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Publication Details

Reference
Neocosmos, Michael (2004) The Contradictory Position of ‘tradition’ in African Nationalist Discourse: some analytical reflections. Centre for Civil Society Research Report 14: 1-29.

Summary
The current re-assessment of African nationalism at this conference comes at a time when the state on the continent has been in a deep political economic and socio-cultural crisis. Given that this state was formed alongside a process of national construction or ‘nation building’ which it led itself, a re-evaluation of nationalism cannot help but be an attempt to distance oneself from state-nationalism. At the same time, whatever the disastrous failures of the state in Africa it would be a mistake to throw out nationalism as such, along the lines advocated by recent ‘post-modern’ thinking for example. There are two main reasons for this. In the first place it is not so much that state power is dissolving into an amorphous process of globalisation, but rather that its forms of manifestation are changing in Africa as elsewhere. In the second place, given the continued and expanded oppressive character of world capitalism in the form of globalisation, the oppression of peoples and nations (not necessarily to be equated with states) has expanded, not declined. This has occurred within a militaristic-liberal set of practices whereby liberalism is to be globally enforced through the deployment of military might. This, it seems, is to be achieved in ways never imagined before as the dominance of militarist thinking had always been tempered hitherto by the existence of a number of competing superpowers. What this means is not only that nationalism is still of relevance, but also that it is taking new forms. The main danger apparent today is its taking of a militaristic form as a simple reflection of militaristic imperialist oppression. This is of grave concern because militarism whether of the imperialistic or of the nationalistic variety, does not and cannot distinguish between state and people so that, in its politics, it is contemptuous of human life itself.

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