The public

The nation is a recent innovation. In the Middle Ages, allegiance was owed to the lord, or the city, or both, and by extension to territorial areas not very clearly defined. The sentiment we call patriotism certainly existed, often to a very intense degree; only its object was not set within territorial limits…. What had never existed right up to recent times was some definite, circumscribed thing, permanently installed as an object of patriotic devotion. Patriotism was something diffuse, nomadic, which expanded or contracted according to degrees of similarity and common danger. It was mixed up with different kinds of loyalty—loyalty to other men, a lord, a king, or a city. The whole formed something very complicated, but also very human. To express the sense of obligation every one feels towards his country, people would usually talk about “the public” or “the public good.”

Simone Weil
The Need for Roots