Tuesday, September 27, 2005


This blog is about that strange institution that is hardly understood: the nation-state. It has been the driving force behind state formation since the 1800s, yet it is seen as archaic in some circles.

A major problem is that our ruling classes (diplomats, politicians and industrialists) live in a multinational world with lot of international contacts. In such an environment it is easy to forget that for the great majority of the population the world looks different. As a consequence the nation-state is often left to the populists - contributing to the bad name of the nation-state.

Most nation-states are about language. In a few cases other factors like race or religion is the discerning factor, but in those cases (like Northern Ireland) there is a history of discrimination.

There are two factors that have made the nation-state a hot topic:
- the government became much more important as an employer and with that ethnic discrimination became a major problem.
- when people worked on the land it didn't matter which language they spoke. But collaboration in big companies and organisations requires that people can understand each other very well. With the increase in office work the problems of a multi-lingual environment have only increased.

In underdeveloped countries like India or Africa you can still find the traditional situation that you could see in Europe too before 1800, with different ethnic groups living mixed. But in the developed world ethnic minorities have become rare. Many are slowly absorbed into the mainstream. In a few cases special minority rights allow two groups to live together, but these rights are hard to get. Cities like London and New York may look very multi-national, but they are basically melting pots.

Have a nice reading!

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