Nationalism, Liberalism, and Progress - Vol. 1

Nationalism, Liberalism, and Progress - Vol. 1

Nationalism, Liberalism, and Progress - Vol. 1

Nationalism, Liberalism, and Progress - Vol. 1

Synopsis

Has global liberalism made the nation-state obsolete? Or, on the contrary, are primordial nationalist hatreds overwhelming cosmopolitanism? To assert either theme without serious qualification, according to Ernst B. Haas, is historically simplistic and morally misleading. Haas describes nationalism as a key component of modernity and a crucial instrument for making sense of impersonal, rapidly changing, and heterogeneous societies. He characterizes nationalism as a feeling of collective identity, a mutual understanding experienced among people who may never meet but who are persuaded that they belong to a community of kindred spirits. Without nationalism, there could be no large integrated state. Nationalism comes in many varieties, some revolutionary in rejecting the past and some syncretist in seeking to retain religious traditions. Haas asks whether liberal nationalism is particularly successful as a rationalizing agent, noting that liberalism is usually associated with collective learning and that liberal-secular nationalism delivers substantial material benefits to mass populations. He also asks whether liberal nationalism can lead to its own transcendence. He explores nationalism in five societies that had achieved the status of nation-states by about 1880: the United States, Britain, France, Germany, and Japan. Several of these nation-states became exemplars for later nationalists. A second, forthcoming volume will consider ten societies that modernized more recently, many of them aroused to nationalism by the imperialism of these "old" nation-states.

Excerpt

The 1960s were dominated by notions about the cold war. During the 1970s the world was preoccupied with oil shocks and inflation. In the 1980s we welcomed the end of the cold war and the flowering of global free marketeering. But the 1990s are the decade of nationalism.

The media tell us that nationalism is evil. Nationalism implies aggression, the ethnocentrism of extreme self-assertion, ethnic cleansing, and even genocide. We wonder why the brave new world order of the late 1980s has been sullied by this throwback to earlier history. This book is dedicated to the demonstration that the dark view of nationalism is historically simplistic and morally misleading.

Nationalism can have all the negative attributes mentioned, but it need not, and it has not always displayed them. Nationalism is one of the core organizing principles and key experiences of modern human life. It is a feeling of collective identity that is experienced as mutual understanding among people who will never meet but who are sure that they belong to a community of others just like them, and different from "outsiders." "Insiders" possessed of this feeling wish to have their own state.

The sentiment of collective identity is associated exclusively with modernity, with life involving exposure to mass media and relatively easy communication, with the hope for increasingly better living standards that are achievable through human effort alone, owing little to faith or supernatural forces. Nationalism is the defining collective identity of modernizing humankind living in separate states. Whether it will always remain that is one of the key issues explored in this book.

Nationalism comes in many varieties: liberal, totalitarian, and religious. Religious nationalists seek to come to terms with secular modern-

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