Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Defence of the nation (2): Nationalism versus statism

This is the second part to my post on nationalism.

A second part! Oh no - I hear you cry. Or not. Will it be the last part - you'll have to wait and see.

In the first part, I concentrated on what nationalism and the nation is. This time I’ll explain what makes a nation and how nationalism differs from statism (socialism). By the way, I put socialism in brackets just so that everyone understands what I mean by state and statism in the context of this post. The state can big or small without being socialist, but statism – in my view - is the socialist extension of a state.

A nation is built up from a number of different hierarchies. Many nations developed over centuries, some were created virtually over night, but no nation exists that does not have the fundamental hierarchies that form the building blocks of nationhood. These hierarchies are complex and shifting, but can be summed up in one word - communities.

Community is not society, by the way. A society is a loose collection of people who share a common interest, whereas a community is a more tightly knit group of people who share a common will - and as you will remember from my first post, it is this common will that ultimately makes up a nation.

There are several levels of community which go to make up a nation. At the top of the hierarchy, obviously, is the national community and beneath that are regional communities (counties), urban communities (towns and cities), rural communities (villages and farms), neighbours and, ultimately, family.

The family is the key component of a nation - the first expression of a peoples shared identity. Without that first expression of shared identity there could not be nations which is why, as a nationalist, it is my belief that defence of the family - and family values - is key to creating and maintaining a healthy nation.

Unsurprisingly, the term "family values" and even "family" is contentious in this day and age, but for me, in this context, it simply means the traditional family with traditional gender roles and moral values based on Christian principles. Anything that undermines these values undermines the nation. It is for this reason that I oppose things like marriage between homosexuals - or even the suggestion that co-habiting couples constitute a family. They do not. They constitute a relationship, but not a family.

Equally, it is my view that anything that strengthens the family and those values strengthens the nation - and as someone who believes in nations and nationalism I obviously believe that this should be encouraged as a priority. Preferential treatment must be given to the traditional married family in any way it can above all other forms of relationship - because this is what makes a nation strong. Those familial ties are what binds communities together and strengthen that shared identity - the national identity - and if those ties weaken and break then so does the national identity and with that goes the cohesion that binds societies together.

This brings me to the concept of nationalism as opposed to statism. The state is not the nation. The state is the mechanism of a government of a nation. Nationalism is driven from the bottom up - the will of the people to meet their needs expressed through their communities beginning with the family. Statism is the top down approach - the will of a government expressed through the mechanisms of government as it attempts to meet the needs of the people. Allow me to expand on those two points for a moment.

With nationalism, if the people have a need they take the responsibility to meet that need. At familial level that need might be to eat - so food is bought and cooked. At a rural level, that need might be to educate the local children - so a school is set up and staffed. At town level that need might be for clean streets, so a waste collection service is set up and funded. At city level that need might be for crime prevention - so a police force is set up and funded. At county level that need might be to travel between towns, villages and cities - so a transport system is set up and funded. Finally, at national level that need might be to defend the people from aggressive outsiders, so borders are defined and protected. That is nationalism - local communities taking action to meet their needs. Nationalism is actually driven by local issues which mean that the people are not only more involved in their communities - and therefore their nation - but they are also more responsible and more likely to participate.

Statism takes all that responsibility for action away from the local people. Instead of the people deciding what they want - the state decides for them. Instead of local people working together to meet the need, the state does it for them. However, because the state has to be a broad brush - meeting the greatest need for the greatest number, instead of pinpoint targeting, meeting the localised need for a localised group - it can not meet those needs as well as the bottom up approach of nationalism. Furthermore, instead of people being more involved, more responsible and more likely to participate they become remote, unconcerned and apathetic.

The more that the responsibility is taken away from them, the more apathetic they become.

Nationalism is the expression of the shared will of the people - from the traditional family right the way up to the nation itself. It is the most local of ideologies driven by local solutions to local needs for local people - and the essence of democracy in action. The further away you take the responsibility for those needs being met by local people, the less interested they are in participating in democracy.


Anonymous said...

Statism and Nationalism are not opposites. It's quite possible to have both at the same time.

You are using Nationalism to mean small state, but it's celarly possible to have strong Nationalism and a large centralised state - the UK during WWII.

Stan said...

You're quite right - but that is, or was, socialist nationalism - or National Socialism. This is what most people think of when they think of nationalism today - they think the Nazi ideology - and therefore think nationalism is bad.

I'm talking about nationalism in it's most fundamental form - the origin of the nation state - and how it was born out of the needs of communities.

It's one of the ironies (or not) of the post modern world that nationalism is considered inherently bad just because of the behaviour of a couple of rogue 20th century states who, despite being nationalistic, were strongly socialistic as well.

Add on to that the dreadful toll taken across the world in the 20th century by purely socialist states - China, USSR, Cambodia and the rest - and it strikes me as odd that we've now reached the point where socialist equates to good while nationalist means bad - even though the only common theme to those states was socialism - not nationalism.

But I'm giving away the theme to my next post on nationalism. Dang you, anonymous - you've spoiled the ending!

bernard said...

Ranting Stan: You see the above link? Give it a go. This chaps blog rings with your own in that he sees our present dilemma as being a distortion of a true democracy. He has some good obsevations on earlier postings too.

Stan said...

Thanks, Bernard - I'll check it out.