ABSTRACT. This paper examines the basis for the ethics of genocide: why there is a concept of genocide, and its origins. The concept is identified both as propaganda, and as part of the legitimation of nationalism. Nationalism is itself a spatial form of the legitimation of political decisions - nations limit territorial "opting out". The article lists the claims of nations, which underlie the present world order: claims to global territorial control, to inclusivity, to a monopoly of state formation and thus autonomy, and to legitimacy unlimited in time. Since these features combine to block developments which are themselves legitimate, it is concluded that a contra-nationalism is legitimate. It is argued that the concept of genocide, especially cultural genocide, was in effect created to block such measures: its validity is rejected. As illustration some examples are given of current issues of "national identity versus Europe", and possible changes in state formation process in a post-national Europe are briefly indicated. Written 1996.


The sun orbits the earth, the Pope is infallible, women belong in the kitchen, and genocide is wrong: some things are certain. Or...? Michael Freeman wrote:

"Genocide" names an unqualified evil. No-one speaks of a justifiable genocide. [1].
That is only because people are intimidated by the concept. I will examine here: why there is a concept "genocide", its current relevance (especially in Europe), its origins, how it is part of the present world order, whether it is wrong, and some alternatives to its prohibition.

To start with, a metaphor which simplifies the basis for the concept "genocide". Imagine that all Mafia (and similar) gangs on earth make everyone a member of the nearest Mafia, and then announce that since they now include all humanity, they will run the world. They divide the world up into states, some for one gang and some for combinations of gangs. They demand that everyone should identify with their own Mafia. Imagine also, that almost everyone accepts this, except for a small minority (mainly religious) who are soon shot, locked up, or just treated as freaks. Imagine that all Mafia groups together, decide that the world must stay like this for ever, and that any attempt to abolish the Mafia is the most horrible crime imaginable: Mafia-ocide.

Put like this it seems a farce, yet substitute "nation" for "Mafia" and it is historically accurate. Qu'est-ce que c'est une nation? [2] Une bande nationaliste.

A good historical analogy is with the crime of regicide, one of a class of prohibitions designed to preserve the state and its system of government. In a monarchy it is forbidden to kill the king, in a democracy to overthrow democracy. Similarly, it is logical that inter-national law should try to preserve a world order of nation states. There is no specific prohibition on attempting to change the world order, but important concepts of international law have that effect. Genocide is probably the most important of these: it extends the claim to existence rights, into a claim to eternal national existence, against all opposition. Genocide is the concept which makes anti-nationalism a crime.

Genocide and a national world order

So there is a concept "genocide" because there must be a concept "genocide". It is a necessary part of the present world order, as the regicide concept is a necessary part of monarchy. That world order is national (with a few exceptions such as the Vatican). It has four (functional) characteristics which distinguish it from other possible world orders. It is an order of coterminous states covering all land surface; it is formed by transgenerational identity communities; these have a monopoly of state formation; and they are unlimited in time and claim eternal legitimacy. This order competes with and excludes other orders, for instance theocratic universalism. Historically, the present order was intensified at the expense of possible alternative orders.

As ideology, then, nationalism supports this present world order against others. Nationalism is not a particularism, but inherently global, a universalism. The collective claims of nations relate to a global order. Most theory of the ethics of nationalism simply takes the world order as given. This applies more generally as well. For instance, in speaking of Geslechtsdifferenz:

Keine andere Differenz ist für das gesellschaftliche Schicksal einer Person von entscheiderer ...Bedeutung als die Geschlechtszugehörigkeit, keine andere Differenz trennt Menschen nachhaltiger, definitiver als diese. [3]
These words appeared in German, in the Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie, published in Germany. In other words, nations are so omnipresent, that they are not even noticed. This failure to question the world order, in turn contributes to its stability.

