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Introduction

May 4, 2010
Amidst impassioned oratory, Ernest Renan introduces “the nation” with the bold declaration,

A Nation is a Soul, a Spiritual Principle.

Renan’s “Nation” is a not a physical entity, a demarcated administrative zone, or a geographic scribble. His nation is merely a whisper cast by the multitudes; a mythic entity of cooperation, comfort, and collective conscience.

Embedded in meaningful memory and communal identity, the nation remains the ideal political unit. The brief illusion of a “cosmopolitan future,” has been uncovered as a fruitless guise for an elitist society and the many cultures of the world have stabbed national holes in the drab curtain of “modernism” and “universalism.” Walter Rostow’s “story of humanity” has frayed into the many colored threads woven into the tapestry of nations, each sovereign thread furnishing a pattern, interconnecting and interdependent. Nations are joined in trade, diplomacy, friendship, and alliances; cultural exchange, scientific research, and common initiatives, but are distinct and independent. But the blanket of nations is ever changing and re-weaving and, unlike a story, is not bound by an end or a conclusion. There is no foreseeable direction or “progression,” but ample archetypes, themes, and styles.

The fraying of Rostow’s story and the weaving of this paradisaical tapestry is Nationalism.

The College Nationalist lends a new perspective to the political field, one shared by the many but voiced by the few. “Nationalism” has been long degraded or forgotten, an ancient and primeval skeleton in the closet of the 21st century. I humbly submit that we have become reticent, and a thorough spring cleaning will uncover a very new political philosophy made up of very old politics and philosophies. I further propose that nationalism can be redefined, renewed, and reborn as a great and virtuous pen with which we can redraw the maps of imperialism, repression, and vacant elitism with morality, community, and legitimacy.

Violent separation, civil strife, religious conflict, and a myriad of other evils will be erased and forgotten by the new map, the new world, and the nationalist dream.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Silence Do-Good permalink
    May 15, 2010 12:12 pm

    Is this really a a site dedicated to the argument that nationalism is a good thing? I would think that the first order of business for such an argument would be to tell us why that is so. After all, it was German nationalism–at least in the main–which gave humanity the Nazis. This bourgeois cosmopolitanism which you so revile may be a fantasy. But, who could deny that it is desirable? In order for the argument to work you must begin by telling me why it is global cosmopolitanism which has caused these myriad evils–a laughable claim for anyone who takes seriously the dark corners of the human heart–and then you must tell me why nationalism is the solution to them. Simple assertions won’t do.

    My argument would be that these problems, all of them, are products of our fallen nature as human beings. If people aren’t being repressed for their national or ethnic identity it’s their race, gender, religious affiliation, sexual orientation etc. Human beings are animals that make groups. It is natural for groups to fear and loathe each other. The goal of bourgeois cosmopolitanism isn’t to eliminate that fact. How could it? Its goal is simply the creation of shared assumptions amongst these groups in order to limit the horrors visited on men by their fellows.

    I’d love to be proven wrong, but I don’t think I will be.

    Good luck with the blog, very cool.

    SD

  2. May 15, 2010 3:58 pm

    Thanks very much for the comment SD.

    In our discussion of nationalism here, we must be very careful to separate out “chauvinism,” “imperialism (or sacro-egoismo to Mussolini),” and the universal principle that I am framing. German “nationalism,” under this distinction is really more akin to an imperial chauvinism; in which a German government (not the legitimate representation of a German people, re: the strong-arm tactics, fear mongering, and politicking that led the National Socialists into authority) instilled a fear-based patriotic imperialism using a twisted “nationality” as its vehicle.

    Nationalism embraces the right to self-determine of all nations; Poles, Germans, Danes, etc. and the Nazi infringement of these rights invalidates its claim as a “nationalist” regime. Indeed “global cosmopolitanism;” the assertion that there is a “World culture” to which humanity can ascribe happily is outright fantasy; especially when the advocates of such a culture are in fact supplanting local culture for Western philosophy. If you’re interested in examples, we can note the role of the British Empire from Scotland to India in supplanting legitimate authority for a “benevolent World regime.” The direct impact of this is local frustration, disenfranchisement, and the imposition of foreign state mechanisms. The long-term impact can be seen in Catalonia with the destruction of language and forced assimilation of peoples to a foreign “nation.” Cosmopolitanism can only be imposed by ethnocide, the categorical destruction of culture, and the few cosmopolitan cities that do exist are more tragedy than success.

    One example where “cosmopolitanism” does seem to “work” is in the United States (native Americans and the tribulations of immigrant groups aside) where one can point out the lack of an “ethnic” nation. Indeed, this is a fascinating case in the study of nationalism; but in exception it proves my point. The American nation, through historical accident, is united by cultural ideas, a common mythology, over any perceived literal ties to common “ancestry.” Anyone can become an American if they ascribe to this national sentiment; this, I believe is where nationalism excels. American “cosmopolitanism” is in fact a liberal nationalism.

    The cosmopolitan “goal” that you state is in line with universal nationalism in creating a set of basic understandings (an international status quo) that legitimate nations agree to. I have no problem with such agreements, international organizations, or devolution of sovereignty, so long as the international system is driven by legitimate states (which I believe are nation-states). If that is cosmopolitanism as you understand it, then I embrace it!

