States Without Nations

States Without Nations: Citizenship for Mortals

JACQUELINE STEVENS
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 384
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/stev14876
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  • Book Info
    States Without Nations
    Book Description:

    As citizens, we hold certain truths to be self-evident: that the rights to own land, marry, inherit property, and especially to assume birthright citizenship should be guaranteed by the state. The laws promoting these rights appear not only to preserve our liberty but to guarantee society remains just. Yet considering how much violence and inequality results from these legal mandates, Jacqueline Stevens asks whether we might be making the wrong assumptions. Would a world without such laws be more just?

    Arguing that the core laws of the nation-state are more about a fear of death than a desire for freedom, Jacqueline Stevens imagines a world in which birthright citizenship, family inheritance, state-sanctioned marriage, and private land ownership are eliminated. Would chaos be the result? Drawing on political theory and history and incorporating contemporary social and economic data, she brilliantly critiques our sentimental attachments to birthright citizenship, inheritance, and marriage and highlights their harmful outcomes, including war, global apartheid, destitution, family misery, and environmental damage. It might be hard to imagine countries without the rules of membership and ownership that have come to define them, but as Stevens shows, conjuring new ways of reconciling our laws with the condition of mortality reveals the flaws of our present institutions and inspires hope for moving beyond them.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52021-8
    Subjects: Philosophy, Psychology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xviii)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-26)

    Humans, from the Latin humus, are creatures of the earth, “the earthy one, the earth-born.”¹ Other creatures come and go, and therefore also are earthy, so to speak, but only humans are mortals, beings conscious of their own mortality. Mortality has enormous implications for politics. Most obviously, governments use the fear of death to manipulate obedience. If the threat of one’s destruction is the most extreme example of coercion, and if governments have a monopoly on the legitimate use of coercion, then governments have the preeminent means of guaranteeing obedience, or so the story goes.² Death is not a perfect...

  5. CHAPTER ONE THE PERSISTENCE AND HARMS OF BIRTHRIGHT CITIZENSHIP IN SO-CALLED LIBERAL THEORY AND COUNTRIES
    (pp. 27-72)

    Those who believe so-called liberal societies embody the end of ideology,¹ the end of history,² and the end of legally mandated birthright-status relations³ must find the rules for citizenship in contemporary societies a bit confounding. Rules for political membership in the most enlightened countries of the European Union vary little from preliterate communities and the premodern states of antiquity. From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, about 97 percent of us will have our prerogatives and burdens of citizenship determined by birth.⁴ In Afghanistan, the Republic of Congo, Honduras, Monaco, Senegal, and Zimbabwe, not to mention the United States, England, and Japan, indeed,...

  6. CHAPTER TWO ABOLISHING BIRTHRIGHT CITIZENSHIP
    (pp. 73-103)

    Political theorists discussing the principles that societies ought to use for allocating resources tend to assume a single government and its enemies (for example, Plato’s Republic, Hobbes’s Leviathan, and Locke’s Two Treatises). The use of one static society for the framing of questions about distributive justice is used also by John Rawls in his The Law of Peoples. Rawls’s goal is a theory of international norms of justice. His “law of peoples” is an ethical guide for a single liberal society: “The Law of Peoples proceeds from the international political world as we see it, and concerns what the foreign...

  7. CHAPTER THREE A THEORY OF WEALTH FOR MORTALS
    (pp. 104-135)

    The richest 1 percent of the people in the world own 40 percent of the wealth.³ Their wealth takes the form of real estate and other expensive tangible goods such as cars and jewelry, as well as stocks, cash savings, and numerous other investment instruments from bonds to venture capital loans. These holdings give people security not because they provide food or shelter but because wealth allows for the purchase of commodities whenever needed. In the United States, the richest country in the world, fewer than one-third of 1 percent are full-time family farmers,⁴ and even these farmers produce commercial...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR ABOLISHING INHERITANCE
    (pp. 136-151)

    The combined wealth of the richest two hundred billionaires was $1,135 billion in 1999, which was more than the combined wealth of one-third of the world’s population: roughly two billion people who own close to nothing.³ Confronting this vast unequal distribution of wealth, scholars have pursued a variety of policy proposals. These seek either to redistribute all wealth or to reconceptualize the subject positions that might benefit from inheritance by moving away from the “family paradigm,” discussed below, and expanding the definition of kinship.

    A well-known proposal for redistributing wealth is through a special wealth tax, as has been implemented...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE THE LAW OF THE MOTHER
    (pp. 152-174)

    In the last century, marriage has changed more than any of the other institutions discussed in this book.¹ Some measures have expanded marriage’s reach, for instance to same-sex couples. Some decouple social welfare benefits from marriage, giving assistance to mothers and other dependents directly, regardless of the legal household to which they may or may not belong; in response, some new laws, including state constitutional amendments, have been directed toward maintaining marriage’s restrictive definition.² Despite the contentions surrounding marriage—not to mention the wide variety of the ways people raise children (at least half outside different-sexed, monogamous married couples who...

  10. CHAPTER SIX ABOLISHING MARRIAGE
    (pp. 175-183)

    In recognition of how kinship rules have failed to promote the flourishing of family members and instead tended toward their harm and even death, feminists have authored a range of proposals for alternative laws and practices.¹ Their visions for the most part emerge from a somewhat different critique of the heterosexual marital family than that pursued here. But they have offered alternatives that focus on the pragmatic challenges of childrearing and to this end have developed some fascinating and useful ideas.

    Perhaps the boldest reconceptualization of the family was undertaken by Shulamith Firestone, proposing the development of technologies to liberate...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN ABOLISHING PRIVATE LAND RIGHTS: Toward a New Practice of Eminent Domain
    (pp. 184-213)

    The proposal to prohibit private ownership of land differs from the previous three proposals to abolish well-established laws.¹ First, public ownership of land already exists to a large extent, under the universal rubric of “eminent domain.” Second, land ownership today does not follow in any obvious way from the conventions of family appearing in the previous chapters. Family ties today by law bestow nationality and inheritance, and marriage law produces families, but land rights per se do not appear to require intergenerational or birthright entitlements. One may own land through an inheritance or gift from relatives, but save restrictions on...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT RELIGION AND THE NATION-STATE
    (pp. 214-224)

    Elsewhere I have compared the narratives of birth and death in religion with those of the nation,¹ but without reference to the violence associated with religious causes. That violence is important to reflect on, because if religions operate separately from nation-states and perpetrate mass, systemic violence through their own promises of immortality, then abolishing the legal narratives inducing violence perpetrated in the name of national hereditary attachments will still leave open the possibility of religious violence. This chapter suggests that while religious groups do exist separately from nation-states, their means for recruitment, affinities, and antagonisms associated with mass, systemic violence...

  13. Appendix: METHODS FOR AN OPEN SOCIETY
    (pp. 225-242)
  14. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 243-246)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 247-326)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 327-352)
  17. Index
    (pp. 353-364)