the motivation for state develop­ment: Once a group united under a strong central authority develops, it could easily con­quer smaller, less centralized groups and take captives, land, or property. Following this line of reasoning, if smaller groups were to protect themselves from predator states they too had to organize, the result being the emergence of competing states with the more powerful ones conquering the weaker ones and enlarging their boundaries. Robert Car-neiro (1978) reasoned that war has served to promote consolidation of isolated, politically autonomous villages into chiefdoms of united villages and into states. At first war pits vil­lage against village, resulting in chiefdoms; then it pits chiefdom against chiefdom, re­sulting in states; and then it pits state against state, creating yet larger political units.

It should be clear that these theories are not mutually exclusive; the emergence of states may be a result of any one or a combination of factors. Thus, other theorists, such as Marvin Harris (1971) and Kent Flannery (1972, 1973), propose that the evolution of the state required the interaction of various factors such as control of birth rates, nature of food resources, and the environment.

Regardless of why the state emerged as a human institution, it is clear that by 1400 the world was very much divided into states and empires ruled by groups of elites who maintained their positions through the use of force. But the states of prehistoric times— the city-states of ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, the Chinese dynasties—were very different from the modern nation-state. It is doubtful that subjects of the Ming Dynasty or Roman Empire identified themselves as members of a state, let alone a nation. It is un­likely that a British or French soldier of the sixteenth or seventeenth century felt he owed allegiance to his 'nation'—to his king or queen, perhaps, but not to anything so abstract as a 'country.' The nation-state is a very recent historical development, one we need to understand to appreciate its role in the culture of capitalism.

The History and Function of the Nation-State

The state as it exists today is obviously very different from the state that evolved seven thousand years ago or the state as it existed in the years 1500 or 1800. We have gone from being states to being nations or nation-states. The differences are important. A state is a


political entity with identifiable components. If someone asked citizens of the United States to identify a constituent of the 'state' they could point to federal buildings (e.g., the Congressional Office Building, the White House, federal courthouse), name federal bu­reaucracies (e.g., Congress, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Agricul­ture); they could list the things that the state requires of them—to pay taxes, register for social security, obtain citizenship, vote. However, if someone asked them what consti­tuted the 'nation,' what, other than the flag, could they point to? Other than being 'patri­otic,' what could they say is required of them by the 'nation'? The American nation is a far more abstract concept than the American state; a nation, as Benedict Anderson (1991:5-6) put it, is 'an imagined political community.' Yet in the last two hundred years, states have evolved to nations or nation-states. But why did a new form of political entity develop, and what function did it perform?

The modern state, suggested Fernand Braudel (1982:515-516), has three tasks: to secure obedience and gain a monopoly on force with legitimate violence; to exert control over economic life to ensure the orderly circulation of goods and to take for itself a share of the national income to pay for its own expenditure, luxury, administration, or wars; and to participate in spiritual or religious life and derive additional strength by using religious values or establishing a state religion. We will examine later the use of violence by the state and the use of religious values. Let's first examine the state control of economic life.

The state has probably always been involved in its subjects' economic life in one way or another. The ancient state existed partly to protect the privileges of the elites by ensuring production of resources, offering protection from other elites, and extracting sur­plus wealth from a largely peasant population. Traders supplied wealth to the elite in the form of taxes, tributes, and fees required to do business. The state also performed some functions for the trader—it might mint coins and produce paper money, establish stan­dards for weights and measures, protect the movement of merchants and goods, purchase goods, and create and maintain marketplaces where merchants could sell their products. But the ancient states probably did little actively to encourage trade, and in many ways they may have inhibited it. For example, they may have taxed the merchant to an extent that making a profit became difficult. The elite may have limited the goods that merchants could trade or limit the market for goods, for example by claiming exclusive rights to wear certain kinds of clothes or furs, hunt certain animals, eat certain foods, and inhabit certain sites.

In sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe and Japan states began to take a truly active role in promoting and protecting trade, recognizing that the state's wealth de­pended on the success of its manufacturers and traders. They began to protect their man­ufacturers and traders by imposing protective tariffs on goods from other states, using military force to open markets in peripheral areas, and granting trading monopolies to firms within their borders. States created and maintained ports, built roads and canals, and, later, subsidized railroad construction.

The state was also involved in the consumption of goods, either by purchasing goods or, again, using its military or bargaining power to open up foreign markets to its merchants. One of the most lucrative sources of manufacturers' profits was (and still is) the sale to governments of weapons and other goods and services (food, clothing, and transportation) necessary to maintain the military and other government services. While


ostensibly the military existed in core countries to protect the state against foreign invad­ers, it was far more often used to create and maintain colonies necessary for the success of domestic manufacture and trade and to maintain domestic order. Finally, the state orga­nized and directed financial institutions, such as banks, that ensured the ready availability of capital.

The nation-state, said Immanuel Wallerstein (1989:170), became the major build­ing block of the global economy. To be part of the interstate system required that political entities transform themselves into states that followed the rules of the interstate system. This system required for its operation an integrated division of labor, along with guaran­tees regarding the flow of money, goods, and persons. States were free to impose con­straints on these flows but only within a set of rules enforced collectively by member states or, as it usually worked out, a few dominant states.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the new capitalist state faced two prob­lems. The first was political. With the downfall of the doctrine of the divine right of kings and the absolute state, political leaders faced a crisis of political legitimacy. On what basis could they claim control of the state apparatus that had become so critical for the emergence and success of the 'national economy ' ? A second and related problem was economic: How could the state promote the economic integration of all those within its borders? While the English state could claim control over England, Scotland, and Wales and the French state over the regions of France (Bretagne, Picardie, Provence, Langue-doc, etc.), the situation in the countryside did not reflect that control. At the beginning of the nineteenth century few residents of the British Isles would identify themselves as Brit­ons; few residents of the state of France would identity themselves as French—at least 25 percent of them didn't even speak French. Germany and Italy, of course, didn't yet exist.

Thus the degree of economic integration of regions was weak or nonexistent. Not only did people speak different languages, they used different currencies, had different standards and measures, and were downright hostile to state officials. Wages and prices varied from area to area and standardized vocational training was virtually nonexistent. Furthermore, tastes in commodities differed; things manufactured or produced in one area might not appeal to people in other areas. Thus local economies existed either side-by-side with or independent of the so-called national economy. While countries such as En­gland, France, and the Netherlands were busy incorporating territories in South and North America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East into their national economies, they hadn't yet fully incorporated members of their own states.

There was, however, a single solution to both the political and the economic prob­lem: to turn states into nations—groups of people who shared a common culture, lan­guage, and heritage and somehow belonged together (or thought they did), worked together, and shopped together. This was not easy to accomplish, since virtually all of the major European states in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were hodgepodges of languages, cultures, and religions. When Garibaldi united a group of provinces into what was to become Italy, less than 3 percent of the population spoke Italian as their native lan­guage. German became the language of Germany only because Joseph II arbitrarily de­cided it should be. Thus nations had to be created: Frenchmen, Italians, Germans, and Americans had to be manufactured by convincing them they had something in common, preferably loyalty and devotion to their respective states.


If members of a state would see themselves as sharing a common culture—a common heritage, language, and destiny—not only could state leaders claim to represent the 'people,' whoever they might be, but the people could be more easily integrated into the national economy. They would, ideally, accept the same wages, speak the same lan­guage, use the same currency, have similar skills, and similar economic expectations, and, even better, demand the same goods. The question is, how do you go about constructing a nation?

