The creation of the constitutional state has undoubtedly been the greatest political achievement in history: It has made life, liberty, and property more secure than they ever were before, and through the mechanism of national markets has wrought a material prosperity that would not so very long ago have seemed a whimsical dream. But the cultural achievement of the nation-state may be doubted.
If we gain where politics and commerce have (in large measure) been nationalized, we lose where culture is made coterminous with so enlarged a civic sphere. It is the paradox of Western civilization that the work of its universal culture was for centuries carried on exclusively in local settings, in the small enclaves and intimate communal life of towns and city-states, aristocratic courts and monastic centers. These cultural sanctuaries have since disappeared, or have lost their old virtue and dignity. The destruction of their local influences, and the replacement of their deep yet idiosyncratic culture by the shallow, uniform, and monotonous culture of the nation-state, have impoverished us in ways we every day feel.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Michael Knox Beran in the current National Review: