The Pressure Towards Larger Societal Aggregates Controlling Smaller Nation-States

While nation-states tend to possess a psychological unity that provides a large measure of internal coherence, only the largest and most powerful of these tend to have the ability to control or influence events on the world-stage to any great degree.  There are around 200 nations in the world, but only a small handful of these are able to drive or manage the response to situations that arise.  The rest fall into various categories, such as members of an imperial bloc, those under the influence of a larger power, those who are client states dependent on a larger power, or those who attempt neutrality and who try to skillfully maneuver between the larger imperial or national powers.  Whether through economic power, military might, or political control, a few large nations, tending towards imperial status, have carved up the world.  Even the United Nations, set up to provide a forum and a voice to all nations, acknowledges the principal that some nations are “more equal” than others, with the veto power wielded by a small group of nations on the Security Council.

Sri Aurobindo describes this situation:  “…there may grow up a stronger tendency in the political reason of mankind to desire, perhaps eventually to insist on the rearrangement of States in a system of large imperial combines and not on the basis of a status quo of mixed empires and free nationalities.”

“But even if this development does not take place or does not effect itself in time, the actually existing free and non-imperial States will find themselves included indeed in whatever international council or other system may be established, but this inclusion is likely to be very much like the position of the small nobles in mediaeval times in relation to the great feudal princes, a position rather of vassals than of equals.  The war brought into relief the fact that it is only the great Powers that really count in the international scale; all others merely exist by sufferance or by protection or by alliance.  So long as the world was arranged on the principle of separate nationalities, this might have been only a latent reality without actually important effects on the life of the smaller nations, but this immunity might cease when the necessity of combined action or a continual active interaction became a recognised part or the foundation of the world-system.  The position of a minor State standing out against the will of large Powers or a party of Powers would be worse even than that of small neutrals in the present war or of a private company surrounded by great Trusts.  It would be compelled to accept the lead of one group or another of the leviathans around it and its independent weight or action in the council of nations would be nil.”

Alliances, free trade agreements, common markets, as well as client-status to large powers are all evidence we see in today’s world of such a development of blocs that bring together groups of nations into larger aggregates.  We begin to see the breaking out of the bounds of purely national forms with these larger groupings taking form.

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part One, Chapter 15, Some Lines of Fulfilment, pp. 128-129