In Aristotle’s Politics, the development that leads to the formation of a political community occurs by building on the constitution of other, more elementary, forms of human community: the family as a conjugal relationship; the house as a lord-servant relationship; the village as a kinship relationship between various families; and finally, the political community (the polis), as a meeting of different villages.
Around twenty-four centuries later, Marshall McLuhan characterised the world of today as a “global village.” The image he managed to evoke was certainly shocking: the vastness of the planet had now been reduced to that miniature community that was already considered to be small during the time of Aristotle. But it is not the world that has shrunken. We did. It is not distance that narrows in the “global village,” but the ability to travel in those distances in such shorts amount of time. Our transportation technologies are rapidly improving, promising to go around the world, not in 80 days like Jules Verne estimated in his novel, but in just a handful of hours. Digital communication technologies make immediacy a reality. It is that ineffable measure of time that is enough to circle the planet twice in the blink of an eye. If “space contains compressed time” as Heidegger suggests, we can see today that this immediacy ends up annihilating space even using that definition.
The world, in reality, has not changed its dimensions. What did transform was our subjectivity about those dimensions. In other words, it changed how we live and experience the size of what previously constituted an immensity that is as ungraspable as it is strange. McLuhan manages to represent this idea in that of the “global village,” but he is mistaken in a fundamental way. Aristotle taught that community ties in villages founded on kinship are extremely strong. They are all people who share the same language and customs; a common history rooted in the same origin. In a sentence: They share their way of conceiving life.
McLuhan’s world made small is not similar to the shape of the village because among its inhabitants are, strictly speaking, only liquid relationships, economic exchanges, and, at best, tourism (which all are ultimately the same). There is nothing even close to a common vision of life (9/11 was just around the corner), as much as all those languages, colors, religions, and ethnicities who pose for photos at exclusive UN meetings (which those same peoples, of course, do not even attend up attending) would have one think.
Globalism is the ideology of a geopolitical project. The egalitarian ideology that leads us to understand the world in the village-based mindset actually functions in the opposite way. Globalism aims to make the globe a unitary political territory over which, for the same reason, a government capable of dominating its destiny is demanded. This pandemic presents us with a scenario that can end up reinforcing this globalist ideology. Perhaps, I can be even more direct: This pandemic is the globalist dream. After all, what does “pandemic” really when its etymological origin is made up of “pan,” meaning “everything,” and “demos,” meaning “people?” The pandemic implies the “gathering of an entire people.”
The pandemic plague affects all peoples equally, and for that reason, equalises them. In other words, they become one. Individual, family, local, and national realities are identified in the context of the same global mass and are subsumed within it: a collectivism amongst other collectivisms.
The pandemic could ultimately be interpreted as that borderline situation in which the village finally claims a monarch, who is then empowered to guarantee a single order. The principle of monarchy after all (according to Aristotle) characterises the village. If our trade has already globalised, and (supposedly) our culture too, is it not time to globalise our politics as well? Do we not need a globally centralised authority capable of establishing a single order in that land where economic and cultural relations have become one? The pandemic (the globalist would say), is the strongest proof that we need global authorities whose sovereignty surpasses in every way those antiquated political structures typical of the past that we call the “nation-state.”
The political form of the “global village” is anticipated in models like the United Nations, World Health Organisation, World Bank, and other similar international bodies. Its political ideology is akin to that of an enlightened despotism, only now with control over unlimited territory. In fact, these international organisations are nothing more than black boxes of power that the people do not have access to, nor control, but finance (without knowing it). They are black boxes whose arrangements for representation are equivalent to a parody whose legitimacy ultimately rests not so much on the representative nature of the body, but on the knowledge of the alleged “experts” who work and govern there. Expert-run government and an enlightened despotism with unlimited territories to control. Have we not already just agreed to surrender our freedom to pandemic “experts?”
In 2000, one of those books that marked the left’s political understanding of the world and strategy for the following years was published. The book I am referring to is Empire, by Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt. The “empire” is not the “imperialism” denounced by classical Marxists of the Lenin or Rosa Luxemburg variety, but actually in the form of a new world order. It is that same new world order being built right now, that entirely exceeds the power of the nation-states.
Where “imperialism” was always thought in terms of a center of power with a periphery under its dominion, the empire has no center, and is always and everywhere characterized by the tearing down of borders and limits. Its logic does not respond to exclusion, but to absorption; its logic is the non-limit. Where imperialism defines itself according to the other, the empire encourages hybridization. Its logic is not binary, but multicultural. Where imperialism asserts the dominance of certain nation-states over others through war and conquest, the empire develops according to a networked scheme of power that is not anywhere, but at the same time, everywhere. The logic is similar to that of a space that is always open and that generates a new notion of sovereignty, that is as diffuse as it is totalizing. Where the expansion of imperialism lacked an international recognition that legally supported its most sordid pretensions, the empire is totally backed by an international law at its service, accompanied by mammoth international organizations that make modern notions of state sovereignty a relic of the past.
