Man, State, and Nation

Haven’t posted anything in a while, so here’s a quick essay I wrote in response to an essay about anarchism from Hereno, a self described Marxist Liberterian Socialist.
Man, State, and Nation: Refutation of Hereno
A poster can hardly post in the boiler room without running in to the term “the state”. Many times it’s thrown around a lot like the term “the man”. However, what are these two things that hold us down, back, and under? The majority of people would accpet Weber’s definition of state as a compulsory organization with a monopoly on the legitimate use of coercive power within a certain territory. This definition can become problematic though. Hereno in his essay The State and Morality describes states ruled by warrior kings, Pharoah’s, and monarchs. While those beings certainly can be in command of a state, in Western history by Weber’s definition they were not. Medieval kings had to share their coercive power with the Church. Were there two states or just one? Feudalism throws more wrenches in the idea. Rome had several Fides which were technically states but in some cases not really states.
In order to solve this problem, theorists invent the idea of deep states, sovereign states, hegemony, and other technical political terms we are at least semi familiar with. Is there a way around this nonsense though? Are there more sound definitions? The word state in English comes from a contraction of estate. It is linked to notions of standing, position, or condition. We can still see the link when we speak about the three estates of medieval society or even in everday speech (state of depression). So, there is a different definition of the state, I’d like to offer. It is that which gives form to a nation.
What does this mean? First let’s define nation. A nation is a group of people sharing a common culture. The state is that which transforms a group of self-motivated indivuals (which normally make up a nation) into a cohesive unit. It can be a noble ideal which binds men towards a certain goal or the power and fear which marches them unwillingly. While Weber’s conception of the state has a seed of morality hidden within it, the Traditional conception is morally neutral.
With this in mind, I reject immediately Hereno’s assertion speaking from Lenin that the State is the embodiment of the ruling class. With the reformed definition we realize that if there is anycorrelation between a state and its ruling class it must be exactly opposite of Hereno’s assertion. The nationstate functions best when the rulers of the polity are embodiments of the ideals. What if they aren’t though? Can we just get rid of the state and not the people? This seems a ludicrous question. It would be similar to eliminating the pursuit if happiness or perfection, because it was unattainable or almost so. Even better, like eliminating romance novels and marriages because no one can achieve the most altruistic loves. However, in order to show the value of the state we might answer it. First we should take a look at the state’s subject, man.
A very holy man once proclaimed that the law was made for man, not man for the law. The same thing can apply if we replace the words state and law. It is common sense that man as a social animal can achieve more in numbers than alone. It is a simple fact. Early man as hunter gatherer lived in small familial groups or tribes and seems to have mostly followed game and foraged for food in between kills. In these times a state was unneeded. The goal was already clear and indivualism would result in a very short life span. Let me clarify here that the difference between state and hierarchy once again. Hierarchy almost certainly existed because of family ties. The state on the other hand would be absolutely useless in this situation. Then comes agriculture, settlement, and war. Suddenly an abundance of food would attract newcomers and an indivual could grow enough food to survive alone. However, this had to be stopped, because again man is a social creature. Other groups of men realized they could take food from those who were prosperous. Then, the state was born. The us vs. them mentality gave rise a group of indivuals harmonizing to reach a specific set goal.
So can we destroy the state now? I’d wonder why one would want to destroy it. It is a tool to help man achieve his natural end. However, to understand why there are anarchist and not anti-agriculturist or people protesting writing we have to take a journey through the underbelly of the state, and the illogical absurdities of those affected by it.
Antonio Gramsci is someone only a handful of us will be familiar with. Gramsci based his style of Marxism on the ideaa that culture was a powerful tool in holding down people. Obviously, these guidelines holding people down can be traced back to the state. If a person was to shun the state then he would be punished by the nation. So, the only reason for one to wish the dismantling of the state is to avoid its punishment. Again, let me reiterate, the state is morally neutral. Hereno’s ideas of a morality that is fluid is just as silly as his anarchism. The state can be used for good like freeing slaves (in the US) or for genocide (in Nazi Germany). This is why Fascism is ultimately wrong. The state can not be held as the highest good and must be held accountable to higher values and spiritual authority. So, if the state is punishing people wrongly then and only then can the state be non-organically done away with. Until then the state is a legitimate expression of the nation. All punishment itself though is not evil. Good punsihment is the very essence of justice, something all political philosophy tries to obtain.
In conclusion Hereno’s essay brings up goods points but is ultimately flawed. It uses a flawed definition of the state, a misunderstood account of history, and faulty metaphysical assumptions.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s