Constructing the Nation-State

It has been argued by some, especially ardent nationalists of various persuasions, that nation-states are expressions of preexisting cultural, linguistic, religious, ethnic, or histor­ical features shared by people who make up or would make up a state. For many of the nineteenth-century German writers who were instrumental in creating the idea of the nation-state—Johann Gottfried von Herder, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, and Wilhelm Freiherr von Humboldt—nations were expressions of shared language, tradition, race, and state. Thus today we see some of the citizens of Quebec claiming that their cultural heritage and language differentiates them from the rest of Canada and entitles them to nationhood; Kurds aspiring to their own state on the basis of cultural unity; Bosnian Serbs demanding their own state on the basis of their ethnic purity; and Sikhs demanding their own state based on their mode of worship.

However, the more generally held view, certainly among scholars, is that nation-states are constructed through invention and social engineering. Traditions, suggested Eric Hobsbawm, must be invented. People must be convinced that they share or must be forced to share certain features such as language, religion, ethnic group membership, or a common historical heritage, whether or not they really do. As Hobsbawm and Ranger (1983:1) put it,

'Invented tradition' is taken to mean a set of practices, normally governed by overtly or tacitly accepted rules and of a ritual or symbolic nature, which seek to inculcate certain values and norms of behavior by repetition, which automatically implies continuity with the past. In fact, were it possible, they normally attempt to establish continuity with a suit­able historic past.

Creating the Other

An understanding of how the nation-state and, by extension, people's national identities are constructed is critical to understanding nationalism and ethnicity. Let's begin by ex­amining some of the ways Great Britain and France, pioneers in nation building, went about the task. Linda Colley illustrated how this was done in Great Britain. Colley's book includes a painting by Sir David Wilkie, Chelsea Pensioners Reading the Gazette of the Battle of Waterloo, that caused a sensation when it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1822. The painting depicts a crowd celebrating the news of the British victory over Na­poleon at Waterloo. The distinguishing feature of the painting is its clear identification of


Sir David Wilkie's painting Chelsea Pensioners Reading the Gazette of the Battle of Waterloo represents the power of the nation-state to transcend boundaries of age, gender, class, ethnicity, and occupation.

people from all over Britain. There are Welsh, Scottish, and Irish soldiers; women and children; rich and poor; even a Black military bandman. It is, Colley said, a celebration of patriotism that transcends boundaries of age, gender, class, ethnicity, and occupation. It is war, the painting suggests, that forged a nation by uniting this diverse group against a common enemy. Even the signs on the taverns celebrate past wars and victories. Accord­ing to Colley, Wilkie recognized the importance of war in nation building, and that unit­ing diverse people and groups against outsiders is one of the most effective ways to create bonds among them (1992:366-367).

Outsiders, however, can be used in more symbolic ways to build national unity. For example, Colley suggested that the making of the British nation from its culturally and linguistically diverse populations would have been impossible without a shared religion, that British Protestantism allowed the English, Scots, and Welsh to overcome their cul­tural divergence to identify themselves as a nation. However, that would not have been so effective had their religion not also distinguished them from their arch rival, Catholic France.

Furthermore, the founding of a colonial empire created additional Others from whom members of the British nation could distinguish themselves. Britons thought the establishment of an empire proved Britain's providential destiny, that God had chosen them to rule over other peoples and to spread the Gospel. Contact with manifestly alien


peoples fed Britons' belief about their superiority. They could favorably compare their treatment of women, their wealth, and their power. The building of a global empire cor­roborated not only Britain's blessings, but what Scottish socialist Keir Hardie called 'the indomitable pluck and energy of the British people' (cited Colley 1992:369).

Thus one of the most effective ways to construct a nation is to create some Other against whom members of the nation-state can distinguish themselves. That Other needn't be a country; it may be a category of persons constructed out of largely arbitrary criteria such as racial characteristics or religion. Thus a group may insist that only people of a particular skin color or religion or who speak a particular language can be members of their nation. War, religion, and the creation of colonies full of subjugated peoples pro­vided for Britons a sense of their collective identity as a people, allowing them to over­come their own significant differences in language, culture, and economic status. Of course people must find it in their own self-interest as well to proclaim their identity as members of a nation-state. As Colley pointed out, men and women became British patri­ots to obtain jobs in the state or to advertise their standing in the community. Some be­lieved that British imperialism would benefit them economically or that a French victory would harm them. For some, being an active patriot served to provide them full citizen­ship and a voice in the running of the state.

Yet the creation of hated or feared Others through such means as war, religion, and empire building is probably not in itself sufficient to build loyalty and devotion to a na­tion. If it were, the nation-state would likely have emerged well before it did. Construct­ing a nation-state also requires a national, bureaucratic infrastructure that serves in various ways to unite people.

Language, Bureaucracy, and Education

Eugen Weber, in his book Peasants into Frenchmen (1976), provided a classic account of nation building; he documented how peoples in France were administratively molded into a nation by bringing the French language to the countryside, by increasing the ease of travel, by increasing access to national media, through military training, and, most impor­tant, through a national educational system. Weber (1976:486) compared the transforma­tion of peasants into citizens of a French nation-state to the process of colonization and acculturation: unassimilated masses had to be integrated into a dominant culture. The pro­cess, he suggested, was akin to colonization, except it took place within the borders of the country rather than overseas. What kind of transformation of national identity did take place in France in the nineteenth century?

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, even after the French Revolution, a sig­nificant portion of rural France still lived in a world of their own. Few if any would have called themselves 'French.' The peasants of France were for the most part subsistence fanners, producing not for market or cash but for themselves and their families. People spent their lives in their villages. It is estimated that one-fourth of the residents of France did not speak French, including half the children who would reach adulthood in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Arnold van Gennep would write as late as 1911 that 'for peasants and workers, the mother tongue is patois, the foreign speech is French' (cited in Weber 1976:73).



State officials saw linguistic diversity as a threat not to administrative unity but to ideological unity, a shared notion of the interests of the republic, a oneness. Linguistic and cultural diversity came to be seen as imperfection, something to be remedied (Weber 1976:9). As a result, in the 1880s, at the insistence of the government, the French lan­guage began to infiltrate the countryside, a process more or less complete by 1914, al­though even in 1906 English travelers in France had problems communicating in French.

With the homogenization of language came the homogenization of culture. Local customs began to be replaced, dress and food preferences became standardized. While many aspects of local culture began to disappear, some were adopted as national symbols. The beret, worn only by Basques in 1920, became by 1930 a symbol of France; by 1932 some 23 million were manufactured, one for every French citizen.


Third graders in Palo Alto, California pledge their allegiance to their nation-state.


Another sign of state integration and the decline of local traditions and values is the decay of popular feasts and rituals that celebrated the unity of local groups, and their re­placement by private ceremonies and rituals along with a few national holidays. Commu­nal celebrations such as Christmas, New Year, and Twelfth Night turned into family affairs. Where once they were public rituals, baptisms, first communions, and marriages became private ceremonies. Renewal ceremonies that glorified time (the season), work (harvest), or the community (through its patron saint) disappeared as the redistribution of


goods once done through ritual at these ceremonies was now managed more efficiently (and more stringently) by the state (Weber 1976:398). The replacement of local holidays and festivals with national holidays also allowed these occasions to be turned into periods of massive consumption and gift giving, like Valentine's Day, Easter, Mother's Day, and Christmas in the United States (Schmidt 1995).

