Social democracy is bound to struggle in a world of nation-states

by Chris Bertram on May 26, 2021

One of the lessons of Branko Milanovic’s work on global inequality has been the realization that location, and perhaps more pertinently, nationality, is a more important explanation of how well and badly off people are than class is. Citizens of wealthy countries enjoy a “citizenship premium” over the inhabitants of poor ones that exists because they have access to labour markets and welfare systems that their fellow humans largely do not. Of course, there’s a sense in which this global difference also represents a class difference, with many of the workers simply located elsewhere while the residual “proletarians” of the wealthy world enjoy a contradictory class location (to repurpose a term from Erik Olin Wright). While it might be that world GDP would increase dramatically if barriers to movement were removed, as some economists have claimed, the relative position of the rich world poor depends upon those barriers being in place. Or to put it another way, free movement could make many poor people much better off and might not make the rich world poor any worse off in absolute terms, but it would erode their relative advantage. And people, however misguidedly care about their relative advantage.

What kind of politics would we expect to have in rich countries in a world like ours, if people were fully cognizant of this citizenship premium? I suspect the answer is that we would expect to see stronger nationalist movements seeking to preserve the advantage of members of the national collective over outsiders and correspondingly weaker parties based on class disadvantage within those countries. Which is, in fact, the tendency we do see in many European countries where traditional social democracy is struggling badly at the moment. In those same countries we might also expect to see some voters who are unthreatened by freer movement, or by the rise of new powers in the world, being more open to a more cosmopolitan politics and more preoccupied by other issues such as climate change and the environment. And this is, in fact, what we do see.

But the citizenship premium has existed for a long time, perhaps for most of the twentieth century, so why is it only now that class-based parties are struggling and that a new cleavage between cosmopolitan and national populism has emerged. There are, I think, a couple of reasons that are important. The first is, that people are not very well informed, focus on internal and national conditions and so misperceive class, the old division between workers and capitalists, as being more important than it is in explaining how well and badly off they are. This misperception — which is not entirely a misperception since locally at least the capitalists are still pursuing their advantage over their fellow-citizens who labour — continues to the present day. But in a world of globalized manufacturing and much freer trade, where rich country workers are feeling more anxious and insecure, the shift of jobs and factories to places where people are paid much less is eventually going to impinge on the consciousness of the locally poorer. And even if immigrants have little to no impact on rich country wages, perceived competition from those immigrants in labour markets may be seen as a threat by workers who see increased labour supply and who don’t hear or don’t understand or don’t believe the debunking arguments from economists.

The second reason is that, for a long time, populist nationalism was taboo and some limits on how human beings can be treated were widely accepted in official discourse, even if often breached in reality. The heaps of bodies at Auschwitz and Belsen and the idea, however problematic, that the Allied aim in the Second World War was to defeat the Nazis because of their racist character, made an overtly racist conception of nations harder to sustain that it had been in an earlier period (when countries like Canada and Australia imagined themselves as exclusively white). The international declarations of human rights issued after the war also drew strength and sustenance from Cold War competition: “we” were the respecters of human rights and “they” were anti-democratic tyrannies which recognized the dignity and equality of everyone. Of course this oversimplifies: to get to being a simulacrum of colour-blind, rights-respecting liberal democracies, the UK and France had to divest themselves of empire and the United States had to go through a battle for civil rights. But two or three decades after the war, not unassisted by dramatic rises in living standards, those countries could tell Rawlsian stories about themselves, and then, with communism vanquished in 1989, the end of history could be declared.

There’s something else too, which the proponents of national class politics as “normal” often choose to forget, namely that the division of the world into nation states makes the nation permanently available to people as a source of collective identification and entitlement, and one that too readily trumps class as a focus of solidarity in times of stress. The key moment after which this ought to have been clear to socialists was August 1914, and the global proliferation of the nation-state form has only made this pressure to a counter-class identification more intense since then. But too often the national forum in which class politics has played out has appeared to people as a kind of neutral and natural background to that contest rather than as something which always has the potential to sabotage class.

I have a memory, which I’ve been unable to verify, of someone telling me in about 1990 that Jean-Marie Le Pen, the notorious French far-right leader had declared that with the fall of the Berlin wall, “the Second World War is over”. What Le Pen meant was that in the new post-post-war era, a politics that had been toxic, a politics that prioritized nationalist grievance over human rights and equal concern, would become progressively detoxified. He wasn’t wrong about that. The nation is now back, and, with it, a predictable drive to define it in ways that make clear who, in the eyes of nationalists, is of it, and who is not. Just as Maurras distinguished between the “pays réel” and the “pays légal”, our contemporary nationalists, whether MAGA-fans or Likudniks or Brexiters with their concern for the “white working class” have reasonably clear if deniable conceptions of who doesn’t really belong among us. And if “human rights” are an obstacle to doing what needs to be done for the nation, then “human rights” will become a term of derision and abuse: after all, as Michel Foucault put it, “society must be defended” and against its internal enemies too.

It is clear now that social-democratic parties that put class at the centre of their appeal are going to struggle in nationally-bounded wealthy democracies in a world where nationality dominates class as a determinant of income. So what are such parties to do. Up to now they have largely soldiered on, with their activists pretending to themselves on the basis of a mixture of muscle memory and dogma that it is all “really” about class and that phenomena like racism are epiphenomena of class exploitation rather than also being central to ideas of national belonging. Lexit fans and the supporters of La France Insoumise are typical in this respect: with a proper national economic plan and a bit of 1970s revivalism it is all coming back. There’s a lot of this among Bernie Sanders fans and the Jacobin brigade for that matter (often cosplaying workerism from an Ivy League desk or a Washington think tank). Another option is “Blue Labour” or the full Danish, namely to follow their “traditional supporters” down the rabbit-hole of nationalism, clamping down on immigration and demonizing minorities for “failing to integrate”. According to this approach, the parties exist to represent people of a certain sort, those people are resentful that the jobs went and apt to blame the foreigners and the immigrants, so that’s where the party should be too. If you are professional politician, with an eye to the electoral short-term then this all makes a certain amount of sense: you need to defend you heartlands. But the kind of people who join and work for left-wing parties tend to be idealists with a strong sense of justice, committed to anti-racism, and internationalist in outlook. To the extent to which you try to beat the nationalists at their own game, your “left wing” party will atrophy from the inside.

It would be nice to finish a piece like this with “the answer”, but I can’t do that. What I can do is to suggest first, that climate change, anti-racism, feminism, defence of basic human rights, form the basis for an alternative coalition within wealthy countries, one that stresses global solidarity with workers everywhere rather than seeing the rest of the world as a threat. Second, although nationality dominates in-country class as a determinant of individual prosperity, there’s still quite a lot can be done locally in terms of class politics, given that within wealthy countries life can still be pretty miserable for those at the bottom, especially if we look not at globally-indexed income but at housing, health outcomes, job security and other capability measures. So an alternative to social democracy, such as various Green parties, can and should still make the case for local redistribution. But we need to be clear-eyed about the fact that a normality of class being the dominant axis of politics is not coming back because it never was normal in a world of national division. It merely appeared so because the disasters that nationalism had twice brought to the the wealthy world suppressed the natural expression of its extremism here. No longer.

Note: there’s much in this blog that I wouldn’t have written without having read Nandita Sharma’s magnificent Home Rule: National Sovereignty and the Separation of Natives and Migrants (Duke, 2020). There’s more about the citizenship premium in Branko Milanovic’s recent books Global Inequality and Capitalism, Alone (both Harvard, 206, 2019)

{ 64 comments }

1

nastywoman 05.26.21 at 11:00 am

or in other words:
some owners of some corporations of some countries made the HUUUGE mistake to outsource to such an extend – that the so called ‘working class’ lost so much of it’s purpose and pride – that a lot of ‘workers’ saw no reason anymore NOT to become nationalistic and racist a…holes –
again?

