It helps the citizens see their state not just as a

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Unformatted text preview: lives for the state, by making the state seem worthy of this sacrifice. It helps the citizens see their state not just as a voluntary association, but also as a “community of fate” 5, a protector of cultural heritage 2 Yael Tamir, “Pro Patria Mori! Death and the State”, in Morality of Nationalism, Robert McKim & Jeff McMahan eds. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.) 3 Ibidem, 232. 4 Ibidem, 292 5 Ibidem, 232. 3 and historical memory. Such a state claims to guarantee its members not only safety, like the Hobbsian state, but also a meaningful, contextualized existence, embedded in the history of the nation, with all its successes and failures. An individual who sees herself as a part of this supra-individual national project, can, without any inconsistency be prepared to sacrifice her life for this project, and the state as its integral part. Here, Tamir refers to Williams’ concept of “the ground project”6 which she defines as “an endeavor on which the successful pursuit of all other projects is dependent”7. Williams claims and Tamir concurs, that it is perfectly sensible that people are prepared to risk and even sacrifice their lives for their ground projects, since a life without these would be meaningless. Of course, there can be, and indeed there are, different kinds of ground projects. An artist can consider her life to be meaningless unless she is able to finish the master-piece she is working on, and a mother can consider her life meaningless unless she is able to provide good life for her children, and that is why the former would be prepared to sacrifice her health in order to finish her life-work, and the latter would be prepared to risk her own well-being for the sake of her off-spring. What nationalism is supposed to do is convince people that the well-being of the state is a valid ground project, and that they should treat it as such. And the fact that the national project is meant to guarantee a historical continuity between the past and the future, thus transcending the lives of CEU eTD Collection individual citizens, makes it sensible to treat it as such. However, that is not all. Tamir points out that even if a large number of citizens accepted the nation-state as this kind of ground project, most of them would certainly still prefer to continue participating in this project, than to lay down their lives for it. For that reason, they would be tempted to freeride, or to enjoy the benefits of living in the community, without paying the costs that it entails. Also, fear of death is a factor whose strength cannot be underestimated and it is reasonable to believe that even the most patriotic citizen would rather 6 7 Ibidem Ibidem, 233. 4 live for their state, than die for it, especially if someone else is prepared to die for it instead of him. That is where the second role of nationalism comes in. It does not offer only the reason why the state is worth dying for, but also appropriate incentives that should help individuals conquer their fear of death. Here, Tamir refers to the famo...
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This note was uploaded on 02/06/2013 for the course ENGLISH LI 21 taught by Professor Han during the Fall '13 term at Tsinghua University.

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