National unity in France was also evidenced by the growth of patriotism. In the early nineteenth century draft evasion in the provinces was high; for most, the military was a foreign institution. There was great tax resistance. Even toward the end of the nine­teenth century some French citizens had never heard of Napoleon; national authority was embodied in the tax collector and the recruiting sergeant. This is not to say, as Weber (1976:114) pointed out, that the French were unpatriotic, only that they had no uniform conception of patriotism. As he said, 'patriotic feelings on the national level, far from in­stinctive, had to be learned.'

Thus in the nineteenth century people living within the boundaries of the French state gradually learned to be French. But how did this happen; how were peasants turned into French citizens? As with Great Britain, war and the struggle against outsiders cer­tainly played a role in the conversion. The war against Prussia in 1870-1871 was a signif­icant unifying event for most residents of France. The expansion of a colonial empire helped create Others to whom the French could feel superior. But more significant, as Weber pointed out, there were far-reaching changes in the infrastructure and bureaucracy of France.

New roads were built, connecting people to others to whom they had never been connected; the growth of the railroads further increased mobility and contact between people of different regions. The railroads helped to homogenize tastes. While we now as­sociate the French with wine drinking, wine was not common in the countryside in the first half of the nineteenth century, becoming more available only with the railroads. The roads and railroads brought peasants into a national market; it allowed them to grow and sell crops they couldn't sell before and to stop growing those they could purchase more cheaply—bringing ruin to some local enterprises no longer protected by isolation. Fash­ions from the cities began to penetrate the countryside. And the roads and railroads set people on the move. If people migrated in the early part of the nineteenth century to find work, they almost always returned. This was no longer true by the end of the century.

As more people spoke French and became literate, they gained access to newspa­pers and journals, which in turn increased knowledge of national affairs and interests, demonstrating that events at the national level affected their lives. Military service in­creased identification with the state. Prior to the 1890s there was little sense of national identity in being a soldier; soldiers were either feared or thought to bring bad habits to their communities. Local men who joined the army were forced to conform when they re­turned to their villages lest their newly learned habits affect others. Many returned not even having learned to speak French. But the war with Prussia seemed to mark the begin­ning of a national identity in the rank and file of the military and among the peasants. The army began to become a school for the fatherland. Furthermore, for most recruits life in the army was better than life at home; the army ate better, dressed better, and was health­ier than the average French citizen, and toward the end of the century more and more sol­diers did not return to their villages after finishing their military obligations.


As important as all these agents of nation building were in France and other coun­tries, perhaps none was as important as the school. Weber credited the school with being the ultimate source of acculturation that made the French people French.

At the beginning of the century educational conditions were abysmal in France, as in most countries; some teachers couldn't read, and some classes were conducted by nuns who could read only prayers. In 1864 a French school inspector commented that none of the children understood what they read, and when they could read they could not give an account of it. Furthermore, schooling in the countryside had little practical benefit; it could not improve the lives of students economically or socially. While improving educa­tion in the countryside had been a goal of the state since the 1830s, great changes oc­curred only in the 1880s, when the state began to subsidize education and every hamlet with twenty children or more was required to have a school.

It was clear to state officials that education was necessary as a 'guarantee of order and social stability' (Weber 1976:331). 'To instruct the people,' one said, 'is to condition them to understand and appreciate the beneficence of the government' (Weber 1976:331). Clearly there was an explicit link in the minds of state officials between education, nation building, national identity, and economic expansion. Following is a passage from a first-year civics textbook that helped students in 'appreciating their condition.'

Society (summary): (1) French society is ruled by just laws, because it is a democratic so­ciety. (2) All the French are equal in their rights: but there are inequalities between us that stem from nature or from wealth. (3) These inequalities cannot disappear. (4) Man works to become rich; if he lacked this hope, work would cease and France would decline. It is therefore necessary that each of us should be able to keep the money he has earned, (cited Weber 1976:331)

Schooling was to be the great agent of nationalism. As one teacher said in 1861, it would teach national and patriotic sentiments, explain the benefits of the state and why taxes and military service were necessary, and illustrate for students their true interest in the fatherland. In 1881, another wrote that future instructors must be taught that 'their first duty is to make [their charges] love and understand the fatherland.' By the 1890s of­ficials considered the school 'an instrument of unity,' an 'answer to dangerous centrifu­gal tendencies,' and the 'keystone of national defense' (Weber 1976:332-333).

The best instrument of indoctrination, said school officials, was history, which, when properly taught, 'is the only means of maintaining patriotism in the generation we are bringing up.' In 1897 candidates for the baccalauret moderne were asked to define the purpose of history in education; 80 percent replied essentially that it was to exalt pa­triotism (Weber 1976:333).

Before 1870 few schools had maps of France; by 1881 few classrooms, no matter how small, were without one. By the end of the century the educational system seemed to be accomplishing its task, as evidenced by boys in rural France who began to enact the exploits of historical heroes.

Ernest Gellner (1983:34) drew the connection between nation building, education, and economic integration even more tightly. According to Gellner, work in industrial so­ciety no longer means working with things, rather it involves working with meanings, ex­changing communications with other people, or manipulating the controls of machines,


controls that need to be understood. It is easy to understand the workings of a shovel or a plow; it is another thing to understand the complex process through which a button or control activates a machine. As a consequence, a modern capitalistic economy requires a mobile division of labor and precise communication between strangers. It requires uni­versal literacy, a high level of numerical, technical, and general sophistication, mobility where members must be prepared to shift from area to area and from task to task, an abil­ity to communicate with people they don't know in a context-dependent form of commu­nication, in a common, standardized language. To attain the standard of literacy and technical competence needed to be employable, people must be trained, not by members of their own local group but by specialists. This training could be provided only by some­thing like a 'national' education system. Gellner (1983:34) went so far as to suggest that education became the ultimate instrument of state power, that the professor and the class­room came to replace the executioner and the guillotine as the enforcer of national sover­eignty, and that a monopoly on legitimate education became more important than the monopoly on legitimate violence to build a common national identity and to provide the training necessary for the full integration of national economies.

Violence and Genocide

While creating a feared or hated Other, a national bureaucracy, and an educational system are essential in constructing the nation-state, violence remains one of the main tools of nation building. In fact there is a view, shared in anthropology by Pierre van den Berghe (1992), Leo Kuper (1990), Carole Nagengast (1994), and others, that the modern nation-state is essentially an agent of genocide and ethnocide (the suppression and destruction of minority cultures). Given the glorification of the nation-state as a vehicle of modernization, unity, and economic development, this seems a harsh accusation. Yet there exists ample ev­idence that one of the ways states have sought to create nations is to eliminate or terrorize into submission those within its borders who refuse to assimilate or who demand recogni­tion of their status as a distinct ethnic or national group. In the United States the attempt first to kill all indigenous peoples, then forcibly to assimilate those who remained, followed by a policy of 'benign neglect,' is but one example of state hostility to cultural variation, as we shall see. The claim that states are agents of death and oppression against minority or even majority groups (e.g., South Africa) is often provided in daily news reports.

