In light of Brexit and election of Donald Trump, some have concern that nationalism’s on the rise. Although nationalism is related to the idea of nation-state, many who are comfortable with nation-states are wary of nationalism. These people associate nationalism with prejudice in its mildest form, and an aggressive foreign policy at it’s worst.
To many, President Trump’s controversial travel ban confirms these fears. Critics of Trump’s stance say his ideas run counter to America’s strong history of cultural assimilation. Ironically, Trump’s critics sometimes fail to point out that he’s consistently vowed to reverse the Bush and Obama pattern of using America’s military to help overthrow governments in the Mid-East. Although obviously questionable, Trump’s travel ban arose out his stated desire to reduce America’s military involvement in the Mid-East.
The dividing line between supporting a nation-state versus nationalism can sometimes be hard to determine. While some claim recent political events are nationalistic, others say these same events merely help preserve national identity. Highlighting the divide is how conservatives often support traditions of longstanding cultural preferences, while liberals sometimes view these traditions as discriminatory.
Since Neo-Liberal globalist policies have been dominant for some time, it’s inevitable a strong opposition movement to it would appear. As to where this movement leads is anyone’s guess. However…one thing’s for sure: many moderate voters who used to support it are questioning the Neo-Liberal dominance that’s held sway many years.
In light of the fact Brexit received over 50 percent of votes cast and Trump got over 46 percent, it’s hard to categorize all their supporters as racist and xenophobic. Interestingly, some supporters are moderates who’ve voted liberal in the past and are in favor of both free trade and equal opportunity for minority groups.
Regarding trade, many American voters adhere to Bernie Sanders belief in fair trade pacts negotiated more transparently. These moderates were attracted to Sanders and Trump since they were concerned that the current committee approach to trade pacts could result in job loss and weaken American sovereignty.
Contrary to the stereotype of the Trump voter, some of his moderate supporters adhere to liberal ideals of equal opportunity for all regardless of race, gender, and sexual orientation. These Trump voters broke away from Democrats in swing states due to disillusionment with both the economy, and the Clinton political dynasty.
In looking at recent political events it’s clear that the most powerful voting bloc in democracies are the unpredictable swing voters. Since the groupthink aspect of party politics doesn’t sway independents, they can influence political trends dramatically. Even if they don’t totally agree with a candidate or movement, swing voters will sometimes switch political allegiances if they feel one side of the political spectrum is becoming too powerful.
In line with this, conservatives need to also be wary of the unpredictable nature of the swing voter. If conservatives are perceived as over reaching as a result of Trump’s victory, they too will feel the wrath of the independent voter. Above all, swing voters vote their conscience as opposed to party line. This is why conservatives need to be careful about cutting social services, or following policies that are overtly nationalistic.
For 300 years the concepts of nation-state and nationalism have intermingled. Since nation-state refers to both a geographic and cultural entity, it’s understandable that the prideful aspects of nation-states can sometimes be interpreted as nationalism.
Interestingly, the concept of nationalism isn’t always viewed negatively. When Europe’s former colonies achieved nationalistic self-determination, this was often viewed as liberating. Unfortunately, one of the main reasons nationalism is viewed negatively is because it’s seen as contributing to World War 2. Although this is true, it goes without saying that a decrease in nationalism doesn’t always equate to less war. After all, although America’s been involved in many wars since World War 2, it’s rare that overt nationalism is cited as the main reason for this.
As we’re often told, globalism was looked at as an antidote to nationalism. Since World War 2, a multi-tiered globalist approach has sought to provide safety valves to the negative aspects of the nation-state. Although it’s fallen out of favor, modern globalism has undoubtedly helped temper rivalries between some nations. However, as with many successful ideas, an understandable backlash has developed to it.
Obviously, a form of globalist trade is here to stay. As the past 300 years shows, trade between nations is desirable and logical. After all, since different resources and skills reside in different areas, there will always be need to trade. What’s questioned these days isn’t free trade, but what the terms of agreement between trading nations are, and whether they’re transparent or fair enough.
