Throughout the early 20th century, nationalism was esteemed because it advocated for self-governance and freedom from oppression. The sentiment squared with growing awareness of political freedom, individual rights, and dignity held by people. However, this changed in the mid-20th century due to a contest between liberalism and nationalism, which saw the latter collapse due to its association with Nazi atrocities. However, Yoram Hazany, in his book The Virtue of Nationalism, argues that nationalism is back. The book explains that appeals for nationalism are on the rise. Hazony argues that the nation-state is the best expression of political order, whereby an international system of national states is preferable to imperial and anarchic alternatives. Arguably, a fusion of nationalism and globalism which utilizes the two worldviews as complementary models can prove more beneficial than choosing one over the other.
Hazony’s Theory of How and Why Nations Develop
Hazony hypothesizes that nations are developed to give people who share a common language and cultural characteristics the freedom to govern themselves as they deem right. According to Hazony, national identity is not based on race or biological homogeneity but instead on the bonds of mutual loyalty to a shared culture and history that bind diverse groups into a nation unit. He further argues that social cohesion enabled by a nation-state where most people share a common language and history can produce a level of trust that allows the production of social and moral goods, including political and civic liberties. Regarding the development of nations, Hazony asserts that throughout history, nations have developed in several ways. Some are established as a result of geographical isolation. Others are created as the result of emigration, often displacing existing nations. Lastly, others developed from the breakup of large empires or due to peace treaties (Hazony, 2018).
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Nations establish justice, defend against external threats, and elevate their citizens beyond the limited horizons of the tribal world. Whereas developed based on any of the three above-mentioned ways, nations are sustained by mutual loyalty among their members. Hazony defines the said loyalty as a union of tribes marked by a shared heritage of a common language or religious tradition and a history of joining together against common enemies. The national state’s particularism has the dual advantage of restraining the imperial impulse toward constant expansion and providing a nation with a robust basis for mutual trust and social solidarity. Notably, this includes the solidarity between the ruling class and the ruled, with the former feeling a sense of obligation to the latter, based on shared communal identity. Besides restraining nations from becoming empires, Hazony also asserts that it prevents the creation of monarchies (Hazony, 2018).
The Anti-nationalist Arguments of Kant and Marx
Unlike Hazony, Karl Marx advocated for socialist internationalism. Marx argued that there is a need for internationalism flows from the position of the working class internationally. From Marx’s perspective, embracing nationalism barred the much needed international flows. Marx’s anti-nationalist argument has been developed by capitalism through the organization of the global economy as one indivisible whole. The interests of the working class in one country are the same as the workers’ interests in other countries. The division of labor established by capitalism laid the basis for a new international organization of labor and planned production on a global scale. According to Marx, the said production possibilities can only be achieved by abolishing national barriers and establishing a global federation of workers’ states. Marx further argued that worldwide workers’ management is a necessary transition stage on the road to social internationalism. The workers have no country; thus, they are united by their shared struggles. Hence, according to Marx, in a social internationalism setting, the struggle of the working class in all countries undergirds the basis for movement toward nationalism (Kouvelakis, 2018). Marx’s anti-nationalist argument proposes internationalism as a means of uniting the multiple layers of the working class on a global scale.
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On the other hand, Immanuel Kant was a liberal internationalist. Kant advocated for a federation of free states governed by the rule of law. He argued that when states become republics, and their citizens have the freedom to make decisions, they are less likely to choose to go to war. Thus, as more states become republics and democracy spreads across the world, then the likelihood of war between nations decreases until, eventually, all nations view war as irrational. As a result, peace triumphs over conflict. Kant also argued that nationalism only contributes to the eruption of war, as was the case of World War I. Nationalist rhetorics were used as the key driving force of mobilization and justification of war atrocities. However, liberal internationalism organizes people who are diverse in their goals but also individualized and rationalized. Most importantly, they are capable of appreciating the moral equality of all persons as ends instead of means. The people in their respective republics are governed publicly by the law, as a republic, and problems are solved formally and legally (Kouvelakis, 2018). The pursuit of perpetual peace is, therefore, the critical aspect of Kant’s liberal internationalism argument. To summarize Kant’s anti-nationalist argument, he proposes the spread of democracy throughout the world as a means of bringing an end to conflicts; thus, maintaining peace and stability.
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Globalism versus Populist Nationalism
For years globalism has dominated the world, with individuals routinely encouraged to have a global mindset. However, in recent years, populist nationalism sentiments seem to be on the rise. Notably, populist nationalism fuses the belief that citizens are being exploited by the privileged elite with the idea that the national culture and interests are under threat from both internal and external enemies. The recent spread of populist nationalism across the world has triggered a growing interest in the subject, with a sizeable number of people worldwide embracing the perspective that their government should place their welfare above that of foreigners (Higgott, 2018). These kinds of sentiments relate to Hazony’s argument on collective/family freedom.
In The virtue of Nationalism, Hazony postulates that a world of sovereign nations is the only option for those who care about personal and collective freedom. Hazony explains that human beings have always been part of a community, undergirded by concrete morals and traditions (Hazony, 2018). However, Locke disputes this claim, whereby he advocates for universal individual rights. Notably, the Lockean explanation for nationalism is largely universalistic and, therefore, more inclined towards globalism. Nationalism entails the collective freedom of citizens to freely make choices about their life and freedom of self-determination by both citizens and a nation (Skey & Antonsich, 2017). Whereas Lockean explanation of nationalism is flawed, it is worth acknowledging that globalism is beneficial to the world as it allows nations to access new cultures, facilitates sharing of technology and innovation, and lowers production costs. Other benefits include improving living standards, providing access to new markets, and access to new talent (Hicks, 2019).
Discussion and Conclusion
Both nationalists and globalists present strong arguments in support of their proposed models of political organization by nations. However, rather than choosing one model over the other, the best approach would be to implement the best elements associated with each approach to reap optimal benefits. Nationalism allows citizens to enjoy the freedom to freely make their own choices and facilitate the self-determination of a nation and its people. However, without checks and balances, nationalism can contribute to wars between nations, as was the case of World War I and II (Hicks, 2019). On the other hand, globalism allows interconnectedness between nations, allowing access to new cultures, facilitating the sharing of technology and innovation, allowing access to new markets, et cetera. However, if unchecked, globalism can fuel inequality, creates a race to the bottom, labor exploitation, and loss of national identity (Hicks, 2019). Thus, nations should try finding ways to infuse concepts of nationalism and globalism.
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