Nations and national cultures are often treated as basic units of analysis, as primordial components of social life. According to the dominant view among historians and social scientists, however, this artless simplicity of nationhood and national identity is almost certainly illusory (compare Anderson 1983; Gellner 1983; Hobsbawm 1990). National cultures and nation states are historically contingent phenomena. As Saskia Sassen notes in this book, ‘the current condition we see developing with globalization is probably by far the more common one, while the more exceptional period is the one that saw the strengthening of the national state’ (Sassen, p. 17). Even though they are often thought to go back to the mists of time, nation states are of fairly recent origin and depend on a particular set of social, technological and economic circumstances to exist. Nation states, in other words, are not a natural phenomenon, but an artifice, a socio-technical constructed form of complexity. And as evolved constructs, one could say, they are subject to the law of entropy. Effort and energy need to be expended to maintain and reproduce their specific forms of complexity. Without such effort, or with countervailing forces overwhelming such energy, the complexity will take on potentially undesired new forms or revert to a disorderly state. With the momentous developments in information and communication technology of the 21st century, the nation state is mutating into something that no longer necessarily facilitates the reproduction of a shared national identity. Instead, it is developing into something that is likely to support an altogether different outcome.

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Erasmus School of Law

de Been, W., Arora, P., & Hildebrandt, M. (2015). Introduction. Crossroads in New Media, Identity and Law: The Shape of Diversity to Come, 1–12. doi:10.1057/9781137491268_1