Russian artists and performers are being cancelled out of revulsion against the Ukraine invasion, including many who have denounced Russian President Vladimir Putin. These cancellations perversely presuppose Putin’s own collectivist vision of what nationhood means — a vision that has American fanboys, notably Donald Trump.
Nations, strictly speaking, do not exist outside of people’s minds. In Perry Anderson’s famous formulation, they are “imagined communities.” There are lots of ways to imagine them. The task of imagining has moral dimensions, because what is imagined tends to become real.
Here is Putin’s vision: Individuals don’t matter. Russia is an entity separate from and superior to those who inhabit it, with a collective will of its own, of which he is the spokesman. He is untroubled that his invasion is killing his own country’s soldiers by the thousands.
Andrew Koppelman, the John Paul Stevens Professor of Law at Northwestern University, is the author of Burning Down the House: How Libertarian Philosophy Was Corrupted by Delusion and Greed (St. Martin’s Press, forthcoming). He has a regular column at The Hill every other Sunday. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewKoppelman.