cj#736> Democracy and Nationalism: a History (fwd)

1997-11-23

Richard Moore

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Date:         Fri, 21 Nov 1997
To:  Richard K. Moore <•••@••.•••>
     and fellow philofhi list-subscribers
From:  David Richardson  <•••@••.•••>
Subject: democracy and nationalism: their ties.

Dear Richard,

     I enjoyed your investigation of globalism, in collaboration
with Carolyn Ballard.  I would like to see your exposition via
philofhi.  Your sympathetic characterization of nationalism
appeals to me.  Hence the following statement.  Bertil Haggman
and other Spenglerians may like portions of it.

    The Magian legal tradition and the biblical accounts of the
Hebrew confederation are sources of modern democracy.  They may
not have affected the Greek invention of democracy.  But the
Magio-Christian tradition powerfully enhanced the re-emergence of
democracy, ca 1800, in England, France, and America.  Pelagius'
5th century individualism is symbolic of the revered status that
the human individual was to acquire in Western Civilization.  So
strengthened, individualism became part of the democratic arche
type in the age of Rousseau, Herder, and Kant.  Yet, the mutual
independence of the secular state  and religion was always a sine
qua non of democracy.

     The following may not be so familiar to you, Richard.  In
China, the secular was sacred.  For the Confucian piety of the
elite mandarins was of the essence of the civil service examina
tions.  And the Chinese rulers elevated esteemed men of history
to sainthood and even to the rank of gods.  The Chinese Confu
cian, great or small, was always a collectivist.  For him, democ
racy was not an option; yet, this civilization contributed its
familialism to Western theorists of democracy.  Herder's Volkge
ist, and his and Rousseau's visions of a people acting as if an
individual, owe much to the Chinese perception of the self as
social.  Even India is a source of modern democracy.  True
enough, India's caste society was undemocratic; for it was hier
archical throughout.  Yet, the caste system had one outstanding
benign trait:  it tolerated differentness.  This unaggressive
state of mind began to enter the Western democratic idea.  Faus
tians metamorphosed India's tolerance of caste differentness.
Herder's new nationalism presupposed an awareness of interests
held in common, on a basis of equality.


     I am not sure, Richard, of where you stand as regards busi
ness.  You may not like the following.  Wherever plebeians or
peasants or farmers have enjoyed prosperity, close by were free
traders and businessmen.  It was men of commerce who created the
all-important middle class in Athens, and in the other Hellenic
city-states.  The Greeks, having no large peasant class, became
trading societies, rather than garden cultures.  Their maritime
habitat favored an active trade in the eastern Mediterranean, and
their rough geography gave them some protection against being
conquered by empires.  They were able to support a middle class,
both of farmers and business communities.  This middle class drew
strength from a peasant rebellion against the aristocrats.
Whereupon, in 594-593 BC, Solon created a popular democracy.  The
Greek producers of wine and oil, central in the city's commerce,
had purchasing power.  And thus the middle class could act on its
own behalf, unlike the passive peasantries of Egypt and Babylon.
This made it easy for tradesmen to take a leading part in politi
cal life; and they were well aware of would-be dictators.

       'Democracy' comes from demos (the people or citizen body)
and kratos (powerful); and thus equality is the hinge feature in
a democracy.  All Greek citizens could be members of the deliber
ating body.  The art of architecture became democratic, and so,
too, did painting; for painters depicted ordinary citizens en
gaged in familiar activities.  Did these democratic symbolic
generalizations spring from an archetypal exemplar of democracy
in the Greek worldview?  I'm inclined to doubt it, because democ
racy had been too recently invented to have time to root itself
in the Mediterranean soul.  Democracy failed repeatedly after its
invention in Greece and eventually failed for two millennia.

