What is so bad about regarding the state as an abstract entity? To grasp van Creveld’s answer, one must consider the second part of the twofold process he describes. In the early modern period, “the relationship between … the state and its citizens was based not on sentiment but on reason and interest” (p. 190). Under this conception, a citizen would meet undue demands with reluctance or outright resistance.
If, however, emotion could be mobilized for the new abstract entity, what our author calls a “Great Transformation” was in the offing. Jean Jacques Rousseau acted as the prime theorist of the new order. In his view, everyone must be subordinated to the “general will” which embodied one’s patrie or community. “Patriotism – the active submission to, and participation in, the general will – becomes the highest of all virtues and the source of all the remaining ones” (p. 192).
With Rousseau, though, we have not yet reached the modern state in its culminating form. He took the patrie to be local. But when, after the French Revolution, various writers identified the general will with the nation, the process that led to disaster was complete. FULL ARTICLE