Will the City-State Return? And is it the Best Form?

10 posts

Bronze Age Pervert

First, I wonder if the city-state will return. Large national states are not doing very well. Small states like Singapore and Switzerland are...some say that this is the future then. There are many things to consider, but the one weakness of the city state, its inability to defend against large national armies, may also be overcome in the future; highly trained mercenaries or highly trained professional armies, even when small, can overcome greater numbers. A strong city state or league of states can stand up against a large mess of an army run by a broke and incompetent national state; then also having nukes ensures national survival...

The bigger and more important question is if the city state is natural to man, if it is the best form of political organization. I believe it is, and will argue why later, but I want to hear first if others agree that the city state is natural to man (or that it is the most appropriate and good form or level of political organization). Something to keep in mind is also size, so that a real city state would be far smaller in population than a Singapore or Manhattan...


I agree on all counts.


I think that most city-states, whether in Greece or in Germany don't represent comprehensive social/political bodies within the actual walls of the cities themselves, as they rely on agriculture outside of the city itself (right?). The better explanation is the a city-state is a simply the smaller scale accumulation of social, military, cultural, and financial power, not entirely unlike like modern cities, that is the inevitable result of civilization.

However I certainly think the organization along lines of this size is far superior, and avoids the issues non-specific to modernity/industrialization inherent to large cities (brain drain, etc.). However I don't really think that the city-state could be proposed as a sort of idea in isolation, but rather as the result of larger forces acting independently of culture. Launching the bomb might help us get to this better state though.


I agree. The modern nation-state, which is the product of the French Revolution and other egalitarian currents anyway, should gradually be broken down into smaller, more natural city-states.

Bronze Age Pervert

I was also thinking last night, somewhat related, but is there any nation or culture in the world today that is NOT in decline? Materially, spiritually, demographically? I know of none.

Stars Down To Earth
Sub-Saharan Africa doesn't appear to be in decline. But then again, that place has nowhere else to go but upward, so it's a bit of a moot point.

But no, there is no country worthy of the name that isn't in a state of decline.
Bronze Age Pervert
Simply in terms of pumping out people living at subsistence level dependent on first world subsidies; but I don't see how that's not decline or how it's an upswing. Unless the nightmares of Raspail et al come true and these people move to Europe, America, or even China or Japan, they live in powerless countries with no economy and no future, hellish lives...and face complete collapse if subsidies get cut.
Bob Dylan Roof

There are tribes and ethnic groups that are improving in Africa. The Igbo is a christianized primitive tribe with a reputation for intelligence and hard work that has shown a moderate ability, perhaps on the level of Arabs or Armenians, to prosper in first world economies. I don't know to what extent this success can be attributed to western and Chinese investment, technology, and remittance economics.

I believe the city-state is a natural stage of political development, but I don't know if the city-state can be reached from the imperial stage of multicultural megalopoleis. Humans may need to revert to at least the village or neighborhood stage before reforming natural city-states.

There's also the question of technology and the economics of cities (BAP mentioned warfare). As Aristotle pointed out, cities usually have strategic and commercial import, so the nature of warfare and commerce could dictate whether the city-state can still flourish. Singapore is basically a giant port, for example, but I don't know what kind of strategic value the location has.


I'm not sure about Switzerland, but my Singaporean friend tells me that his country is currently experiencing the first assaults of Western-led neoliberal agitation, with support for relaxed immigration laws and the legalization of gay marriage predictably leading the fray. The demographic decline of the majority Han population and the reliance of Singapore's economy on global trade make it particularly vulnerable to changing political currents.

Bronze Age Pervert
The last refuge of the imperial Romans proper was...Venice. Called, until well into the 18th century, the republic, as in, the realization of Plato's Republic (I don't agree with this, but it's there...)