2

onastywoman 05.26.21 at 11:20 am

and about:
‘It merely appeared so because the disasters that nationalism had twice brought to the the wealthy world suppressed the natural expression of its extremism here. No longer’.

As Trump – just had brought ‘the disasters that nationalism had twice brought to the wealthy world in a new and very contemporary version and in ALL its extremism’ –
a lot of people of ALL classes – have learned that being a nationalistic and greedy a… hole –
is NOT –
the answer –
AND that fighting climate change, anti-racism – and help feminism, defence of basic human rights, form the basis for an alternative coalition within wealthy countries, one that stresses global solidarity with workers everywhere rather than seeing the rest of the world as a threat – has a pretty good chance –
NOW!
(especially after the pandemic)

3

Ebenezer Scrooge 05.26.21 at 11:47 am

Great post! Could I suggest that the decline of religion is another key? Nationalism feeds the sense of transcendence that religion no longer provides. Class struggle does not–nobody buys Marx as an eschatologist any more. This implies that the Green Party is the future on the left, since Gaia is still an object of transcendence for many. This is a common right-wing criticism of the left, but that doesn’t make it false.

4

Jake Gibson 05.26.21 at 1:03 pm

As an American who espoused the idea that the American “national character” is no “national character”, ethno-nationalism was an aberration.
I was sadly myopic. There were many more white nationalists in the US than I imagined and Trump gave them a voice and a path to power. And they have given the Republican Party a path to their goal of one party rule.

5

Max 05.26.21 at 1:03 pm

Very good essay! I like how you bring in the global inequality literature in this important debate.

I’d recommend you a look at the extensive empirical work of Tarik Abou-Chadi on electoral strategies of social democratic parties. The industrial working class of old is increasingly insignificant electorally in terms of raw numbers. The working class (industrial+secor) is increasingly multi-ethnic, so class politics does not need to be subordinate to national identity politics. The core electorate of center-left parties is well-educated public sector workers but they are in fact, and contra Piketty, strongly pro-redistribution (see Abou-Chadi & Hix 2021, British Journal of Sociology).

6

MisterMr 05.26.21 at 2:06 pm

My opinion: while I’m a fan of Milanovic and a follower of his blog, I think that international inequality is different from class inequality because it has different roots.

The root of class inequality is in the different social role of workers and capitalists.

The root of International inequality instead is in the fact that some countries industrialised first and specialised in high value products, other were relegated into low added value products.

In short we sell cars and buy bananas, and as long as other countries can’t produce cars it is a great trade.

But by now other countries learned to produce cars, which means that in time cars will not have a much higer value than bananas, and this will happen regardless of trade barriers.

I think this is a bigger issue than immigration for rich countries.

In addition, there is the problem that as trade becomes more global, countries become small and ineffective VS trade flows; this is less a problem for the USA and more for the EU. However from this point of view this explains both the nationalism in EU countries and the resilience of the EU itself.

7

Justin 05.26.21 at 4:12 pm

“ so why is it only now that class-based parties are struggling and that a new cleavage between cosmopolitan and national populism has emerged”

Is this not one story of the first decades of the 20th century and the failure of social democratic and communist parties to establish a pan-European push for leftist politics rather than (generally right wing) nationalist politics?

I always wonder how much this era is facing “new” issues rather than being a return to the pre-WWII/Cold War era, and related how much that era was the true aberration (which we foolishly assume as the baseline of normal politics and economics).

8

LFC 05.26.21 at 6:39 pm

I have read this post quickly, and it deserves a much more careful reading, so I apologize in advance for that. At some point I’ll come back and read it more slowly.

With that as preface, there are at least a couple of matters of phrasing here that rub me somewhat the wrong way.

1) “the idea, however problematic, that the Second World War was a battle against a racist tyranny…” (emphasis added)

Confining this comment for the moment to the European theater of WW2, there’s nothing “problematic” about the statement that WW2 was a battle against a racist tyranny, because the Nazi regime was a racist tyranny. This doesn’t mean the Allies had clean hands when it came to their own racism and (in some cases) imperialism — they didn’t — but that doesn’t justify the use of the phrase “however problematic.” (Btw I’ve read Mazower’s No Enchanted Palace and I know about Smuts’s role in drafting the preamble to the UN Charter etc. etc., and the point still stands.)

2) “two or three decades after the war…those countries could tell Rawlsian stories about themselves”

Not really, I think, not with any fidelity to Rawls, at any rate. (Anyone interested in my views on this point [which I’m fairly sure no one is] can look at my review of In the Shadow of Justice that appeared at the S-USIH blog a couple of months ago.

9

Chris Bertram 05.26.21 at 6:55 pm

@LFC thanks. Your point 1 is correct in exposing an unclarity in the piece as I originally posted it, and I have reworded as follows:

“The heaps of bodies at Auschwitz and Belsen and the idea, however problematic, that the Allied aim in the Second World War was to defeat the Nazis because of their racist character, made an overtly racist conception of nations harder to sustain that it had been in an earlier period (when countries like Canada and Australia imagined themselves as exclusively white). “

10

Hugo Evans 05.26.21 at 7:44 pm

Beautifully written, wonderful sentiments
No political economy, no class analysis.

11

Gorgonzola Petrovna 05.26.21 at 8:31 pm

Social democracy is having problems, obviously. The fall of the Berlin wall, globalization, weakening of the traditional propaganda model. The world has changed. Perhaps social democracy has simply run its course, and the powers that be will have to find some other way to maintain stability and protect themselves. Perhaps environmentalism, saving the Earth by orderly lowering the standard of living of the ‘golden billion’, the western population. Or perhaps something else. They’ll figure something out.

12

Peter Dorman 05.26.21 at 8:59 pm

This is a very nice post, but I’m troubled by the black box treatment of “the nation”. I get the impression that the nationality effect is defined in the OP the way neoclassical economists define it in international trade theory: the power to erect barriers to movement across borders — period. It’s as if someone randomly drew lines across an otherwise undifferentiated globe and imposed “welfare-reducing” restrictions to the movement of people and/or goods across them.

I prefer to think of nations as governance spaces. They didn’t have to develop this way, and there are exceptions to the rule, but for the most part that’s what they are. This means that the citizenship premium of an individual in country A depends not only on the governance arrangement in A but also in B, C, …. . Moreover, governances systems are not independent but have interwoven causation, historical and contemporary.

This is all rather abstract, but it points in a general way toward a politics that is substantially class-based and international, contesting the cross-border dimension of exploitation. I think that’s where alter-globalization was stumbling toward until it fell apart. Of course, one could say it fell apart because the headwinds of pure citizenship differentials were too strong, but I’m not convinced — I think it was a true political failure of analysis and strategy. (That’s a longer story.)

13

nastywoman 05.26.21 at 10:45 pm

and
okay –
I understand that…
perhaps?
there could be a more… serious? approach to the problem –
in order that my comments gets posted –
BUT
if
Branko Milanovic writes:
‘Suppose that Sweden and the US have the same mean income. If I expect to end up in the bottom part of a recipient country’s distribution, then I should migrate to Sweden. The poor people in Sweden are better off compared to the mean, and the citizenship premium, evaluated at lower parts of distribution, is greater. The opposite conclusion follows if I expect to end up in the upper part of the recipient country’s distribution – I should migrate to the US’.
the idea of his “citizenship premium” seems to be solely based on the distribution -(of money) and NOT on the true meaning of a ‘Social’ Democracy – which makes it much less stressful to live in Sweden than in the US –
(excluding the obvious problem that there are a lot of people who NEVER would move to Sweden BE-cause of ‘the weather’)

Which ultimately might say a lot more about the future of Social Democracy or my Green Party – than the obvious differences between rich and poor countries.

