Visions of Modernity: An investigation of the interplay between nationalism, capitalism, and the state of exception

Emil Thudium

Student thesis: Master thesis


Against the mainstream theory of democratic and economic overlap, this thesis investigates the complex interplay between nationalism, capitalism, and democracy through the concept of Agamben's "state of exception", which implies that the suspension of democracy is inherent in the democratic logic. Following a Weberian framework, inspired by his idea of the spirit of capitalism, subsequently taken up by Greenfeld, it assumes that nationalism plays an important part in the development of a capitalist ethos, as well as in the development of democratic institutions. The thesis undertakes historical/sociological analyses of the American Civil War, India and its Emergency in 1975, and Indonesia's early independence, along with nationalist writings of each country. Interpreting them as events not outside the field of democracy, but as democracy's attempt to create an environment and ethos where democracy and growth can be achieved for the nation, these case studies are used to illuminate the fundamentally philosophical problem of political order and the position of capitalist growth within this order. It concludes that it cannot find a simple procedural solution for the development of democratic and economic institutions, that they are the product of highly contested visions of society, and that this should be taken into consideration in development and foreign policy, as well as act as a reminder of the fragility of democracy, and that it may not be exportable and institutionalized easily.

EducationsMSc in Philosophy, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2015
Number of pages84