Benedict Anderson famously regarded nationalism as a means of sublimating human mortality in the presumed collective immortality of the nation-state, and that nation-states typically project that immortality through aggressive campaigns of heritage conservation. Yet Anderson’s model fails to account for the remarkable capacity of all long-lived nation-states to protect the very attitudes and practices that their official ideologies decry. Prominent among these is the taint of ‘corruption’, a metaphor for political wrongdoing that strongly implies the corrosion of mortality and decay.
In this lecture, Professor Michael Herzfeld will argue that in many countries the practices that are so labeled represent an important part of the basis on which the nation-state actually ‘functions’ and commands the loyalty of its citizens, and that attempts to eradicate corruption may be as much a rhetorical display – in which heritage provides the proverbial fig-leaf – as a literal mode of reform.
Next Free Public Lecture:
11 Jun 2013