November 10, 2005

Political Geography

James C. Bennett argues in The Anglosphere Challenge that English speaking societies have a peculiar tendency to seek spatial solutions to social disputes.

English speakers, however much they dispute economic, social, or moral issues, have tended to express these differences by spatial composition or decomposition of their regimes - union and secession - rather than regime decomposition - replacing one constitution with another. [p.193]

Looking back on this history, it is not surprising that Continental European and Marxist ideas of revolution, almost always expressed in regime-composition terms, have never found a natural home in any English-speaking nation. Since 1789, France has had five republics, two empires, two monarchies, and miscellaneous directories, consulates, and so on - but its territorial boundaries are today only slightly different from those of 1789. The United Kingdom has had the same Constitution (much evolved, but built on English roots even older) since its founding in 1707; the United States still operates under the Constitution of 1789, also much evolved, but also very much rooted in the same underlying principles as that of Britain. The borders of both Unions, however, have changed numerous times. Thus, it's worth noting that France responded to a spatial-composition crisis - the Algerian Revolution in 1958 - with a regime-recomposition solution, the transition from the Fourth to the Fifth Republic. In comparison, Anglosphere nations reacted to regime-composition crises such as the Navigation Acts, the slavery issue, or Irish Catholic emancipation with spatial composition solutions. [p.196]

What are the secessions or unions needed today?

Posted by CCRU-Shanghai at November 10, 2005 01:57 AM | TrackBack




Obvious candidates:
UK in super-NAFTA
English independence
Good bye Quebec
Swap Alberta for New England (Kim Du Toit had a great map based on this which I can't find)

Don't know whether UK out of Europe counts, but it's the most important of the lot ...

Posted by: nick at November 10, 2005 05:00 AM



A more general approach is deepened federalism. National legislation should be minimized and entitlements be scrapped, with states / regions pursuing their own preferred balance of economic freedom and social regulation / protection. People voting with their feet would then test each regime, with sclerotic failures facing population collapse and financial crisis. If San Francisco - for instance - wants a soci*list republic, that's fine, as long as the locals fund it themselves and accept the consequences of their own mistakes. Federal taxation would be almost entirely restricted to covering genuinely national priorities: defence, intelligence and diplomacy.

Posted by: nick at November 10, 2005 05:26 AM



Interesting notion. But surely spatial and regime composition are two aspects of the same entity? Perhaps then (French Empire being a case of a space-driven solution, and the played down 'evolution' of constitutions) but even more so now?

Does this distinction, however useful when applied to history, really apply now, given the difference in the nature of space between historical-colonial and modern times? Space is characterized differently now, no longer as extensions of physical territory.

The US is keen on regime change in Iraq and other places, so is this problem-solving via regime-(re)composition? Or perhaps regime-driven solutions have taken on a new - spatial - character, which problematizes the whole distinction?

Posted by: tachi at November 10, 2005 07:01 AM



Tachi - think the key point is population re-groupings, with territorial redistribution as the most elementary mechanism for this. Anglospherean schism/amalgamation contra Continental re-articulation of collective political identity, strongly associated with negative / positive conceptions of liberty (respectively).

Not sure this transfers easily to the question of ('neocon') regime changes, which are a military solution to hostile geostrategic formations. The connection is at the very least an indirect one, based on the prior and subsequent cultural behaviour of the target population. For e.g., if Iraq becomes more federal in its political arrangements, that would in itself mark a degree of Anglospheric influence, which is to say 'geographical liberalism' or simultaneous co-existence of diverse social arrangements, as opposed to transformations in a unified collective structure to better represent 'collective aspirations'.

Posted by: nick at November 10, 2005 08:02 AM



from Robert D. Kaplan "The Coming Anarchy":

"Consider the map of the world, with its 190 or so countries, each signified by a bold and uniform color: this map, with which all of us have grown up, is generally an invention of modernism, specifically of European colonialism. Modernism, in the sense of which I speak, began with the rise of national states in Europe and was confirmed by the death of feudalism at the end of the Thirty Years' War - an event that was interposed between the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, which together gave birth to modern science. people were suddenly flush with an enthusiasm to categorize, to define. The map, based on scientific techniques of measurement, offered a way to classify new national organisms, making a jigsaw puzzle of neat pieces without transition zones between them. 'Frontier' is itself a modern concept that didn't exist in the feudal mind...
... To the colonialist, country maps were the equivalent of an accountant's ledger books. Maps 'shaped the grammar' that would make possible such questionable concepts as Iraq, Indonesia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. The state, recall, is purely a Western notion, one that until the twentieth century applied to countries covering only 3 percent of the earth's land area...
Yet this inflexible, artificial reality staggers on, not only in the United Nations but in various geographic and travel publications (themselves by-products of an age of elite touring which colonialism made possible) that still report on and photograph the world according to country..."