And is/was that ‘serious’ enough to get posted?

14

J-D 05.27.21 at 5:09 am

… In a prosperous country, above all in an imperialist country, left­wing politics are always partly humbug. There can be no real reconstruction that would not lead to at least a temporary drop in the English standard of life, which is another way of saying that the majority of left-wing politicians and publicists are people who earn their living by demanding something that they don’t genuinely want. … What we always forget is that the over­whelming bulk of the British proletariat does not live in Britain, but in Asia and Africa. … One gets some idea of the real relationship of England and India when one reflects that the per capita annual income in England is something over £80, and in India about £7. It is quite common for an Indian coolie’s leg to be thinner than the average Englishman’s arm. And there is nothing racial in this, for well-fed members of the same races are of normal physique; it is due to simple starvation. This is the system which we all live on and which we denounce when there seems to be no danger of its being altered. …

That was written before the Second World War:
https://www.orwell.ru/library/articles/niggers/english/e_ncn

15

Gorgonzola Petrovna 05.27.21 at 8:28 am

“If I expect to end up in the bottom part of a recipient country’s distribution, then I should migrate to Sweden.”

Following the nastywoman’s comment, yes, isn’t all this a just bit too – how do I put it? – market-libertarian? Analyzed in a libertarian framework. As if getting higher income is the main (if not the the only) human motivation.

Anecdotally, my Ethiopian colleague – yes, professional, working in Europe – tells me that she is constantly homesick, and will definitely retire back home. Because life is better there. People live close together, neighborly, take care of each other, etc. A species of horrible ‘nationalism’ too, I guess. You pity them, but maybe they pity you, like the pygmy man from an old movie.

16

Tim Worstall 05.27.21 at 9:14 am

“But the citizenship premium has existed for a long time, perhaps for most of the twentieth century, so why is it only now that class-based parties are struggling and that a new cleavage between cosmopolitan and national populism has emerged.”

One possible answer has to do with this:

“And even if immigrants have little to no impact on rich country wages, perceived competition from those immigrants in labour markets may be seen as a threat by workers who see increased labour supply and who don’t hear or don’t understand or don’t believe the debunking arguments from economists.”

Free- or freer – trade is a substitute, albeit imperfect, for free or freer migration. It’s an obvious fact that within country inequality, as normally measured, has increased in recent decades. Even as global inequality has fallen – from the work of Milanovic of course.

The citizenship premium, for the lower end of the rich world income distribution, has been falling relative to the high end of the rich world and to that of most of the non-rich world.

That Elephant chart for example, again from Milanovic. That 80 to 90% of the global income distribution that haven’t done well – not regressed in real terms, but have in relative – out of globalisation is, around and about, those on less than median incomes in the rich countries. The great gains have gone to the 1 and 2%, but also to the 10 to 70%.

Trade and migration are substitutes. Not perfect ones by any means, but an import into a rich country is indeed, in some manner, the import of low wage labour. Leading to the same grumpiness in those not gaining from the arrangement.

An implication is that the free movement of the products of labour should, over time, have about the same effect as the free movement of labour. As many of the models used to predict the future – say the economic models underlying climate change used by the IPCC – do assume, convergence in living standards over this coming century.

17

Russell Arben Fox 05.27.21 at 1:26 pm

Superb post, Chris; thanks for sharing these ideas. I think I am somewhat sympathetic to the comments/criticisms of Ebenezer Scrooge and Peter Dorman above, in the implications of your construction of “nationality” are overwhelming economic, with “populist nationalism” being a terrible misapprehension on the part of citizens who are merely enjoying a “premium,” nothing more and nothing less. You have to acknowledge that, for different reasons, national spaces are appreciated and identified with for non-economic reasons, whether because of the citizenship-empowerment that governance-for-the-people-who-live-here, or because of an alignment with (or a replacement for) religion, or some combination thereof. That doesn’t take away from your basic analysis, I think–that the masses of people, for historical reasons, were moved away from nationalist appreciation, opening up a space for the broad acceptance of social democracy, for some decades, but that such a space has now closed strikes me as intuitively correct. (Great anecdote about Le Pen, by the way–I hope it’s true!) I also think the “answer,” such as it is, that you come to in the end–that is, trying to find some way to enable broader left-wing support for Green/localist redistribution-type responses within a world of nation-states–is like correct as well.

18

nastywoman 05.27.21 at 2:28 pm

@15
just as a reminder –
being ‘homesick’ is NOT ‘-
‘A species of horrible ‘nationalism’ too –

19

Phil 05.27.21 at 2:31 pm

If I was marking this post as an essay I’d say it needed another draft or two. The mechanism whereby the end of Communism leads to Western democracies no longer barring the door to the Right needs spelling out, for one thing – logically you’d expect collaboration with the Right to have flourished during the Cold War, and for the “end of history” to make the Left‘s ideas newly available.

As for the claim that

it is all “really” about class and that phenomena like racism are epiphenomena of class exploitation rather than also being central to ideas of national belonging

that’s a curiously unbalanced opposition. I suspect most people who have campaigned against neo-fascists waving the national flag are well aware that racism can be “central to ideas of national belonging”; that doesn’t make it any less pressing to counter it with something better (e.g. class).

It also depends (as Bill Clinton never said) on what the meaning of “it” is. You aren’t claiming that nativism has any explanatory power in answering questions like “why can’t I get a doctor’s appointment?” or “where have all the jobs gone?” – a class-based framework seems much more suited to that job. (Come to that, you don’t even claim that racism isn’t epiphenomenal of class exploitation.)

At the end of the day, class consciousness – based on “global solidarity with workers everywhere”, as you put it – is just more useful to working people, as well as being more at home on the Left, than any form of nationalism. Even the campaign that notoriously called for “British jobs for British workers” turned out to be objecting primarily to British employers removing jobs from their existing workforce – and ended up demanding union rights for all their fellow workers, posted or otherwise.

Also, talking about people who stick to their previous principles not only as intellectually rigid (“dogma”) but also as operating on instinct (“muscle memory”) and on self-deception (“pretending to themselves”) is over-egging the pudding rather, even if your only purpose with regard to those people is to point and mock. (Presumably you weren’t entertaining any ideas about persuading or communicating – which is odd, considering how much you seem to agree with them.)

20

Aardvark Cheeselog 05.27.21 at 3:51 pm

Justin @7:

I always wonder how much this era is facing “new” issues rather than being a return to the pre-WWII/Cold War era, and related how much that era was the true aberration (which we foolishly assume as the baseline of normal politics and economics).

If there were an upvote button I would have clicked it. Though OP’s observation about how Nazism’s dénouement contributed to giving populist nationalism a bad rep in developed nations shouldn’t be ignored.

21

Charlie W 05.27.21 at 4:37 pm

This is a compelling essay.

I do wonder about this:

… even if immigrants have little to no impact on rich country wages, perceived competition from those immigrants in labour markets may be seen as a threat by workers who see increased labour supply and who don’t hear or don’t understand or don’t believe the debunking arguments from economists …

In the UK case, support for Labour is fairly consistent across all income deciles; it’s strongest with the lowest decile, is then level, and dips with the highest income decile. Hence explanations for Labour losing tend to revolve around age effects and the emergence of a rentier class of retirees. Am not sure how to square this with the above. Possibly there are working-age voters at the margin who will be peeled away by nationalism, and this is enough to make the difference.

22

PatinIowa 05.27.21 at 4:43 pm

To J-D at 14: I was racking my brain for where I had heard this before. Thanks for the “Duh, it was Orwell,” moment.

Add to this: “What I can do is to suggest first, that climate change, anti-racism, feminism, defence of basic human rights, form the basis for an alternative coalition within wealthy countries, one that stresses global solidarity with workers everywhere rather than seeing the rest of the world as a threat.”

