The Future of Nationalism

A combination of fatigue and the declining importance of the state may make this divisive ideology easier to handle in the next century.

Issue: Fall 1999

The great question at the heart of nineteenth-century European politics was who should govern- the princes or the people? The question was settled by World War I, which swept away the Continent's dynastic monarchs and their empires, only to give rise to another: Just how are the people to govern-through elected representatives whose powers are limited, or through self-appointed political elites exercising total control over those they rule? In the wake of World War II and the Cold War, totalitarianism in Europe has been vanquished, leaving, however, yet a third question, one that underlies the large-scale violence that has followed the collapse of communism and the end of the East-West rivalry on the Continent: Who, for the purposes of self-government, are the people?

This is a matter of maps. Government requires a state. A state must have borders. A method for determining them is therefore needed.

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