     Do you, Richard, hold, as I do, that Greece had no effective
spokesmen for democracy?  I have this in mind in the following.
Only a few Greek cities were rich enough to afford many military
phalanxes and many naval vessels.  There never would have been a
Thermopylie, or Platea, or Salamis if Athens had not discovered a
silver lode a few years before these encounters with Xerxes'
invading armies.  The short time that democracy thrived in the
small Greek states was a "brief and incandescent moment of tri
umph over the Barbarians..."  In the face of Xerxes and Philip of
Macedon's moves to conquer them, the Greek's insecurity was like
the insecurity of Vichy France in 1939 and 1940.  Their leaders,
though, did not receive the modern opprobrium when they behaved
like Quislings, Lavals and Petains.  The Greek city-states fought
for their freedom.  But Greek factions were vulnerable to foreign
agents.  For the city states did not have the national solidarity
that Rousseau, Herder, and Michel =E2 t, ca 1800, were urging on
their world.  And the already weak democratic city-states were
almost helpless when Persia, Macedon, and Rome sent their armies.

      When Greek kings codified law into written records, they
circumscribed the once arbitrary judicial powers of the barons
(basileius).  This leveling trend continued in the dispersal of
hereditary priestly offices among several noble families.  And
after the Hellenic age, legislators made  abstract laws.  Herodo
tus said that Athens proved how nobler a thing freedom is, not in
one respect, only, but in all.  The great historian had more than
a little of the Magian Hebrew citizen's open love of freedom, to
which the Bible attests.  Law and science, originally from the
Levant, are summed up in the word, istoria.  And, at least, the
archetypal love of Magians for the law strongly reinforced Gree
ce's move to democracy.  I wonder how the above strikes you,
Richard, this idea of Levantine legalism and Hebrew values af
fecting Herodotus?

     The early democracies could defend themselves; for the
hoplite phalanx had citizen soldiers who could afford to buy the
cheaper armament being imported from the Near East.  "Farmers,
merchants, well-to-do artisans and indigent aristocrats fought
shoulder to shoulder for their community."  The psychological and
political implications of this force "were nothing short of
momentous."  There was a collective pride in the propaganda that
public buildings supplied and in the powers of citizen unity in
the polis.  In the army, social distinctions had no force.
Moreover, the phalanx was such a potent military and social
force, that society could not afford to allow wealthy farmers and
money lenders to drive small farmers into  penury or slavery.
Athens would then have put a smaller phalanx in the field and be
defeated.  This coincidence of cheap weaponry and the liberaliza
tion of the phalanx supported Solon's creation of the Athenian
democracy.  So, too, did the merchant fleet, and the navies,
which were sources of radical democracy, also supported it.  In
Greece, there were two kinds of republics: military and commer
cial.  The military, on land and sea, was the source of the
Spartan republic.   Business and trade were the source of the
Athenian republic.

     Yet, town life was originally aristocratic, not mercantile
or industrial.  Plebeians and traders never effectively wrote off
the aristocratic ideal of public and private life.  This aristo
cratic quality discriminates the Classical Greek states from the
towns of medieval northern Europe.  Unlike the Greeks, medieval
leaders and magistrates were merchants.  The ethos of medieval
leaders differed from that of the landed aristocracy.  Northern
European city fathers, after 1100, never had the elitist Greek
attitude toward banal work; because men of commerce, not aristo
crats, took the lead in medieval European towns.

     The educated Greeks looked down on the artisan trades as
banausic, and took a similar dim view of manufacturing.  The
aristocrats were themselves successful traders, though.  To the
extent of despising such things and looking down on market place
activities, the Greek leaders were not democratic.  And there was
something else working against democracy:  the institution of
slavery.  And, in limiting to a few the ranks of citizens, the
Greeks limited democracy.