I don’t know if others find non-violence, and pretty radical non-violence at that, implicit in this. I don’t. I think it should be explicit. Otherwise, a great start.

23

Chetan Murthy 05.27.21 at 11:11 pm

Chris, a lovely post, which I must re-read to understand better. But I’ll just note that at least one thing is left out: the existence of long-standing racial minorities in some Western countries that nevertheless get massive scapegoating from the majority racial group. Specifically, in the US (and perhaps other settler countries similar things happen) Native and Black Americans. Esp the latter. I mean, most Black Americans have ancestors who were here for the Revolutionary War. In no sense are they immigrants, and yet ….. And th story of Native Americans is, if anything, even worse.

Sure, anti-immigrant sentiment is more general than that. But the same people who demonize immigrants also demonize these racial minorities who have “been here” longer than any of these settlers.

A similar story could probably be told about Jewish people in Europe: they’ve been there since forever, and so in no sense can be viewed as “foreign”, and yet …..

I guess what I’m saying is, it’s not sufficiently explanatory (ISTM) to invoke some sort of “citizenship premium”: millions of Jews (supposedly) had that in Germany; millions of Black Americans have it in a way that wildly dominates the citizenship of many, many millions of European-descended Americans. And yet those groups are targeted for othering anyway.

24

Chetan Murthy 05.28.21 at 12:50 am

I should have added: by “othering” I mean being demonized as outsiders and foreigners. E.g. “go back to Africa” to people whose ancestors were here long before the people uttering the slur.

25

nastywoman 05.28.21 at 6:22 am

which made me think –
if so many voters have changed from ‘Social Democrats’ to ‘Greens’ perhaps the ‘Greens’ will just be like the old Social Democrats – but with a lot more ‘Green’ and and having an even GREATER future as just:

THE GREENS?

26

Chris Bertram 05.28.21 at 6:41 am

@Chetan, thanks, that’s absolutely correct. I meant to indicate in the para beginning “I have a memory …” that once nationalism is (once again) unbound, it possesses an internal drive to define who is and is not “of” the nation. Groups who have indeed been somewhere since forever are easily and often explicitly or implicitly categorized as not being authentically of it. That’s one of the major theme’s of Sharma’s book that I reference in the note.

27

Gorgonzola Petrovna 05.28.21 at 7:44 am

@18 “being ‘homesick’ is NOT ‘-
‘A species of horrible ‘nationalism’ too –”

How so, nastywoman? I see a clear dichotomy postulated in the post: cosmopolitan vs nationalist. ‘Cosmopolitan’ is defined by dictionary.com as “free from local, provincial, or national ideas, prejudices, or attachments; at home all over the world“. As a direct negation of ‘cosmopolitan’, what is ‘being homesick’ if not a manifestation of ‘nationalism’?

Or, are you saying that ‘nationalism’ is not always horrible? But it seems that in this worldview the ‘cosmopolitan vs nationalist’ dichotomy is not a dialectical ‘the unity and struggle of the opposites’ kind, but a straightforward monistic kind, good vs evil.

28

Peter T 05.28.21 at 9:38 am

Some thoughts on the history of this, which perhaps point in a different direction.

Historically, nationalism, wider political participation and the social part of social democracy go together – albeit unevenly. The nationalist project – to make the (imagined ) nation the primary identity – goes back to the C18, in the wake of the collapse of religious unity and the decline of dynastic allegiance (see, eg Linda Colley’s Forging the Nation for the British experience). This necessarily involves defining the nation, usually in terms of some archetype (Jefferson’s independent farmers – white of course, the British yeoman etc), and then re-educating linguistic and cultural minorities into conformity. But this gives all of the nation a claim on participation and social welfare. The military mass mobilisations of the late 18th through mid-20th centuries made the connection tighter – often quite explicitly. Bismarck, but also Haldane, Lloyd George and the Third Republic. The post-war years were the culmination of this.

So nationalism does not necessarily belong to the right. It has several facets: struggles over what defines the nation go along with struggles over what social and political rights go with inclusion. It’s also important that the nation is never the sole identity, but co-exists with others.

29

John Quiggin 05.28.21 at 10:19 am

Great post, Chris! One thing I’m trying to work through is the extent to which politics has been globalised, in the sense that politically active people are aligned for or against ethnonationalism as a general principle – Trumpists recognise Modi, Orban etc as allies and we recognise them as enemies. Contrasting with the idea that politics is essentially national.

30

notGoodenough 05.28.21 at 11:31 am

Gorgonzola Petrovna @ 27

I find this interesting – we seem to have come to different understandings of the OP.

My understanding (which may be wrong, of course) was that the OP was presenting a tension between:

cosmopolitan politics (in the sense of “the belief that all people are entitled to equal respect and consideration, no matter what their citizenship status or other affiliations happen to be”)

and

nationalism (in the sense of ”identification with one’s own nation and support for its interests, especially to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations.”)

and while these two views would seem to naturally be in conflict (I think it would currently be hard to reconcile the belief “everyone is entitled to equal consideration, regardless of citizenship status or other affiliations” with that of “my nation’s interests should be promoted even to the detriment of others”), these usages would not require nationalism to be the direct logical negation of the definition of “cosmopolitan” that you give.

Under this model, it would be perfectly possible for someone to be “homesick” (in the sense of “experiencing a longing for one’s nation during a period of absence from it”, which I believe is what you meant) without it necessarily being a manifestation of nationalism (as it would not necessarily require promoting national interests).

Of course, it is possible I have misunderstood Chris Bertram’s point – but I believe this is not an unreasonable interpretation of what he wrote.

31

J-D 05.28.21 at 12:46 pm

Under this model, it would be perfectly possible for someone to be “homesick” (in the sense of “experiencing a longing for one’s nation during a period of absence from it”, which I believe is what you meant) without it necessarily being a manifestation of nationalism (as it would not necessarily require promoting national interests).

Well, here we are again!

Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved. By ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.

https://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/nationalism/english/e_nat

32

J, not that one 05.28.21 at 1:51 pm

Good post. One question I have is whether we have an actually clear eyed view of what cosmopolitanism means. I worry that college educated professionals view globalization as a way of remaking the world in their image, as they (admittedly, we, since I include myself in the worry) perceive it. Subconsciously, maybe we view the process as everybody becoming educated and learning the ways of the upper middle class, in the way, traditionally, for example, physicians or poets did. Which is problematic in so many ways. For one thing, such professionals almost always feel better off with less social structure and political intervention than with more, which is not a mental habit easily made that of people with fewer resources, and not very compatible with social democracy.

Then there’s the problem that people are in fact acculturated within nations, pretty much exclusively (barring reclusive groups who don’t interact much if at all with outsiders). There will have to be some special arrangements made to adjust the ideal of cosmopolitanism with the reality of differences of opinion and approach, or the “citizenship premium” will just reappear under a different name. The left, when it acknowledges this as a possible consequence, reverts, I think, either to the virtues of perpetual struggle or to confidence that the “citizenship” in question will benefit a larger and fairer-minded group than at present, or possibly to the idea that the system works itself out regardless of whether individuals’ actions are just, but with little reason to think so that I can see.

33

Gorgonzola Petrovna 05.28.21 at 2:04 pm

@30,
I guess it all hangs on the definitions, then. “The belief that all people are entitled to equal respect and consideration, no matter what their citizenship status or other affiliations happen to be” sounds nowhere near ‘cosmopolitan’ to me, and so abstract as to be meaningless. ‘Cosmopolitan’, to me, means ‘not being attached to any particular place or culture’. I believe I am a cosmopolitan, in addition to (or despite?) all my negative traits you so astutely identified before. I’m not proud of it or ashamed of it, I just am. Well, for the most part.

