Taken from an essay by Dr. Michael Vlahos, Professor at Johns Hopkins University, entitled “America: Imagined Community, Imagined Kinship.”
The focus of his essay is to develop the concept of “kinship as a key dimension in modern state relations….” More interesting to me is the underlying idea of imagined kinship as opposed to actual kinship. (In all cases, emphasis added.)
Kinship drives culture, and cultural rules shape society.
This is quite easy for most to understand and accept, I hope.
The nation most dependent on invented kinship as the basis of its politics is the United States…
Who does the inventing? Isn’t that the question? And the answer is…
Imagined kinship is the foundation of national community…. Imagined community also makes the state the trusted manager of this process…
There you have it.
Nations remain together, and belong together, because people believe, at some level, that they are a clan, a tribe, a family.
This belief is certainly being challenged today both in the United States and between the states of Europe.
But if the nation, however amazing and wondrous, is simply a collective human artifact, then the nation-state is a construct within a construct. The state, arguably, is even more dependent on conscious collective loyalty than is the nation, its mother.
Hence, explaining the need for the state to perpetuate myths.
This judgment has been proven throughout modernity—the epoch of the nation-state. Nations since 1789 have overturned state regimes and their establishments by the hundreds. Hence, it is understandable, even necessary, that the state accomplish three things to ensure its perpetuity.
Tell me if this sounds familiar…
First, it must cement the conviction that the nation and its state form a unitary body, which the state rules as the head (the caput), and the nation lives as the body: a true "body politic" that is necessary only to support the ruling life and thought of the head.
Second, the state must arrange the civic—even the daily personal life—of the nation so that it is always ritually and symbolically reminded in public display that the body serves the state's sacred vision (again, the US Pledge of Allegiance is a prime example).
Finally, the state must seize constitutional power to claim the lives of its citizens in times of crisis, so that such authority over the body, however the idea is sold politically, is understood by all citizens to rest with the state.
There should be no doubt that the life of the state depends on the death of kinship and traditional culture; this is why the state works so hard to destroy it.
There will be something that holds society together beyond respect for property. Libertarians who avoid this avoid fundamental human nature; we have no choice on this matter. The only question that remains: what shall be that something?
I suggest kinship and culture. Legislation from afar and by strangers (if not enemies) has proven neither stable nor favorable toward peace.