Ethnic groupings and alliances are off the map and can severely wreak havoc on weak national states. Kaplan refers to the decisive role the Kurds have played and will play in the Middle East:

"... the border was porous and smuggling abounded, but here the people doing the smuggling, on both sides of the border, were Kurds. In such a moonscape, over which peoples have migrated and settled in patterns that obliterate borders, the end of the Cold War will bring on a cruel process of natural selection among existing states No longer will these states be so firmly propped up by the West or the Soviet Union. Because the Kurds overlap with nearly everybody in the Middle East, on account of their emerging, in effect, as the natural selector - the ultimate reality check. They have destabilized Iraq and may continue to disrupt states that do not offer them adequate breathing space, while strengthening states that do.
Because the Turks, owing to their water recourses, their growing economy, and the social cohesion evinced by the most crime-free slums I have encountered, are on the verge of big-power status, and because the ten million Kurds within Turkey threaten that status, the outcome of the Turkish-Kurdish dispute will be more critical of the future of the Middle East than the eventual outcome of the recent Israeli-Palestinian agreement." (1994)

It is telling that, 11 years after Kaplan wrote this, the CIA factbook still persists in presenting the world in terms of countries - it is difficult to find information about the Kurds there.

'deepened federalism' - is this working with the Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan? [genuine question]

If the UK would be better off leaving the EU, will Turkey be better off entering the EU? (Euro-racism permitting, of course).

Posted by: sd at November 10, 2005 11:02 AM



sd - on your last question, the value of entering the EU is based entirely on how rapidly the EU is transformed beyond recognition. IMHO it is the Soviet Union c.1984, a dinosaur edifice whose collapse cannot long be postponed.
As for whether Turkey will be permitted to join, given the multiple ethnopolitical crises that will be attending that event (concerning the CAP, general eurosclerosis, globalization panic, slide towards fascism, Islamic onslaught etc) - I'd be stunned if it happened.
The EU is going to be the most toxic ingredient of the planetary order over the next two decades. It will be truly horrible to watch.

Posted by: Nick at November 10, 2005 12:56 PM



"I'd be stunned if it happened." - if it doesn't happen, for whatever reason, then Europe will inevitably be accused of racism, further exacerbating the the Islamic onslaught.

Posted by: sd at November 10, 2005 01:05 PM



Think Kaplan is particularly relevant here, as the alliances which are emerging at the moment are composed of three types of group:

1. groups defined by allegiance to religious memes.
2. groups which maintain/defend their ethnic identity.
3. groups allied solely by common economic and political purposes (i.e. lacking religious/ethnic cohesion).

Obviously lots of criss-crossing and schizophrenic tearing as it's possible to belong to all three groups at once. Also, the groups can bleed into each other - nationality seems to sit uncomfortably on the borders between 2 & 3. The anglosphere predominantly 3, of course.

Posted by: sd at November 10, 2005 01:19 PM



sd - what's that list look like for #3?

Posted by: northanger at November 10, 2005 02:10 PM



sd - think your #3 could be shifted slightly, to add emphasis to adherence to principle, for instance liberty. The US Constitution (and US nationalism generally important in this respect, at its best neither ethnic nor religious, but principled and 'exceptional').
IMHO the essential principle of the Anglosphere is negative liberty (limited government, economic freedom, individualism, and 'don't tread on me' robust foreign policy based on ruthless hostility to tyranny).

Posted by: Nick at November 10, 2005 02:13 PM



PS. "Europe will inevitably be accused of racism" - LOL, why would anyone suggest that?
(By that time they'll be goose-stepping around and shrieking again.)

Posted by: Nick at November 10, 2005 02:16 PM



PPS. Get ready for President Le Pen.