     To a great degree the learned layman Pelagius, a northern
European, was a son of the Iro-Norse Civilization.  He obtained
his learning in Rome, where he lived many years.  He had a moral
ity of salvation whose hope is as sanguine as that of Clement of
Alexandria and Origen.His optimistic emphasis upon man's free
will and man's ability to achieve his own salvation probably owed
something to an Indian or a Neoplatonic element in Roman schools.
The Gnostics' ethic at the time was Neoplatonic.  And the Gnos
tics, like Indians, perceived themselves as more on a level with
God than did the Christians.  He studied under a monk disciple of
Origen.  (Origen was full of ideas shared by Hindus.)  Pelagius
may owe something to these Eastern ideas.  Nevertheless, he had a
Stoic and proto-Faustian type of asceticism that is, a rule of
struggle in the world, and an impulse to conquer physical nature.
Here was no withdrawal from the world, as it was practiced by
Indian  arhats  and elite Eastern Christian anchorite monks.  This
 askesis , in the Renaissance, would become the Calvinistic work
ethic.

     The Briton and the Stoics, the latter of Near Eastern inspi
ration, like other Magians, did not reason from the idea of a
state, but as individuals.  The Stoics must have strongly in
fluenced him.  Perhaps he was not so much a son of the Iro-Norse
Culture, as a founder of it.  He immensely strengthened the
northern European's individualism.  He was one of the causes of
the Faustian worldview over 400 years before the civilization
came to birth.  I cannot say which individualism was the greater
influence on the other:  the Iro-Norse 'I-speaking' form of talk,
or Pelagius' thought.  In any event, his individualism and that
of Northern Europe became a Faustian archetype.  The democracy
that the Greeks enjoyed for two short centuries was going to re-
emerge  more sturdily in the 17th century.

     The middle class of England, France, and the rest of north
ern Europe arose out of feudal societies after 1300.  And, after
1700, several gifted men spoke for democratic ideas in England
and  America.  The individualism that came from Europe's Pelagian
and Iro-Norse origins in the 5th century had waxed, not waned.
It enormously enhanced the sway of Greek democratic ideals on the
Faustian world.

      Rousseau's Romantic and Daoist desire for small republics,
whose people live simple lives, must have intensified the ongoing
change of the West's worldview.  In his lifetime, the big nations
did not have nearly the uniformity of a native language as they
do, today.  The unity of  Volkgeist  that Herder and Rousseau
proposed. ca 1750, for miniature republics we could propose for
many great nations today.

     Rousseau almost reconciled his perception of individualist
rights with his collectivist plan for the common good.  Society,
he believed, is perilous for human willpower, and he therefore
proposed an education that must focus on rousing that willpower.
But he did not distinguish between society and the state; for, in
1776, no one had yet seen the momentous import of the difference.

The society of the Nation is a given fact of historical evolu
tion, not created by any contract of society, but simply there.
The State based on that society may be (as France sought to do in
1789), the result of a creative act performed by the members of
the society.

     In most parts of the world, the state had preceded the
nation.  That the nation might better precede the state was not
yet an obvious truth.

     Rousseau perceived in himself the individual as a moral
ideal.  He wanted such an individual joined to the General Will
in the society.  This would have the form of a social contract
constituting the state.  As a covenant, Rousseau's social con
tract or covenant partakes of the Magian legalism that accompa
nied Christianity all through the medieval and modern times.  He
had the Magian feeling for the limitations of secular government.
He was a precociously post-Faustian figure.  Democracy became, in
him, a new worldview idea, hitherto never central to a civiliza
tion.

     Before Rousseau's time, autocratic empires or states always
preceded the nations they eventually became.  The imperial state
preceded the Roman 'people' or nation in the time of the Caesars.
But Rousseau intended his new democracy for small states; because
people in such limited societies could clearly see their common
interests and freely share a General Will.  "... his overall
thesis is novel.  With Rousseau a new concept of citizenship
emerges: it is the awareness of interest in common ..."  In this
way, he and Herder were the fathers of an ideology much maligned,
these days:  nationalism.  Mazzini, the liberator of Italy,
learned his ideology of the Italian fatherland from Herder, as
did other revolutionaries.  "Nations, said Mazzini, ca 1849, are
the citizens of humanity, as individuals are the citizens of
nations.  Without the nation there can be no humanity."  Ripeness
is all.  The idea of democracy was consummated.  Though the
historian, Michelet, in 1849, wanted France to dominate Europe,
he urged on his readers the benefits of national cultures,
preserving diverse races.  "To each people or race we shall say
'Be yourself.' Then they will come to us with open hearts."