Hardt and Negri’s criticism certainly made history, so much so that it is already now a part of our present history. Today, the left to a large extent does not see in “empire” (known to us as globalism) a danger, but rather an opportunity. It is no longer necessary to appeal to any crowd to demolish the empire, but actually the opposite: that same empire must be strengthened. Today, the left has become delighted with, as Sopa de Wuhan (a compilation of writings on the pandemic by the most representative leftist philosophers of today) tells us, the idea of global power structures run by “experts.”
In Sopa de Wuhan, Slavoj Zizek says for example that “perhaps another much more beneficial ideological virus will spread and hopefully infect us. The virus of thinking of an alternative society, a society beyond the nation-state. A society that is updated to think of herself through the lenses of solidarity and global cooperation.” This model corresponds to that of the UN, WHO, and other similar organisations, ultimately claiming that “these organisations should have more executive power”, in the sense that “they can control and regulate the economy, as well as limit the sovereignty of nation states.”
Alain Badiou, to add another example, also conceives of a need for political structures above the state (that would of course be controlled by communists). “We must take advantage of the interlude of the epidemic, and even of confinement, to work on new political figures, new political places, and in the transnational progress of the third stage of communism, after that having been brilliantly invented. And that one being interesting enough will finally win out in state experimentation.” The third stage is (let’s be honest) involves the supranational.
The left, allied with other interests, has found that centralising power in this diffuse “empire” is actually possible today, and that perhaps, it also depends on how this power is seized. There have been so many decades of resounding electoral failures, worker indifference, cardboard revolutions that do not even manage to graze power, and a movement led by women with hairy armpits on one hand and “women with penises” on the other. So many years of battered illusions and drowned possibilities.
It is then not strange that the possibility of enlightened despotism with control over unlimited amounts of territory excites the political aspirations of the left. Who else would have the right to rule the world in such a situation, but those heirs of the lights, blessed “know-it-alls,”and owners of all knowledge? Have they not already effectively occupied those black-box power centers that we call international organisations, as “experts?” The point now is to diffuse the power of these structures as much as possible.
If globalism implies a radical denial of the sovereign right of nations, patriotism stands up ready to fight this assertion. Trump represents this side of the fight, and by defunding the WHO, has ushered in a national counteroffensive.
The nation is a binding cultural force that possesses the ability to contain all nationals within a territory under a common minimal identity. The establishment of the modern state is directly linked to the notion of the nation, insofar as it demanded the unity of a collective identity from which new loyalties emerged, different from those of the feudal order. That collective identity that the nation supposes is constituted in principle by the following minimum cultural aspects: a common language and symbols (flag, hymn, rosette), a common history, and in some cases, a common religion. It is in these elements that nationals are recognised as such. Concepts of “nation” and “people” are the foundations of Western democratic legitimacy.
“The principle of all Sovereignty resides essentially in the Nation,” states Article 3 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789. “The Constitution is the supreme law of the country, the fundamental law of the nation,” reads the Preface to the Declaration of Independence of the United States. With “We the People” written with a capital P, the Constitution of that country begins (Will those who do not know how to say any other word than “populism!” in politics say it again here with the Constitution?). Whether they like these documents or not, it cannot be denied that they are foundational to our modern Western political systems.
The nation was conceived as the cultural identity of a people and, at the same time, as the subject and object of state power. Wherever this identity was combined with local vitality, federalism, and a vigorous community with an associative spirit, freedom became possible. Tocqueville gave ample account of this when analysing American democracy. Patriotism can today be defined as the vindication of that identity that claims sovereignty, independence, freedom.
The so-called system of “global governance” is a political institution with no people or nation, because there is no such thing as a “global people.” There is no common identity, however small, capable of configuring such a subject. But at the same time, “global governance” is about policymaking over its entire dominion. Its sovereignty has no geographical limits. What globalism therefore seeks is that no one, not even those who fight it, remains unabsorbed into the amorphous mass of the most atrocious kind of collectivism ever seen.
Because all collectivism, in effect, raises borders that define its own political capacities: feminism, classism, racism, and, in its negative definition, nationalism. All collective identity has always been configured out of the need for an antithetical one to tear down the existent ones. But globalism is a totality of the spirit of the “all,” with no reference beyond itself. By definition, it lacks borders and therefore encompasses the “all.” His best servant is the atomised man. His favourite subject is the “world citizen” (or in other words, the guy who believes that his photos at Machu Picchu prove his global citizenship) who happily hands over rule to those he does not know or is able to control.
This fundamental political contradiction, which no longer is about parties or candidates, but rather the actual configuration of government itself, has long been raised. The pandemic has just accelerated our need to answer for it. It is either patriotism, or globalism. Now, we will have to choose a side.