Thursday, November 16, 2006

'Ask not what your country ...'

One of the difficulties in reading The Shield of Achilles is to make the distinction between 'state-nations' (invented by the Americans in 1776-1789 and perfected by the French shortly afterward) and 'nation-states' (likewise invented by the Americans, in the US Civil War, and again perfected in Europe). In the first case, the citizen pretty much exists to serve the state; in the second, the reverse is true. Bobbitt also claims that toward the end of the 20th century, the nation-state began to give way to the market state, thanks to Thatcher and Reagan. I often found myself clinging by my fingernails on the cliff of these distinctions. But at last, pp. 579-580, I find a branch I can hold on to:

'"Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country" might well have been spoken by the leader of a state-nation.

'By contrast, the nation-state replies, "Go ahead: ask! Let's see what we can do for you!"'

And here Bobbitt provides a gem of a footnote: 'And the market-state says: "Don't bother asking! You're on your own now."'

2 Comments:

At 5:50 PM, Blogger http://wimw-conant.blogspot.com said...

You might be interested in a review of "The Shield of Achilles" published in History and Theory (Vol. 43, No. 2, 2004) by Michael Mann of UCLA. He has an interesting critique of Bobbitt. If you can't find it on JSTOR or the any other reference resources, let me know and I can get it to you. The review article is titled: "Can the new imperialism triumph in the age of nation-states?"

 
At 9:17 PM, Blogger Dan Ford said...

Many thanks for the pointer. I found it through the local university library and enjoyed it. (So that's what Bobbitt has been saying!)

 

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