Fear of genocide in Europe

The world order in totality is not under threat, but in Europe the concept of genocide is now relevant. In Europe, some nations are under threat (however remote that is). The original draft of the Genocide Convention included a broad definition of cultural genocide [4]. If it had been adopted it would be possible to consider even the introduction of a single European currency, or the recent metrication in Britain, as cultural genocide. It is true that the UN did not in 1948 adopt this broad definition of genocide, but others have used the word in a broad non-legal sense, and even expanded the definition formally. The sources of international law are diffuse: the UN definition is not the final word. The International Covenant on the Rights of Indigenous Nations (notable for its long list of nationalist claims) includes under "ethnocide and cultural genocide":
"Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them [indigenous peoples] of their integrity as distinct societies, or of their cultural or ethnic characteristics or identities; Any form of forced assimilation or integration by imposition of other cultures or ways of life by way of communications media, religious or educational institutions, governmental legislation, administration or other measures or means;...." [5].
Except the mention of religious institutions, this could be a complaint of nationalists in Europe against the European Union. Many in Britain, for instance do sincerely feel that the Channel Tunnel has deprived Britain of its integrity as a distinct island society or "island race". It is true that, partly by EU regulation, Britain has lost its culturally distinctive measures: pints, stones, hundredweights, troy ounces, furlongs, leagues, shillings, and half-crowns. The planned introduction of the Euro does cause emotional reactions in Britain and Germany, in defence the pound and D-Mark.

In reality, the EU is extremely cautious about national cultures. It is after all a union of nation states. A future European state might act differently. It could simply reverse nationalist policies to oppose nationalism:

All these anti-nationalist measures are indeed cultural genocide: in the broad sense of the word, in the legal sense of the original draft of the Convention, and in the original intended sense of the word genocide.


It is impossible to understand the concept of genocide, without considering its origins. It was nationalist in intent, from the beginning. It has its origins in the lobby of exiled nationalist groups in London and Washington during the second world war, which presented the Third Reich as an anti-national entity acting against the nations of Europe.

The Polish jurist RaphaŽl Lemkin invented the term "genocide" in a book published in 1944 - not to describe what was later called the Holocaust, but to present the grievances and claims of exiled national groups [6]. Although some of these groups called themselves "governments in exile", their status in 1940-45 was dependent on the Allies. In particular, the US and the USSR had the military power to re-allocate territory in Europe, and did, in 1945. Some nations disappeared in 1945: others might have. Lemkin's evident political concern was to establish the permanent existence rights of nations, and to redirect the horror at Nazi atrocities into support for nationalism in Europe. That is propaganda: nationalist propaganda, substituting pro-nationalism for anti-fascism.

Unfortunately it was successful propaganda. Lemkin's book was written for Anglo-American policy makers, but the term genocide spread over the whole world in a few years. In 1946 the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 96-I on genocide, followed in 1948 by the Convention on Genocide, and the term has passed into general political use. It has also been subject to inflation. It was extended back into history, and extended in application, to almost any anti-national act, and to other violence [7]. In turn that caused bitter disputes about definition, for instance the Armenian genocide [8]. However in a typology of genocides, the core remains its application to nations and peoples [9]. It is true some Holocaust historiography identifies the Holocaust as a phenomenon of modernity rather than ethnicity, such as that of Baumann, Aly and Heim. In practice, however, the association with mega-scale modernity, may facilitate its use in anti-European propaganda [10].

The genocide concept is therefore embedded in nationalism: nationalism as ideology and as world order. These concepts are more familiar in political geography than in ethics [11]. Territorial aspects, and the possibility of alternative world orders, cannot be excluded from ethical considerations. A territorial effect, limitation of secession, links nationalism to a general theme of political philosophy: the legitimation of decisions.

Ethics of autonomy in nationalism

Writing on self-determination, Lea Brilmayer declares that
Separatists cannot base their arguments upon a right to opt out because no such right exists in democratic theory. [12].
Unintentionally, this describes a central claim of nationalism, which certainly applies to liberal democratic nation states: that there is no general right to secession. At most, nations can secede. Democratic theory, if not based on consensus, includes circumstances where one or more persons accept decisions they do not agree with. The units of democracy are now nation states. All nationalists agree that there is a point at which nation and state coincide, after that no secession is legitimate, there is no more opt-out.

