I am currently reading Andreas Wimmer's Waves of War, he makes an argument that I found interesting and I was wondering if anyone knew of what Philosophical Theory that style of reasoning would be part of.

His argument concerns the rise of the Nation State and goes as follows:

Nation States arose endogenously in a few nations and then spread rather quickly afterwards, this is because the concept became known among intellectuals everywhere and people saw it as a 'template' that they could apply on their grievances (lack of representation within the empire they were part of).

I find the idea of a 'cloud' of (political) concepts existing and functioning like that very interesting and I'm trying to read up on it. However, I am not sure in what direction I should be looking. Does anyone have a idea?

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    “Metapolitics” might be one name for this ‘virtual cloud’ (see Badiou’s book of the same name perhaps?)
    – Joseph Weissman
    Commented May 6, 2018 at 20:51

1 Answer 1


The phenomenon is not specific to politics, the notion of cultural ideas "in the air" dates back to 1875, according to an etymology dictionary. A much more systematic development was given to it by Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, introducing the notion of a "meme", a cultural analog of a gene, that can transmit from one person to another, or in the OP case, one nation to another, through various communication channels (written, oral, imitation of behavior), and works as an information carrier in the "cultural evolution". Internet memes would be another, shorter term, examples of the same phenomenon, and perhaps the most broadly recognized. Dawkins's idea was that memes provide for a full blown analog of a theory of biological evolution, with competing groups (within a society or even nation states) undergoing "cultural selection" and keeping "successful" memes that contribute to their hosts' effectiveness.

Hofstadter's 1985 book Metamagical Themas was influential in spreading the idea of a meme, and in 1990s the study of memes was elevated to the status of a new discipline, memetics (perhaps itself an example of meme transmission). Nonetheless, the idea has multiple critics, who contend that the idea of biology/culture analogy is misguided and brings up the bad memory of social Darwinism. Still, the number of papers on "cultural evolution" is growing, see e.g. Articulating Babel: An approach to cultural evolution for a review and a caution:

"Memes have been criticized for being so loosely characterized that almost anything can count. Then the class of included items becomes so heterogeneous that t is difficult if not impossible to explicate how they can be reproduced or transmitted in any unitary way, and the promise of a unitary theory disappears. his heterogeneity becomes more manageable when one sees that the transmissible elements or TRE’s on the account given here are parts of a complex structure of elements that interact to produce cultural change and that many of these causal structures provide means to or constraints on their reproduction, thus rendering the idea more concrete in context."

The notion is increasingly invoked by political scientists, sociologists and historians. Rockmore et al. discuss Cultural Evolution of National Constitutions, Linderfors et al. discuss cultural saltations (massive mutations) in The Cultural Evolution of Democracy: Saltational Changes in A Political Regime Landscape. On the role of internet memes in modern politics see Carter's 2016 thesis Enchanting Memes: Memetic Politics in the Age of Technocratic Control and Tyler's book Memetics: Memes and the Science of Cultural Evolution.

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    Thank you for this great answer! I'll have something to read this summer!
    – Jasper
    Commented May 7, 2018 at 0:50
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    The novel Snow Crash is a nice light hearted introduction to memetics Commented May 7, 2018 at 6:42

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