Examining the New Faces of Nationalism

“Nationalism … drove some of the greatest crimes in history, and so the concept became taboo in polite society, in hopes that it might become taboo in practice, as well,” writes Foreign Affairs Editor Gideon Rose in his introduction to the March/April lead package. “Yet now it has come back with a vengeance. Nationalism’s largely unpredicted resurgence is sobering. But these essays left me hopeful, because they show a way out.”

Article links bypass the paywall on ForeignAffairs.com for one month following the release date. We encourage media to share with their audiences.

A New Americanism”

Jill Lepore

“When historians abandon the study of the nation, when scholars stop trying to write a common history for a people, nationalism doesn’t die. Instead, it eats liberalism. . . . Maybe it’s too late to restore a common history, too late for historians to make a difference. But is there any option other than to try to craft a new American history—one that could foster a new Americanism?”

“Why Nationalism Works”

Andreas Wimmer

“Nationalism is not an irrational sentiment that can be banished from contemporary politics through enlightening education; it is one of the modern world’s foundational principles and is more widely accepted than its critics acknowledge. Who in the United States would agree to be ruled by French noblemen? Who in Nigeria would publicly call for the British to come back? With few exceptions, we are all nationalists today.”

“False Flags”

Jan-Werner Müller

“The leaders described as ‘nationalists’ are better understood as populist poseurs who have won support by drawing on the rhetoric and imagery of nationalism. Unfortunately, they have managed to convince not only their supporters but also their opponents that they are responding to deep nationalist yearnings among ordinary people. The more that defenders of liberalism and the liberal order buy the stories these leaders (and associated movements) are selling, the more ... parties and institutions of the center-left and the center-right are helping bring about the very thing they hope to avoid: more closed societies and less global cooperation to address common problems.”

“This Is Your Brain on Nationalism”

Robert Sapolsky

“Modern society may well be stuck with nationalism and many other varieties of human divisiveness, and it would perhaps be more productive to harness these dynamics rather than fight or condemn them. Instead of promoting jingoism and xenophobia, leaders should appeal to people’s innate in-group tendencies in ways that incentivize cooperation, accountability, and care for one’s fellow humans. Imagine a nationalist pride rooted not in a country’s military power or ethnic homogeneity but in the ability to take care of its elderly, raise children who score high on tests of empathy, or ensure a high degree of social mobility.”

“Building a Better Nationalism”

Yael Tamir

“One need not embrace Trump’s crude, zero-sum worldview to believe that the wealth of nations should be produced and distributed as part of a relatively narrow social contract among particular individuals. Liberals should not promote national egoism but support policies that will help make their fellow citizens feel connected and committed to a worthy and meaningful community. Liberalism and nationalism are not mutually exclusive; they can and should go hand in hand.”

“The Broken Bargain”

Jack Snyder

“Even today, nation-states remain the most reliable political form for achieving and sustaining democracy. It is likely impossible to remake them in order to better conform to the needs of global markets and transnational institutions, and even if it were possible, it would be a bad idea. Instead, defenders of the liberal project must begin adapting institutions to once again fit the shape of democratic nation-states. This was the original dream of the embedded liberal order; now is the time to revive it.”

“Blood for Soil”

Lars-Erik Cederman

“The scariest thing about today’s ethnic nationalism is that it could bring a return to the ills that accompanied its past ascendance: major violent upheavals both within and among countries. Should ethnic nationalism continue its march, it risks fueling destabilizing civil unrest in multiethnic states around the world—and even violent border disputes that could reverse the long decline of interstate war. Politicians need to resist the electoral temptations of exclusionary politics at home and reconfirm their commitment to the norms and institutions of cooperation abroad. Those who toy with ethnic nationalism are playing with fire.”

“The Importance of Elsewhere”

Kwame Anthony Appiah

“It is a distinct feature of human psychology that we are capable of intense feelings around identities that are shared with millions or billions of strangers. Indeed, this characteristic is evident in the forms of nationalism that do not give rise to respect for other nations—but explode instead in hostility and xenophobia. That side of nationalism needs taming, and cosmopolitanism is one means of mastering it.”

Additional highlights from the issue:

“The Future of the Liberal Order Is Conservative”

Jennifer Lind and William C. Wohlforth

“For the past 25 years, the international order crafted by and for liberal states has … been profoundly revisionist, aggressively exporting democracy and expanding in both depth and breadth. The scale of the current problems means that more of the same is not viable; the best response is to make the liberal order more conservative. Instead of expanding it to new places and new domains, the United States and its partners should consolidate the gains the order has reaped.”

“Who’s Afraid of Budget Deficits?”

Jason Furman and Lawrence H. Summers

“Policymakers will always know when the market is worried about the deficit. But no alarm bells ring when the government fails to rebuild decaying infrastructure, properly fund preschools, or provide access to health care. The results of that kind of neglect show up only later—but the human cost is often far larger. It’s time for Washington to put away its debt obsession and focus on bigger things.”

“No Country for Strongmen”

Ruchir Sharma

India’s two main political parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress Party, “offer two starkly divergent political visions: the former aspiring to build one India, the latter celebrating the reality of many Indias. But even if voters buck the historical trend and return Modi to the prime minister’s office this spring, he will likely be left with a reduced majority. The BJP’s vision will remain aspirational, as India’s complex ecosystem of identities will continue to act as a powerful break on a descent into outright ethnonationalism. At a time when democracy is said to be in retreat around the world, it is still thriving in India.”

“The Kurdish Awakening”

Henri J. Barkey

“Having stumbled into the Middle East’s perpetual Kurdish conundrum, the United States is finding it hard to extricate itself. Washington will have to employ all its persuasive powers to ensure that the Kurds are not crushed by Ankara, Damascus, and other regional powers. . . . Whatever happens in the near future, however, there can be no going back to the status quo. . . . Despite frequent setbacks, continued repression, and over a century without a homeland, the Kurds are finally emerging as a unified people.”

“The New Containment”

Michael Mandelbaum

“This new world requires a new American foreign policy. Fortunately, the country’s own not-so-distant past can offer guidance. During the Cold War, the United States chose to contain the Soviet Union, successfully deterring its military aggression and limiting its political influence for decades. The United States should apply containment once again, now to Russia, China, and Iran.”

“Educate to Liberate”

Carla Norrlof

“The best way to counter the populist trend is to address the underlying problem head-on, by fostering more liberal attitudes. There is a lot of evidence that the best way to promote liberal values is by giving more people more education. In every place where populism is surging, the main determinant of whether someone holds liberal values is his or her level of education. Higher education emphasizes equality, tolerance, and critical thinking; those without access to it are far more likely to oppose liberal values and practices.”

“Less Than Zero”

Fred Krupp, Nathaniel Keohane, and Eric Pooley

“It is not too late to solve the global climate crisis. A decade of extraordinary innovation has made the greening of the global economy not only feasible but also likely. . . . An entirely new arsenal is emerging in the fight against climate change: negative emission technologies, or NETs. NETs are different from conventional approaches to climate mitigation in that they seek not to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere but to remove carbon dioxide that’s already there.”

“E Pluribus Unum?”

Stacey Y. Abrams, John Sides, Michael Tesler, and Lynn Vavreck; Jennifer A. Richeson, Francis Fukuyama

“Americans must thoughtfully pursue an expanded, identity-conscious politics. New, vibrant, noisy voices represent the strongest tool to manage the growing pains of multicultural coexistence. By embracing identity and its prickly, uncomfortable contours, Americans will become more likely to grow as one,” writes Abrams.

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.

Continue