For ‘nationalism’, “identification with one’s own nation and support for its interests” sounds right, but the second part, again, is so abstract as to cover pretty much anything, any kind of international competition or disagreement. Why does it have to be in the definition of ‘nationalism’? Here’s one example of nationalist rhetoric (or is it ‘cosmopolitan’?):
https://millercenter.org/the-presidency/presidential-speeches/july-4-1821-speech-us-house-representatives-foreign-policy

34

MisterMr 05.28.21 at 3:20 pm

“I always wonder how much this era is facing “new” issues rather than being a return to the pre-WWII/Cold War era, and related how much that era was the true aberration (which we foolishly assume as the baseline of normal politics and economics).” Justin @7

I also think that we are simply moving back to the old normal of pre WW2 (perhaps pre WW1) politics.
However there I see a difference:

In pre WW1 politics, nationalism was linked with imperialism and colonialism, that worked this way: the core country is industrialized, and wants to sell the output of its industrial products to the periphery, that is not industrialized so specializes in low tech exports (where the core country does not have an advantage). This means that in the core country average income increases more than it would just because of the technological advantage, because in addition to it core country also enjoys a quasi rent on its products (that it wouldn’t enjoy if it also had to produce the other low tech goods).
Core country also has an endemic problem of overproduction so that it tends to become an international creditor, and when periphery countries can’t pay core country goes in with the gunboats and generally tries to expand its area of influence by excluding other core countries from trade with its colonies/dependent periphery nations.

So there is a linkage between industrial overproduction -> imperialism -> nationalism.

After WW2 though capitalist countries learned the lesson of keynesianism and therefore became able to create internal demand and avoid a large share of the problems that overproduction/underconsumption create. This however meant that specifically the USA (the corest country) had to resort more and more to stimulating internal demands in various ways, which long term meant that the USA became a big importer, whereas various other countries (obviously China, but also the EU, Japan etc.) for various reasons ended up becoming net exporters (closer to the older model, but without the power projection old european imperial powers had).

So the kind of nationalism that exists today (keep them out or they’ll steal my job) is not the same of the old nationalism (we must rule the world because we are the better most civilised and most beautiful people and totally by chance we also want captive markets for our stuff).

There is also the question of how long will countries that are not the USA be able to go on without significantly stimulate internal consumption, as the bigger China becomes economically the least effective the “let’s just export everything” becomes.

35

nastywoman 05.28.21 at 3:45 pm

@18 “being ‘homesick’ is NOT ‘-
‘A species of horrible ‘nationalism’ too –”
@27
How so, nastywoman?
BE-
cause the definition of nationalism is:
‘Identification with one’s own nation and support for its interests, especially to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations’.

AND
the definition of ‘homesick’ is:
‘experiencing a longing for one’s home during a period of absence from it’.

and if –
somehow? –
you see ‘some clear dichotomy postulated in the post: cosmopolitan vs nationalist’.
you must have confused the word ‘cosmopolitan’ with the word ‘homesick’ –
which is hard to understand – as the word ‘homesick’ starts with an ‘h’ –
and the word ‘cosmopolitan’ with a ‘c’ – which points to fact – that those are completely different words?

36

nastywoman 05.28.21 at 4:11 pm

@34
‘So the kind of nationalism that exists today (keep them out or they’ll steal my job) is not the same of the old nationalism (we must rule the world because we are the better most civilised and most beautiful people and totally by chance we also want captive markets for our stuff)’

But why can’t we move away from this mainly market and economical orientated view of ‘nationalism’ – as spending a lot of time in Germany and Italy – where ‘Fascistic Nationalism’ – was kind of invented – makes you understand – that (narrow-minded) nationalistic feelings are exactly what the definition says:

‘Identification with one’s own nation’
(and one’s own race – and language and culture and Soccer Clubs and Competitors at the Eurovisions Contest)
And then:
‘support for its interests, especially to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations’.

As one of the major… am I allowed to say ‘perks’ of ‘nationalism’ is that you are allowed to hate every other ‘nation’ and ‘people’ and ‘races’ as much as y’all like!

37

notGoodenough 05.28.21 at 6:35 pm

Gorgonzola Petrovna @ 33

“I guess it all hangs on the definitions, then.”

Well, to an extent – a bit? I certainly would not propose the definitions I gave are absolute, per se – I merely gave them to offer context on how I understood the OP’s usage, and to make you aware that there are other understandings of how those terms might be used.

“The belief that all people are entitled to equal respect and consideration, no matter what their citizenship status or other affiliations happen to be” sounds nowhere near ‘cosmopolitan’ to me,”

My understanding is that “cosmopolitan” is not necessarily synonymous with “cosmopolitan politics” (the phrase CB used to first introduce the concept in the OP). I believe there is an important difference – similar to the way someone might be conservative (in the sense of being adverse to change) without being Conservative (in the sense of politically aligned with the UK’s Tory party).

I would suggest that, if you find it convenient, you may wish to read up on “cosmopolitan politics” within the fields of political theory and international relations? You will likely find a more nuanced discussion there than that obtained merely by reading dictionaries (and no doubt a far, far better discourse than my comments could provide).

But in case you don’t have the time for doing so, perhaps the use of Wikipedia’s entries on Cosmopolitan under the subsection “Internationalism” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmopolitan) might be a good starting point? Wikipedia is not, of course, the final word – and one has to be careful with checking sources, etc. – but it might help you find some useful references to support your pursuit of knowledge. Like many similar topics, it appears to be the source of discussion and debate, but there seems to be a bit more to it than only “not being attached to any particular place or culture”.

“and so abstract as to be meaningless.

Well, I generally find most short, one sentence definitions tend to not sufficiently cover topics as complex, nuanced, and debated as these sorts of socio-political ideas! I had hooped my offered definition was sufficient to convey a general meaning, but sadly it appears not.

“‘Cosmopolitan’, to me, means ‘not being attached to any particular place or culture’.”

I think your definition also raises many questions and is a bit abstract – though, to be fair, I think most definitions which are no more than a sentence or two probably would be! For example, let’s look at the definition you initially proposed to nastylady: “free from local, provincial, or national ideas, prejudices, or attachments; at home all over the world”. You seem to be contemplating only in the sense of “free from national attachments”, but the use of “or” implies alternatives (such as “free from national prejudices”). It also depends on what you mean by “attachments” – is someone from Scotland who is free from national prejudices, but still enjoys the sound of bagpipes, precluded from being cosmopolitan (regardless of any other considerations)? Someone who works in a particular country has an “attachment” (even if only a temporary financial one), so does anyone who has such a job disqualify themselves from being cosmopolitan in the sense you use it? And so on, and so forth. But let’s set all this aside for now – I merely wished to illustrate the point.

Instead, I think the far more important question (for the purposes of this thread) is surely: “was this the sense in which it was being used in the OP?” I hope you would agree with this, as that seems to be what you and I are discussing.

I think Chris Bertram’s use of “cosmopolitan politics” provides useful context here – my impression is that he is looking at the political dimension (and not, for example the emotional one).

“For ‘nationalism’, “identification with one’s own nation and support for its interests” sounds right, but the second part, again, is so abstract as to cover pretty much anything, any kind of international competition or disagreement. Why does it have to be in the definition of ‘nationalism’?”

Well, it doesn’t – definitions are descriptive, not prescriptive! And indeed, there are many varying definitions – I merely gave one that I found particularly relevant.

I think it is worth remembering, as J-D @ 31 rightly notes, there is a commonly accepted distinction between patriotism and nationalism. Indeed, surely when you used dictionary dot com you noticed the definition under (3) “excessive patriotism”? To me, the use of the qualifier “excessive” implies that up to a certain degree patriotism is not typically considered to cross the boundary to “nationalism”.