The Southern secession led Abraham Lincoln to the clearest defence of this principle, in his First Inaugural in 1861:

If the minority will not acquiesce, the majority must, or the government must cease. There is no other alternative; for continuing the government, is acquiescence on one side or the other. If a minority, in such case, will secede rather than acquiesce, they make a precedent which, in turn, will divide and ruin them; for a minority of their own will secede from them, whenever a majority refuses to be controlled by such minority. ... Plainly, the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy.
The message to Congress (4 July 1861), following the attack on Fort Sumter, was even clearer:
It presents the question, whether discontented individuals, too few in numbers to control administration ... can always... break up their Government, and thus practically put an end to free government upon the earth. ... So, viewing the issue, no choice was left but to call out the war powers of the Government. [13]
The comment of the Civil War historian David Potter that "the attribution of nationality sanctions the acts of the group claiming autonomous powers" summarises the politics of the present world order [14]. In turn, nationalists use political theories to say no-one may escape from a nation - because it is just, or pluralist, or open, or democratic, or minimal, or federal, or liberal, or a community, or a Rechtsstaat, or because there is a social contract.

Nationalism - the general form, not the nationalist cause of particular nations - is a veto arrangement, based on territory. It also relies on uniformity within each state - if there are no limits on what happens inside national territory, there is no point in nations. Nationalism prevents evasion of veto - evasion by distance. Any veto imposed for the territory, becomes a veto which is valid for all its inhabitants. This favours some things, and obstructs others, as does most normative political theory: nationalism is different in having a spatial element.

The basic state form of nationalism is therefore a world state, rather than the multiplicity of states usually associated with it. A national world is already in effect a single political entity, cosmopolis. There is an ethical tradition known as cosmopolitanism (for instance, concerning equal moral duties to all humans). It is often associated with a normative political version. Political cosmopolitanism includes theories of world government, world federalism, now usually based on an expansion of the UN [15]. It is wrong to contrast this with nationalism: from an anti-nationalist viewpoint it is just another pan-nationalism. Replacing polis by cosmopolis, replacing 186 nations by one nation, does not alter their inclusivity or veto effect. In practice, it would increase the "war powers of the Government". It would make the world more, not less, national.

(For this in more detail see: World-nationalism: normative globalism as pan-nationalism.)
Nationalism is global, but has not yet produced a global state. The division into multiple nation states is probably due to the technical and administrative difficulty of a world state. What now exists is a world order of states arranged according to a principle of least difference. There are logical alternatives to this world order. In a hypothetical maximum difference division of the world's territory, territory is so arranged that humans can least limit the action of others. There is (in contrast) a possible world of maximum homogeneity, most realistically a world state with rigid and comprehensive laws. The existing national world order is said to be like the first of these alternatives: in fact it is closer to the second.

The veto of nationalism is not undirected. By restraining non-national secession from existing nations it favours those existing nations. In this way, it favours their cultures, their language, their art, their social order, and so on. This conservatism is central to nationalism: the rights of existing states, the value of existing cultures, historical continuity, nationalist propaganda's obsession with the past - all these are obvious elements of the present world order.

Like any veto arrangement, nationalism also starts from the belief that some things ought to be vetoed. A rare example of territorial ethical division within a nation indicates the emotional forces involved: the German abortion laws. The two German states, before 1990, had very different laws. A unified (restrictive) law was adopted only in 1995. It is a political fact, that if a minority in Germany wants a return to almost unrestricted abortion, secession is probably the only way to achieve this. Yet the majority of Germans will probably never agree to divide their nation again.

Now, such cases are rare - because divided nations are themselves rare. Only two pairs of states have this century claimed to represent a singe nation: the Germanies, and the Koreas. The interest of the example, is that it demonstrates the veto effect of nations. In this case, there were two laws: usually, minorities in nations have no chance of separate legislation on any issue, not even the most trivial. In a nation state, you either accept the law of the majority, or secede - and for that you need an army.

In general, what is most remote from existing national values is most excluded within nation states. The non-territorial equivalent of nationalism would be a consensus conservatism, a belief that no change may take place until there is no strongly held objection to it.

That is, then, the effect of nations. I will now examine the claims of nations, by which that effect is legitimised, without trying to refute them in detail. The list of claims is based in part on recent articles which contain formal defences of nations in various forms [16].

The claims of nations

The first claim of nations is to inclusivity, and on this other nationalist claims are based, such as the claim to all habitable territory: The objection is that not everyone belongs to a nation, or wants to. The rejection of nationality comes mostly from religious universalists, most explicitly from some Islamic radicals. There are also non-religious anti-nationalists.

