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An OurKingdom series, edited by Jamie Mackay

When power resides with a global elite, and the economic crisis links our fate across borders, we are, it seems, all ‘citizens of the world’. Increased freedom of movement, a revolution of communication, the hyper-acceleration of cultural production, have together created a fertile ground for innumerable imagined communities, unrestricted by the limits of geography. Faced with the fluidity of neoliberalism, what role remains for the nation?

None, is one argument. Good riddance. The nation is the domain of racism and intolerance; globalization frees and unites us.    

But is this really the solution to the historical issues of the nation? What else is lost along the way? Certainly, there has been a backlash against the ‘global citizen’. Worldwide, calls for self-determination echo against the thermoplastic fibre of riot shields. These are people who see the construction of a ‘universally free’ public manifesting itself in their lives as the repression of spontaneity, the replacement of local traditions in favour of global brands, and the denial of alternative forms of belonging. 

The worsening crisis of austerity has come hand in hand with a collapse in democracy, as nation-states are told they must forfeit their sovereignty in order to support global and regional markets. But at the same time publics are forming, old ones renewing, new kinds of national identity are being forged. 

This is the context in which the "Re-birth of the nation?" series begins. It is grounded in the premise that the nation is more than the dogmatic bond between state and capital. That culture is not something ‘out there’ - normative, knowable and predetermined; rather it is in a constant state of definition, created by all who identify with it. Understood in these terms, the nation is not a nostalgic anachronism of old forms of power but a potential vehicle through which to form alternative institutions, defend heterogeneity and claim power for the majority. 

When a fire starts to burn: who wants to be national?

In this concluding piece of the re-birth of the nation series, the editor asks what these articles tell us about the left’s troubled relationship with ‘the nation’. How might these arguments inform efforts to develop a thinking politics?

The durability of nations and nationalism

Nationhood remains a 'durable' political concept primarily due to its intimacy with the ongoing process of modernity and its focus on human agency. As a result of this relationship, cultural analysis is uniquely placed to make observations about its past present and future. 

The time of the nation: negotiating global modernity

Against the 'contemporary' limits of global capitalism, and the pre-given myths of nationalism, an alternative politics may emerge from the collective construction of 'time'. 

The nation state is in rude health - solving the British puzzle

Neither Britain nor its constituent countries show any sign of wanting to abandon the nation for "global citizenship". The task now is to recognise and accept the specialness rather than superiority that people associate with their home nation, and forge a broad yet cohesive national story.

Technology and the nation-state: governing social complexity

The emergence of the nation-state as the central unit of political decision making was the result of a series of technological advances. With the rise of 'information technology' - and new methods of analysing social complexity - its methods of operation may now be radically decentralised. 

Neurotic Britishness: why are we threatened by the multi-lingual home?

Recent calls for 'renewed' identities in the UK mean little so long as they fail to assess the role of the state in a multicultural society. Certainly, a fundamental recognition is needed: that it is easier to be a global citizen when you are confident in the fulfilment of your rights as a national citizen.

The Golden Country: the organic myth of the British constitution

The nostalgic appeal to ‘the spirit of 45’ is embedded in a long myth of ‘public services’ propagated by the culture of Britain’s unwritten constitution.

Careful what you wish for: thinking through the neoliberal nation

The destructive power of neoliberal globalization has prompted renewed interest in nationalism on the left. But the legacies of empire and the political nature of the neoliberal project itself suggest that enthusiasm for English nationalism needs to be tempered with a sober analysis of its unintended political consequences.

From collective myth to counterpublics: negotiating national identity in an age of global flows

Monolithic accounts of national identity need to make way for a form of analysis capable of embracing the ambiguity and contradictions through which all ideas of community are created. In a context of new global patterns of immigration this task is central to the economic and political struggles of the disenfranchised. 

Statehood and the problem of flux: a case for interculturalism

While states attempt to assert their relevance in a global age through both multiculturalism and top-down nationalism, new models of identity and strategies of participation need to be developed to deal with the co-existing phenomena of national experience and cosmopolitanism. 

Frontiers: a re-evaluation

For advocates of globalisation, the 'frontier' is often presented as an obstacle to universal freedom. But as the anti-democratic implications of this argument are increasingly evident, what if the solution to managing power is not fewer borders but more? 

The other global divide

What if London is drawing closer to New York and Dubai, but further away from Gloucestershire? Or still more specifically: the stylish bits of London closer to fashionable Manhattan, but further from Hackney and Brixton?

Nationhood and the multitude: a new form of political subject?

In the frantic search to find an agreed name for emerging forms of collective agency, ‘the nation’ is frequently presented as an outdated inconvenience. This hasty generalisation fails to acknowledge the term’s continuing role in propping-up ‘invisible’ forms of state domination and, more importantly, its potential function as part of a critical biopolitics.   

After Bretton Woods: from civic solidarity to political action

From Greece's Golden Dawn to America's Alex Jones, the populist right is utilising the global crisis as the ‘pragmatic’ smokescreen for a variety of backward-looking nationalisms. For the left, it is time to go beyond the civic victories of Occupy and focus on constructing a political alternative to the Bretton Woods institutions.

What does it mean to be a global citizen?

As technology advances and governance is increasingly conducted beyond the parameters of the nation-state, the concept of global citizenship remains mysteriously absent. What does the term mean in historical terms and what practices might help its evolution into a coherent and democratic political practice? 

Sovereignty and the national question

The British media's sidelining of Scotland and its referendum is part of a history in which questions of nationality are smothered by the UK establishment. Today, it is increasingly clear that popular sovereignty is incompatible with the UK state. Yet avoidance is still the name of the 'British' game.

Beyond carnival capitalism: London 2012 and its legacy of hope

London 2012 provided a key insight into the shifting relationships between global, national and local as residents with no material stake in the Games came together to participate in their success. How might the power of this already-existing ‘commons’ pave the way for an alternative legacy? 

Local resistance to global austerity: it will never work

The localist form of citizenship may empower us, but it cannot confront capitalism. Against a global network of power must emerge globalised forms of struggle.

Fate of the First Born? English nationalism and Euroscepticism

One of the most respected contemporary voices on nationalism gives his take on an important new book exploring the relationship between England and Europe. 

Multiculturalism and the nation

The proclaimed ‘failure’ of multiculturalism suggests the breakdown of a single process of integration. In fact, it is the term's capacity to overcome precisely this logic that reveals its continuing relevance in the process of nation-remaking.

Of nations and networks

How does the internet transmit and transform national identities? What are the implications of this exchange and absorption on knowledge and the 'rootedness' of communities? This second piece in the 're-birth of the nation?' series explores how these processes might provide the framework for an alternative globalisation. 

'Another world is possible': nationhood and global justice

Globalisation has depended upon a unitary idea of progress. Now it's time to look again at national space and its role in formulating a democratic world interest. The first piece in the new OurKingdom series,     Re-birth of the nation? Challenging 'global citizens'.

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