1/07/2020

Liberalism Needs the Nation

"The spectre of postliberal nationalism is nonetheless haunting American politics, particularly since the much-discussed 2019 summer conference on National Conservativism. But this is due more to a general misunderstanding by both its proponents and their critics concerning the relationship between nationalism and liberalism than to any necessary tension between the two concepts. In fact, would-be nationalists are rather more liberal than they let on; meanwhile, the soi-disant defenders of liberalism are themselves unable to articulate a coherent position that does not rely upon some implicit nationalist commitment.

Yoram Hazony, the doyen of the new nationalism, positions his argument for nationalism in opposition to Enlightenment liberalism, which emphasizes the individual over the community. This is true in a sense, but it elides the fact that pre-Enlightenment forms of community did not issue in anything like nationalism. Indeed, as Alasdair Macintyre has pointed out, nationalism, with its centralizing and homogenizing pressures, tends to erode those organic, localized forms of community.

To put it more emphatically: nationalism, though indeed collective, is but one expression of collective identity and ought not be equated with collective identity tout court. It is particularistic but only one way of being particularistic."