Between 1975 and 1979, in one of the worst cases of state killing in the twentieth century, the government of Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge, systematically killed as many as two million of its seven million citizens. These killings were carried out in the name of a program to create a society without cities, money, families, markets, or commodity-money relations. Millions were disembowelled, had nails driven into the backs of their heads, or were beaten to death with hoes. This program involved destroying what the leaders saw as the enemy classes—imperialists (e.g., ethnic Vietnamese, ethnic Chinese, Muslim Chams), feudalists (the leaders of the old regime, Buddhist monks, intellectuals), and comprador capitalists (ethnic Chinese). The goal was as much nationalistic as it was socialistic—to return Cambodia and the Khmer race to its previous glory. They took over a country dev­astated by U.S. bombing during the Vietnam War and ended up by killing millions who



 


they deemed didn't belong (Kuper 1990). But the killing of its citizens by the Khmer Rouge, while reaching an intensity matched by few states, was hardly an exception. As Carole Nagengast (1994:119-120) wrote:

The numbers of people worldwide subjected to the violence of their own states are stag­gering. More than a quarter of a million Kurds and Turks in Turkey have been beaten or tortured by the military, police, and prison guards since 1980; tens of thousands of indige­nous people in Peru and Guatemala, street children in Brazil and Guatemala, Palestinians in Kuwait, Kurds in Iraq, and Muslim women and girls in Bosnia have been similarly treated. Mutilated bodies turn up somewhere everyday. Some 6000 people in dozens of countries were legally shot, hung, electrocuted, gassed, or stoned to death by their respec­tive states between 1985 and 1992 for political misdeeds: criticism of the state, member­ship in banned political parties or groups, or for adherence to the 'wrong' religion; for moral deeds: adultery, prostitution, homosexuality, sodomy, or alcohol or drug use; for economic offenses: burglary, embezzling, and corruption; and for violent crimes: rape, as­sault, and murder.



R. J. Rummel (1994), in a series of books on state killing, documented the carnage committed by states against their own citizens: 61 million Russians from 1917 to 1987; 20 million Germans from 1933 to 1945; 35 million Chinese killed by the Chinese com­munist government from 1923 to 1949 and 10 million killed by the Chinese nationalists; almost 2 million Turks from 1909 to 1918; and almost 1.5 million Mexicans from 1900 to 1920. In total, Rummel (1994:9) said, almost 170 million men, women, and children from 1900 to 1987

have been shot, beaten, tortured, knifed, burned, starved, frozen, crushed, or worked to death; buried alive, drowned, hung, bombed, or killed in any other of the myriad ways governments have inflicted death on unarmed, helpless citizens and foreigners. The dead could conceivably be nearly 360 million people. It is as though our species has been dev­astated by a modern Black Plague. And indeed it has, but a plague of Power not germs.

Rummel attributed state killing to power and its abuses, claiming it is largely totalitar­ian regimes that resort to democide, genocide, or ethnocide. Democracies also kill, as evi­denced in the twentieth century by indiscriminate bombings of enemy civilians in war, the large-scale massacre of Filipinos during U.S. colonization of the Philippines at the turn of the century, deaths in British concentration camps during the Boer War in South Africa, ci­vilian deaths in Germany as a result of the Allied blockade, the rape and murder of helpless Chinese in and around Peking in 1900, atrocities committed by Americans in Vietnam, the murder of helpless Algerians by the French during the Algerian War, and the deaths of German prisoners of war in French and U.S. prisoner of war camps after World War II. But Rummel said even these prove his point about power, for virtually all of these cases were committed in secret behind a trail of lies and deceit by agencies and power holders who were given the authority to operate autonomously and shielded from the press. Even attacks on German and Vietnamese cities were presented as attacks on military targets. He con­cluded that as we move from democratic through authoritarian and to totalitarian govern­ments, the degree of state killing increases dramatically (Rummel 1994:17).


Pierre van den Berghe (1992:191) attributed state killing not to the misuse of author­ity but to nation building itself. Taking what he called a frankly anarchist position, he said

the process euphemistically described as nation-building is, in fact, mostly nation-killing; that the vast majority of so-called 'nation-states' are nothing of the sort; and that modern nationalism is a blueprint for ethnocide at best, genocide at worst.

Van den Burghe said that the nation-state myth has been allowed to persist because international bodies such as the United Nations insist that internal killing is a state matter, a 'gentlemen's agreement' between member states not to protest the butchering of their own citizens. Also, scholars perpetrate the myth with the use of nation-state designation. The result is to legitimize genocide in the interests of building nation-states that function to further economic and political integration.

Carole Nagengast (1994:122) proposed that state-sponsored violence serves to aid in the construction and maintenance of the nation-state. She examined not only state killing but also the institutionalization of torture, rape, and homosexual assault. The purpose of this state-sponsored violence is not to inflict pain but to create what Nagengast called 'punishable categories of people,' to create and maintain boundaries and legitimate or de-legitimate specific groups. State violence against its own citizens, she suggested, is a way to create an Other, an ambiguous underclass that consists on the one hand of subhuman brutes and on the other hand of superhuman individuals capable of undermining the ac­cepted order of society. Arrest and torture serves to stigmatize people and to mark them as people who no one wants to be. Arrest and torture become, in effect, a way of symbolically marking, disciplining, and stigmatizing those categories of people whose existence or de­mands threaten the idea, power, and legitimacy of the nation-state. Furthermore, since the torture and violence are committed only against 'terrorists,' 'communists,' or 'separat­ists,' it becomes legitimate. 'We only beat bad people,' said a Turkish prison official in 1984. 'They are no good, they are worthless bums, they are subversives who think that communism will relieve them of the necessity of working.' He revealed with apparent pride that he had 'given orders that all prisoners should be struck with a truncheon below the waist on the rude parts, and warned not to come to prison again.' 'My aim,' he said, 'is to ensure discipline. That's not torture, for it is only the lazy, the idle, the vagabonds, the communists, the murderers who come to prison' (cited Nagengast 1994:121).

Terrorist acts are often depicted as being extra-legal; that is, committed by persons outside state control. Yet there is considerable evidence that most terror is applied by states to integrate or control a reluctant citizenry. As Jeffery Sluka (2000:1) puts it:

if terrorism means political intimidation by violence or its threat, and if we allow the def­inition to include violence by states and agents of states, then we find that the major form of terrorism in the world today is practiced by states and their agents and allies, and that quan­titatively, anti-state terrorism pales into relative insignificance in comparison to it.

Death squads operate outside the law but with the tacit approval of the state. Thus their actions carry out state goals of eliminating dissidents without due process of law but are enough removed from official state agencies to allow the state 'plausible denial.'


Rarely are members of death squads punished, and many are also members of official state agencies such as the police, militia, or army.

Targets of death squads are often portrayed by the state as 'terrorists' or subver­sives but tend to be anyone that challenges the status quo. These include people who or­ganize unions, offer Bible classes, propose land reforms, or advocate tax increases on the rich. They include clergy, labor organizers, human rights activists, social workers, jour­nalists, and so on. Victims include women, children, the elderly, and relatives of activists. More recently, particularly in Latin America, victims include street children.

Few countries are immune to the operation of state-sanctioned death squads. In the United States, for example, there were 4,743 recorded lynchings from 1882-1968. Of these people that were lynched 3,446 were black. Not only were people never prosecuted for participating in a lynching, they requested often to have their pictures taken next to the victim, often turning the photograph into a postcard (Allen 2000).'

One of the most recent case of large scale global paramilitary violence occurred in September of 1999 after 78.5% of the people of East Timor had voted for independence from Indonesia. Paramilitary militia, supported and supplied by the Indonesian military, unleashed a wave of violence that left over 1,000 people dead and destroyed virtually the entire infrastructure of the island.

Core countries play a major role in supporting violent regimes in the periphery by either training officers or offering direct military aid. Virtually all this military support is used, not to defend against foreign invasion, but to suppress political dissent or unioniza­tion or to discipline a resistant citizenry. And the financial cost of maintaining militaries and supplying client states is high (see Table 4.1 on pp. 118-119).