Of course, being political and ideological concepts, I believe things are actually a lot more complex and nuanced that my brief ramblings here could ever hope to cover. But hopefully I have provided a little more clarity – though as I am not an expert in the field, I doubt I have resolved matters entirely satisfactoraly (but, perhaps, sufficient unto the day, so to speak)

Concluding remark:

I don’t wish to derail this thread too much – I merely wished to suggest there may be alternative understandings of these concepts, and that these alternatives might not require someone who is “homesick” to be definitionally “nationalist”. Hopefully, even if I have acomplished nothing else and you are still baggled as to what these alternatives are, I have at least managed that?

I think your use of “cosmopolitan” and “nationalist” here is not fully aligned with the way Chris Bertram is using “cosmopolitan politics” and “nationalist politics”. However, as I would never wish to speak for our host, why not ask him? After all, Chris Bertram is someone with experience in Social and Political Philosophy far beyond that of my amateur ramblings – and so he is far better placed to discuss the topic further with you than I (particularly as we are discussing his usage!).

38

Gorgonzola Petrovna 05.28.21 at 8:05 pm

@35
Identification with one’s nation and longing for one’s nation (which was the context) is the same thing. “Support for its interests” trivially follows. Your last paragraph I can’t understand, sorry.

39

Joe Munson 05.28.21 at 10:29 pm

¨One of the lessons of Branko Milanovic’s work on global inequality has been the realization that location, and perhaps more pertinently, nationality, is a more important explanation of how well and badly off people are than class is¨

I mean it just seems a lesson you get by looking at economies for 5 seconds and then realize how limiting immigration restrictions are. Though its more pertinent because it indicates class so well on average.

40

nastywoman 05.29.21 at 5:01 am

@38
‘Your last paragraph I can’t understand, sorry’.

I know –
but you don’t have to be sorry about it –
as it actually was some kind of a joke – trying to make fun of our shared confusion –
which made me think about a solution for the problem you and Mr. Bertram describes.

We just substitute the word ‘cosmopolitan’ with the word ‘homesick’ and the words
‘social democracy’ with the words ‘green democracy’ and everybody might understand?

41

hjhj 05.29.21 at 5:46 am

“But the citizenship premium has existed for a long time, perhaps for most of the twentieth century, so why is it only now that class-based parties are struggling and that a new cleavage between cosmopolitan and national populism has emerged. ”

The economies of the advanced countries tanked in 2008 and never really recovered. Western elites fucked up the response.

42

Chetan Murthy 05.29.21 at 6:05 am

JQ@29: heh, your comment is interesting. There’s something very … “cosmopolitan” about modern-day “nationalism”, isn’t there? [in quotes b/c I’m half joking, but only half] That Orban, Modi, Putin, Trump, Le Pen, and a few others, all seem to be both in accord, and feeding off each other, tells us that modern-day “nationalism” isn’t in opposition to cosmopolitanism.
I’m reminded in a fuzzy-thinking way, of the description of modern fundamentalist religion as not being about going back to some previous time, but rather, as a very modern reaction to modernity itself.

OK, fuzzy thinking.

43

Gorgonzola Petrovna 05.29.21 at 6:31 am

@37,
The essence of Chris Bertram’s passionate advocacy is clear. I respect it. Most of us feel strongly about one cause or another. It’s the desire to underpin it with an uncompromising ideological basis that I’m not so sure about. There are good people who love their countries (cultures) and want them to prosper and have autonomy, and good people who ‘imagine there’s no countries’. They should be able to get along somehow. Especially since they have no control over these things, and no power over each other.

44

John Quiggin 05.29.21 at 6:31 am

Chetan @42 There has always been a cosmopolitan strain of nationalism which starts from the assumption that the people of the world are divided into nationalities, each of which deserves its own national territory over which it is democratically sovereign. It sounds good, if you wish away the problems that arise when people of different nationalities live in the same place. That problem was far less obvious in C19, when nationalists were opposed to multinational autocracies.

In the modern version of ethnonationalism, as Chris says in the OP, the problem is resolved by assuming there’s a “pays reel” who should rightly dominate everyone else.

45

John Quiggin 05.29.21 at 6:48 am

Running against the main argument of the OP is the fact that inequality between countries is decreasing at the same time as inequality within countries is rising. Poor people in US now worse off than upper deciles in India and China. Milanovic’s own work shows this though he still puts more stress on between-country inequality

https://blogs.worldbank.org/developmenttalk/distribution-income-amongst-world-s-citizens

A side point is that Gini coefficient, used in some of these studies, is a terrible measure, focusing on what happens around the middle of the distributions, not on the upper extreme, which is where the bad news is to be found.

46

nastywoman 05.29.21 at 7:23 am

@42
‘There’s something very … “cosmopolitan” about modern-day “nationalism”, isn’t there? [in quotes b/c I’m half joking, but only half] That Orban, Modi, Putin, Trump, Le Pen, and a few others, all seem to be both in accord, and feeding off each other, tells us that modern-day “nationalism” isn’t in opposition to cosmopolitanism.

Or it tells US that Right-Wing Racists are very much… confused –
As they are actually in total absolute opposition to ‘cosmopolitanism’ –
(or what they call ‘globalism’) – and that all these ‘rabid nationalists’ agree with each other about their opposition to ‘globalism’ just proves ‘trump’ –
(the worlds new word for: ‘Utmost Stupid’) – where an idiot like Trump screams:
‘AMERICA FIRST –
but thinks -(or doesn’t ‘think’?) – that he agrees with all these other rabid Right-Wingers who mumble:
But, but, but MY country!

And so –
while an average open-minded Human would conclude: That couldn’t work? –
If all these Crazy Nationalists meet – and yell at each-other:
BUT MY COUNTRY FIRST! –
It actually does – BE-cause contemporary Right-Wing Idiots are able to contradict themselves in the utmost Insane way – while at the same time insisting that
‘Belgium is a beautiful city’

https://youtu.be/BnzXMRkBjMY

47

Tim Worstall 05.29.21 at 7:23 am

“Poor people in US now worse off than upper deciles in India and China.”

Well, yes, although the observation is rather the other way around, isn’t it? Can’t remember the year – sometime in the 2005/13 sorta time – he notes that the average income of the bottom US decile (adjusted for living costs) is higher than the average of the top China and or India decile.

Which is evidence for his contention that place defines living standards more than class.

True, growth in China and India has now changed this but still, the observation is originally used to bolster his case about location.

48

MisterMr 05.29.21 at 8:13 am

@nastywoman 36

I really don’t understand what you mean.

49

notGoodenough 05.29.21 at 8:57 am

Gorgonzola Petrovna @ 43

I’m afraid it is my turn to be a bit confused. If I read your comment correctly, you seem to be implying that CB is setting up a conflict between “people who love their countries and want them to prosper” and “people who imagine no countries”? I think – and again, this is merely my interpretation – that this is not the case, and if I understand correctly the key point is the difference between nationalism and patriotism as discussed in the Orwell quote from J-D. In essence, if someone “loves their culture and wishes it to prosper”, that does not (I believe) represent a nationalist political sentiment (for the purposes of this thread). If someone “loves their culture and wishes it to prosper, and will advocate for actions that will lead to their nation prospering at the expense of those not of that nation”, then that crosses into nationalist politics. Based on previous posts here, I think that this is not an uncommonly noted distinction. In some ways, I see this as being a sort of national analogue to Nozick’s utility monster: in short, do you seek to maximise wellbeing globally, or do you seek to maximise wellbeing locally at the expense of others – these are not direct logical negations of each other, but they are in conflict. Regardless, thank you for the enjoyable conversation!

50

LFC 05.29.21 at 1:15 pm

Re “cosmopolitan nationalism”

Another expression of it, arguably, is the anticolonial nationalism of C20 — some of its proponents wanted not only to create new independent countries (out of colonies) but also to overhaul the whole intl pol/ec system that would shape, in significant part, the new states’ prospects. (See A. Getachew, Worldmaking after Empire.)

