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The 11th of November 1918 marked the end of the first World War (WWI) between liberalism and nationalism putting nationalism on the winning side. The war has claimed the life of over sixteen million people and described as ‘the war to end all wars.’ However, 20 years later the longest and deadlier second World War (WWII) erupted again between these two ideologies. After six years of bloodshed, the war came to an end in 1945, this time putting liberalism on the winning side. After the war nationalism was discredited in the west, dissociated from its liberal foundations and associated with murderous totalitarianism. In the developing countries, however nationalism kept its liberating spirit that it was the engine of postcolonial movements.


The west who champion freedom continues to celebrate victory while having their major enemy living in Moscow. In 1968 Alexander Dubček the First Secretary of the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia made unsuccessful attempt for independence from the Soviet Union that led to invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact armies. Then, Jan Palach a Czech student self-immolate as a protest against the end of the Prague Spring. This sent a strong signal that freedom is worth dying for everywhere. About two decades later the Berlin wall was demolished, and the Soviet Union has collapsed.




The western scholars misguidedly took this evidence as the end of struggle between ideologies. Particularly, they announced the premature death of nationalism. Francis Fukuyama in his book the ‘end of the history’ stated that ‘what we may be witnessing is not just the end of Cold War, but the end of history as such, i.e. the end point of humankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government”.




With increasing globalism and expressive individualism liberal democrats faced multiple questions that they don’t have answers for. Questions like ‘who are we?’ ‘what defines our common political identity?’ ‘why we should trust each other?’ ‘How can we work together to create a safer future?’ are all questions for which liberalism have no convincing answer but nationalism has a long tradition to answer. As the result the middle and the immobile class has lost trust on liberal leaders. They question if liberals are at all willing to protect their interests. For the liberals this moment is characterized with declining social trust and erosion of liberal progressive leadership. Focus shifted from global back to national.




Yael Tamir argues that Karl Marx was wrong about the century in which class struggle take place. If such struggle at all erupts, it will be in the 21st century and the struggle is between the immobile class and the mobile (globalist) elites. The middle class for whom globalism is not less threatening will join the immobile, making them a social power than cannot be ignored. This is a sufficient power to force the globalists into a nationalist game through political pressure and violence. This way the class conflict translates into national terms. Moreover, global crisis and terrorist attacks put pressure on the mobile and globalist elites to get back to their national cage.


In general, there is a social and political transformation resulting from the political pendulum that swung too far to the individualist pole, leaving behind generations suffering from social alienations and anonymity on one hand and the economic balance tilted too far to the free-market, leaving too many individuals vulnerable on the other hand.  




The second half of 20th century witnessed a smaller number of people waving national flags on the main streets giving Fukuyama and his likes some credit for their postulations. However, nationalism is fully back to the streets in the 21st century. The reemergence of nationalism including in the supposedly liberal democracies like the United States, Britain and France has taken the world by surprise. Its chance to evoke a knee-jerk has also been seriously limited because the streets of those countries where it used to evoke the maximum knee-jerk are already occupied. The century that was started with the ‘war to end all wars’, soon declared ‘the end of history’ has closed with the reemergence of nationalism across the globe.  




In its modern sense nationalism is a desire to regenerate a sense of commitment among fellow nationals. The cultural and psychological content of nationalism, the meaning creation aspects that ties us to each other has become fundamentally important in the modern world. This aspect of nationalism is also important for the state for the nation and state depends on each other. The participatory, creative and egalitarian virtues of nationalism, its ability to empower individuals and answer basic human questions makes a return to the nationalist ethos unshakable. The same principle also made nationalism permanent and indefeasible political force. All the problems of neoliberalism and its foster child globalism created an opportunity for nationalism to come back at full scale. What has left now is to put balance between ideologies.




Nationalism is fully back but without the balancing power of liberalism and democracy; where it can easily turn destructive again. The one thing that we should avoid at any cost is the destruction from ideological conflicts. We need to EXIT that ugly tradition and the best EXIT strategy is to balance different ideas as a necessary moral and political skills of our time. Human needs pull in different directions. Accommodative strategies emerge out of a constant search for some logically untidy, flexible and even ambiguous compromises according to Isaiah Berlin. The three-way partnership among nationalism, liberalism and democracy puts an end to the ideological battle and the destruction it has been causing according to Yael Tamir.


It was in fact the breakdown of this partnership that gave the 20th century some of its finest hours. We lost about 100 million people in the two world wars. This partnership could now become the savior of the 21st century. Democracy was born with the sense of nationality, the two are inherently linked, and neither can be fully understood apart from each other. Nationalism was the form in which democracy appeared in the world, contained in the idea of the nation as a butterfly in a cocoon says Tamir. Thus, democracy should be pictured as a national project – not a utilitarian. Self-centered and expressive individualism should be replaced with more collective sprit that nationalism knows how to kindle. With that everybody will win without paying life and causing destructions. This is also the lesson that humanity should learn from the past century.




Read 2052 times Last modified on Tuesday, 03 November 2020 06:33