Alexander George in his book Western State Terrorism concludes that

The plain and painful truth is that on any reasonable definition of terrorism, taken literally, the United States and its friends are the major supporters, sponsors, and perpetrators of terrorist incidents in the world todaymany, probably most, significant instances of ter­rorism are supported, if not organized, by the U.S., its partners, and their client states (George 1991:1-2)

The Future of the Nation-State

The nation-state as currently conceived is two to three hundred years old. But what is its future? Some suggest that nation-states are no longer viable or necessary and will disinte­grate into smaller, more culturally homogeneous units. Others (see, e.g., Smith 1995) sug­gest that the nation-state is still the most sensible solution to problems of social and economic order.

There are, however, three developments that seem to threaten the integrity of nation-states: transnationalism, an increase in the number of people living and working in coun­tries other than the one in which they hold citizenship; the growing power and influence of

'Many of these photographs are available on the Web. See for example: https://www.berea.edu/ENG/chesnutt/ history.html



TABLE 4.1   Military Expenditures, Arms Exports, and Imports by Country—1997

Arms Expenditures

Arms Exports

Arms Imports

$ in

$ in

$ in

Rank

Country

Millions

Rank

Country

Millions

Rank

Country

Millions

1

United States

276300

1

United States

31800

1

Saudi Arabia

11600

2

China (Mainland)

74910

2

United Kingdom

6600

2

China (Taiwan)

9200

3

Russia

41730

3

France

5900

3

Japan

2600

4

France

41520

4

Russia

2300

4

United Kingdom

2100

5

Japan

40840

5

China (Mainland)

1100

5

Kuwait

2000

6

United Kingdom

35290

6

Sweden

900

6

Egypt

1600

7

Germany

32870

7

Germany

750

7

Turkey

1600

8

Italy

22720

8

Italy

700

8

United States

1600

9

United Arab

9

Saudi Arabia

21150

9

Canada

550

Emirates

1400

10

South Korea

15020

10

Spain

525

10

Israel

1100

11

Brazil

14150

11

Netherlands

500

11

South Korea

1100

12

China (Taiwan)

13060

12

Ukraine

500

12

Thailand

950

13

India

10850

13

Belarus

490

13

Australia

925

14

Israel

9335

14

Israel

370

14

Greece

850

15

Australia

8463

15

South Africa

370

15

Iran

850

16

Canada

7800

16

Bulgaria

120

16

Germany

750

17

Turkey

7792

17

Belgium

110

17

Malaysia

725

18

Spain

7670

18

Czech Republic

90

18

Qatar

625

19

Netherlands

6839

19

India

90

19

Pakistan

600

20

North Korea

6000

20

Singapore

90



20

China (Mainland)

500

21

Singapore

5664

21

North Korea

70

21

Algeria

480

22

Poland

5598

22

Uzbekistan

70

22

Netherlands

460

23

Sweden

5550

23

Poland

60

23

Brazil

430

24

Greece

5533

24

Moldova

50

24

Italy

430

25

Indonesia

4812

25

Switzerland

50

25

Spain

430

26

Iran

4726

26

Slovakia

40

26

India

410

27

United Arab

27

Mexico

4294

Emirates

40

27

Indonesia

410

28

Ukraine

4285

28

Australia

30

28

Singapore

400

29

Switzerland

3859

29

Brazil

30

29

Finland

370

30

Argentina

3701

30

Greece

30

30

Canada

310

31

Belgium

3686

31

Iran

30

31

Peru

310

32

Colombia

3456

32

South Korea

30

32

Sweden

310

33

Syria

3403

33

Austria

20

33

Switzerland

310

34

Vietnam

3387

34

China

34

Burma

280

35

Pakistan

3381

35

Finland

20

35

Venezuela

270

36

Thailand

3380

36

Indonesia

20

36

France

260

37

Burma

NA

37

Japan

20

37

Norway

250

38

Norway

3253

38

Mexico

20

38

Romania

250

39

Chile

2864

39

Serbia and

20

39

Belgium

240

Montenegro



TABLE 4.1    Continued

Arms Expenditures

Arms Exports

Arms Imports

$in

$ in

$ in

Rank

Country

Millions

Rank

Country

Millions

Rank

Country

Millions

40

Denmark

2804

40

Azerbaijan

10

40

Denmark

200

41

Bosnia and

41

Kuwait

2761

41

Denmark

10

Herzegovina

180

42

Portugal

2389

42

Norway

10

42

Morocco

180

43

Uzbekistan

NA

43

Portugal

10

43

Austria

170

44

South Africa

2322

44

Romania

10

44

Ecuador

160

45

United Arab

Emirates

2306

45

Swaziland

10

45



Oman

160

46

Romania

2285

46

Turkey

10

46

Poland

150

47

Egypt

2176

47

Armenia

5

47

Czech Republic

140

48

Malaysia

2089

48

Egypt

5

48

Kazakstan

140

49

Libya

NA

49

Hungary

5

49

Jordan

130

50

Nigeria

2001

50

Malaysia

5

50

Mexico

130

From U.S. Department of State, World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers 1998. https://www.state.gov/www/global/ arms/bureau_ac/wmeat98/wmeat98. html

transnational corporations; and the growth in the number, and possibly influence, of non­governmental organizations. Let's complete our examination of the nation-state by review­ing each of these developments.

Transnationalism and Migration

Lenin (1976) made the point that imperialism transported surplus capital from developed to undeveloped areas of the world and, as a consequence, destroyed local economies, re­placing peasant fanning and small-scale industry with wage labor. But the economies of underdeveloped areas are incapable of absorbing the labor it has created, and that labor is now spilling over into the core of the world capitalist economy. Currently 2 percent of the world's population—100 million people—live and work in countries of which they are not citizens.

Massive labor migration is not a new thing; in the last half of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth, as we saw in Chapter 2, millions of people migrated in search of land and wage labor. The migrations of the 1980s and 1990s, however, are different in at least two respects. First, labor migrants are maintaining or attempting to maintain close ties with their home countries, and home countries are also attempting to maintain those ties. Not only do Haitian migrants to the United States maintain close ties with their families in Haiti, but the Haitian government refers to those people as Le Dix-ieme Departement (Dizyem Depatman-an in Creole) of a country with nine geographical divisions or Depatman. It is as if Americans working abroad were referred to as a fifty-first


state. Second, migrants are no longer as welcome in host core countries as they were in the nineteenth century, when there was an abundance of land and a shortage of labor. These two differences have created a very different view of migrants in their home coun­tries and in the core countries in which they seek to work.

Linda Basch, Nina Glick Schiller, and Cristina Szanton Blanc (1994:7), in their book Nations Unbound, labeled the process where people's lives are stretched across na­tional boundaries as transnationalism. They defined transnationalism as

The process by which immigrants forge and sustain multi-stranded social relations that link together their societies of origin and settlement. We call these processes transnation­alism to emphasize that many immigrants today build social fields that cross geographic, cultural, and political borders.

Transnationalism, they suggested, requires a reconceptualization of the nation-state; whereas it was once thought of as people sharing a common territory, it now must include citizens who are physically dispersed among other states but who remain socially, politi­cally, culturally, and sometimes economically part of the nation-state of their ancestors (Basch et al., 1994:8).

They believe transnational migrants are a product of global capitalism, as the debt of peripheral countries has created massive unemployment. The unemployed are vulnera­ble in their own countries because they cannot find work and in the countries to which they migrate because they cannot compete on an equal basis and often are used as scape­goats. It is because of this economic and political vulnerability that migrants construct a transnational existence seeking work in core countries while at the same time maintaining ties with family at home (Basch et al., 1994:27). Consequently, transmigrants are engaged in the nation-building process of two or more nation-states, the state of their origin and the one to which they have migrated in search of work.

Haitian migrants to the United States, for example, often send money and goods home both to aid their family and to advance their social position for their expected return home. One estimate is that in 1989, Haitian immigrants sent $99.5 million from New York to Haiti (Basch 1994:165). Many Haitians living in the United States build, buy, and maintain homes in Haiti and send home furnishings both for their own home and for their kin. Children are sent each year to visit or, in many cases, left in Haiti with kin because it is easier and cheaper to raise them there.

One motivation for maintaining of ties arises from loyalty, sentiment, and emo­tional ties to Haiti. But there is also a sense of precariousness of rooting oneself in the United States, because of racism and discrimination, fear of unemployment, national chauvinism, the high cost of living, and, for some, the continued undocumented status that leaves them vulnerable to discovery and deportation. Marie Rose was born in Haiti but grew up in the United States, was educated in Brooklyn and received a master's of nursing, and became head of a nursing unit in a Brooklyn hospital. She continues to invest in her home in Haiti, where she spends two weekends each year. Her husband moved back to Haiti, taking with him the Mercedes Marie bought in the United States.

For the migrant's home country, migrants are valuable sources of foreign exchange. The home country's dilemma is how to take advantage of the money and goods that trans-


national migrants send home, while maintaining their identity and loyalty. For example, to promote transnationalism in the mid-1980s, Haitian leaders used Zionists as a model, Jews who were permanently part of U.S. political, social, and economic life but who were made to understand that they had a 'homeland' in Israel. Father Jean Bertrand Aristide accelerated this process when he was elected president in 1991, going so far as to appoint to government posts Haitians who had become citizens of other countries. In his address to the United Nations, Aristide insisted his government had a right to intervene on behalf of Haitians living in other countries.

Viewed from the core, transnational migrants pose a different set of problems. The problem is that the often cheap labor supplied by the transnational migrant is desired, but the person who does the labor is not. The question is how to keep the borders open to cheap transnational labor while at the same time maintaining the boundaries of the nation-state? In the United States, for example, businesses want foreign labor, but the in­crease in the number of immigrants threatens some people's sense of their national iden­tity; thus the increase in Spanish-speaking immigrants in the United States increased efforts to have Congress declare English the country's official language.

Michael Kearney (1991:58), examining the situation of the Mexican worker in the United States, suggested that immigration policy in core countries is largely directed to trying to separate the labor from the laborer: foreign labor is desired, but the person in which it is embodied is not. Consequently, the immigration policies of host countries must somehow separate labor from the person who supplies it, must 'disembody the labor from the migrant worker.'

One way to do this is to pass punitive antimigrant legislation that allows migrants to work in the United States but prohibits access to services, such as education for their chil­dren, welfare, and medical assistance. Thus American employers can obtain cheap labor, while the state can deny benefits accorded to citizen laborers. Another solution is to pass language laws that mark any non-English speaker as unqualified to be a member of the nation-state. Kearney pointed out also that even such things as border patrols function not so much to apprehend illegal migrants as to force them to accept low-paying jobs while not claiming benefits accorded to other laborers. He cited the example of migrant Mix-tecs, who walk through the mountains in winter to find work and who because of their work ethic are desired by American employers. They don't understand why the Migra (border patrol) seek to apprehend them, forcing them to work harder and faster before they are apprehended, and forcing them to take whatever work at whatever wages they can. But, as Kearney (1991:61) pointed out, that is exactly the point of the Migra; it is not intended to stop migrants from coming into the United States to work; rather it functions to discipline them to work harder and accept low wages.

Thus border areas become contested zones, manifestations of the dilemma of exploit­ing the laborer while denying the rights of the individual. Kearney noted that the border is as or more troubling to Mexico than it is to the United States. Given the economic situation in Mexico in the 1990s, where income was dropping and unemployment was increasing, trans­migration was highly valued. If Mexicans living and working in the United States were repa­triated to Mexico, the increase in unemployment in Mexico would result in an impossible situation and possible social unrest. Furthermore, their return would mean the loss of Mex­ico's third or fourth most important source of foreign exchange (Kearney 1991:69).


The differences in wealth between the periphery and the core, the need of citizens of peripheral countries to find jobs wherever they are, and the desire in capitalist econo­mies to seek the cheapest labor combine to create a dynamic that increases the number of transnational migrants working in core countries and threatens the boundaries between nation-states. Kearney suggested that boundary-maintaining activities such as language laws and punitive antimigrant legislation represent a sign of a threat to national bound­aries. In the era of transnationalism, there is a dissolution of boundaries and a frantic at­tempt to deal with it by further defining, maintaining, and defending borders.

Will Corporations Rule the World?

Some see yet another entity as a threat to the power of the nation-state—the transnational corporation. In many ways this institution seems a natural development in a process of economic integration that began centuries ago. One of the major dynamics for the devel­opment of the nation-state, as previously mentioned, is the need to integrate national economies. The growth of business and the creation of the consumer required standard­ized weights, measures, and currencies, common wages and prices, and a homogeneous consumer population such that a product produced in a given country would be desired by everyone in that country. The state was the main agency enforcing integration, through regulatory agencies, enforced wage and labor standards, and, perhaps most important, the development of state education and schools that would construct populations of Ameri­cans, French, English, Germans, Italians, and so on.

As states required economic integration within their borders, however, the modern global economy requires global, not just state, integration. The institution best equipped to perform the task of global integration, some argue, is the transnational corporation. David Korten (1995:12) suggested that these entities represent a shift of power away from governments, which are ideally responsible for the public good, toward a few corpora­tions and financial institutions, in which are concentrated massive economic and political power and whose sole motive is the quest for short-term financial gain. The corporation, Korten argued, has evolved from an institution with limited power to one that some claim is the dominant governance institution of the world and which exceeds most governments in size and power (see Table 4.2). One consequence is that corporate interest, as opposed to human interests, defines the policy agendas of states and international agencies.

As we saw in Chapter 3, the corporate charter is a social invention that originally was supposed to promote the use of private financial resources for public purposes. It can be traced back to the sixteenth century. Since that time corporations have assumed enormous power and have advanced an ideology that Korten labeled corporate libertarianism, which places the rights and freedoms of corporations above the rights and freedoms of individuals. The question is, how have corporations managed to convince governments of the worth of this ideology? Perhaps more important, how have they managed to convince the public that its interests are identical to those of the corporation? Korten argued that corporations have advanced their interests by gaining control of various international and domestic agencies as well as social, political, and economic institutions (see Table 4.3 on p. 124).

The first group of agencies that function to advance corporate interests, according to Korten, are the Council on Foreign Relations, the Bilderberg (named for the Hotel de






123

123




Country GNP data from the World Economic Outlook 1999 Database (IMF) at https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2000/ 02/data/index.htm; corporate income data from Forbes' Global 500 at https://www.fortune.com/fortune/global500/

Bilderberg of Oosterbeek, Holland), and the Trilateral Commission. These are private forums created to bring together people from government, business, the media, and aca-demia to discuss the creation of public policy and create a consensus that aligns our most powerful institutions with the economic globalization agenda. For example, it was the Council on Foreign Relations and its journal, Foreign Affairs, that in the late 1930s rec­ommended to President Roosevelt that he create a network of worldwide financial institu­tions to stabilize currencies and provide capital for the development of peripheral countries. This recommendation led to the conference in 1944 at Bretton Woods at which the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were created. The Bilderberg began with informal meetings of North American and European leaders in 1954; participants have included virtually every major industrialist, financier, and government leader. The Trilateral Commission was formed in 1973 by David Rockefeller, chair of Chase Manhat­tan Bank, and Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was to be National Security Advisor during the



Carter administration. They describe themselves as a group of 325 distinguished citizens. Members have included heads of all the major corporations as well as American presi­dents (Carter, Bush, Clinton) and many who hold influential government posts. These in­stitutions and others have brought together government, academic, and corporate leaders to create policy that directs the actions of governments and influential world agencies, such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the United Nations, toward full integration of the world's capitalist economy.