     It is true that the past 200 years have witnessed many wars
of nationalism, but the ideology of nationalism is not to blame.
I think you will agree with me on this, Richard.  The Greeks and
the Persians fought each other, to some extent on a national
basis.  And the wars between Greek states innervated their world
more than modern wars have deprived ours of strength.  Themsto
cles and Winston Churhill had much in common.  Yet, the fickle
Athenian democracy finally ostracized their savior, Themistocles.
The Greeks did not have the nationalistic ethos of our time,
because our nationalism involves an individualism, which is not
Greek.

     Eighteenth century Faustians esteemed China's love of social
amenities and carried Faustian democratic thought beyond the old
worldview to new passions that were social.  China's anarchic
Daoist writings were much read in 18th century Europe.  Rousseau
and Herder and Hegel wrote of egalitarian democracy and its
freedom as somehow joining in a General Will.  And these demo
cratic traits enhanced the peaceful coexistence of nationalities.
>>From this stance, Herder wrote critically of European colonial
ism.  "The Human race is one:  we work and suffer, sow and reap
for one another."

     Jerome Blum's statement of 1994 actually describes the great
Romantic prophet, Herder:

>To the Romantics who were the founding fathers of nationalism,
>the new creed meant the peaceful coexistence of the peoples of
>the world.  God in His infinite wisdom had divided the human
>race into nationalities, each with its own language, culture,
>history, and traditions--its own  Volksgeist .

             Best wishes,   David Richardson

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Date:         Fri, 21 Nov 1997
From: "Richard K. Moore" <•••@••.•••>
Subject:      Re: D.Richardson on nationalism & democracy
To: •••@••.•••

11/21/97, David Richardson wrote:
  >Dear Richard,
  >
  >     I enjoyed your investigation of globalism, in collaboration
  >with Carolyn Ballard.  I would like to see your exposition via
  >philofhi.  Your sympathetic characterization of nationalism
  >appeals to me.  Hence the following statement.  Bertil Haggman
  >and other Spenglerians may like portions of it.

Dear David,

I am in awe.  I do have some comments and questions, but my primary
reaction is "Thanks for the succint, focused, and far-reaching history
lesson!", a lesson especially valued as it seems driven by personal
sensibilities that I can resonate with.

Nikolai has also requested this thread on philofi, and I agree it has
reached a level of development worthy of exposure here.  I will post "Som=
e
notes on scientific inquiry: the role of hypothesis" tomorrow, followed
soon by a much-revised outline and summary of the book ("Globalization an=
d
the New World Order -- democracy at a crossroads").

Responses below,
Richard

---


  >    The Magian legal tradition and the biblical accounts of the
  >Hebrew confederation are sources of modern democracy.

Your weaving of the many diverse historical threads is highly enlightenin=
g;
I hope we see some supportive refinments from philofi members.


  >     I am not sure, Richard, of where you stand as regards busi
  >ness.  You may not like the following.  Wherever plebeians or
  >peasants or farmers have enjoyed prosperity, close by were free
  >traders and businessmen.

I'm glad you brought this up.  I find it unarguable that business (market=
s)
has proven to be uniquely capable of creating robust economies and
encouraging the advance of useful technologies.  Doctrinaire socialist
agendas not only fail to capitalize (:>) on this valuable societal asset,
but fall into the strategic error of backing a powerful adversary into a
corner.

