chapter  2
12 Pages

A claim to universalism: Breaking the equation between the nation-state and society apart

Before we can start the actual reconstruction of a social theory of the nation-state, we must still bring in the positive arguments upon which this book’s approach is built. As Chapter 1 expanded on the problems and shortcomings to be found in previous critiques of methodological nationalism, it is now time to introduce social theory’s claim to universalism as the path that I think will lead us to a renovated understanding of the position of the nation-state in modernity – and hopefully as well beyond methodological nationalism. The structure of this chapter follows the simplest definition of methodological nationalism as the equation between the nation-state and society in modernity and here I shall try to break the equation apart by looking at it from each of its ends in turn. The first section of the chapter introduces the key propositions for a novel understanding of the opacity of the nationstate in modernity. If methodological nationalism conceives of the nation-state as natural and necessary I will advance the thesis that a renovated social theory of the nation-state conceptualises it as historically elusive, sociologically equivocal and normatively ambiguous. If this is the case, the equation between the nation-state and society no longer holds from its historical end. The second section deals with the equation between the nation-state and society from its conceptual end. The type of social theory of the nation-state in which this book is interested requires also that we make explicit the role played by the idea of society within social theory’s conceptual frameworks. I would thus like to introduce the argument of society’s role as a regulative ideal in a systematic fashion. This most theoretically consistent use of society has less to do with the definition of an empirical reference and more with conceptualising the ultimate nature of modern social relations.