For the last two centuries the nation-state was one of the major cultural groups people have been identifying with. Like most of the cultural groups people belong to - like age, race, gender, sexual orientation and many more - the nationality, in other words the belonging to a nation-state - is a more or less fixed group. To change to another national identity is in most cases very difficult to impossible.
In the “Age of the Internet” this changes. A new “nation” arose which was open to everyone with a computer - regardless of their gender, sexual orientation or nationality. A nation in which everybody is truly equal. The Cybernation. This essay is about how the nation-state came to be, why it is such a fixed cultural group and how the Internet transcends the borders of the nation-state. I will use the first intifada (Palestinian uprising in Israel) and the birth of the Cybernation Dehai (Virtual counterpart to the very young African nation Eritrea) as examples to prove my thesis.
As Richard H. Robbins writes in his book “Global problems and the culture of capitalism” the state originated when the production of food became more and more complex. Specialists had to emerge to organize the complex irrigation systems and this group evolved into an administrative elite that ruled the the rest of the population of what now was a despotic, centralized state. Other theories suggest that the growing population was in need of a more formal government than the tribes, villages and towns could provide. Marx and Engels developed a framework which says that the early societies where communistic and shared their resources equally until the development of better technologies allowed people to produce a surplus of goods which where used by some people to increase their control in society.
So the reason for the existence of states was and is a very capitalistic one: To gather and protect property. The uprising of one state forced other communities to form states as well or they would be absorbed by the expanding state, which was much stronger than the single communities would be on their own due to the merging of resources.
Robbins states that by 1400 the world was divided into states, but that these states differed very much from the nation-states we know today. The “nation” as such did not exist. People belonging to a state did not identify with it and soldiers fighting wars for the state did not do that out of patriotism but because they felt that they owed allegiance to their king or queen or for money.
With the downfall of kingdoms the state rulers faced two big problems:
First their legitimation to rule was in question because there was no such thing as divine right anymore.
Secondly although there have been states like Britain and France they did not manage to make the population see themselves as British or French. As Robbins says 25% of the people living in France of the early nineteenth century did not even speak French. Therefore the “economic integration of regions was weak or non-existent.”
The solution to both problems was the invention of the nation. While the state is something very concrete with buildings (white house) and organizations (the Congress) representing it, the nation was something very abstract. Benedict Anderson defines a nation as “an imagined political community - and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign”
It is imagined, because it is impossible for all members to meet and it is limited because the nation has borders beyond which are other nations. The sovereignty comes from the power to establish own rules within its borders. It is a community because in theory all members of a nation are equals. To construct a nation people need to share certain features or must be forced to share them. Those features include language, religion and historical heritage. This could be - and has been - accomplished by force. Rulers of states decided on a state religion and an official language. Especially the latter was sometimes chosen arbitrarily. An example for this would be the arbitrary decision of Joseph II. that German would become the language of what today is Germany.
The feeling to be proud to belong to a certain nation is patriotism. Patriotism is not inherent in us - it has to be learned. National Anthems, national holidays the existence of an enemy - or at least the existence of 'the other' helps to form unity. For France, for example, the “war against Prussia 18701871 was a major unifying event for most residents of France.”
The building of roads and therefore the consolidation of regions also helped to define a nation. People of the outer regions of France suddenly had the opportunity to expand their market as well as their horizon. Their world grew bigger and so did their identification with the people around them, with which they traded and who provided them with the roads to do so.
So people have been put into cultural groups according to the place of their birth. Even if one tried to act as if he was a member of another nation or another ethnic group. He would be identified as a member of his real nation by the color of his skin and his language (or at least his accent).
 Robbins (2005), p. 114
 Cited after T. Jordan (1999), p.182
 Robbins (2005), p. 119
- Quote paper
- Björn Saemann (Author), 2009, How the Cyberspace transcends national borders, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/147893