‘The Virtue of Nationalism’ by Yoram Hazony

The weakest part of the book is its lack of awareness of group differences. The countries created by Anglo-Saxons, for example, could not have been created by other peoples and cannot be sustained by radically different peoples. The kind of political and economic arrangements that suit the Anglo-Saxon will not suit the German and the Asian and the African. Laws for the Chinese will not fit comfortably for the Somali or the Anglo or the Jew.

Here are some excerpts:

* Thus while all nations use the metaphor of brotherhood to invoke a family-like relationship of mutual loyalty among their members, actual biological kinship is never more than a raw material upon which a nation is built, if it is even that.14 In the end, the decisive factor is the ties of mutual loyalty that have been established among members of a nation in the face of long years of joint hardship and success.

* To be sure, this fierce concern for the material prosperity, internal integrity, and cultural inheritance of the collective makes every family, clan, tribe, and nation into a kind of fortress surrounded by high, invisible walls. But these walls are a necessary condition for all human diversity, innovation, and advancement, enabling each of these little fortresses to shelter its own special inheritance, its own treasured culture, in a garden in which it can flourish unmolested. Inside, what is original and different is given a space of its own where it can be tried and tested over the course of generations. Inside, the things that are said and done only in this family, clan, or tribe, and nowhere else, are given time to grow and mature, becoming solid and strong as they strike roots in the character of the collective’s various members—until they are ready to make their way outward from the family to the clan, from the clan to the tribe and the nation, and thence to all the families of the earth.

* …the regime of peace and prosperity imposed by the empire has a very particular quality to it. The empire, which claims to give law to all mankind, necessarily concerns itself with abstract categories of human need and obligation, categories that are, in its eyes, “universal.” But these categories are always detached from the circumstances and interests, traditions and aspirations of the particular clan or tribe to which they are now to be applied. This means that from the perspective of the particular clan or tribe, imperial law will often appear to be ill-conceived, unjust, and perverse. Yet the very premise of the empire, which is its concern for the needs of humanity, leaves the unique clan or tribe with no standing to protest, for its assertion of its own interests and aspirations must inevitably strike the imperial order as narrow-minded and contrary to the evident good of mankind as a whole. Thus the principle of the unity of humanity, so noble in theory, rapidly divides mankind into two camps: those who are regarded as favoring the good of mankind, in that they adopt the empire’s categories for determining what is beneficial and right; and those who are regarded as opposing the good of mankind, in that they insist on thinking in terms of the customary categories of the tribe, which the empire invariably condemns as primitive and barbaric.

* Is it really possible to speak of the freedom of a nation? To be sure, Israel is said to have rejoiced in its escape from the bondage of Egypt at the Red Sea, and it is this kind of freedom of the nation from empire that is celebrated every year on independence days in Czechia, Greece, India, Ireland, Israel, Poland, Serbia, South Korea, Switzerland, the United States, and many other countries.44 Today, however, because nearly all political thought focuses on the freedom of the individual, the very idea of national freedom has come to seem doubtful.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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