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Nation, State, and Democracy

I was recently reminded of an insightful passage from Henry Kissinger's 1994 magnum opus, Diplomacy. Following a penultimate chapter on the end of the Cold War, Kissinger looks ahead to the complexities of the "New World Order" even as he contemplates the nature and origins of liberal democracy:

The growth of democracy will continue as America's dominant aspiration, but it is necessary to recognize the obstacles at the moment of its seeming philosophical triumph. Curbing the power of the central government has been a principal concern of Western political theorists, whereas, in most other societies, political theory has sought to buttress the authority of the state. Nowhere else has there been such an insistence on expanding personal freedom. Western democracy evolved in culturally homogeneous societies with a long common history (even America, with its polyglot population, developed a strong cultural identity). The society and, in a sense, the nation preceded the state without having to be created by it. In such a setting, political parties represent variants of an underlying consensus; today's minority is potentially tomorrow's majority.

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