The trade pacts and globalism of the past 25 years have led to major economic dislocations. As a result, a consensus has developed that globalist corporatism needs rethinking so each nation’s needs are respected. Currently, a school of thought says that if corporations have too much say on trade pacts, they may supersede nations in terms of power and influence. These concerns, in addition to job loss, are what led to Brexit and the atypical presidential campaigns of Trump and Sanders. Basically, these populist reactions are recognition of the problems posed with the current pace of globalism. Whether they provide clear solutions to the dilemma is debatable.
Many people dislocated by economic change realize there are no easy solutions. However, they tire of having gainfully employed experts remind them how a lack of good jobs is mostly due to automation, and how outsourcing gives them lower prices. Although it’s valid to point out benefits of globalism, it takes on a different look if one’s a member of the large pool of underemployed who inhabit many countries.
One of the most pressing problems facing the modern world is the jobs issue. Economists and social thinkers have predicted for years that automation and globalism will create chronic underemployment. For a temporary solution, progressive liberals such as Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have expressed willingness to work with President Trump on his plans to upgrade infrastructure. As we know, this will not only help America become up to date; it’ll provide many jobs that’ll stimulate the economy. In line with this, many economic thinkers are advocating a permanent infrastructure workforce to both lower high underemployment and provide maintenance.
Conceptually…a nation-state provides a sort of umbrella over a geographic area and culture. This umbrella gives each nation an air of distinction. In line with this, globalism can be viewed as a canopy that goes over all the nation-state umbrellas of the world. Basically, both Brexit and election of Trump were seen by many supporters as attempts to preserve national identity. Unfortunately, the awkward nature of both trends has led to fears of nationalism. Since many voters were concerned that globalist corporatism was moving too fast, they supported a new political movement that took a U-turn away from the road travelled. These voters were concerned that the conceptual umbrella of nation-state, could almost be replaced with the canopy of globalism.
Obviously, there’s a chance recent political events can degrade even more into negative aspects of overt nationalism or intense societal division. To avoid this, we need truly engaged citizens and leaders on all sides of the political aisle who are willing to try to understand each other.
8 thoughts on “The Nation-State Versus Nationalism”
If we are in a “post modern” era, just the fact that we identify this time as “post”, does that mean “modern” has been a failure?
Fascinating question PJ!
I definitely think one can be inclined to think that “post modernism” implies that “modernism” is a failure. After all, “post modernism,” and it’s emphasis on pluralism, is somewhat a rejection of the modernist notion that there are certain apparent truths to life.
Wile these are music terms, I’d say the classical era attempted to define universal truths, those that we know as liberalism today, the modern era break free from any constraints to raise individualism as its motif. Post modernism suggests modernism was a failure, but instead of returning to neo-classicism, it has mistakenly upped the ante to the extreme, where truth is individual rather than shared. The rise of nationalism, more (again using music terms) neo-nationalism, is not a movement to return to the prejudices of the past but a desire for some degree of stability and comfort in a rapidly changing world.
Yes, you’re so correct to say that the liberalism that grew out of the Enlightenment, did attempt to discover universal truth. We can see this search for truth simultaneously in the music of Bach, the physics of Newton, and the philosophy of Locke. As you say, this desire for some kind of truth, whether apparent truth, or universal-absolute truth, really was a common feature of mankind till recently. And yes, since post-modernism places primacy upon an individual’s personal impressions, one can say that the desire to establish a stronger national identity is probably an attempt to create some level of stability + comfort in a rapidly changing world.
Thx for the fascinating dialogue PJ!
I have enjoyed your views on nationalism vs Nation-State. The insight on globalism appears to be very concerning but I do see a need for balance between both.I am for bettering America and getting America to its roots again so that future generations can flourish and be respected once more. America used to be the most respected nation in the world. I hope we can stop reliance on other nations, take care of our own first and become independent once more.
Thx for the excellent comment bipartisan leader!
Your comment hits at the most important part of the balance between globalism + taking care of one’s own nation. As you say, it is possible to have a strong global presence while still maintaining our sense of independence, strength, + respect.
The kind of searching dialogue that we’re having here is key to achieving that balance. Let’s keep the dialogue up.