The Nation State

…It’s only when you’ve been in places where the nation state doesn’t exist that you begin to see the advantages of the nation state. Especially the time I spent in Burma was very instructive to me because you see large swathes of the countryside where the nation state has ceased to exist. And you know what’s taken its place? Not freedom and liberty you know. What takes its place are warlords. And I see today that there is really a desperate struggle between forms of political order and essentially what is warlordism. While I admire forms of resistance to the Anglo Imperium that has been imposed upon the world, I think it is very important for us to keep in mind what the alternatives are.

What are we working towards? What I would want for the world is a world of secular and equal nation states. And I see that under absolute attack from two sides; from the empire on the one hand and from religious fundamentalism. To me the imperialistic ideal is absolutely loathsome. But similarly the ideal of religious extremism is simply not what I would want to live under.

…And I think we have been very lucky here in India that somehow in some strange way our nation state has more or less survived and more or less made something possible. You look at America now and you see how much policing has advanced and how much religious orthodoxy has come to influence people’s lives; you see that on the one hand, you see Saudi Arabia on the other hand and it seems to me what really needs to be preserved is the model of secular democracy such as ours.

Amitav Ghosh, in an interview in The Hindu (

….On the other hand, I remember reading an essay by Rabindranath Tagore, where he quite beautifully argues against the idea of Nation states. I suppose the thing is, Tagore’s ideas are utopian, simply because of the kind of people we are. Nevertheless, his essay is a good reference to imagine a better possibility.


Posted on September 7, 2006, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. You must read Partha Chatterjee on the nation state. He’s the definitive scholar.

  2. Great quote…and good thought that you have added. RT is indeed utopian in his views, I feel….

    I, too, was musing today, about how we, a collection of kingdom, have now survived 60 years as a nation…with a distinct identity at that…

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