Chapter Fourteen: The 21st Century - Narrative

VII. Nation States

Nation states, which had so implacably and impersonally imposed themselves on their citizens during the 18th to 20th centuries, offered almost no resistance to the process of globalization that between 1980 and 2040 made them nearly irrelevant in the wider scheme of things.

The reasons for their quite rapid exclusion from power are various, but certainly include the fulfilment of their original purposes, the breaking down of national boundaries through better communications, travel and the Internet, and eventually the eradication of language as a cultural marker. The early stages of this process have been documented in previous chapters.

The heyday of national relevance, during the 19th century, saw an international land grab, especially marked in Africa. Even in the first half of the 20th century, nations behaved as if they could still acquire territory. By the end of the century, though, existing countries had largely accepted their boundaries as being permanent, and competed or cooperated with one another in other respects.

The growth of supra-national bodies such as the European Union offered politicians the chance of success at a grander level than national affairs, again militating against nationalism, which is normally seen as selfish on the larger canvas. It was always politicians who were at the forefront of aggressive nationalism; so if they are kept busy elsewhere, a nation can stay calmly within its boundaries.

Nationalism requires nationalistic citizens, something which nation states were historically keen to foster through appropriate education, the use of 'national print languages', and judicious re-writing of history. From the beginning, the Internet was an effective weapon against compartmentalized beliefs, and during the early 21st century it became harder and harder for national governments to use traditional methods of brainwashing their citizens into subservient patriotism. As universal communication through English and cochlear implants became established in the 2020s the task became hopeless.

During the second half of the 20th century and in the early years of the new century, ethnically united groups of citizens began to become aware that 'nationality' as such was a largely invented concept, and that they would be going with the grain of history if they assaulted it. Nation states which had been compiled from disparate elements began to break up. An early example was Ireland, and of course the process of decolonization in the mid-20th century saw the emergence of dozens of new countries, corresponding more or less to ethnically-defined cultural areas. This process continued during the first half of the 21st century, and by 2060 the United Nations had its final complement of 387 member states, including Kurdistan, formed in the redistribution of Middle Eastern territory along ethnic lines after the Iran/Israeli war in 2025, and the Basque Republic, dating from 2019. Many of the new nations arose in Africa, as that unhappy continent followed out its bloody fate during the first quarter of the 21st century. By 2025, even Africa had reached a kind of stasis, as aid agencies, charities and rich nations poured advice, drugs, education and assistance into the continent.

As the outlines of global economic and cultural governance began to emerge during the period from 2010 to 2040, a consensus on national prerogatives also took shape, culminating in the Rio Declaration of 2028, which established clear boundaries for national power. The earlier Harbin Accord of 2023 had established a universal taxation regime after the financial power and attraction of 'offshore' territories had begun to threaten the revenue models of 'onshore' countries; but Rio added national prerogatives in the criminal, military, transportation and energy sectors, among others, although they are all heavily circumscribed by global environmental and human rights agreements.