Sunday, May 29, 2011


The mechanism (or series of events, if 'mechanism' makes it sound more logical, structured, than it really is) that constitutes the formation of geopolitical entities (I'll call them 'states' for simplicity's sake, though it is too narrow a term) intrigues me. I wonder if there would be any states without an interested party seeking control 'uniting' people, or an external threat uniform to all forcing them to unite. At the same time I think about the term 'failed state'.

We are more organised than ever before in human history, the boundaries of our states are more fixed than ever before. At the same time there is more movement across boundaries, both of information and people than ever before. What does this mean for the State?

States need the people inhabiting them to associate 'home' with them for them to function, be secure. In the first instance a state comes into existence only through circumstance, and it is more likely to break down than not very quickly. If the state holds together for a while, usually due the threat of an external power, or a controlling party keeping it together by force, or a moral purpose in the minds of people manifesting itself in the form of the state...then, the state starts accumulating history, and the people inhabiting it associate themselves with that history. It is that sense of history, that feeling of home that is the basic necessity for the continued existence of a state. Failed, dysfunctional or healthy, a state continues to exist as long as there are people in the world who associate it with home: these people will fight for its continued existence in whatever form.

Of course, the feeling of 'home' is very nebulous. In a world with increasingly porous borders home becomes hard to pin down. It becomes harder everyday to accumulate history that is unique to a state, because everything around us, from everyday objects to entertainment to culture, comes from somewhere else.

Another thing that makes identifying with the state more difficult is its increasing complexity and impersonality. Earlier a state used to have a monarch, the physical manifestation of the state, an idol to look up to or curse, alternatively, and humanity loves idols. And what does the state have now? A book of rules? Innumerable departments with their rules and offices...a creature chasing its own tail? What inspires loyalty? Is it the history of the people? The ever changing rules that some of us decide upon? And why is this place home and not some place else?

1 comment: