Continued from last post . . . A person’s fundamental human rights don’t rest on the decision of a state to grant them. All you need is to demand a right, and if that right helps secure your freedom without jeopardizing or harming your community, then you can legitimately claim it.
Our governments should be a tool for the public and all the communities that constitute a wider public to put some teeth behind securing and protecting those rights. But the history of how the state actually developed made government a tool to administer, police, and control its population.
The modern state arose from the conservative, reactionary movement that grew up in the face of the revolutions against the absolute monarchies. Philosophies that justify the power of the state over the people were developed as the intellectual wing of this reactionary movement.
|From North Korea's Arirang Mass Games, the
coordinated movements of hundreds of people as one
entity that subsumes all their movements into an
organic whole. I wonder if there's any symbolic
That's true for blatantly authoritarian philosophies like Thomas Hobbes’ theory of sovereignty. But it's also true for more subtle philosophies, like Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s theory of the general will.
In that example, democratic representative institutions like parliaments aggregate and process individual wills to produce the will for what is best for the nation as a whole, at least ideally.
But the general will doesn’t actually exist any more than the nation actually is some kind of superorganism that all our individual wills jack into like some cybernetic hive mind.* This is true of the nation. Nations aren’t real. They presume uniformity in culture, territory, morals, and history where there's always ever been difference, variety, multiplicity.
* Images from sci-fi are incredibly useful in all kinds of philosophical thinking. Philosophers should be in so much debt to that genre.
Nations. They’re a ridiculous concept.
But we all believe in them. It’s the work of hundreds of years** of administration, services, symbols, military mobilizations, anthems, history and culture curriculums, media productions, and all the other ways I can't immediately think of right now that a national identity perpetuates itself.
** If not thousands of years if you consider how the Chinese national identity arose from that old empire, a state government and bureaucracy which has been continuous in some form for literally millennia.
Nationhood arises from the unity of government over a long enough time. National unity is imposed on a population with far more differences among each other than there is superficial commonality.
|A patriotic symbol that functions to unify a nation.
The unity and uniformity of a population isn't natural. We're all individuals. When we interact, we’re just going to become more different. We should be proud of that creativity, our ability to produce new ways of being.
But so often, we aren’t. We’re told to conform. And so many of the great philosophers, especially in the modern period, have been more concerned with justifying the pressure to conform than encouraging our rebellion, creativity, contrariness, and variety.
Antonio Negri has a very quick argument against Georg Hegel in this regard. I'd like to talk with some of my friends who are still devoted to the study of Hegel about this. Because it's a quick argument.
So the natural response of a sadly typical Hegel scholar will be to dismiss it, because Negri doesn't reckon with all the details of the Hegelian system and all its possible interpretations. Just the general thrust of the system.
Frankly, why should he play by the rules of traditional, conservative scholars? Traditional, conservative scholarship would never have resulted in a book as remarkable as Empire.
This is the problem of the academy. It can give you an institutional home from which you can practice your research in peace. But it slows you down, makes you afraid to take anything but the most careful steps.
So throw caution to the winds! What is the argument? To be continued . . .