It is obvious that today the facts of international relations do notfitinto any general framework of which people are aware (perhaps they never have). As descriptions, concepts such as state, sovereignty, federation seem more than ever stabs in the dark. In prescriptive political theory, we are even more at sea. Old prescriptive certainties such as nationhood must be conceded to be at best the most provisional of guides to action. The interface between domestic sovereignty and international organisations (and what a wilderness of phenomena that term is supposed to describe) needs to be comprehended anew. This is urgent if we are to make sense of, and have a sense of direction through, the problems of the European Community, the Commonwealth of Independent States, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, not to mention a host of problematic multi-ethnic polities as diverse as India and Iraq. Wherever we look in the world today, the relationship between ‘state’, ‘nation’ and ‘community’ seems to be in crisis: from the Balkans to Canada, from Scotland to Kurdistan. This no more has the appearance of an aberration from some historical norm than does the tie between state and nation in previous European history. It makes more sense to regard both as shifting patterns of collective human consciousnesses. The idea that there is something ‘out there’, ‘given’, that preordains human beings to live in nations, and nations t o form states, was certainly a myth; and as a myth had a certain real force. The problem today is, first, that the myth is reviving in some places at just the time when it is being swept aside in others (in parts of the European Community, for example); and, secondly, that the idea of imprescriptible national rights seems to be a postulate of democracy whenever the majority in a territory embrace it, and at the same time a recipe for carnage and the vilest known abrogation of all other human rights. The revival of this nationalist idea around 1990 has also to be set beside the real feelings of belonging that arise amongst groups other than nations; which, whenever they do have such a feeling of corporate identity, we may describe by the general term ‘communities’.