A World without the Nation-State
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 6 Jan 2020
2 Jan 2020 – The articles in CPNN this month show how the state is a culture of war. In this case the state is the United States and their culture of war is shown in their role in the overthrow of President Morales of Bolivia (precisely because he was promoting a culture of peace) and their threat to punish Julian Assange (precisely because he revealed the secrets of their culture of war.) Not to mention that the states of the world are unable to seriously attack the problem of global warming, and the United States is the worst in this regard.
This is the latest evidence that the conclusion of my History of the Culture of War is correct: the state has come to monopolize the culture of war and cannot be separated from it.
The only solution if we are to survive must be a world in which the state has disappeared or has been relegated to a ceremonial role, much as monarchies were abolished or relegated to ceremonial roles in an earlier period of history.
When I say this, I receive the argument that one cannot imagine a world without the nation-state.
Well, let us try imagine such a world.
Imagine that there were no longer the frontiers of states. No visas. People would be free to travel anywhere without restriction!
No more wars or war preparations. After all, in most cases, it is the state that prepares for and makes war. And in most of the other cases, it is groups that are trying to take over the state.
This is where I part company with Marx and Engels. They thought that peace would come about once the communists seized the power of the state. But they were wrong. The communists seized power in almost half of the world during the 20th century, and what they produced were socialist cultures of war instead of a capitalist cultures of war. The role of the state was stronger than the dreams of the communists. The only difference was that the capitalist cultures of war were more adept at exploitation and were able to defeat the socialist cultures of war (Soviet Union and its allies) or convert them to capitalism (China).
But what about all of the roles now played by the state? Who would manage these roles? Obviously, we would not miss the states’ military budgets, military contracts, military preparation, secret budgets like that of the CIA, etc. But what about the useful roles played by the state?
By controlling the movement of peoples, the rich states ensure that the poor people from poor countries and countries victimized by war do not migrate into their states. You may think this is a good and necessary function. In fact, most populist and fascist politicians want this function strengthened. But what has happened in the course of history is that this has served as a mask to hide the continually growing inequality of the world caused by capitalist exploitation. This mask has enabled the people of the North to avoid confronting the problem. Although official statistics claim that foreign aid compensates for foreign exploitation, the truth is that these statistics are misleading. The illegal and hence secret movement of capital from the global south to the global north far exceeds foreign aid as shown in the study “Aid in reverse: how poor countries develop rich countries”.
Abolition or reduction in power of the state would require that we confront and solve the problem of inequality. We could no longer hide behind national borders. Let us come back to this challenge later in the blog.
Imagine that the United Nations were controlled by representatives of the mayors of the world instead of the states of the world, and that its agencies were to be reinforced so that they could operate universally, much as UN agencies already serve for the universal regulation of postal service, airport coordination, etc. Let us compare a list of these agencies (or potential agencies) to the major functions served by a typical national budget, in this case we take the example of France for 2019 according to www.statista.com.
|French budget item in millions of euros||UN Agency to replace it (existing or potential)|
|1. Education 72,7||United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) working with local authorities much as it already does throughout Africa.|
|2. Defense 44,3||Put to use by a new UN commission to confront the need for transportation, communication, food and shelter for the people in migration (see below).|
|3. Financial commitments 42.4||World Bank and International Monetary Fund working with banks around the world|
|4. Research and higher education 28.1||United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) working directly with universities and research organizations|
|5. Security 20.1||Interpol working with local police forces|
|6. Solidarity re-adaptation and equal opportunities 23,9||(served by 8 & 9 below)|
|7. Territories cohesion 16,4||(a bureaucracy no longer needed)|
|8. Work and employment 12,5||New: A new global organization that would work with private industry for economic development and full employment. Based on World Trade Organization?|
|9. Environment and sustainable development and mobilities 12,6||United Nations Environmental Program working with local authorities|
|10. Public finances and human resources management 10,4||(a bureaucracy no longer needed)|
|11. Justice 9.1||World court expanded to work with local judiciaries|
|12. Pension and social plans 6.3||Privatization of pension and social plans in coordination with a new global monitoring unit|
|13. Relations with local and regional authorities 3.4||(a bureaucracy no longer needed)|
|14. Agriculture, fishing, food, forests and rural affairs 2.9||The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) working directly with local aouthoritiesL’|
|15. Foreign action 2.8||(a bureaucracy and interference no longer needed)|
|16. Culture 2.9||United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) working with local authorities much as it already does for the World Heritage Sites|
|17. General and territorial state administration 2.8||(a bureaucracy no longer needed)|
|18. Public development aid 3.1||(served by 8 & 9 above)|
|19. Veterans, memory and links with the nation 2.3||Privatization of pension and social plans in coordination with the new global monitoring unit in 12 above|
|20. Overseas 2.6||(a bureaucracy no longer needed)|
|21. Economy 1.9||( served by 8 & 9 above)|
|22. Government action supervision 1.3||(a bureaucracy no longer needed)|
|23. Immigration, asylum and integration 1.7||(See comments below concerning migration)|
|24. Health 1.4||World Health Organization working with local authorities|
It is interesting that the United Nations agency in the best position to assume new powers is UNESCO where I worked for 10 years. During that time I met very talented people at UNESCO who would have been capable of undertaking the expanded roles required by the above.
I anticipate that readers will have many questions/objections at this point. Let me try to list and respond to some of them.
- The transition to a world without states cannot come about because the state structures are strong and will resist change.
Yes, that is true at the present moment of history. But imagine that the global economy crashes. Would it not be followed by a global political crash and dismemberment such as what happened to the Soviet Union after 1989? At such a moment, the United Nations, which has already been abandoned by the Great Powers for their priority functions, might now be completely abandoned and the role of the nation-state at the UN could be replaced by representatives of the cities of the world.
- What will become of the militaries of the world? Won’t they resist and revolt?
In addition to the migration from South to North mentioned above, there has been an enormous internal migration during the past few centuries from the countryside to the city, the process of urbanization. But if there is a global economic crash, the cities may become unlivable, and we may see the most dramatic migration of human history, from the cities back to the countryside as people seek something to eat. After all, most food in the city comes by truck and is sold in supermarkets. If, in a crisis, there is a shortage of fuel for the trucks, there will be no food deliveries and it will take only a day or two to empty the supermarkets by hoarding and riots. There may be great suffering.
Copying with these migrations could be another use to which the militaries of the world could be put to use if they were under the command of a reformed United Nations. Who is best equipped with the transportation and communication systems and the reserves of food and shelter that will be needed? The militaries of the world. Under orders from a reformed United Nations they could set aside their weapons and serve as the source of resources needed to survive the crisis.
- Who will pay for all this?
With regard to item 3 above, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, they could take on a key role of the nation state – the collection of taxes. This will be essential in order to support the greatly increased expenses of the reformed United Nations. These taxes could be based on the proposals and experiments already in place for financial transaction taxes In effect they would be Robin Hood taxes that begin to reverse one of the most difficult and dangerous tendancies of recent history, the growing inequality of the world, as mentioned above. In other words, inequality would be reduced, not by directly giving money from the rich to the poor, but by taking money from the rich to deliver services (education, health care, full employment), to everyone, including the poor.
- What will happen to law and order once the state’s power is reduced? Won’t there be violence and chaos?
Yes, people need law and order. Fortunately, in recent years, as we have tried to document in CPNN, there are growing movements of mediation, restorative justice and nonviolent peace forces that provide alternatives to police and internal military intervention. In this regard it is interesting to recall that during the Great Depression there was a decrease in armed theft and interpersonal violence, presumably because there was an increase in solidarity in the face of the common threat. It is this solidarity, coupled with existing initiatives, that could be the key.
- Where is the precedent for item 8, a new global organization that would work with private industry for economic development and full employment?
Such an organization could take lessons from the Chinese who are developing a global system of transportation and trade, their “One belt, one road” plan. There are some who say that the Chinese will take over the world if the American empire collapses. This variant suggests that the Chinese may show us the way to sustain the world in that case. It seems that the Chinese, in this new project, are able to bypass state structures and make trade agreements directly with capitalist enterprises that already have production/employment structures at local, regional and international levels. This could serve as model for a new global economic organization that would work with private industry at local, regional and international levels in the absence of state involvement.
- What will happen to national identity and patriotism?
For this it will be very important to expand the function that is far down on the list at number 16: culture. It will be useful to greatly expand the support of the reformed United Nations (in particular, UNESCO) to local and regional activities that express and develop the unique heritage of the thousands of national identities that exist throughout the world, often extending beyond traditional state borders.
- You envisage abolition of the state, but you don’t envisage abolition of militaries or capitalism. Why?
As mentioned above, we will need the resources and organization of militaries in order to cope with the suffering associated with mass migrations. And we will need the production/employment structures of capitalist enterprises to maintain economic development and employment. This the logic that I followed a few years ago in developing my utopian novel that imagines the transition to a culture of peace. What will happen to capitalism and militaries in 50 or 100 years is difficult to predict, but the present scenario concerns years and decades, not centuries.
All of these crises may arrive at the same time: international migration, migration from city to countryside and the economic and political crises that cause them. Are we ready to cope with this?
But how can we begin to prepare?
We need to be constructing an alternative global governance structure in preparation. Instead of depending on the nation-state to save us, we need to be developing city and regional peace commissions that deal with all of these problems as they develop, and which can serve as the basis for a new global structure centered on a United Nations managed by the people rather than the states, for example by representatives of the mayors of the world. Over the years, we have given priority to news of development of culture of peace at the city and regional level.
What can each citizen do? Each citizen can work for peace and justice at the local and regional level and develop structures such as city and regional peace commissions. For example, asked for advice by Mouvement de la Paix in France, I have recently proposed that those who initiated actions to mark the International Day of Peace in more than 60 cities and towns in France should now approach their city councils to establish a continuing action for peace and sustainable development in their communities and regions. In this way, we can prepare the basis for a new global governance structure when the present system collapses.
And in my opinion, and that of some others who have a good grasp of history, this collapse could come very soon.
Dr. David Adams is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment and coordinator of the Culture of Peace News Network. He retired in 2001 from UNESCO where he was the Director of the Unit for the UN International Year for the Culture of Peace. Previously, at Yale and Wesleyan Universities, he was a specialist on the brain mechanisms of aggressive behavior, the history of the culture of war, and the psychology of peace activists, and he helped to develop and publicize the Seville Statement on Violence. Send him an email.
Tags: Culture of Peace, Culture of Violence, Nation-State, Peace Building, Solutions
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