51

Gorgonzola Petrovna 05.29.21 at 4:12 pm

@49,
We both understand what this is about. The “at the expense of those not of that nation” clause is a rhetorical trick.

I said “…to prosper and have autonomy“. They want to have autonomy, to manage their affairs themselves. And that means: to exclude you and me, and everyone else not of that collective. And that’s the crux of it. Autonomy is one of the most basic desires. I don’t think it can be defeated by a slick argument, or even by force.

52

notGoodenough 05.29.21 at 8:24 pm

Gorgonzola Petrovna @ 51

“We both understand what this is about.”

Indeed, you proffered a definition of nationalist poltics you would use, I offered mine and noted that it is different. I explained why I would have a problem with nationalist politics under the definition I would use, but not necessarily with that under the definition you would use. This does indeed all seem very clear.

“The “at the expense of those not of that nation” clause is a rhetorical trick.”

No – it is one particular type of definition for nationalism. For example:

Merriam-Webster: loyalty and devotion to a nation especially : a sense of national consciousness (see consciousness sense 1c) exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups

Oxford Languages: identification with one’s own nation and support for its interests, especially to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations.

“the dogma that the individual lives exclusively for the nation with the corollary that the nation is an end in itself, and the doctrine, too, that the nation (the nationalist’s own) is or should be dominant if not supreme among other nations and should take aggressive action to this end” (Shafer, 1955:6).

And, as I’ve mentioned 3 times to you now, J-D has excerpted from Orwell’s discussion of nationalism which conveys a similar sentiment.

Now this is not to say there are not other definitions of nationalism – I have repeatedly noted there are – but it was the definition I was using in this case, because it seems to be most aligned with the way in which the OP used it – I infer this from phrases like “stronger nationalist movements seeking to preserve the advantage of members of the national collective over outsiders

If I define what I mean when I say “nationalist politics” (using a commonly accepted definition found in several dictionaries and textbooks) before I employ it, how is this a rhetorical trick?

“I said “…to prosper and have autonomy”

Yes, that is one of the definitions you have used for nationalism. I use a different one. Other people have others[1]. This is why dictionary dot com has multiple definitions for nationalism rather than one. Words often have multiple meanings – this is why dictionaries often have several definitions for the same word. Language can be confusing that way sometimes – I am sorry you are struggling so much with this.

“Autonomy is one of the most basic desires. I don’t think it can be defeated by a slick argument, or even by force.”

I have no idea whether or not the desire for autonomy can be defeated by argument or force. Since I am not interested in “defeating autonomy” (whatever you mean by that), I fail to see why you would think this at all relevant. I certainly hope you are not trying to imply I do wish to “defeat autonomy”, for that would be a rhetorical trick known as “strawmanning” – and it would be a rather dishonest thing to do.

But, as you seem to be getting stuck on the labels rather than the concepts, let me try to make this clear for you.

You say “a nationalist is someone who wishes their nation to prosper and have autonomy”. Let’s call this “GP nationalism” (for the sake of this comment).

I will say “a nationalist is someone who wishes their nation to prosper and have autonomy, especially to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations”. Let’s call this “NG nationalism” (for the sake of this comment).

I have no inherent problem with GP nationalism, I do have a problem with NG nationalism. If you wish to complain that “NG nationalism” isn’t nationalism in the sense you would use it (despite it being a fairly commonly accepted understanding), then that is your prerogative – call it whatever you wish, “NG nationalism” (please insert whatever your term would be instead) is what I object to.

But if you wish to complain that using a commonly accepted definition of nationalism, defining it, and repeatedly explaining what is meant by and the context in which it is being used is somehow a “trick”, then I will respectfully disagree. You may wish to contact those dictionaries, academic, authors, journalists, and politicians who do use definitions similar to mine and tell them they’re wrong in your own time – personally I am uninterested in arguments over labels, when I find it is the concepts which are important.

Again, I have no inherent objection to people wishing autonomy, or celebrating their culture, or wishing their people to prosper. I object to people who value those things over the wellbeing of others. This is not because I object to autonomy, or culture, or prosperity – it is because I object to harming others.

As I have now explained to you several times what I mean by “nationalist”, why I object to “nationalist politics” (in the sense I use the term), and why I do not necessarily object to “nationalism” (in the sense you are using it), I don’t see there is too much more to discuss.

[1]“Nationalism, like nation, is very hard to define clearly and unequivocally.”[…]” There are no two authors, whether sociologists, historians, political scientists, or psychologists, who define nationalism in the same way.” – What is Nationalism? D. Kecmanovic.

53

nastywoman 05.29.21 at 11:47 pm

@
I really don’t understand what you mean.

Perhaps if I use more of your words?

‘There’s something very … “absurd” about modern-day “nationalism”, isn’t there? [in quotes b/c I’m half joking, but only half] That Orban, Modi, Putin, Trump, Le Pen, and a few others, all seem to be both in accord, that it’s ‘their’ country and ‘their’ culture and ‘their’ nationalism which should be ‘FIRST’ – and thusly every other country and culture an nationalism should be waaaay behind – tells us that modern-day “nationalism” is – at the same time in opposition to cosmopolitanism – and –

NOT?

54

Kiwanda 05.29.21 at 11:54 pm

But we need to be clear-eyed about the fact that a normality of class being the dominant axis of politics is not coming back because it never was normal in a world of national division.

Class meaning for Milanovic “income quantile in one’s country”, and how some countries are richer than others, so that an income poor-for-the-US maybe means well-off-for-China.

The argument is that this somehow makes class less relevant for political organizing within the US, apparently because poor people in the US are greatly consoled that they are better off than poor people in China. (Well, class is irrelevant within countries until that last paragraph, where it turns out to be relevant after all.)

It does make sense for these differences to affect cross-national organizing and alliances. Factory workers in the US might well have interests in common with factory workers in China, but if those Chinese workers are paid much less than what US workers are paid, an alliance would be difficult.

What I can do is to suggest first, that climate change, anti-racism, feminism, defence of basic human rights, form the basis for an alternative coalition within wealthy countries, one that stresses global solidarity with workers everywhere rather than seeing the rest of the world as a threat.

While climate change, feminism, and basic human rights are indeed universal concerns, the salience of anti-racism in e.g. Japan, Korea, or Taiwan is a bit shaky. And to the extent that “anti-racism” has been transmogrified to mean Kendiangeloism (as opposed to basic human rights), it’s hardly appealing to all workers.

55

J-D 05.29.21 at 11:58 pm

There’s something very … “cosmopolitan” about modern-day “nationalism”, isn’t there? [in quotes b/c I’m half joking, but only half] That Orban, Modi, Putin, Trump, Le Pen, and a few others, all seem to be both in accord, and feeding off each other …

Is it possible that ‘owning the libs’ could be a basis for international solidarity?

56

Gorgonzola Petrovna 05.30.21 at 7:06 am

@52,
Migration, this is about the freedom of migration. If you believe that autonomy, self-determination, is a legitimate and desirable characteristic of your country (and of course you do), then you’re summarily excluding Others from making decision on the rules of entry, immigration, and cultural assimilation (e.g. facial veils in public). Others’ interests, their preferences for rules directly affecting them, are ignored (not by you personally, but systemically). Because: autonomy. You condone it. Therefore in the eyes of the freedom of migration movement you’re a nationalist.

But in any case, as I remember, the Others clause was linked to your original definition by ‘especially’. Which means that even without all this, only with identification and support, you’re already a nationalist.

57

MisterMr 05.30.21 at 10:15 am

@Nastywoman 53
I agree, although I don’t think those are my words.
Basically the “cultural” part of nationalism is just what Atlemeyer defines as Right Wing Authoritarianism.
So I agree also to J-D explanation.

