Thomas Barnett on post-national identity

Many thanks to one Gregory Lemieux for dropping me an email with a link to an article by political strategist Thomas P M Barnett, which he rightly identified as touching on “issues of post-national identity […] that are presented regularly on your site”*. It’s an interesting piece all over: Barnett is an advocate and defender of globalization, and he suggests that the push-back against it – what he calls the “friction” – is a function of “a fear-poisoned dialogue that frequently casts globalization’s expansion in zero-sum terms, when it is anything but.”

While I’m going to withold my judgement on that idea (as it’s a topic I just don’t know enough about at this point), the segment highlighted by Lemieux is very interesting… and, indeed, very Futurismic:

… while I do believe that “resistance [to globalization] is futile” in the collective sense, I do not believe that’s the case in the individual sense. In fact, the fundamental task I foresee for political leaders the world over is to foster a culture of what I call “progressive enclavism”: the ability of their citizens to lead lives of cross-cutting connectivity — across borders, cultures, industries, domains, etc. — while simultaneously retreating, however frequently they desire, into enclaved activities and lifestyles that nurture and sustain their preferred definitions of identity. In essence, I’m describing a personal resiliency based on balancing multiple-but-reinforcing identities.


I can foresee a future, for example, where my passport bears a resemblance to a stock portfolio, identifying me as majority-share American with minority shares in, say, China (where one of my children is from) and East Africa (from where another two will soon come). I’ll be willing to pay to maintain that portfolio, because I will find profound meaning in being able to say that my family’s blended identity connects me to all these enclaves — whether they’re called nations or unions or federations. My identity “shares” could logically also connect me to enclaves based on my religious preference, my preferred mix of technology, my willingness to alter my body to extend lifespan, and so on.

John Steinbeck famously said, “Texas is a state of mind.” I’d add that everybody has their own private “Texas,” which they want to add to their mix, whether they live there full-time or not.

Globalization as a planet of atomised but interconnected cultures that can be moved between freely, as opposed to a lockstep planet of monolithic corporate or state hegemonies… a science fictional idea, maybe, but one that offers an appealing alternative to some of the grimmer political futures on offer at the moment, at least from where I’m sitting.

[ * As a side note, that’s exactly how you pitch a link to blog editor, folks. I get maybe four or five “hey, check this out and link to it, PLZ!” emails every week here at Futurismic, but most of them are so wide of the site’s purview – if not ineptly written, or part of a bulk mailshot, or both – that they go straight into the trash folder. Word to the wise. ]

One thought on “Thomas Barnett on post-national identity”

  1. I get the feeling nation states would never go along with such a plan since dual citizenship already exists. Maybe if they end up going away, though.

Comments are closed.