Posted by: Nick at November 10, 2005 02:20 PM



"they'll be goose-stepping around and shrieking again" - I do hope you are restricting yr comment to Old Europe!

Posted by: sd at November 10, 2005 04:10 PM



refusing Turkey entry would no doubt involve explicit racist memebile (e.g. Le Pen, obviously), rather than implicitly racist policy - harder to deny or cover up with soci*list platitudes.

Posted by: sd at November 10, 2005 04:21 PM



restricting yr comment to Old Europe - on reflection, Central/Easteen Europe has its fair share of barking nationalists.

Posted by: sd at November 10, 2005 06:17 PM



sd - definitely mean the guys who did it last time, there's a lot of inertia in these things. Any country with a fundamentally illiberal tradition goes its own version of fascist when things get rough, and in (Old) Europe they're going to get very rough indeed ...

Posted by: Nick at November 11, 2005 12:19 AM



tachi's point that 'space is characterized differently now' - most fundamentally when it comes to finance:

“Private Internet currencies based on strong encryption (cybermoney) will soon provide payment mechanisms that are not recorded in central clearing houses and are thus beyond subpoena power. Much of the actual economic activity in the coming era will pass (and already has passed) out of the strictly national realm. Even the most powerful nation-states are beginning to find it impossible to set currency or interest rates without reference to the world market.

Nor can the economic state count on coercive solutions to counteract this trend. It cannot tax what it cannot see. One of the products of cheap, ubiquitous computing has been the growing, worldwide availability of strong programs for encrypting data on personal computers. With such programs, individuals and companies can communicate and trade beyond the easy ability of governments to intercept or, if proper precautions are taken, even to be aware that the transactions exist"

James C. Bennett

As where you are becomes increasingly irrelevant, and trade becomes ever more untrackable, taxation could become virtually impossible. Is security all the state will have to offer in return for taxation?

Posted by: sd at November 11, 2005 01:34 AM



If an intrusive world government can be prevented frorm arising, the decentralizing and government-shrinking consequences look anticipated from cyberspace will be difficult for anyone to stop. Command-control junmkies really need to boost transnational political authorities quickly, or their worlds will start very messily disintegrating. Hence the centrality of relentless campaigning against the UN and associated 'tranzi' institutions by all those committed to the promotion of liberty.

Posted by: nick at November 11, 2005 05:21 AM



... so what happens to co-ordinated response?

Kaplan suggests the US should simply hijack the UN, rather than campaign against it.

Posted by: sd at November 11, 2005 08:08 AM



co-ordination doesn't require a centralized authority - a decapitated world will explore techonomic space far more thoroughly than a unified world government would permit.

On original point (cyphernomics) it's no coincidence all this nonsense about the UN inheriting the Internet has arisen. Does anyone think they're aiming to liberalize it?

Posted by: nick at November 11, 2005 08:24 AM



PS. I wouldn't even trust a US run UN. What if they wanted to use it to shut down emerging genomodification markets in the Far East?

Posted by: nick at November 11, 2005 08:25 AM



The people participating in this discussion will almost certainly be interested in the posts on Jim Bennett's group blog Albion's Seedlings, where I make my own humble contribution from time to time.

I will mention that the issue of secessions and unions needed would include

(1) Britain out of EU, to the exent possible, as the highest priority.
Most especially, out of the military arrangements which are taking the UK out of its long-standing alliance with the USA, alarmingly detailed at the EU Referendum blog.

(2)Canada to devolve Quebec once and for all, so Anglo-Canada can find its real identity again. Further structural changes in Canada -- e.g. what happens to Alberta and its hydrocarbon wealth -- are open

(3) Britain in a Super-NAFTA with the USA. Why no one is pushing this is beyond me.

(4) Australia and maybe NZ in a free trade zone with USA. Progress
was made this year. More should be done.

A related point -- deeper economic and military ties with Anglosphere first cousin India.

An over-arching point. Much of what needs to be done is build on existing treaty relationships. Bennett has proposed a unifying entity called a Network Commonwealth for the Anglosphere, though the details of this entity are still a topic of discussion. It would not necessarily mean the dissolution of any existing state, for example.


Posted by: Michael Lotus at November 26, 2005 01:40 AM



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