HS-102 Readings

Nationalism in the Postwar World

Why did nation-states not exist in pre-industrial times?

    In order for a nation to exist there must be sufficient technology to communicate and to travel long distances. There must also be sufficient literacy to communicate by writing and to disseminate newspapers. The nation-state also developed because it was more effective in providing peace and security, and trade, over a larger area than a city-state or a tribal state.

What long-range political changes, driven by socio-economic and
environmental circumstances, can be discerned in the last half of the
twentieth century?

    During World War II, the great powers engaged in the battle against fascism, led by the United States, realized the need to revive Woodrow Wilson's vision of an international organization to keep the peace. It was considered important to create a new organization even while the war was on because then, and only then, would the urgent need be constantly reinforced in people's minds. Thus, the United Nations founding conference
was held in San Francisco in June, 1945, when 51 nations signed the UN Charter. This time, the United States was an active member, indeed, the leading member. The Soviet Union was also a member.

    The United Nations convened for the first time in October, 1945, beginning a history of growing involvement in world affairs, with an increasing membership that represented the entire world community of nations. In the half century following the creation of the United Nations and related international organizations, critical problems related to population growth, disease control, and the environment have arisen. There has also been a growing need for an international economic policy. UN and related agencies such as UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have attempted to deal with those problems, sometimes with remarkable success.

How much power does the United Nations have in relationship to the
member nations? What is the cost of the UN as compared with US military
expenditures?

Total U.N. annual budget: $10.5  billion in 1994
 U.S military budget:       $260 billion (approximate in 1994)

    The problem of war and peace, the economic interdependence of nations, and global environmental problems are compelling nation-states to cooperate with each other in areas where the nation-state by itself cannot solve the problem.

    At the same time, parochial nationalism has continued to motivate people to obtain their own independent and sovereign nation-state. This has been the source of great conflict in the former Yugoslavia, and in parts of Africa and Asia. It has caused the disintegration of the Soviet Union into 16 separate states. It continues to stand as a principal obstacle to the establishment of a more effective United Nations organization, since the member nations will not surrender any appreciable degree of sovereign power to the UN.

Historical Analysis