The widespread rise of nationalism does not suggest increasing racism or xenophobia, a new report asserts, but simply a healthy reaction against a collectivism that curtails the freedom and creativity of peoples.
According to celebrated economist Dr. Samuel Gregg, since 2016, “it has become evident that millions of people are not content to be herded, sheep-like, by intellectuals, techno-utopians, and supranational bureaucrats down the path of global governance.”
“Their discontent is being expressed through a renewed emphasis upon the nation and an associated stress on nation-state sovereignty,” Gregg writes in an October 22 essay for Law and Liberty, and this refreshing trend should be welcomed by all who care for prosperity, the common good, and world peace.
National sovereignty, Dr. Gregg writes, indicates that a country no longer understands itself as primarily constituted by loyalty to a dynasty or supranational body whose authority crosses “ethnic, cultural, and religious boundaries.”
The idea of the nation-state underscores “that those who belong to a given sovereign entity regard themselves as united by certain cultural characteristics common to a particular nation,” he continues, which sometimes involves ties of ethnicity and language but can also involve a shared history or adherence to a given set of ideas.
Drawing from a 2018 book by French political scientist Gil Delannoi, called La nation contre le nationalisme, Gregg asserts that nation-states can protect people from the designs of those who seek to replace attachment to country with abstract ideas that can lead to curtailments of freedom. The idea of the nation — properly-understood — can actually inhibit destructive trends.
Whereas many moderns fear patriotism as a force holding back globalism and portray it not as a virtue but rather as a cover for racism, jingoism, and xenophobia, this is not backed up by the evidence, Gregg observes.
According to Delannoi, most manifestations of patriotism have nothing to do with the type of racialist ideology that was central to National Socialism, he says.
The anti-nationalist mantras typically employed — that nationalism necessarily leads to war, that all nationalisms contain the germ of racism, that the West’s decline is due to nationalism — do not hold up to careful scrutiny, Gregg declares.
Historically, “the process of creating independent nation-states was often integral to the liberation of groups of people from empires that embodied particular forms of injustice,” he notes.
“The reestablishment of the national sovereignty of countries like Lithuania, Georgia, and Estonia following the Soviet Union’s demise involved their freedom from a form of Russian oppression: something that had been rationalized by the prevailing transnational Marxist-Leninist ideology,” he said.
There are also cases in which a nation-state’s formation has enabled a people sharing common ethnic, cultural, and historical bonds to protect themselves from prejudice and subjugation by others,” Gregg notes, holding up the nation of Israel as a case in point.
“The proclamation of the State of Israel in 1948 was a concrete response to the scattering of the Jewish people over the centuries, their subsequent persecution, and the attempted destruction of European Jewry during World War II,” he said.
While the “enthusiasts of supranational entities and a borderless world relentlessly employ measures” aimed at the destruction of the traditional nation-state, people are realizing that nations may be their last best defense against globalism run amok.
“Could it be that nation-states actually protect ordinary people from the utopian schemes of intellectuals—and from the ceaseless calls by unelected supranational bureaucrats for more power to be concentrated in their hands?” Gregg queries.
The essentially undemocratic (in the sense of unrepresentative and unaccountable) supranational institutions “seem addicted to trying to impose ideologies like multiculturalism upon nation-states, the purpose being to marginalize and empty out national traditions or, worse, stigmatize them in the name of ‘inclusion-diversity-respect-tolerance,’” he observes.
After all, he states, “if supranational forms of sovereignty are to be real, they can’t tolerate the ongoing existence of national sovereignty.”
The rise of so many populist, sovereigntist, and nationalist movements shows, however, that common sense can still triumph over the global drive for power.
It now seems that as far as politics goes, the globalist/nationalist debate is every bit as important as the conservative/liberal one. If fact, it has gone a long way toward replacing it.
Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome