A nation-state is a political unit that is founded upon common cultural identity. Most theories trace back the emergence of nation states to the 19th century. The rise of nation states is linked to the development of the modern systems of states referred to as the Westphalian system which was characterized by a balance of power. This balance was achieved through the effectiveness of entities that were clearly defined, centrally controlled, and independent, and recognized the sovereignty and territories of each other. Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa are some of the nation-states that came into rising in the 19th century. In addressing this essay, we will conduct a comparison between these nation-states and their continued development.
The rise of nation states in Latin America and the Sub-Saharan Africa contain various similarities. First, the formation of nation-states took shape at the wake of decolonization. Latin America began their struggle for independence from their European colonizers in the first decades of the 19th century. By the year 1825, nine states had been freed from their colonial masters and had the chance to make their political decisions. Countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa got independence after the Second World War. They too were European colonies under a foreign administration. It is only after decolonization that a possibility of an ideal nation-state could be realized, (Mignolo, 2009).
Secondly, the initial boundaries of these nations had been drawn by their European colonizers. These boundaries were drawn on the based on the economic interests whose main reason for colonizing these nations was to obtain wealth from the natural resources in their colonies. Latin Americas rich resources such as grains, rubber, copper and oil made the colonizers great wealth. The African countries were rich in raw materials such as timber and petroleum. Boundaries were established on this basis and did not regard the cultural entity of the people segregated in the set units. After independence, there was an attempt to realign these boundaries and establish a linkage between politics and culture of the people.
The earlier states were characterized by racial disunity which posed a challenge in the new nation-states that got established, (Guibernau and Rex, 2010). The European masters had segregated their colonies on racial grounds. The whites were considered superior and were assigned administrative roles in the government while the locals were held subjects and were made slaves in their country. They were allocated certain areas to reside where they were manned by their masters and restrictions were exercised on them. This lack of involvement in governance was a big obstacle in the administration of the new nation states. The new administrators lacked experience, and the development of the new states became slow.
Additionally, the new states suffered the devastating effects of the wars of independence. Some of the productive areas were destroyed. There were hatred and disunity among the people who had fought the colonizers and those who had collaborated with the invaders. This division remained even after the wars, and there was regrouping based on these divisions. In Latin America, a group of men who had fought the Royalists remained armed after the war and were willing to exert violence for the caudillos who promised profit in revolutions.
Another similarity is that charismatic and elite revolutionists were at the forefront in the formation of these nation-states. Leaders formed movements that drove the colonial masters away. In the Sub-Saharan African countries, leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah and Mahatma Gandhi were instrumental in the building of the new post-colonial states. Latin Americas leader Simon Bolivar led independent movements in many countries and boldly spoke about the need for independence. His efforts in rebuilding these nations earned him the title The Liberator and the country of Bolivia was named in his honor.
A few differences also exist between these two nations state of the nation-states. During the early period that followed the formation of the new nation-states, the struggle in Latin America on the social grouping was on class groupings while Sub Saharan Africa struggled with tribalism, (Di John, 2010). The initial boundaries by the colonizers were on social status with the whites being considered the most educated and wealthiest in Latin America. This perception persisted decades after independence until they were stabilized by the massive European migration into America. However in Africa, people had been segregated on tribal lines, and this problem has not been overcome, decades after independence, (Stavenhagen, 2016).
Another difference is that the Latin America rulers established their divisions amongst each other after independence, while Sub-Saharan Africa was divided by the colonial rulers. The state boundaries that exist today are the same ones that were drawn during the colonial era. The new leaders did not adjust them after independence. Additionally, divisions occurred after independence in Latin America stimulated by cultural beliefs. However, Africa was divided during the colonization period, and it did not regard their cultural beliefs.
In the twenty-first century, nation-states represent a near-universal political formation. There has not been significant change in the status of the pre-colonial and the post- colonial eras. There still exist divisions on the grounds of race, ethnic background and social classes. In both Latin America and Sub Saharan Africa, wealth and influential form the minority high class while the middle class and the low class form the majority. For instance, tribalism is a prevalent challenge in Africa and politics are run on these lines. There still exists hatred between certain tribes with constant civil wars being experienced, (Stavenhagen, 2016), for example in Nigeria. Strife on religious grounds is common, particularly between the Muslims and Christians.
There have been shifts, both positive and negative, in the process of developing the state-nations socially and politically. In Latin America, these shifts have been from democracy to dictatorship and back to democracy, (Comaroff and Comaroff, 2008). African Sub Saharan countries have too had their fair share of dictatorial leadership. Although there has been economic growth especially in the Sub Saharan Africa, it is slower than was expected at the beginning of the nation-states. Technological advancement has played a major role in steering growth through creativity and innovation and increased efficiency. Democracy has been integrated in the nation-states and is being exercised although there are hitches on the degree with which political democracy is allowed.
In conclusion, the formation of nation-states was a beneficial move for both Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Even though the expectations are not yet fully realized, these countries have made gigantic strides towards political and cultural integration. Latin America is steps ahead of Africa but the latter has shown progress over the years, and this forms the hope for the future.
Comaroff, J., & Comaroff, J. L. (Eds.). (2008). Law and Disorder in the Postcolony. University of Chicago Press.Di John, J. (2010). The concept, causes and consequences of failed states: A critical review of the literature and agenda for research with specific reference to Sub-Saharan Africa. The European Journal of Development Research, 22(1), 10-30.
Fieldhouse, D. K. (2012). Black Africa 1945-1980: Economic decolonization and arrested development. Routledge.Flemes, D., & Wojczewski, T. (2010). Contested leadership in international relations: power politics in South America, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Fearon, J. D., & Laitin, D. D. (2007). Ethnic minority rule and civil war onset. The American Political Science Review, 101(1), 187-193.
Guibernau, M., & Rex, J. (2010). The ethnicity reader: Nationalism, multiculturalism and migration. Polity.Haggard, S., & Kaufman, R. R. (2008). Development, Democracy, and Welfare States: Latin America, East Asia, and Eastern Europe. Princeton University Press.Hargreaves, J. D. (2014). Decolonization in Africa. Routledge.Mignolo, W. D. (2009). The Idea of Latin America. John Wiley & Sons.Stavenhagen, R. (2016). Ethnic conflicts and the Nation-State. Springer.
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