A common nationalist response is to say they are sick or evil, in effect claiming:

However, nations are not the only possible inclusive division for humanity. Some other divisions are by definition perfectly inclusive, others such as sex (or gender) may be effectively inclusive. Why then should states formed by nations get all the land surface?

The usual nationalist response is that:

A related but not identical claim is that Both claims are common in nationalist propaganda. In practice not all humans are inherently motivated to join nations, which are forced on the unwilling. Belonging to nations is enforced by the criminalisation of dissociation (sedition and treason), and ultimately by military force.

Nations are also not "natural" in the sense of convenient or logical territories. If the world had a uniform culture, but was divided for administrative convenience into 186 states, it is unlikely they would all correspond to existing nation states. Of course nations do have their own culture and language, often with great historical continuity. Does that make them logical or natural? A general nationalist claim on this matter, never stated explicitly because of the obvious fallacy, is:

This is more likely to be put as: A more sophisticated form is that of Margalit and Raz:
"It is a social and moral fact that it is a world of nations, tribes peoples, etc., that is, that peoples perceptions of themselves and others and their judgments....are shaped, to an extent, by the existence of such groups and their membership of them." [17].
In other words: This claim overlaps in practice with the general claim of convenience and logic: A related argument is that from contiguity. Both so-called separatist and cosmopolitan views limit self-determination or self-government - to "residents of a territory", "residents of geographical regions" [18], or to "inhabitants of any contiguous territory" [19]. Another version permits only "groups of residents" to claim a state, with borders "validated by the inhabitants": this version rejects "geographical libertarianism, the idea that anyone may declare his allegiance to the state of his choice no matter where it is located, and no matter where he is located" [20].

These restrictions assume people are as immobile as trees - metaphors of roots are certainly common in nationalist propaganda. Historically, state formation by migration has declined as transport capacity increased. The existing contiguity is not natural, but fixed by nationalism. Again this is claimed to be legitimate:

The conservatism of this group of claims (group 5) is obvious. The existence of national cultures is the result of nations, for a non-national world could exist. It is circular to legitimise nations by the existence of their products, national culture and community. The value of these cultures should be established first, before using them to justify their own origin (on that value, more later). It is true that nations shape people's lives, but they do not have to. They would not, if they disappeared. For anti-nationalists they shape life by fear, fear of imprisonment and death. In effect one "party" controls the earth, the party of the nationals. As a party, they are evidently not satisfied with less than total collective control of territory, even if they fight among themselves about which nation gets what.

In practice, that collective control of the world derives from another characteristic of the nationalist world order. A basic claim is:

More specifically: This is the case even if no territory is won from another nation. In the past religious institutions and companies held territory as nation states do now. That is now archaic. Even in the past it was an exception, for many human collectivities have never experienced any state-formative processes. They are now totally excluded: for example, sexes, age cohorts, classes and professions. Even more so, states not linked to a collectivity cannot be formed. State formation therefore formalises the global territorial claim of nationalism as an ideology: Excluded from state formation, non-national entities are in practice excluded from sovereignty, from self-determination and from autonomy ("autonomy", for short). It is true that not all states correspond exactly to one nation: the point is how few states correspond to non-national entities. The struggle for autonomy is often presented as characteristic of nationalism, as if nations maximised autonomy. In fact they tend to minimise it. The number of possible states - sovereign entities with territory in the maximum difference world - far exceeds the number of nation states. That would be true even if all "peoples" claimed to exist (up to 10, 000) got their own state. If autonomy is feasible for small ethnic groups, then it is feasible for other small groups, many more than 10, 000. So the question is why one type of group or collectivity has autonomy, and not others.

For its monopoly of state formation, nationalism invokes a special status of nations, usually based on the past and on historical continuity. This status is characterised by a claim of sacrality, prominent in nationalist propaganda:

More formal versions which have the same effect in practice are: Whatever the version, this claim leads to a far-reaching series of monopoly claims: only nations may raise armies, demand military service, control the schooling of children, indoctrinate loyalty, execute traitors, control mineral resources, jointly control the seas, or legally declare monuments and places sacred and inviolable. Similar claims were sometimes exercised in the past by other entities, which later lost them to nations. Nations clearly benefit from the belief of a majority of the world's population that they are in some sense a sacred group. Many nationalists will not even accept the term "group", saying nations transcend their members. (Perhaps they do, but then the question is why only nations have this property).

The most concrete evidence given for a special status of nations is historical continuity, and a historical link to a particular territory. The underlying claim here is:

Again, this is not inherent: nations made themselves old, and if they disappear they will stop getting older. The relevant question is whether existence in the past should guarantee existence in the future.

Nations claim not only existence rights and autonomy, but the claim is open-ended: nationalism claims permanence. This is currently formalised in a general prohibition, claiming:

This permanence is itself largely a national monopoly: nations claim the right to dissolve other groups or associations, and this does not apply in reverse. The general claim for the future is thus: Nationalists sometimes accept that national cultures may fade, but not to the disadvantage of nationalism: The legitimacy claim of nationalism is eternal: it assumes no circumstances will arise in which it would be ≥better≤ to end nationalism. It is another form of veto, a veto in time - a veto on invention. Perhaps political structures must make permanence claims, or disappear. In some colonies, for instance, the colonial authorities admitted that colonial rule would have to end, in some far future. Usually, they were gone within ten years. The ethical question is if such defensive claims are valid, specifically the permanence claim embodied in the genocide concept.

Legitimate claims?

The list of claims of nations shows how the genocide concept fits into the world order, as if it was a necessary design element. Starting from a claim to universal inclusion, the list ends with a prohibition of genocide. There are now three issues to be considered, related to this prohibition: On the first issue, it can be said that the genocide concept is internally inconsistent, for reasons linked to its propaganda intent. Almost all the atrocities, labelled as genocide, have been committed by nations or peoples - against each other. In this sense genocides are part of the world order which forbids them. The concept of genocide since Lemkin, however, makes the abolition of nations seem morally equivalent to the nationalist atrocities. This is not only a historical distortion, it is logically unacceptable, because the abolition of nations by definition ends inter-nation atrocities. No genus, no genocide. In a world free of peoples, the crime of genocide would be impossible. And yet, to abolish them would also be "genocide". Making genocide a crime, is as illogical as making criminal prosecution a crime. Can such an illogical concept be valid? Can it be used to judge right and wrong?

A related inconsistency in the concept is that, if all the world population became anti-nationalist and abolished nations, they would also commit genocide, at least cultural genocide. The nationalist claims (in group 10) prohibit acts to end nations: they do not allow for consent. In fact, they exclude any legitimate dissolution. For nationalists ending nations is wrong, regardless of procedure or methods, violent or non-violent. If the other claims of nations are rejected, however, there is no basis for this view. In courts all over the world associations are dissolved every day, voluntarily or by compulsion. There is ethically no difference between dissolving a company and dissolving a nation. It is not valid simply to attach the suffix "-cide" to a collectivity or group, and then say that forbids its dissolution.

The crime of genocide is based on arbitrary (semantic) privilege. One class of entities is allowed to use the suffix "-cide", while other are not. More generally, nations have privileges in the present world order. These privileges cannot be by-passed because there is no non-national territory.

This brings me to the second ethical issue, the legitimacy of anti-nationalism. It is legitimate to end these morally arbitrary privileges of nations, even if doing so is in effect an attack on the world order. There is a parallel with aristocratic privileges: ending the privileges effectively ends the aristocracy. Like the aristocracy or monarchy, the present world order is not natural, or given, or eternal. It can decline or disappear, or be abolished. It could lose control of part of the earth to competing world orders. Two or more competing world orders could co-exist. Although it is difficult for people to think of the world without nations, it is simply not necessary for individuals to have a "cultural identity", to "identify with" an ethnic-cultural group, or to build states on that basis. It is not necessary for a state to be linked to a culture, or for the planet to be divided into such states. However, any attempt to change existing structures will meet political opposition from nationalists. This is the probable context of genocide accusations in the near future.

The third issue is the desirability of anti-nationalism. The privileges of nations are not just morally arbitrary, but seem inherently unethical. If this is so, not only are nations not legitimate, but it is necessary and good to end them. The inherent aspects are best seen from inside the nation, from the viewpoint of those who want a non-national secession, Lincoln's "discontented".

Examples of potential secession are easy to find. In many countries (for example) immigrants are discriminated on the labour market. Most people find this perfectly normal. That is itself a result of the nationalist idea that a people "own" the country they live in, and its economy: migrants, say nationalists, have less right to it. In most European states there is no majority for effective anti-discrimination legislation: migrants are imperfectly protected by the state. However, that same nation state also blocks secession, to set up a separate anti-discrimination state. This veto on secession is supported by appeals to democracy (majority decision), or to historical communitarianism (national values). It makes little difference in practice: either way migrants endure discrimination.

The French or British peoples may therefore be defined as a people, holding the territory of France or Britain, to prevent an anti-discrimination state being set up on that territory. Like the Germans who do not want unrestricted abortion, they feel strongly about the issue, and there is no realistic prospect of this attitude changing. In every nation, there are examples of such political-ethical issues. In general, a nation may be defined as a group of people holding a territory to prevent states with an ethical purpose being set up on that territory. "Group" can be replaced here with "community" or "organism" or other nationalist definitions of nation, but that does not change the purpose and effect of the nation. On German soil, there will be no specifically pro-abortion state, and no specifically anti-abortion state either, just Germany.

Nations do not give up territory, except occasionally to other nations. In this. they block formation of states with ethical purposes in a broad sense. I use this formula to avoid the term "stato etico", used by the Italian Fascists under Gentile's influence. Nations are contra-ethical: that means they obstruct the process of moral judgment and moral action, in itself. The only possible nationalist answer to this, would be the claim that nations are ethical - that nations are some sort of moral perfection, or at least perfectibility, that nations are what should be. Nationalists do believe that, anti-nationalists do not. There is no point in arguing further on the issue.

A more general question concerns the legitimacy of any general veto. I have used in this context the issue of urban density in cities in Europe. Many nations in Europe now legally forbid high densities: an emotional issue, for many people detest high density cities with rail transport systems. Especially in Eastern Europe, they are associated with totalitarianism. Could a high density city (with an advanced transport system) could be built, in a Europe of the existing nation states, against the will of their majorities? Almost certainly, no. Is this veto legitimate, even if no-one is forced to live in the new city against their will? Nationalists will say yes: moving people around to achieve a local majority is unacceptable for nationalists (claim 5d). In practice, in this case, this blocks urban innovation.

The underlying ethics

This is a particular case of consensus conservatism. The underlying question is: should the world be arranged so as to maximise the effect of objection to change? Is a veto-maximising world legitimate? The anti-nationalist position on urban density (to allow a new city) is not the reverse of the nationalist position. If the preferences were reversed, the anti-nationalist position would still permit two kinds of city to exist. In other words, this anti-nationalist position rejects the legitimacy of a general veto effect.

I will summarise the world of nations from this anti-nationalist position, in answer to the three ethical questions raised above.

Nation states are contra-ethical states formed with contra-ethical intentions by entities (nations) possessing an arbitrary monopoly privilege of state formation, collectively causing an illegitimate veto-maximising effect, biased against change. Measures should be taken to end them, which will be correctly categorised as genocide. The category genocide includes circumstances in which peoples disappear without physical attack on their members, defined as cultural genocide. However, the claim to legitimately prohibit genocide is itself a claim, made by nationalists. It is not valid, for it would mean neither nations nor their effects could be eroded. It is legitimate to seek to destroy nationalism. It is legitimate to seek to abolish the world order of nation states. It is legitimate to seek to abolish any nation or people, unless - as in the past - the destruction of one ethnic or national identity is followed by the imposition of another. In other words it is legitimate to seek a general dissolution of nations and peoples, and to abolish specific nations and peoples as part of that process.
All this is an absolute horror for nationalists. And as nationalists know, the most likely place for this to happen is Europe. State formation of a state of "Europe", by systematic abolition of national identities, would be a unique process. No explicitly anti-national state has ever existed. Such a state would in itself constitute a different world order, in opposition to the order of nation states. Nationalists inside and outside Europe would certainly denounce such a process of state formation as genocide.

This is the political context of the use of the concept of genocide. Any future erosion of the nation state in Europe will involve attacks on valued aspects of national life, not least the national languages. In reply, national culture will be used as a weapon. The value nationalists attach to culture is not only intrinsic, but instrumental. Nations produce national cultures, and these cultures reproduce the nation in time. In this way they defend it against attempts to end it. It is the legitimacy of such attempts to end nations which is at issue in Europe, not whether national culture has value.

