Fragmentation versus Cohesion

Immediately after World War II there was much interest in the possibility of forming a world government. When Dag Hammarskjold was Secretary General of the United Nations he attempted to perform some of the functions that would move the UN in the direction of world government.  His efforts were strongly opposed by the Soviet Union, which insisted that the functions of Secretary General should be shared among three equal officers in what came to be called a "troika." After he died under largely uninvestigated circumstances while flying to carry out responsibilities in Africa, the internatinal community put world government into early retirement.

During the Soviet period, the world was divided into two main groups, the nations that centered around NATO (including client states) and nations that were part of the Soviet Union or were its client states. In distant third place was a group of nations that sought to remain uninvolved in this competition. These non-aligned nations were numerically superior to the NATA nations and the Soviet Union members. However, they did not greatly impede the forces that tended both to bifurcate the Eastern block and the Western block, partly because some of the non-aligned nations were in fact sympathetic to one side or the other, and partly because their members were remote from the potential conflict zone that existed between NATO and the USSR. When the USSR invaded Afghanistan, the cohesion between USSR-tending non-alignved nations and NATO-tending non-aligned nations was lost.

During this period, many intranational conflicts were held under control by cold war forces. Afterwards, centrifugal forces that previously had been under control caused the split-up among their  several components. Yugoslavia is a good example of that kind of fragmentation. ( More recently, Ukraine has shown the potential to split into the part where the Ukrainian language predominates and the part where Russophones are in the majority. In Iraq, a nation that was formed by colonial interests, conflicts among the three main religious groups create strong fracture potentials.

Situations wherein the opposed groups are roughly segregated by region are easier to separate into separate states in a federation. One suggested solution to the turmoil in Iraq after the demise of Saddam Hussein was to divide the country into a Sunni area, a Shia area, and a Kurd area.

Situations wherein two or more roughly equal minorities are interspersed among each other cannot be easily separated, and conflicts may result in the so-called policy of ethnic cleansing, a euphemism for genocide.

Note the importance of Nelson Mandela's embracing the national football team in South Africa. He was giving all of the people of South Africa a visible sign that he would act as President of all of the citizens of South Africa. A person who is understood to be the embodiment of one minority in such a situation will be perceived by members of other minorities as a tool of his own minority group. The function of mediator cannot be performed by someone who has not established his or her independence from all minority interests.

More to read:

"European Nation-State under Pressure: National Fragmentation or the Evolution of Supra state Structures?" by David F. J. Campbell

The Crisis of Global Capitalism, by George Solos

This page has received visits.

This page was last revised on 19 August 2016