Potential Future Directions for the Nation-Unit in the Development of Human Unity

The cross-currents and intervention of new and powerful forces at work in human civilisation make it difficult, if not impossible, to chart an exact course of development.  Sri Aurobindo therefore takes the lessons of the past, combined with what can be seen of the present circumstances, to raise various speculations about possible directions we may see emerge in the future.  The Nation-unit is the current primary organisational entity for human societies and after the conclusion of World War 2, a large number of countries emerged as former imperial holdings of power nations collapsed and spun off.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “The nation is at present the firm group-unit of the human aggregation to which all other units tend to subordinate themselves; even the imperial has hitherto been only a development of the national and empires have existed in recent times, not consciously for the sake of a wider aggregation as did the imperial Roman world, but to serve the instinct of domination and expansion, the land hunger, money hunger, commodity hunger, the vital, intellectual, cultural aggressiveness of powerful and prosperous nations.”

He notes, however, that there is no certainty that the nation-unit will actually survive as larger aggregations develop.  “Group-units there must always be in any human unity, even the most entire, intolerant and uniform, for that is the very principle not only of human nature, but of life and of every aggregation; we strike here on a fundamental law of universal existence, on the fundamental mathematics and physics of creation.  But it does not follow that the nation need persist as the group-unit.  It may disappear altogether; even now the rejection of the nation-idea has begun, the opposite idea of sans patrie, the citizen of the world, has been born and was a growing force before the war; and though temporarily overborne, silenced and discouraged, it is by no means slain, but is likely to revive with an increased violence hereafter.  On the other hand, the nation-idea may persist in full vitality or may assert in the event — after whatever struggle and apparent decline — its life, its freedom, its vigorous particularism within the larger unity.  Finally it may persist, but with a reduced and subjected vitality, or even without real vitality or any living spirit of particularism or separatism, as a convenience, an administrative rather than a psychological fact like a French department or an English county.”

To the extent that the nation-unit continues to exist in some form, it may then act as the seed around which any movement toward the future dissolution of the larger unity may coalesce.  Such a dissolution might be expected if the larger aggregation does not develop its own tight psychological unity, but relies primarily on external political, economic and bureaucratic means for its existence, or as Sri Aurobindo notes it “…fails to serve as a material basis for the spiritual oneness of mankind.”


Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part One, Chapter 16, The Problem of Uniformity and Liberty, pp. 141-142