Nationalism and the Future of Civilization

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By: Harold Laski

Professor Harold Laski
Professor Harold Laski

Delivered at Conway Hall on 6 April 1932. Chaired by H. N. Brailsford.

Statehood does not necessarily mean having a sovereign-state mentality, but where the latter exists, it creates problems: the nation- state becomes exclusively concerned with its own interests, and expansionist, increasingly impinging on other states. In the 20th century, with the growth of science, industry and communications, powerful states increasingly affect less powerful ones.

A world of competing nation-states, each a law unto itself, threatens the very survival of civilization. It creates international anarchy. Only when limits are set to national self- determination can this anarchy be avoided. Nations should see themselves as components of a world- community, as provinces of a ‘civitas maxima’. There should be an international government to deal with a wide range of issues currently the remit of national governments. The basis for such a governments is the present League of Nations.

Nationalism produces economic imperialism, and the acquisition of profit by the commercial and investing classes. Also nationalism flourishes in conditions of popular ignorance: that is why nationalistic and imperialistic societies do not adequately educate their working classes. Further, while nationalism breeds imperialism, the latter engenders nationalism in the peoples it dominates. This new nationalism may in turn become belligerent. All the more need, then, for international government.

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