It is routine for Reactionaries to decry the notion that nations subsist in virtue of some congeries of abstract propositions. The “proposition nation” reduces nationality to a few – a very few, a tiny sample – of its formal causes. It’s an improper reduction.
But many on the Right turn and reduce nations to blood and soil. There is more, obviously, to nations than assemblages of similar human bodies in particular vicinities. That suggestion improperly reduces nationality to a few of its material causes.
We will do no better if we reduce nations only to either of the other two sorts of Aristotelian causes: the final and the efficient.
America, for example, is more than the sorts of things she characteristically tends to produce: Hollywood movies, grain, athletes, software, wars, business enterprises, primitive music, fake news, soft drinks, muscle cars, jeans, anomic cities, political entertainments, prosperity, commandos. She is more than her final causes. She is more too than her efficient causes: her economic dynamism, audacity, eagerness, greed, hubris, and so forth.
But nations are more even than all these four sorts of causes somehow or other jumbled together. A jumble is not a coherent, coordinate entity. It has no common life, that orders things according to some common vision. It is just a jumble. It is like a human body that is dead.
None of the Aristotelian causes have any cash value in and of themselves, or even as thrown together in some Receptacle. They are inert. This is so even for efficient causation, which at bottom is just the urge that something or other come to pass.
To get more than a jumble out of a bunch of inert ingredients, you need a coordinating intelligence, in whom and by whom they are all duly proportioned and integrate. You need a living being that has four sorts of causes, all at once together, and concretely synthesized. You need a life. And that life – that career of acts – is prior to the actualization in history of its concrete character, corporeal inputs, products, and energy. The concrete is the fossil of the living act.
So nations are first spiritual before they are any of the components of the spiritual. No whole, no parts; no composition, no composites.