In addition to these 'informal' discussion groups, corporate libertarianism is evi­dent in the working of the World Bank, which functions partly to control the financial links between corporations and borrowers. Thus the International Finance Corporation, one arm of the World Bank, functions to make government-guaranteed loans to private in­vestors on projects deemed too risky for commercial banks.

Another way corporations sell their agenda is through lobbying groups and public relations efforts targeted to political leaders and the public. Until the 1970s this was done through straightforward lobbying groups, such as the Beer Institute and the National Coal Association. Today corporations try to mask their involvement by forming 'citizen' groups, such as the National Wetlands Coalition (with its logo of a duck flying over a swamp), sponsored by oil and gas drilling companies and real estate developers fighting for lessening of restrictions on the conversion of wetlands to drilling sites and shopping malls. Keep America Green, sponsored by the bottling industry, argues for antilitter cam­paigns rather than mandatory recycling legislation.

Protected by the free speech provision of the First Amendment, corporations mar­shal huge public relations efforts on behalf of their agendas. In the United States the 170,000 public relations employees whose job it is to manipulate news, public opinion, and public policy in the interests of their clients outnumber news reporters by 40,000. A study in 1990 discovered that almost 40 percent of the news content of a typical U.S. newspaper originates as public relations press releases, story memos, and suggestions. The Columbia Journalism Review reported that more than half the news stories in the Wall Street Journal are based solely on corporate press releases (cited in Korten 1995:148). United States corporations spend almost half as much on advertising (approx­imately $120 per person) as the federal government spends on education ($207 per per­son). Korten (1995:146) suggested that the world outlined by George Orwell in 1984 has occurred, but it is the corporation rather than the state that is oppressing us: 'We are ruled by an oppressive market, not an oppressive state.'

Finally, in the 1980s and 1990s corporations gained formal control over interna­tional regulatory agencies. The assumption of this control began with the Bretton Woods initiative and culminated with the World Trade Organization. The WTO has the power to override rules and legislation passed by countries and local governments if its three-person panel, in private, decides that the rules 'unfairly' inhibit free trade. Thus, the modern transnational corporation can use public policy forums, international financial agencies, public relations organizations, the media, schools, and world regulatory agen­cies to convince government leaders and the public of courses of action that ensure profit making and reduce the risk of financial failure. Furthermore, to the extent that individual lives are influenced by corporate ideology, we may also be witnessing the increase of the authoritarian governance systems common to corporations.






The powers exercised by corporations through government, through private and public institutions, and through public relations specialists can often result in the voting public supporting actions that may not be in their best interest.

Reprinted with the permission of John Jonik.

It would seem that the only agency of control lacking in the corporation is armed force. Yet corporations have sometimes managed to co-opt the military of nation-states to serve their own ends or even, on occasion, to organize and equip their own private armies. Early in their development, corporations made use of armies, national guards, and some­times even their own private military force to end strikes or punish or repress urban and rural protest. Even today corporations often become closely involved in state repression. In 1995 Shell Oil Corporation supplied arms to the Nigerian government as it sought to repress the Ogoni peoples, who were demanding that Shell cease polluting Ogoni lands. Shell earned worldwide condemnation for its involvement and possible acquiescence in the execution of Ogoni leader Ken Saro Wira. Oil companies such as Local 66 have lent direct or indirect support to the repressive regime in Myanmar (Burma), while other cor­porations appear to seek out relations with repressive regimes that ban labor organizing. We may be witnessing the birth of a new kind of war—'investor wars'—in which gov-


ernments, to keep or attract foreign corporate investment, systematically repress and make war on minorities whose demands lend an impression of government instability that state leaders fear will scare away foreign investors.

Yet, as powerful as corporations have become, it is difficult to see them operating without the nation-state. Some have argued that, in fact, the nation-state is, by and large, an extension of the corporation, creating conditions necessary for the maintenance of per­petual growth (see, e.g., Wallerstein 1997). Nation-states must adopt policies to promote 'competitiveness,' to promote the free movement of capital, and confine labor within na­tional boundaries. Furthermore the nation-state must create and enforce rules that permit the various costs involved in doing business to be 'externalized' and passed on to the gen­eral public, marginalized persons, or to future generations.

Corporations rarely, if ever, pay the full cost of production. And consumers never directly pay the real price of things. For example, take the price of gasoline. A gallon of gasoline is currently selling in the United States for approximately $1.50 to $2.00. But the real cost, according to a report from the International Center for Technology Asessment (CTA nd) is closer to from $10 to $15. How is it then, that oil companies can sell it for $2 and still make a huge profit?

First, the U.S. government provides domestic companies with tax breaks to enable them to compete with other producers, as well as to keep gasoline prices down. There is, for example, the Percentage Depletion Allowance that amounts to almost $1 billion a year, foreign tax credits of some $1.11 to $3.4 billion, along with other tax subsidies that save oil companies some $9.1 to $17.8 billion. Second there are program subsidies that support the extraction, production, and use of petroleum projects that total $38 to $114.6 billion each year. This includes the construction, maintenance and repair of roads and bridges, direct support of research and development, and government expenditures for pollution cleanup and regulation. Then there are protection subsidies, particularly the mil­itary protection for oil-rich regions. The U.S. Defense Department spending allocated to safeguarding the world's petroleum resources amounts to some $55 to $96.3 billion per year. The maintenance of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve costs $5.7 billion per year.

Then there are the environmental, health, and social costs that are not reflected in the price we pay at the pump. The International Center for Technology Assessment re­ports that these expenses total some $231.7 to $942.9 billion every year. The environmen­tal costs of pollution caused directly by the internal combustion engine costs at least $39 billion per year, and some estimates place the cost at closer to $600 billion. Since re­searchers have directly linked automobile pollution to health problems, annual uncom-pensated health costs are estimated to run from $29.3 to $542.4 billion a year.

These are just samples of the hidden costs of gasoline; if we were to add to these the hidden costs of our dependence on the automobile, of course, these costs would skyrocket. Thus, without the nation-state to pass laws and regulations and to provide needed services for the maintenance of trade, the direct cost of virtually all the items that we buy, from candy bars (see Robbins 2000) to automobiles, would be many times higher than they are. And if we were to add up the hidden costs of all the items that define even a middle-class life style in the culture of capitalism, we would be able to appreciate the role of the nation-state in making that lifestyle economically feasible. Of course, these hidden prices need to be paid at some point by someone; consequently we must pay them in higher taxes or


health costs, or others must pay them in lower wages or health or environmental risks; oth­erwise the costs must be paid by future generations.

Nongovernmental Organizations

Another set of global organizations that some claim presents an alternative to the nation-state is the nongovernmental organization (NGO). These organizations—also called the nonprofit sector, independent sector, volunteer sector, civic society, grassroots organizations (GROs), transnational social movement organizations, and nonstate actors—generally represent any organization, group, or institution that fulfills a public function but is not a part of the govern­ment of the territories in which it works. Nongovernmental organizations may be large trans­national organizations, such as Amnesty International or the Red Cross, or small, local-level groups, such as a neighborhood group organized to provide day care. Generally it is the large international groups that some see as alternatives to nation-states.

