Tom Nairn has an interesting piece in the Scotsman today (H/T Peter), in which he places Scotland’s ‘struggle’ for greater autonomy in a wider world in which the classic nation state is reducing further down to its more constituent parts, parts always so dominated by the mercantile class upon which global capitalism:
Little Scotland has been developing a differently grounded resistance to the same mercantile order. Usually emphasis is placed on historical grounds stemming from the pre-1707 state and the odd agreement that permitted a distinct Scottish civil society to continue, not without good reason. The very idea of civil (non-political) society arose among 18th century Scots as a consecration of such persistence.
However, it may also be that their historical patience is now being justified and that an emerging global future will provide conditions for rebuilding it. The future, rather than the early-modern past, will be decisive.
Naturally, an altered politics will be in order for that. But isn’t this what people will be voting for or against in 2014? It may be true that return to independent statehood is in one sense a backward step; but it is now being undertaken for a more significant run and forward leap.
Leap forward to what? Well, this shift can also be interpreted as long-overdue revenge of the periphery against the UK’s over-large and concentrated centre, the relic of imperial times, and of a nationality that had embarked too soon upon over-bearing outward reach.
It’s an interesting frame in which to view the proposition. However it also implies a distancing from the new supra national power networks which are capable of exerting huge, undemocratic power on their systems.
Many of the internal pressures in the Republic, for instance, are difficult for its elected politicians to mediate in a public space that has rarely been subjected to the debate of what sovereignty means for a small country embedded in a series of large networks in which can almost only exert ‘soft power’.