What is a nation?

Michael Byers holds the Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia.

He’s asking, “What is a nation if not its people? Why can’t an entire country be a ‘global citizen’? Why can’t this be our ‘intent for a nation’?

“My mentor, the Cambridge international lawyer and social philosopher Philip Allott, opened my eyes to a simple but incredibly empowering fact: much of what human beings take to be immutable about political systems — traditions, norms, laws and constitutions; institutions and organizations; even the nation-state itself — exists principally at the level of human ideas. As a result, these seemingly immutable structures can in fact be changed.

“All we have to do is imagine something different — better laws, a better country, even a better world — and then translate our ideas into action. Can we do it?