Yoram Hazony has written an excellent and important book entitled “The Virtue of Nationalism.” He is an Israeli who is appropriately President of the Herzl Institute in Jerusalem.
In this book he considers the transitions of political organizations from family-clan-tribe-nation-empire and concludes that “the best form of political order is an order of independent national states” (p. 51). In particular he excoriates all those who adhere to a universalist doctrine, be it Christianity, Islam, Nazism or Communism, that seeks to impose on the world a single belief system, that then allows such believers in ultimate truth to persecute and destroy those who are particularist and refuse to submit to their credo.
After WWII it was concluded that the nationalism of the German Nazis was the source of all evil and so the nations of Europe and the world opted for a universalist anti-nationalist vision of peace and prosperity. But, as Hazony points out, Nazism and Communism were not nationalist, they were imperialist, openly declaring their intention of taking over the world in the name of their ideology, and then set about doing so. It was the toll of this imperialism that the nations of the world united against, not the nationalism of ordinary Germans or Russians.
The revulsion against war blamed nationalism and the competition among nation states for the suffering and destruction and this led to an increase in the liberal belief that universalist organizations, such as the UN and the EU, that are supra-national or imperial, could keep the peace. In fact, as we have seen they are not able to do so, unless they take more and more power to themselves. This tendency has been increased as the Security Council and the EU bureaucracy (without an actual Emperor) take decisions that are against the interests of single states (whether they be morally justified or not). Thus, the UN might decide to criticize Israel for an action that other states such as Iran, China, Syria or so on might also carry out, but are not criticized for it. And the EU might decide that Hungary should receive a certain number of Muslim immigrants that its government and people do not want to accept. The UK’s decision of Brexit to leave the EU is clearly opposing that tendency.
In general, I agree with Hazony’s analysis and strongly support the views he expounds in his book. But, I find myself disagreeing with the clear-cut and rational analysis he bases some of his conclusions upon. For example:
- The Family: Hazony bases his analysis of the family on the traditional nuclear family, but in fact that family is much less common than it used to be; in the US it is estimated that only two thirds (66%) of all family units in the US are of this type, with many single parent and homosexual units as families.
- The Tribe: In an era of Nationalism, the tribe was looked down upon as primitive, as if it only existed in Africa. But in fact all nation states are based on the tribe, and certainly Europe is a patch-work of nations based on tribes, German, Slavic, Hungarian, French, Spanish, and so on.
- The Imperial State: In many cases Hazony refers to the ‘imperial state,’ but in a sense that contradicts his clear distinction between state and empire. For example, he states “imperialism and nationalism represent irreconcilable positions in political thought” (p. 24). In my opinion most nation states in their messy history are in fact imperial states. For example he says that the English “adopted” the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish (p. 128), whereas in fact England conquered these three Celtic nations, for example the Highland clearances in Scotland and the Irish troubles, and forced them to become part of its United Kingdom. The United States is an imperial state from its beginnings. In the Civil War the Northern States fought to retain the Union and conquered the Southern secessionists. Also the US bought and annexed the Louisiana Purchase from France and Alaska from Russia, the natives of these areas had no say in the matter, and the USA conquered Hawaii and Puerto Rico. The same could be said of the forced unification of France, Spain, Germany and Italy. And Russia is a Federation of conquered areas.
- Hatred: It may be that one can rationally explain the distinction between German nationalism and Nazism, nevertheless these analyses somehow leave out the intense human hatred that could lead one tribe to murder so many innocent human beings of another tribe.
Overall, this is an excellent book that adds to our understanding of current political trends. It is topical and should be read by anyone who supports the Jewish State and also by anyone who is puzzled as to why Israel is held in such low esteem by the liberal universalists in Europe.