Perhaps culture has value, but the claim that nationalists make is that this value is absolute, or at least, sufficient to make anti-national measures intrinsically wrong. This is a variant of claim 5:

All this says is that nationalists attach no value to a post-nationalist world, or to an anti-national Europe. No matter how much nationalists shout that national cultures should not be destroyed, there is no logical basis for this position.

Post-national Europe

What would a post-national state be like? Five indicators summarise the possibilities. Firstly, nations will lose the monopoly of state formation. Second, as a result, entities not now eligible will claim autonomy and sovereignty. They will not necessarily be communities, or transgenerational, or have a past, or have an identity.

Third, the process of state formation will be separated from the state formed. Nations enact their own state formation, but there is no logical reason not to externalise it. Fourth, this in turn opens the possibility of shell states - states which exist to form other (non-national) states. The "shell state" model seems the most appropriate to an anti-national state in Europe.

Fifth, there is no reason why states in formation should have inhabitants. The hypothetical maximum difference world includes all possible states - probably many more than its population. Any shell state would probably hold territory in reserve, and allocate it to states before their inhabitants are known. In nationalist political theory the purpose or goal of a state is derived from the nation that inhabits it. There is no justification for this limitation, and it would not apply to a shell state, which can wait if necessary for a territory to be inhabited. In this way, the ethical goals of states are not restricted by their inhabitants. No-one is coerced into accepting them, as "citizens" in nation states are.

These five indicators only summarise a post-national Europe: details of such changes are outside the scope of this article. Such theoretical consideration of plurality of states is usually considered part of utopian thinking, and "utopia" in turn usually indicates some sort of ideal society. That is not at issue here. The examples in this article indicate anti-national autonomy is also relevant to technological change, urban planning and transport. In nation states, even minor innovations (restrictions on urban car ownership) are often impossible. A large project like the proposed underground Swissmetro is typically described as "utopian" [21]. If this means transport innovation is incompatible with a nation state, then it is accurate: the Swiss "national vehicle" is the car.

A limited use of the word utopia may mean nothing more than a construction project. More's Utopia itself was written at a time of conscious urban design and includes design elements [22]. In another unintended description of the present world order, Gaetana Cantone writes of this period of ideal cities:

La città utopica non ha forma né luogo perché appartiene ad uno Stato ideale e potrà essere realizzata solamente dopo la messa in atto di questo Stato.
The utopian city has no form or place because it belongs to an ideal State, and can only become real after this State is set up (activated). [23]
Exactly. No non-national city without a non-national state, and no non-national state as long as there are nations. Worse: no non-national possibilities in a world of nations. If such possibilities are "utopia", then the conclusion is simple: the precondition of utopia is anti-nationalism, called genocide.


[1] Michael Freeman (1991) Speaking about the unspeakable: genocide and philosophy, Journal of Applied Philosophy, 8, pp. 3-17, p. 1.

[2] Ernest Renan (1882/1947) Qu'est-ce que c'est une nation? Oeuvres Complètes, pp. 887-890. (Paris: Calmann-Levy).

[3] Cornelia Klinger (1995) ‹ber neuere Tendenzen in der Theorie der Geschlechterdifferenz Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie 43, 5, pp. 801-814

[4] Pieter Drost (1959) The crime of state: penal protection for fundamental freedoms of persons and peoples. Book II: Genocide (Leyden: Sythoff).

[5] Center for World Indigenous Studies (1994) International Covenant on the Rights of Indigenous Nations (Geneva). FTP://

[6] Raphael Lemkin (1944) Axis rule in occupied Europe (Washington, Carnegie Endowment).

[7] Michael Freeman (1995) Genocide, civilisation and modernity British Journal of Sociology 46, 2, pp. 207-223; Erik Markusen (1991) Genocide, total war and nuclear omnicide in I. Charny (ed.) Genocide: a critical bibliographical review, Vol. 2 (London, Mansell) pp. 229-263; R. J. Rummel (1994) Democide in totalitarian states: mortocracies and megamurderers in I. Charny (ed.) Genocide: a critical bibliographical review, Vol. 3 (New Brunswick, Transaction) pp. 3-40; R. J. Rummel (1995) Democracy, power, genocide and mass murder, Journal of Conflict Resolution 39 (1), pp. 3-26, especially. pp. 3-4.

