The Shape of American Politics
Over the past several decades much of the world has been experiencing the growing power and dominion of centralized national leadership. The word “nation” itself, having once described a loosely governed confederation of territories or people, now increasingly refers to a fixed geographical area where a central authority assumes mounting responsibility for a range of social and economic activities formerly left to localities, tribal groups, or individuals. Empires have fragmented into nations or, as in Russia and China, old divisions have been obliterated under the imperatives of single rule.
Since this is a modern process, it tends to be most advanced in those countries most firmly committed to industrialization and national power. Africa, on the other hand, still struggles against tribalism, while some Latin American countries battle to assert national authority over historic enclaves of independent power and wealth. It may well appear from a distant point in history that the principal barrier to national progress in our time was simply the lack of a nation. Certainly one reason that many Latin American countries have not developed despite 150 years of independence and a Western heritage is that they have not been countries at all, but collections of independent principalities.
About the Author