The Virtue of Nationalism

Book Title The Virtue of Nationalism
Author Name Yoram Hazony
Publishing house Basic Books
Country – city USA
Date of issue 2018
Number of pages 304

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This post is also available in: ar العربية (Arabic)

POLITICS IN BRITAIN AND AMERICA have taken a turn toward nationalism. This has been troubling to many, especially in educated circles, where global integration has long been viewed as a requirement of sound policy and moral decency. From this perspective, Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and the “America first” rhetoric coming out of Washington seem to herald a reversion to a more primitive stage in history, when war-mongering and racism were voiced openly and permitted to set the political agenda of nations. Fearing the worst, public figures, journalists, and academics have deplored the return of nationalism to American and British public life in the harshest terms.

But nationalism was not always understood to be the evil that current public discourse suggests. Until only a few decades ago, a nationalist politics was commonly associated with broad-mindedness and a generous spirit. Progressives regarded Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points and the Atlantic Charter of Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill as beacons of hope for mankind—and this precisely because they were considered expressions of nationalism, promising national independence and self-determination to enslaved peoples around the world. Conservatives from Teddy Roosevelt to Dwight Eisenhower likewise spoke of nationalism as a positive good, and in their day Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were welcomed by conservatives for the “new nationalism” they brought to political life. In other lands, statesmen from Mahatma Gandhi to David Ben-Gurion led nationalist political movements that won widespread admiration and esteem as they steered their peoples to freedom.1

Surely, the many statesmen and intellectuals who embraced nationalism a few generations ago knew something about this subject, and were not simply trying to drag us back to a more primitive stage in our history, to war-mongering and racism. What, then, did they see in nationalism? There have been surprisingly few attempts, whether in the public sphere or in academia, to answer this question.

This post is also available in: ar العربية (Arabic)


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