There are various ways of conceptualizing the role of NGOs in relation to other po­litical and economic bodies. Lester M. Salamon and Helmut K. Anheier (1996:129) sug­gested that NGOs represent a third sector in global governance, the other two being the state and the corporation (or 'market'). Marc Nerfin (1986) suggested that politically we can conceptualize NGOs using the metaphor of the prince, the merchant, and the people, with governmental power and the maintenance of public order the job of the prince, eco­nomic power and the production of goods and services the job of the merchant, and NGOs representing the citizen, the power of the people. In this framework, NGOs devel­oped from citizen demands for accountability from the prince and merchant, competing with them for power and influence, and demanding that neglected groups (e.g., the poor, children) be heard (see Weiss and Gordenker 1996:19; Korten 1990:95ff).

The NGO as we know it dates from the founding of the International Red Cross in Switzerland in 1865. Since that time there has been spectacular growth in the number of recognized NGOs, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s in the periphery. In 1909, for ex­ample, there were 176 international NGOs; by 1993 there were 28,900. In Nepal the number of registered NGOs rose from 220 in 1990 to 1,210 in 1993; in Bolivia from 100 in 1980 to 530 in 1992; in Tunisia from 1,886 in 1988 to 5,186 in 1991. Often NGOs in the periphery serve and employ thousands of people. In south Asia, for example, the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) delivers health, education, and credit services to almost 3 million people and employs 12,000. Some suggest (see, e.g., Edwards and Hulme 1995) that the development of NGOs may be as important in the last part of the twentieth century as the development of the nation-state was in the nineteenth.

Why have NGOs increased in importance? First, some suggest that the end of the Cold War made it easier for NGOs to operate without being drawn into the conflict be­tween the West and the Communist Bloc. Second, revolutions in communication, particu­larly through the Internet, have helped create new global communities and bonds between like-minded people across state boundaries. Third, there are increased resources and a growing professionalism in NGOs. In 1994, 10 percent of public development aid ($8 bil­lion) was channeled through NGOs, including 25 percent of U.S. assistance and 30 per­cent of projects funded by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Nongovernmental organizations represent a major growth sector for people seeking em-


ployment. Fourth, there is the media's ability to inform more people about global problems. With this increased awareness, the public, particularly but not exclusively in core countries, demand that their governments take action. Finally, and perhaps most important, some people suggest that NGOs have developed as part of a larger, neoliberal economic and polit­ical agenda. Edwards and Hulme (1995:4), in Non-Governmental Organizations, maintained that the rise in importance of NGOs is neither an accident nor simply a response to local initiative or voluntary action. More important, they said, is the increasing support of NGOs from governments and official aid agencies acting in response to shifts in eco­nomic and political ideology.

Neoliberal economics assumes that markets and private initiative are the most effi­cient mechanisms for achieving economic growth and providing effective services. Gov­ernments, the theory assumes, should minimize their role in government because NGOs are more efficient in providing service. Thus NGOs are seen by nation-states themselves as the preferred way of delivering educational, welfare, and health services (Edwards and Hulme 1995:4). As a consequence, there is a good deal of evidence to suggest that NGOs are growing because of increased amounts of public funding. In recent years NGOs not dependent on state aid are the exception rather than the rule; furthermore, most of the aid has gone primarily to finance welfare services and development. Thus NGOs serve to re­place, perhaps at a lower cost, the services in welfare, health, and education that periph­eral countries are being forced to cut in exchange for World Bank loans, foreign investments, or loan restructuring.

There is plenty of evidence that the growth in size and number of NGOs is fed by increased governmental contributions along with greater contributions from multilateral developmental organizations such as the World Bank. On the one hand, these conditions have created additional monies for NGOs and GROs to develop; on the other hand, they risk becoming so dependent on governments that they have been co-opted and their inde­pendence threatened.

Regardless of the reasons for their increase there is little doubt of the continuing global influence of NGOs. As Salamon and Anheier (1996:129) conclude:

Fundamental historical forces—a widespread loss of confidence in the state, expanding communications, the emergence of a more vibrant commercial and professional middle class, and increased demands for a wide range of specialized services—have come to­gether in recent years to expand the role of private, non-profit organizations in virtually every part of the world. Such organizations enjoy distinctive advantages in delivering human services, responding to citizen pressure, and giving expression to citizen demands. As a consequence, the nonprofit sector has come into its own as a major social and eco­nomic force, with substantial and growing employment and a significant share of the re­sponsibility for responding to public needs.

Conclusion

The state emerged some seven to eight thousand years ago to politically integrate largely heterogeneous peoples and cultures. Military conquest was the main vehicle for their cre­ation and maintenance. Two to three hundred years ago, the nation-state developed to fulfill


                     PART   ONE   / The Society of Perpetual Growth

a new need, that of economic integration. Military conquest as a device was not entirely abandoned, but new strategies of integration, such as improved means of communication and transportation, national education systems, and the ideology of nationalism, became preferred means of attaining desired economic ends.

The nation-state helped create the type of people—laborers and consumers—re-quired to maintain and protect the interests of the capitalist. It created and maintained an unprecedented division of labor and imposed a shared culture that enabled workers to communicate with precision, while thirsting for the commodities that labor produced and which served as the basis of the elite's wealth.

More important, terror and violence remained state instruments of integration, serv­ing to eliminate those who refused to assimilate into the new ideal of the nation-state or to mark as undesirable Others against whom the majority could unite. As a consequence, millions have died as victims of their own governments.

The need to integrate regions and territories economically, however, is being re­placed by the need for global integration, while variations in the availability and price of labor is leading to massive labor migrations that threaten state boundaries. In the absence of a world government, organizations such as corporations and NGOs have moved in to fulfill functions once thought the purview of the state, as other organizations have devel­oped to protect the rights of individuals and indigenous groups—who, as we shall see, have suffered disproportionately in the drive to create the nation-state.

With this discussion of the nation-state, we conclude our outline of the culture of capitalism and the origins of and relations among consumer, laborer, capitalist, and nation-state. These relationships may seem complex, but they are written on virtually every commodity we possess. For example, sneakers were once for kids or tennis or bas­ketball players. Consumers for this commodity have been cleverly created through mas­sive advertising campaigns involving, among other things, endorsements from popular sports figures, which not only make the shoes fashionable but allow Nike and other cor­porations to sell them for up to hundreds of dollars. To make the shoes Nike has, as they should do to please their investors, sought out cheap sources of labor. The labor for a pair of Nike sneakers costs less than $1 per pair, and the total amount Nike spends on labor is about the same as that paid to major sports figures for endorsements. As a consequence, Nike earns billions of dollars, returning much of it to banks and investors and using some to influence government legislation that would be favorable to its interests. To help gener­ate this profit, nation-states support the entire operation by supporting and maintaining communication networks, financial institutions, and favorable labor legislation. Without the nation-state, businesses could not prosper, and consumers could not buy, at least not as cheaply as they do. Thus countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia offer tax breaks to Nike and control and discipline their labor force to ensure an inexpensive and docile work force, many of whom use their wages to purchase Nike products.

Thus while the historical, social, cultural, economic, political, and ideological fac­tors that have helped create and maintain the culture of capitalism are in their totality complex, they can be identified in virtually every element of our culture, at least for those who care to look. Furthermore, as we shall see, these same factors contribute in one way or another to virtually every global issue that we discuss in the remainder of this book.



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