Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Philosophy and the Rise of Ultra-Nationalism in Contemporary Euro-American Politics

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Philosophy and the Rise of Ultra-Nationalism in Contemporary Euro-American Politics

Article excerpt

Introduction

Europe and North America are currently living the politics of fear, hate and mutual recrimination. Division along class, creed, race, nationality and ethnicity has never been more pronounced, (1) as right wing demagogues stretch their grip on politics in the Northern Hemisphere. (2) In 2016, right wing populists seeking to end United Kingdom's more than four decade linkage with the European Union (EU) emerged successful in a referendum held in June, simultaneously ousting the incumbent Prime Minister, David Cameron who had stood against the Brexit campaign. As if in a sequence, against all odds and almost universal expectation, Donald J. Trump, the Republican candidate in the November 8, 2016 presidential election in the United States of America, emerged winner after running a highly divisive campaign, and advocating policies that have since forced not a few observers to wonder if we now have an American Hitler. (3) This is by no means a wild insight. As John McNeill pointed out shortly before the 2016 Presidential election, like Mussolini and Hitler, Trump scores very high in the main traits of fascism--both as a political ideology and a political movement. Such fascist traits displayed by Trump include fetishization of masculinity, leader cult, lost-golden-age syndrome, self-definition by opposition, theatricality, militarism and hyper-nationalism. (4) On the other hand, Europe and North America share a historico-political legacy, while pre-Hitler Germany and (pre-Trump) United States in particular, share what the Canadian-American (objectivist) philosopher, Leonard Peikoff in a famous book, calls 'ominous parallels'. (5) Among other parallels, Peikoff identifies 'the rise of defiant old-world racial hatreds disguised as "ethnic-identity" movements and "affirmative action"' as one of the definitive features of pre-Hitler Germany and pre-Trump America. (6)

In a similar vein, Hitler, Trump and the Brexiters, have in common, inter alia, the mimetic desire to make their countries 'great again'. How are we to understand this conjuncture? One possible explanation--an explanation that has its merits--would be to blame the rise of global terror and the refugee crisis currently plaguing some countries in the Northern Hemisphere. But Britain and the USA are not the only countries in the North that have been hit by both problems; the latter by a much lesser degree in recent times. (7) Several others (in the social sciences) have pointed the finger at the financialised crisis of capitalism beginning in 2007/2008 and the weaknesses of the Conservative Party (under Cameron) in the UK and the Democratic Party (under Obama) in the case of the United States. The foregoing possible explanations may retain some merits, but require more work to ascertain their explanatory significance. However, at the outset, such explanations appear too much like the view that the Germans took recourse to Nazism because they lost World War I; or the standpoint that Nazism was caused by the Great Depression; or the weakness of non-totalitarian parties in Weimar Republic. As Peikoff again points out, 'Austria lost that war also, but this did not cause it to turn Nazi... All the industrial nations suffered the ravages of the Depression. Few turned to Nazism.' (8)

This work pays attention to the argument that the rise of ultra-nationalism in the Northern Hemisphere as exemplified by Brexit nationalism and Trumpism, are rooted in prejudices embedded in the cultural unconscious of Europe and North America. In other words, this piece argues that Brexit and Trump represent a cultural backlash, owing greater debt (than have been acknowledged by mainstream literature and reportage) to embedded prejudices with deep roots in centuries-old Euro-American philosophical and political writings produced from within the mainstream academia. In important ways, Brexit and Trump are probably, the conjunctural afterlives of the Third Reich's volk nationalism. …

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