Nationalism and Liberty: The Swiss Example

Nationalism and Liberty: The Swiss Example

Nationalism and Liberty: The Swiss Example

Nationalism and Liberty: The Swiss Example

Excerpt

The present essay on the development and character of Switzerland as a nation is part of a larger study on The Age of Nationalism, on which I have been working for some time. This essay is published in the hope that it may help to illuminate the significant contribution which an understanding of Swiss nationalism can make to the solution of some of our most bewildering problems. For nationalism has been and continues to be the most potent force influencing the course of modern history. But nationalism is in its nature and in its implications very different in the various countries and at different times. It is an historical phenomenon and thus determined by the political ideas and the social structure of the lands where it takes root. Only a study of the historical growth of nationalism and a comparative analysis of its different forms can make us understand the promise and the peril which nationalism since the nineteenth century has carried and continues to carry for the liberty of man and the maintenance of peace.

In recent times the question, how far nationalism with its emphasis on collective power is compatible with the preservation and expansion of individual liberty and of civil society, has become of increasing urgency. Nationalism was in the eighteenth century in North-Western Europe and in North America a struggle for the assertion of individual rights against state absolutism. In the atmosphere of the Enlightenment, nationalism was a liberal and humanitarian movement in an ever-widening open society. With its spread outside of North-Western Europe, nationalism has tended to a growing degree to stress more and more the exclusiveness of ethnic or linguistic groups and to strengthen their combativeness. Already in the middle of the nineteenth century, in Central Europe German and Italian nationalists claimed that all German- or Italian- speaking people must form part of one German or Italian nation-state. Nationalist passions were aroused to 'redeem' populations not yet included in the nation-state in which their ethnic group or language . . .

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