    • Silence Do-Good permalink
      May 15, 2010 5:59 pm

      To respond:

      Firstly, I think you are historically confused about Germany. And secondly, I’m still not clear what it is you’re arguing for. Is it simple self-determination of peoples?

      Let’s address the German claim first. Fear-mongering and “politicking” are regular strategies in democratic elections–ask George Bush. So that hardly makes the Nazis less-than nationalist. Nor is it fair to say that the National Socialists didn’t have the support of the majority of the German people. They did; and Hitler was elected. Their election was on the basis not of imperial potential–not simply lebensraum–but of the general concept that Germans were superior to other nations. It’s true that the Nazis did not behave within a nationalistic framework in terms of allowing self-determination to others. But what is also true is that the regime itself and its election were born from German nationalism.

      Secondly, I would like to address the claims about “world culture”. To me, cosmopolitanism is not the rejection of all individual cultures–I doubt you’d find anyone to subscribe to such a view. It’s a straw-man. It merely argues for particular, albeit substantial, shared assumptions (human rights, rule of law, market economies etc). It is absolutely true that those in the West, particularly the British Empire, have attempted historically to inculcate “Western values” in the far-flung parts of the world. They did try to supplant local culture. Good riddance. The British Empire brought the rule of law, democracy, and the free market to India. It is India’s British past–which includes many brutal things which i would never excuse–which made its current rise in the world possible. Its inclusion in the Western world order has reduced poverty, increased opportunity, broken the back of the caste system(or at least begun to). Is this really a bad thing? There are undoubtedly dark sides of Empire. But what you term “the imposition of foreign-state mechanisms” surely can’t always be a bad thing, can it? Is the caste-system really just as legitimate as the relatively-equal opportunity available in the U.S. ? All cultures are not created equal, some values don’t deserve respect.

      Finally, to rear upon the ground of this argument my own claim, I want to argue that there is no fundamental basis for “legitimate” nations. Nations are ineffable. They are built upon what Aristotle called, “bonds of affection”. They do not exist across time and space–just ask the Visigoths. To say that there are certain groups who are, at bottom, deserving of self-determination is silly. Why not the Visigoths? Why not the Ottoman Turks? Why not the GW baseball team? Nations are amalgamations of people with common languages, common geography, shared history and such. But they are subject to change, and ultimately, as arbitrary as any other group.

  3. May 19, 2010 10:16 pm

    In response to your first and second points; I’m afraid the German history you present is a little off, and I think you may have misinterpreted my distinctions, and then I will definitely restate my basic argument and the purpose of the College Nationalist.

    With regards to Germany; it is very clear that while the Nazi party eventually won a plurality (37%) in the 1932 election, the methods used before and after the party’s rise to power did not respect legitimate democratic principles and can by no means be paralleled (for any useful or interesting academic purpose) with modern American politics. Moreover, Hitler lost the presidential bid in 1932. These two primary indicators of popular sentiment (lack of majority, failed Presidential bid) places the legitimacy of the party’s authority far below the mandate that it later assumed. Without delving much further into the tangential discussion of Nazi legitimacy, it is significant to note “the purge” that followed the election, Hitler’s seizure of the reigns of power, and the institution of propaganda and police ministries that breached any responsible norm. Your argument that Germans felt “superior” to other nationals as opposed to an imperial potential is cyclical. I explained this superiority in my mention of chauvinism, and its connection to imperialism but its distinction from nationalism. German nationalism did not espouse either sentiment as the geopolitical aspect of German nationalism was, for all intents and purposes, mostly fulfilled with the advent of German statehood.

    In your discussion of “world culture,” your appropriation of universal and particular beliefs (as I understand it) basically reflects my sentiments; a basic respect for fundamental assumptions (murder is wrong, human rights [which ones is another discussion altogether], and respect for equality) coupled with particular sovereignty over national beliefs. That said, your discussion of the British Empire in India, while some points are interesting at a shallow level, lends itself to fallacy; following this line of thought slavery can be validated by the education of slave families or the inculcation of Christianity in African workers. When a culturally perceived “good” is forced upon a people in an immoral situation this does not vindicate the situation nor place the “good” beyond criticism. If cultural ideas (I cannot admit “cultures” here) were not created equal, it rests with the culture to decide the merits of foreign proposals. I embrace democracy, like I embrace chocolate; but I refuse to force it down the throats of others or encourage a friend to do the same.

    The legitimacy of nations is based upon self-identification. Your mentions of group identities that no longer exist is indicative of those peoples no longer identifying with those identities, hence its extinction. The GW Baseball team does not identify nationally as a team, but as a group within a nation. Your implication that anyone could be a nation, and the salient question of what, precisely, constitutes a nation versus any other group is definitely an interesting discussion to have, worthy of its own post; but briefly the categorical (mythos, language, place) alongside the subjective (personal relationship and identification with a people) determine a nation.

    These posts have fleshed out my basic sentiments about nationalism; as a positive principle of international relations encouraging the self-determination of nations. The College Nationalist is my attempt to create an interactive discussion and report on nationalism as a philosophy, a movement, and as an actor in contemporary affairs.

    Please feel free to comment, or send me your own posts or discussion prompts and I will gladly incorporate them into the site! thecollegenationalist@gmail.com

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