The problem, so to speak, is not capitalism itself, but rather the
political hegemony of capitalism over other ideological perspectives, and
of the capitalist elite over other contituencies.  Any single "ism" that
dominates exclusively beomes socially toxic, whether it be capitalism,
state-enterprise, or some fundamentalist religion.  In this regard
"moderation in all things" remains a chestnut of unsurpassed philosophica=
l
value.

I favor artful and unconstrained pragmatic eclecticism as regards proposa=
ls
and designs for societal improvement.  Society is too complex for
tableau-noir invention (as found in many utopians since Plato) to be a
viable path -- we do better to pick and choose from systems that have
demonstrated their characterisitcs and consequences in the playground of
real-world politics and economics.  History is in a better teacher for us
than idealist philosphy, although historical pragmatism should not be
granted exclusive methodological hegemony any more than any other ism.

Corporations are indeed heartless machines, as critics have pointed out,
but the same could be said for automobiles: both are powerful machines, b=
ut
automobiles are controlled by an agent (the driver) who acts from higher
goals than simply the aggrandisement of the machine itself, unlike
corporate boards.  The single-minded corporate pursuit of asset growth (i=
t
turns out profit is secondary) must be brought under the moderation of an
agency(s) whose goals are condoned by the society at large.  Sensible and
effecive regulation, public representation on boards, and a public equity
position in corporate ownership  seem to me to be more fruitful agendas
than any blanket opposition to capitalism itself or to private property
more generally.


  >     Do you, Richard, hold, as I do, that Greece had no effective
  >spokesmen for democracy?  ...Greek factions were vulnerable to foreign
  >agents.  For the city states did not have the national solidarity
  >that Rousseau, Herder, and Michel =E2 t, ca 1800, were urging on
  >their world.

I'm out of my depth here.  My impression is that there was perhaps more
variety among the Greek experiments than your portrayal, which seems to
focus mostly on Athens and Sparta (?).  Bertrand Russell suggests a
particular pattern which I believe you didn't mention explicitly, when he
says (paraphrase): "Greece was characterized by two political paradigms,
the first was aristocratic rule, and the second was an oscillation betwee=
n
democracy and tyranny".  (This would harmonize with my observation that t=
he
USA has exhibited a see-saw struggle between the wealthy elite and popula=
r
interests.)


  >I wonder how the above strikes you,
  >Richard, this idea of Levantine legalism and Hebrew values af
  >fecting Herodotus?

This and your other observations go a long way toward overcoming the
Euro-centralism that has characterized much analysis, while at the same
time helping suggest why Euro-dominance (such as it is) has happened: a
more inclusive eclecticism!?


  >"Nations, said Mazzini, ca 1849, are
  >the citizens of humanity, as individuals are the citizens of
  >nations.  Without the nation there can be no humanity."  Ripeness
  >is all.  The idea of democracy was consummated.  Though the
  >historian, Michelet, in 1849, wanted France to dominate Europe,
  >he urged on his readers the benefits of national cultures,
  >preserving diverse races.  "To each people or race we shall say
  >'Be yourself.' Then they will come to us with open hearts."

I would refine Mazzini by observing that "without _society_ there can be =
no
humanity", that "nations have happened to be the only viable sovereign
societal unit in the period from Westphalia to 1945", and that "larger
sovereign units move past the point of diminishing returns from scale".


  >     It is true that the past 200 years have witnessed many wars
  >of nationalism, but the ideology of nationalism is not to blame.

precisely so.


  >>To the Romantics who were the founding fathers of nationalism,
  >>the new creed meant the peaceful coexistence of the peoples of
  >>the world.  God in His infinite wisdom had divided the human
  >>race into nationalities, each with its own language, culture,
  >>history, and traditions--its own  Volksgeist.

It is now abundantly apparent that the nation state system -- despite its
seeming permanance from 1648 to 1945 -- cannot depend on divine support
after all.  This task has devolved to the people, without any longer thei=
r
alliance-of-necessity with the capitalist elite; and if the ship of state
goes down, it takes any near-term hope of democracy with it.


rkm

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