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Primordialism to Nation-States

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Courtney Thomas

on 20 August 2018

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Transcript of Primordialism to Nation-States

photo credit Nasa / Goddard Space Flight Center / Reto Stöckli
Intro to World Politics Lecture 2
Before There Were States
The world as we know it is a relatively new political invention

There is no international system before there are countries (states) and there were no states until 1648

For most of human history people lived in primordial kinship communities
Primordial Communities
Small groups of people linked by blood and marriage
Governed by strict male dominated hierarchies
Confront resource scarcity
Focused on survival
Sometimes called tribes or clans
Dynastic Rule
Emperors, feudal lords, and monarchs each represent a form of dynastic rule over increasingly complex societies of strangers

This transformation takes THOUSANDS of years--most of "history"
Emergence of States
The 2nd Agricultural Revolution led to
More population growth
Need for more centralization
The rise of the first sovereign states across Europe
Paralleled by the rise of imagined political communities bound by culture, language, religion, and/or history
Which we call "nations"
States, Nations, etc.
States: territories endowed with sovereignty and legal status in the international community to grant citizenship and govern
Nations: imagined community of people who believe they belong together and that they have the right to be ruled by a government legitimated by their consent
Nation-State: a nation governed by a sovereign state
Nationless States? Stateless nations?

International Society
Exists when “a group of states, conscious of certain common interests and common values, form a society in the sense that they conceive themselves to be bound by a common set of rules in their relations with one another, and share in the working of common institutions” –Bull

Historical Periods by Population
What Changed?
The 1st Agricultural Revolution
Surplus led to settlements and population growth
Societies of strangers linked to destiny but not by blood required new forms of governance and legitimacy to resolve conflict, defend territory, manage resources, and extract taxes/conscription
Dynastic rule perpetuated the rule of blood but in the name of dominant blood lines

Years of Change
Somalia is perhaps THE texbook example of a failed state
Important elements
UNOSOM I and II (esp 1993)
Suez Canal
Gulf of Aden
US State Department
From Diplomacy Lab Project Proposal: Examine the possibility of replacing AU forces with Somali forces by analyzing the impact of "the tribal culture of Somalia and the implications towards a centralized security force"
Response: "all Somalis are Somali ethnically (or a single ‘tribe,’ which is a word we avoid). The divisiveness comes from clan and sub-clan differences."
Three Concepts
International Relations
World Politics
International Relations
Interactions BETWEEN and AMONG states
Trade, diplomacy, conflict

A state-centered world

Sovereignty: “there is no actor above the state that can compel it to act in specific ways” (Baylis, Smith, Owens)


External v. Internal legitimacy

World Politics
Encompasses issues that play out on the world stage
Human Rights abuses
Humanitarian crises
Environmental degradation
Nuclear disasters
Emphasizes the role of non-state actors
Often goes right back to IR because of the ultimate centrality of the state
Supranationality (and subnationalism)
Hyperglobalists v. Skeptics

Outside Europe?
Not all regions of the world went through this political transformation at the same time
Or at all
Non-historical states, failed states, nationless states exist often in a near constant state of legitimacy crisis and violence
Full transcript