Cultural Constituencies: Unscrambled Egg 1

 

The arrival of Germanic Protestantism, the modern nation state and capitalism transformed the social composition of  North Western Eurasian territories. By social composition I mean the relationship between the actual peoples who made up these territories and the legal and political personality of the territories themselves.

 

In the pre-Reformation period, societies in NW Eurasia were characterised by groups of ethnically and culturally homogenous people that were gathered in defined geographical areas. There were clear and identifiable differences between these groups of people in customs, variations of language and dialect, and even specific ethnic difference. The creation of the German nation state acted to distort and blur these differences as a consequences of the political, economic model it imposed. Notable elements of this new model included:

 

Germanic Land Democracy

A legal relationship of individuals directly to the State and not community

The end of supra national religion and morality.

 

‘The concept of modern Germanic national integrity is most commonly referred to as the Westphalian model. This model is based on the idea that nation states have clearly defined borders and that the inhabitants of those bordered areas have specific defined rights in relation to other nations and their defined geography. As described here:

 

‘In fact, the ‘Westphalian model’ of international legal order holds that the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, which ended the Thirty Years’ War in Europe, constituted a paradigm shift in the development of the present state system.The twin congresses held are deemed the forum where, for the first time in the history of international relations, distinct separate polities became sovereign. It is portrayed as a historical fact that Westphalia ‘represented a new diplomatic arrangement − an order created by states, for states − and replaced most of the legal vestiges of hierarchy, at the pinnacle of which were the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor’. As Mark Janis unequivocally put it:

The Peace of Westphalia legitimated the right of sovereigns to govern their peoples free of outside interference, whether any such external claim to interfere was based on political, legal or religious principles. […] Sovereignty, as a concept, formed the cornerstone of the edifice of international relations that 1648 raised up. Sovereignty was the crucial element in the peace treaties of Westphalia, the international agreements that were intended to end a great war and to promote a coming peace. The treaties of Westphalia enthroned and sanctified sovereigns, gave them powers domestically and independence externally.*

In order for this to be workable, the basis for the polity must be that of land owned through legal entitlement and not commonality of identity or culture. A simple illustration of this can be shown with nomadic peoples who traditionally travel over extended geographical areas with no consideration for national boundaries. If a tribe spends the summer in territory ‘A’ and the winter in territory ‘B’ can they be said to be citizens of ‘A’ or of ‘B’ or of both? To obtain the protection and rights of territory ‘A’ or territory ‘B’ they must sacrifice their community identity and way of life or be designated as an enemy or inconvenience to both nation states. And we know what happens after that..

 

It follows from this that the legal rights and obligations of a newly designated citizen is to the STATE in the form of a fully or partial formal social contract (a constitution),  and not to local community. All forms of informal community rights and obligation are either immediately void or subject to authentication and enforcement by the state.

 

In NW Eurasia first and foremost of these informal rights and obligations were those owed to the Catholic Church which was to be superseded by national religion in the form of Protestantism. The authority and privilege of Protestant religion and its adherents is guaranteed by nation states and not supra national religious authorities such as the Catholic Church. In England the right of English people to appeal to the Pope over the heads of  national royalty was abolished in 1566 (I think). By this act Henry the Eighth made himself supreme monarch and head of religion. In this way not only were matters of identity, loyalty and culture resolved in favour of the Germanic Protestant nation state, but matters of MORALITY as well! This is a massively important point, the significance of which cannot be over emphasised. Germanic morality is absolutely and utterly  entwined with the political cultural and economic structure of the nation state. More on this later.

 

Once the nation state was established, the question of politics and specifically democracy, came to the fore. Democracy necessarily rests on the question of eligibility, that is who is eligible to take part in a particular democracy. In the Germanic form (NOT in the classic Greek form), eligibility is contingent upon land ownership and territory. It is for this reason that the form of modern democracy seen in North Western Eurasia and elsewhere is accurately described as GERMANIC LAND DEMOCRACY and not GREEK BODY DEMOCRACY.

 

It is not an accident of history that political systems of the modern German nation state are without exception based on the concept of GEOGRAPHIC CONSTITUENCY. This is a pyramid of ever larger geographical units. Usually the structure is:

 

Ward

District

Town or City

National Parliament

Head of State

 

And you are no doubt familiar with both theory and practice of how this pyramidal structure is supposed to transfer the requests of the people up to the elected elite and the subsequent orders of the elected elite back down to the people. But there was a problem… (Isn’t there always?)

 

Along with all the Good Things that were supposed to come along with the Reformation Freedom, Enlightenment, and the return of Germanic supremacy, there was also the matter of Capitalism, which was the bill that the stout yeomen  would be required to pay for all the good things that Germanic Land Democracy would bring. And capitalism required two important things:

That people should be thrown off the land in ever increasing numbers and

That people should be herded together in cities to provide the labour that would power capitalism.

So here was the problem. The political system was based at every level on the ownership of land. The economic system required that most people should not be allowed to own any land!

 

 

 

*Australian Journal of Legal History

The Westphalian Model In Defining International Law: Challenging The Myth

Stéphane BEAULAC

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