chapter  6
19 Pages

National heritage

In a global economy and culture, the autonomy of a national economy and culture is called into question. Yet the nation-state retains legitimate authority, for the most part, in politics. Legitimacy and power, however, are not identical. As Raymond Williams (1984: 5) once remarked, ‘the nation-state, for all sorts of purposes, is too large and too small’. Trans­ national communication flows bypass the regulatory powers of the nation­ state. At the same time, ‘the nation’ tends to restrict the expression of sub­ national identities within the territorial domain of the overarching state. A sense of national belonging is not, though, the mere figment of a redundant political imagination in a global/local matrix. Williams satirised it as follows:

There was this Englishman who worked in the London office of a multinational corporation based in the United States. He drove home one evening in his Japanese car. His wife, who worked in a firm which imported German kitchen equipment, was already at home. Her small Italian car was often quicker through the traffic. After a meal which included New Zealand lamb, Californian carrots, Mexican honey, French cheese and Spanish wine, they settled down to watch a programme on their television set, which had been made in Finland. The programme was a retrospective celebration of the war to recap­ ture the Falkland Islands. As they watched it they felt warmly patri­ otic, and very proud to be British.