@Gorgonzola 51
The problem is that currently it is the “nationalists” who are trying to prevent the others to have “autonomy”, and not the other way around.

58

Gorgonzola Petrovna 05.30.21 at 12:34 pm

@57,
Why is it a problem, in this context? Macedonian nationalists want their country to be named ‘Macedonia’. Greek nationalists want that country to be renamed to ‘Northern Macedonia’. Neither want any outside interference in their respective countries, ‘protecting’, in this case, their national mythologies. (I was rooting for Macedonia, the underdog. Lost.) This doesn’t affect migration; it’s a squabble between nationalists.

59

notGoodenough 05.30.21 at 2:14 pm

Gorgonzola Petrovna @ 56

Response part 1 (I am addressing the last part of your comment first, as I believe it is the more trivial)

“Which means that even without all this, only with identification and support, you’re already a nationalist.”

I’ve also said “one sentence definitions tend to not sufficiently cover topics as complex, nuanced, and debated as these sorts of socio-political ideas”.

I’m afraid, though, it would seem your memory is a little faulty. In future you may wish to actually reread the relevant text rather than relying on mere recollection – though it is curious you chose not to quote me considering how easy it would be to do so.

Actually, what I originally said was “identification with one’s own nation and support for its interests, especially to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations”. And, while you complained that this concept was too abstract for you to be able to comprehend (given your issues with fairly basic syntax I can now believe that), you can see the “especially” links to the interests – thus (under my usage of the term) to be a nationalist it is not merely enough to identify with a nation and support its interests; you have to support its interests especially (i.e. above all) to the detriment of others. Again (for me, though I realise you do not make this distinction) there is a difference between patriotism and nationalism.

You might also wish to read these other things I’ve also said:

“if someone “loves their culture and wishes it to prosper”, that does not (I believe) represent a nationalist political sentiment (for the purposes of this thread). If someone “loves their culture and wishes it to prosper, and will advocate for actions that will lead to their nation prospering at the expense of those not of that nation”, then that crosses into nationalist politics.”

and

“that the nation (the nationalist’s own) is or should be dominant if not supreme among other nations and should take aggressive action to this end”

Indeed, as a general suggestion, you may wish to read what people have said to try to get context, rather than selecting one particular sentence and trying to extrapolate from that. There is a rhetorical trick known as “quote mining” – it is a sign of dishonesty, and you should probably avoid it (unless you want to become known as a dishonest interlocutor, of course).

In short, under my defition I would not be a nationalist, as I would not support my nations interests to the detriment of others. This is because, for me, the desire to see wellbeing maximised is one of my basic desires, and I don’t think it can be defeated by a slick argument, or even by force.

60

notGoodenough 05.30.21 at 2:15 pm

Gorgonzola Petrovna @ 56

Response part 2

“Migration, this is about the freedom of migration.”

No. If you recall, this is about the different understandings you and I have of “nationalism” and “cosmopolitan politics”. I said as much in my first comment to you, remember? Indeed, I have not said anything about migration on this thread until this very comment. If you think our discussion has been about freedom of migration, then you have done an appallingly bad job of discussing it.

“If you believe that autonomy, self-determination, is a legitimate and desirable characteristic of your country (and of course you do), then you’re summarily excluding Others from making decision on the rules of entry, immigration, and cultural assimilation”

I believe these are characteristics people can legitimately desire, not desire, or be completely indifferent to. Also, people can desire these to varying degrees. I have not told you what my personal desires are with respect to my particular nation – you should probably not make assumptions.

“Others’ interests, their preferences for rules directly affecting them, are ignored (not by you personally, but systemically).”

I assume by “others” you mean people not of the nation.

You appear to have now made quite a leap – you’ve gone from “others are excluded from making decisions on the rules of entry, immigration, and cultural assimilation” to “others’ interests, their preferences for rules directly affecting them, are ignored”.

This is quite a slight of hand, given that we live in a world where nations frequently engage in diplomacy.

Moreover, it is worth remembering nations with autonomy and self-governance can decide to open borders (to varying degrees) between each other – you appear to be trying to create a conflict where it does not exist.

“Therefore in the eyes of the freedom of migration movement you’re a nationalist.”

“The freedom of migration movement”. Well, perhaps you can provide details on this unified movement – link to their policy documents, textbooks, or even a webpage, perhaps? I mean, as much as I would like to trust the vague unsubstantiated pronouncements of someone who has already demonstrated their ignorance regarding borders and freedom of movement, maybe you’d like to provide evidence as to what this “movement” believes?

And after that, perhaps you can then explain why I should care, and why this is relevant to any of my comments?

61

Gorgonzola Petrovna 05.31.21 at 8:23 am

@60,
No, to me it isn’t about understandings you and I have. It’s about free migration and the thought process of its advocates (and skeptics, and opponents). No, I can’t provide policy documents and textbooks. But I’ve been reading Chris Bertram’s posts for a long time, and I have this uncanny ability to get into people’s heads when I listen to them long enough.
…just in case: “uncanny ability” is a joke. Wikipedia tells me it’s called ‘mentalization’. Or ‘cognitive empathy’. You’re welcome to analyze definitions of it, and read relevant studies.

62

MisterMr 05.31.21 at 6:31 pm

@Gorgonzola 58

I’m sorry I’ve lost you: when did I ever speak about Macedonia?

63

notGoodenough 05.31.21 at 9:05 pm

Gorgonzola Petrovna @ 61

“No, to me it isn’t about understandings you and I have. It’s about free migration and the thought process of its advocates (and skeptics, and opponents).”

You and I have written a fair number of words in response to each other on this thread – and yet, as far as I can tell, neither you nor I mentioned migration at all (on this thread) until you brought it up in comment @ 56. Again, if our conversation was about migration, it might perhaps make sense for you to mention that at some point. Just a suggestion – entirely up to you, but it might make communication a little clearer.

“No, I can’t provide policy documents and textbooks.”

“or a webpage” (one of the other things I asked for). OK, how about a relevant quote from a member I can look at and verify? It is just that for a movement it does seem a little conspicuous in its absence…

” I have this uncanny ability to get into people’s heads when I listen to them long enough.…just in case: “uncanny ability” is a joke. Wikipedia tells me it’s called ‘mentalization’. Or ‘cognitive empathy’. You’re welcome to analyze definitions of it, and read relevant studies.”

It is may well be possible for someone to get a good understanding of someone else’s thought processes – but sadly this doesn’t tell me whether or not someone actually has (that whole “needing evidence” thing again, I’m afraid), or what their success rate at making predictions is.

You see, people can tell me things. They may well believe those things. They may even have good reasons to believe those things. But until I am given a good reason to believe something, it is just a claim to me. And so, tiresome though this may be to you, I’m afraid I still would like for evidence sufficient to warrant belief before I believe something – it’s just a wacky notion of mine.

and a remark

Sadly it appears I must yet again be left mildly puzzled – you’ve still not shown me where this “free migration movement” is to be found, there’s still nothing to indicate to me what it believes, and still no reasons for why it should matter to me (in descending order of priority to establish).

Fair enough – thanks for offering your perspective.

64

J-D 06.01.21 at 8:50 am

” I have this uncanny ability to get into people’s heads when I listen to them long enough.…just in case: “uncanny ability” is a joke. Wikipedia tells me it’s called ‘mentalization’. Or ‘cognitive empathy’. You’re welcome to analyze definitions of it, and read relevant studies.”

It is may well be possible for someone to get a good understanding of someone else’s thought processes – but sadly this doesn’t tell me whether or not someone actually has (that whole “needing evidence” thing again, I’m afraid), or what their success rate at making predictions is.

What’s the point in continuing conversations with people who tell you that they know what you mean better than you do yourself?

Comments on this entry are closed.