State, nation and society, commonly traditions

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‘Traditions’ which appear or claim to be old are often quite recent in origin and sometimes invented.
The term ‘invented tradition’ is used in a broad, but not imprecise sense. It includes both ‘traditions’ actually invented, constructed and formally instituted and those emerging in a less easily traceable manner within a brief and dateable period – a matter of a few years perhaps – and establishing themselves with great rapidity.

‘Invented tradition’ is taken to mean a set of practices, normally governed by overtly or tacitly accepted rules and of a ritual or symbolic nature, which seek to inculcate certain values and norms of behaviour by repetition, which automatically implies continuity with the past. (Pg.1)

However, insofar as there is such reference to a historic past, the peculiarity of ‘invented’ traditions is that the continuity with it is largely factitious. In short, they are responses to novel situations which take the form of reference to old situations, or which establish their own past by quasi-obligatory repetition.
It is the contrast between the constant change and innovation of the modern world and the attempt to structure at least some parts of social life within it as unchanging and invariant, that makes the ‘invention of tradition’ so interesting for historians of the past two centuries.

‘Tradition’ in this sense must be distinguished clearly from ‘custom’ which dominates so-called ‘traditional’ societies. The object and characteristic of ‘traditions’, including invented ones, is invariance.
The difference between ‘tradition’ and ‘custom’ in our sense is indeed well illustrated here. ‘Custom’ is what judges do; ‘tradition’ (in this instance invented tradition) is the wig, robe and other formal paraphernalia and ritualized practices surrounding their substantial action. (Pg.2)

The custom remains, but not the tradition of flying Texas International Airlines.

Texas International Airlines Inc. was a United States airline, known from 1940 until 1947 as Aviation Enterprises,[1] until 1969 as Trans-Texas Airways (TTa), and as Texas International Airlines until 1982, when it merged with Continental Airlines, headquartered near William P. Hobby Airport in Houston, Texas.[2]

Trans-Texas Airways (TTa) was a “local-service” airline as designated by the federal Civil Aeronautics Board in Texas and surrounding states.[3] In August 1953, it scheduled flights to 36 airports from El Paso to Memphis; in May 1968, TTa flew to 48 U.S. airports plus Monterrey, Tampico, and Veracruz in Mexico. The airline changed its name to Texas International and continued to grow.
Following deregulation of the aviation industry in 1978, TI was free to expand to other states and, at its height, operated a network stretching from California to Florida, and from New York to Veracruz, Mexico. Texas International merged into Continental Airlines in 1982 by Frank Lorenzo, CEO of Texas Air (holding company of TTA and New York Air) who purchased Continental Airlines.
When Texas International merged into Continental Airlines in 1982, it had grown to reach Baltimore, Colorado Springs, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Hartford, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Ontario CA., Mexico City, Milwaukee, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Omaha, Phoenix, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, Tucson, and Washington, DC, and had an all-DC-9 jet fleet.[4][5] In 2010, Continental merged into United Airlines. based in Chicago, Illinois.
Photos: Bruce Dunn.

Custom’ cannot afford to be invariant, because even in ‘traditional’ societies life is not so. Customary or common law still shows this combination of flexibility in substance and formal adherence to precedent.

Students of peasant movements know that a village’s claim to some common land or right ‘by custom from time immemorial’ often expresses not a historical fact, but the balance of forces in the constant struggle of village against lords or against other villages. Students of the British labour movement know that ‘the custom of the trade’ or of the shop may represent not ancient tradition, but whatever right the workers have established in practice, however recently, and which they now attempt to extend or defend by giving it the sanction of perpetuity.” (Pg.2)

Inventing traditions, it is assumed here, is essentially a process of formalization and ritualization, characterized by reference to the past, if only by imposing repetition.(Pg.4)

Indeed, it may be suggested that ‘traditions’ and pragmatic conventions or routines are inversely related. ‘Tradition’ shows weakness when, as among liberal Jews, dietary prohibitions are justified pragmatically, as by arguing that the ancient Hebrews banned pork on grounds of hygiene. Conversely, objects or practices are liberated for full symbolic and ritual use when no longer fettered by practical use. The spurs of Cavalry officers’ dress uniforms are more important for ‘tradition’ when there are no horses, the umbrellas of Guards officers in civilian dress lose their significance when not carried tightly furled (that is, useless), the wigs of lawyers could hardly acquire their modern significance until other people stopped wearing wigs. (Pg.4)

Thinking outside the box

In 1934, when the Air Corps asked for preliminary designs for a long-range bomber, Boeing sent its president, Claire Egtvedt,[1] to the Air Corps Matériel Division at Dayton.[2] There he learned what was wanted: an airplane weighing 30 tons, capable of carrying 2,000 pounds of bombs a distance of 5,000 miles. Was he interested in the project? He most certainly was! With only a month to develop preliminary data, Boeing prepared a design for a giant four-engine plane with a wingspan of 150 feet, a totally new kind of plane.
Boeing was awarded the contract. This was the plane that became the XB-15. Next came the request for another bomber: Bomb load, 2,000 pounds; required top speed, 200 miles per hour; required range, 1,020 miles; desired top speed, 250-miles per hour; desired range, 2,200 miles; a crew of four to six; multi-engined.