[8] Daniel Bermond (1995) L'affaire Bernard Lewis; Jean-Jacques Becker (1995) Génocide: du bon usage d'un mot; Yves Ternon (1995) Il s'agit bien d'un génocide!; L'Histoire, 187, avril 1995, pp. 38-44.

[9] Helen Fein (1990) Genocide: a sociological perspective, Current Sociology 38, 1, (Current Sociology Trend Report), especially. pp. 28-29.

[10] Zygmunt Baumann (1989) Modernity and the Holocaust (Cambridge, Polity Press); Götz Aly & Susanne Heim (1993) Vordenker der Vernichtung: Auschwitz und die deutschen Pläne für eine neue europäische Ordnung (Hamburg, Hoffmann & Campe).

[11] Peter Taylor (1989). Political geography: World economy, nation state and locality (Harlow: Longman). In a recent article Taylor appears to reject the idea of nationalism as global: P. Taylor (1995) Beyond containers: internationality, interstateness, interterritoriality, Progress in Human Geography 19, pp. 1-15.

[12] Lea Brilmayer (1991) Secession and Self-determination: a territorial interpretation, Yale Journal of International Law 16, pp. 177-202, p.185.

[13] Abraham Lincoln (1953/ 1861) Collected Works ,Volume IV (New Brunswick, Rutgers University Press), pp. 267-8; p. 426.

[14] David Potter (1968) The South and the sectional conflict (Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press), p. 39.

[15] Ken Booth (1995) Human wrongs and international relations, International Affairs, 71, 1, pp. 103-126; Richard Falk (1987) The promise of world order: essays in normative international relations (Brighton, Wheatsheaf); Richard Falk (1992) Explorations at the edge of time: the prospects for world order (Philadelphia, Temple University Press); Jacob ter Meulen (1917) Der Gedanke der internationalen Organisation in seiner Entwicklung 1300-1800. (Den Haag, Martinus Nijhoff); Wilhelmus van der Linden (1987) The international peace movement 1815-1874. (Amsterdam, Tilleul).

[16] Brilmayer, op. cit.; Avishai Margalit & Joseph Raz (1990) National Self-determination, Journal of Philosophy LXXXVII, pp. 439-461; Daniel Philpott (1995) In Defense of Self-Determination, Ethics 105, pp. 352-385; Thomas Pogge (1992) Cosmopolitanism and Sovereignty, Ethics, 103, pp. 48-75; Kai Nielsen (1993) Secession: the case of Quebec, Journal of Applied Philosophy 10, 1, pp. 29-41; David Miller (1993) In defence of nationality, Journal of Applied Philosophy 10, 1, pp. 3-16; John O'Neill (1994) Should communitarians be nationalists? Journal of Applied Philosophy 11, 2, pp. 135-143; R. E. Ewin (1994) Peoples and secession Journal of Applied Philosophy 11, 2, pp. 225-231; Michael Freeman (1994) Nation-state and cosmopolis: a response to David Miller, Journal of Applied Philosophy 11, 1, pp. 79-87; R. E. Ewin (1995) Can there be a right to secede?, Philosophy, 70, 273, pp. 341-362; Dieter Thomä (1995) Multikulturalismus, Demokratie, Nation: Zur Philosophie der deutschen Einheit, Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie, 43, 2, pp. 349-363.

[17] Margalit & Raz, op. cit., p. 440.

[18] Margalit & Raz, op. cit. p. 443.

[19] Pogge, op. cit. p. 69.

[20] Philpott, op. cit. pp. 368-369.

[21] Fred Winkler (1995) Swissmetro - bahnbrechendes Projekt oder sinnlose Utopie?, Internationales Verkehrswesen 1995, 4, pp. 203-205.

[22] William A. McClung (1994), Designing Utopia, Moreana, 31, 118/119, pp. 9-28.

[23] Gaetana Cantone (1994), Utopia urbana, utopia della storia, Arte Lombarda, 110/111, pp. 83-86, p. 84.

Structures of nationalism (1997)
Nation Planet: nationalism resources