Nationalism or Bust!

Nationalism or Bust!

The breadth of the three responses show that debates about the nature and destiny of nationalism are just beginning. This is good news.

Bill Voegeli extends several parts of the analysis and introduces some important new problems. In focusing at length on the internecine conflict over nationalism on the left, Voegeli draws out what I left implicit—namely the insincerity of any leftist embrace of nationalism, however understood, that amounts to (in Voegeli's words) “tactics and rhetoric” because the transnational left cannot succeed if it explicitly proclaims the illegitimacy of the nation-state and endorses its dissolution. This Machiavellian concern for public opinion, along with the left's commitment to an ever-expanding welfare state that increasingly appears to depend on a good deal of national identity, places them in a precarious long-term position. The left will not be able through persuasion to escape from the “doom loop of modern liberalism” (Derek Thompson's great phrase that I did not know) and the dead-end street they have created for themselves, so expect more resort to raw force, as the resistance to Brexit is demonstrating. The left can't suppress these questions forever.

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