Claire Egtvedt went back to Dayton. Boeing designers were working on a four-engine transport, and they were thinking about a bomber of the same size. But the specifications said “multi-engined,” a term the Air Corps used for planes in the twin-engine category. “Would a four-engine plane qualify?” Major Jan Howard, the engineering chief at Dayton, checked the circular that had been sent to the aircraft companies. “The word is ‘multi-engined,’ isn’t it?” he answered with a smile.

“Do you think you can build a successful four-engined airplane in a year?” Egtvedt looked out of the window at the buildings of the plant. “Yes, I know we can.”

Before the year was up, shortly before sunrise on the morning of July 28, 1935, Egtvedt’s bomber was off with a roar on its first flight. Noting its five machine-gun turrets, newspaper reports called it “an aerial battle cruiser, a veritable flying fortress,” and Flying Fortress became its name. Major General Oscar Westover, the chief of the Air Corps, called the B-17, Flying Fortress “the most successful type of plane, everything considered, ever developed for the Air Corps.” (Pg. 8)

Mass-Producing Traditions : Europe, 1870-1914

Once we are aware how commonly traditions are invented, it can easily be discovered that one period which saw them spring up with particular assiduity was in the thirty or forty years before the first world war.(Pg.263)

It was both practised officially and unofficially, the former – we may loosely call it ‘political’ – primarily in or by states or organized social and political movements, the latter – we may loosely call it ‘social’ – mainly by social groups not formally organized as such, or those whose objects were not specifically or consciously political, such as clubs and fraternities, whether or not these also had political functions. The distinction is one of convenience rather than principle. It is designed to draw attention to two main forms of the creation of tradition in the nineteenth century, both of which reflect the profound and rapid social transformations of the period.

Quite new, or old but dramatically transformed, social groups, environments and social contexts called for new devices to ensure or express social cohesion and identity and to structure social relations. At the same time a changing society made the traditional forms of ruling by states and social or political hierarchies more difficult or even impracticable. This required new methods of ruling or establishing bonds of loyalty. In the nature of things, the consequent invention of ‘political’ traditions was more conscious and deliberate, since it was largely undertaken by institutions with political purposes in mind. Yet we may as well note immediately that conscious invention succeeded mainly in proportion to its success in broadcasting on a wavelength to which the public was ready to tune in. Official new public holidays, ceremonies, heroes or symbols, which commanded the growing armies of the state’s employees and the growing captive public of schoolchildren, might still fail to mobilize the citizen volunteers if they lacked genuine popular resonance. The German Empire did not succeed in its efforts to turn the Emperor William I into a popularly accepted founding father of a united Germany, nor in turning his birthday into a genuine national anniversary. (Who, by the way, now remembers the attempt to call him ‘William the Great’?) Official encouragement did secure the building of 327 monuments to him by 1902, but within one year of Bismarck’s death in 1898, 470 municipalities had decided to erect ‘Bismarck columns’.1

In developed countries the ‘national economy’, its area defined by the territory of some state or its subdivisions, was the basic unit of economic development. A change in the frontiers of the state or in its policy had substantial and continuous material consequences for its citizens. The standardization of administration and law within it, and, in particular, state education, transformed people into citizens of a specific country: ‘peasants into Frenchmen’, to cite the title of an apposite book.2

The state was the framework of the citizens’ collective actions, insofar as these were officially recognized. To influence or change the government of the state, or its policy, was plainly the main objective of domestic politics, and the common man was increasingly entitled to take part in it. Indeed, politics in the new nineteenth-century sense was essentially nation-wide politics. In short, for practical purposes, society (‘civil society’) and the state within which it operated became increasingly inseparable. It was thus natural that the classes within society, and in particular the working class, should tend to identify themselves through nationwide political movements or organizations (‘parties’), and equally natural that de facto these should operate essentially within the confines of the nation.3 Nor is it surprising that movements seeking to represent an entire society or ‘people’ should envisage its existence essentially in terms of that of an independent or at least an autonomous state. State, nation and society converged. (Pg.264)

WE&P by EZorrilla

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