Locke’s Universal Rights are not Sufficient to Explain Nationhood

Hazony’s Argument – Locke’s Universal Rights are not Sufficient to Explain Nationhood

In “The Virtue of Nationalism,” Yoram Hazony argues that Locke’s universal rights are not sufficient to explain nationhood. Hazony holds that true freedom comes only where the possibility of collective self-determination exists. He explains that true freedom (one that sufficiently explains nationhood) comes on two levels. The first level entails the freedom of individuals to freely make choices about their personal lives. The second level involves the freedom of self-determination. Hazony elucidates that nationhood exists where there is freedom of a nation to shape policy according to its unique moral principles as well as preserve and pass on its unique culture (Hazony, 2018).

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Hazony points out that nationhood entails preserving the freedom of nations to make laws and policies for themselves. Using universal rights to explain nationhood contradicts the said definition as it compromises nations’ sovereignty to preserve their independence and self-determination. Nation-states with the freedom to preserve their independence and self-determination do not necessarily need the universal rights to function well. They can protect the rights of minorities and resist the creation of empires (Hazony, 2018). People and nations are inherently inclined towards morality and ethicality. Jeremiah 31:33 states “…I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” The verse illuminates that even without universal rights, people and nations have the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. Most importantly, they enable individuals to come together as a coherent political unit to determine their future; thus, answering the fundamental human need for belonging to a democratic nation (Skey & Antonsich, 2017). 

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Personal View

            Lockean explanation of nationhood is largely universalistic. Locke advocates for popular sovereignty, as evident in his use of universal rights to explain nationhood. Whereas universal rights are necessary to preserve people’s freedom and prevent nations from becoming tyrannical, Locke’s explanation contradicts the definition of nationhood. The basic definition of nationhood refers to the status of being an independent nation with a national identity (Rozynek, 2017). True independence and national identity can only be achieved when a country has the freedom to preserve its independence and self-determination. Incorporating universal laws or policies in the explanation of the concept of nationhood introduces a divergent point.         

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Moreover, nationhood involves the unique moral principles and culture of a nation. When a country has the freedom to refer to its unique moral principles and culture when creating laws and policies rather than relying on universal rights, it truly achieves nationhood. Besides, when the concept of nationhood is explained using Locke’s universalism, it creates a loophole whereby some nations might assume the role of determining other countries’ future. This robs them of the freedom to preserve their independence and self-determination. Therefore, arguably, Hazony provides a better argument than Locke for explaining nationhood.

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