The nation-state, as it emerged in Europe during the nineteenth century, was perhaps the most paradoxical political institution of its age. Liberals endorsed nation-states, believing they would lead to peace, prosperity, and good government. But all too often they did the opposite. Reading Rousseau’s Social Contract against the eighteenth-century state system reveals one way in which political thinking at the end of the Enlightenment anticipated this paradox. Neither nationalism nor the nation-state were fully developed concepts at the time, though the glimpses of them that appeared in Rousseau’s works suggest just how problematic the emerging nation-state might be. Rousseau set out in the Social Contract to delineate the perfect republic. But the matter was not that simple. Rousseau did not confine his republic to an idealized setting. He placed it within an international order, and knew that it would need to defend itself. He may have designed the republic for liberty and self-government, but he equipped it for war. In the process, he endorsed a model of human association that, while suitable for defense, insisted on uniformity and would use coercion in order to achieve it. Rousseau’s Social Contract was a work of philosophy discussing ideas, not lived experience. But to the extent that it articulated a republican discourse that future nationalists such as Johann Gottlieb Fichte found useful, it provides insights into why the emerging nation-state was often accompanied by war, an emphasis on social uniformity, and a tendency toward authoritarian politics.
In 1863, Edward Augustus Freeman published the first volume of his History of Federal Government, a study of ancient Greek federalism under the Achaean League. Though unknown today, Freeman was the most enthusiastic advocate of the federal idea that Victorian England produced. He is best considered a liberal nationalist who was drawn to federalism because it addressed the problems posed by continental nationalism. He endorsed nationalist movements in Italy, Germany and the Balkans, and opposed the Austrian and Ottoman empires on the grounds that they violated the principles of nationality and popular sovereignty. To help build these nation-sates, Freeman pointed to federalism, arguing that federations would enable populations of similar nationality to achieve independence, cohesion and security, while at the same time establishing liberal governments in which decentralization would curb the exercise of power. But Freeman’s endorsement of federalism had its limits. He did not regard federalism as a solution to the constitutional problems that arose in Britain in the 1880s and 1890s over Irish home rule and imperial federation. Having derived his federalist principles from a continental context, he was reluctant to apply them to Britain. Because he saw federation as a means to build or preserve large states, he considered it applicable to those areas where large states did not exist. But such was not the case with Britain. To create a federal Britain by sharing sovereignty with Ireland or the colonies would only reverse the process of nation-building and weaken an already strong unitary state.
Tachibana Takashi and Richard H. Minear
Tachibana Takashi analyzes the impact of World War II on Tokyo University and Tokyo University's impact on the war: attacks from outside, faculty politics and purges, institutional expansion, the sacrifice of liberal arts students to the war machine, and heroic dissenting professors who tried in vain to bring the war to an early end.
Translated and edited by Richard H. Minear