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Geopolitics and Contemporary Art, Part II: The Nation-State as the Possible Container for Global Struggles

Continued from “Geopolitics and Contemporary Art, Part I: From Representation’s Ruin to Salvaging the Real

One of the consequences of globalization and the deterritorialization of financial capital has been that the decisions that affect world citizens are now made by representatives of a corporate oligarchy untethered from the direct interests of nation-states. Secret negotiations and treaties have taken the place of constitutions and other forms of social contract, becoming the dominant method for managing natural resources, transnational security, copyright, privatization, food autonomy, financial fluxes, drug patents, and so forth. The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Group of Seven, the GATT, and other organizations and agreements, like the TTIP and the TPP, make up our de facto global government, one designed to serve the interests of transnational corporations, banks, and investment firms. What does the loss of national autonomy mean for the project of self-legislation more generally? What sort of sovereign practices remain available to nation-states when most of their historical mandate has been remanded to the coordinating committee for transnational accumulation?

At the peak of the antiglobalization movement in 2000, Frederic Jameson argued that despite its faults, “the Nation-State today remains the only concrete terrain and framework for political struggle.” This was so despite “the recent anti-World Bank and anti-WTO demonstrations” which, although they seemed “to mark a promising new departure for a politics of resistance to globalization within the US,” nevertheless left it “hard to see how such struggles in other countries could be developed in any other fashion than the ‘nationalist’ [one].” This was the case because the only apparent alternatives to national struggle were cultural forms of resistance based on religion or a general defense of “our way of life.” And these are limited by the lack of a universalizing frame.

In other words, for Jameson, the struggle still boiled down to a conflict between the “social” and the “economic,” and, for this reason, the forms of social cohesion that preceded globalization, alongside national myths and narratives, remained an indispensable precondition for any effective and long-lasting political struggle. But twenty-five years into neoliberal reforms, the liberalization of the market, and the global homogenization of culture, it is worth asking if the nation-state can still serve as such a framework. Can the nation-state still be the container for defending the commons—infrastructure, biodiversity, natural resources, traditional knowledge, the means of production and reproduction—against the ravages of transnational corporations?

Read the full article here.