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Article

Political Nation and Spatial Order: Towards a New Recombination of the Old Concepts

Russian Sociological Review. 2014. Vol. XIII. No. 4. P. 7-17.

The paper compares opposite approaches to the study of spatial order in contemporary societies. On the one hand, theories of globalization and world society argue that states and their borders are not relevant anymore. Globalization means world without borders, therefore contemporary global cities, being located within state borders, do not belong to their territories. In a global city, there is no room for common solidarity among citizens—those who go beyond state borders cannot become integrated to world society. On the other hand, there is much empirical evidence that states do not disappear. They still play a significant role. The state border deliniates a part of space which people can feel emotional attachment with. The states can use legitimate violence against those who reside within its borders as well as enforce feelings of solidarity with those who live on this territory. This logic brings two notions of nation and nationalism. In a more traditional understanding of these notions based on kinship (“consanguinity”), culture and language, the state is defined as a tool for the constitution of nation, which needs territory with clear borders for survival. In contrast, the civic understanding of nation suggests flexibility of any identities, including the national one. Those who follow the second definition usually do not recognize its implications. On the one hand, a territorially located group can demand statehood to assert and guarantee its identity. On the other hand, a group, which has freely chosen its identity, also can demand spatial borders and, in the same vein, a state. These demands are connected with each other. Spatial definition of any group, which can proclaim itself as a nation and demand a state, contradicts contemporary organization of global cities. In this respect, sociology may be interested in how these two modes of space intersect, i.e. how the world society with its fluids and networks interacts with new states, being constituted within new borders.