Wednesday, 11 January 2023

"No force in the world since 1848 has been more powerful, more deadly, more pervasive, or more persistent, than nationalistic zeal."

"If you had convened a meeting of the great European thinkers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and asked them what would drive future global politics, not one of them would have put nationalism on the list.
    "The leaders of the Enlightenment anticipated a coming age when reason and universal values would shape the course of events. Marx and his fellow travellers trusted that class struggle and economics oppression would serve as the spire to change. The positivists in the camp of Auguste Comte championed science and progress as the driving force in future history. Social Darwinists postulated evolutionary models; political economists attributed power to Adam Smith's 'invisible hand'; and Neo-scholastics put faith in the hand of God. 
    "Everybody had a theory. But none of the thought leaders anticipated a future when war and bloody carnage would be instigated by chauvinistic impulses and love of country. The illustrious philosophers dismissed those as archaic loyalties, irrational sentiments no longer useful for human society, and destined for the dustbin of human. history.
    "But the theorists were wrong. No force in the world since 1848 has been more powerful, more deadly, more pervasive, or more persistent, than nationalistic zeal."
~ Ted Gioia, from his book Music: A Subversive History


davelenny said...

Deadly, persistent, pervasive and powerful - yes, but given the body count, has nationalism killed more than Marxism, insofar as it is possible to disentangle nationalism from all the other -isms?

MarkT said...

Nationalism versus universalism is in constant tension, typically running in cycles with one peaking and then waning whilst the other rises. Nationalism is on the rise now, as it was in 1930's, and as I think it probably was in the years following the 1848 revolutions. Note the approximate 80-90 years gap between these dates, about the duration of a long human life.

Tom Hunter said...

I'll quote from Simon Schama's magnificent documentary series of the early 2000's, A History of Britain and specifically the episode Forces of Nature, that dealt with the French Revolution's impact on Britain:

But when the lynching started, Burke decided the revolution was, above all, an act of violence and he denounced it in his vitriolic Reflections On The French Revolution.

"Amidst assassination and massacre and confiscation, perpetrated or meditated, "they are forming plans for the good order of future society. They act amidst the tumultuous cries of a mixed mob of ferocious men and women lost to shame."

It's hard to know which was more painful - the fact that Burke's savage denunciation came from an erstwhile friend of liberty and reform, or that it flung back into the teeth of the radicals some of the mushier platitudes about nature.

They had taken it as read that nature filled your bosom with the love of mankind, that nature was fraternal, was cosmopolitan.

Rubbish, said Burke, nature is rooted in place. It teaches you to love YOUR birthplace, YOUR language, YOUR customs, YOUR habits. Nature is a patriot.

Libertyscott said...

The deadliest Marxist regimes were also avowedly nationalistic ones. The CCP is enthusiastically expounding hyper-nationalist rhetoric against its rivals, and claiming Chinese people abroad as part of the PRC's society of people. The DPRK is hyper-nationalistic and racist at its core. The USSR tapped Russian nationalism to advance its image, Democratic Kampuchea was highly chauvinistic glorifying growing rice.