Nationalism has had a complex relation with the discipline of political theory during the 20th century. Political theory has often been deeply uneasy with nationalism in relation to its role in the events leading up to and during the Second World War. Many theorists saw nationalism as an overly narrow and potentially irrationalist doctrine. In essence it embodied a closed vision of the world. This paper focuses on one key contributor to the immediate post-war debate—Karl Popper—who retained deep misgivings about nationalism until the end of his life, and indeed saw the events of the early 1990s (shortly before his death) as a confirmation of this distrust. Popper was one of a number of immediate post war writers, such as Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises, who shared this unease with nationalism. They all had a powerful effect on social and political thought in the English-speaking world. Popper particularly articulated a deeply influential perspective which fortuitously encapsulated a cold war mentality in the 1950s. In 2005 Popper’s critical views are doubly interesting, since the last decade has seen a renaissance of nationalist interests. The collapse of the Berlin wall in 1989, and the changing political landscape of international and domestic politics, has seen once again a massive growth of interest in nationalism, particularly from liberal political theorists and a growing, and, at times, immensely enthusiastic academic literature, trying to provide a distinctively benign benediction to nationalism.
Rabindranath Tagore's America, in Letters and Lectures
The Indian writer Rabindranath Tagore visited the United States several times, though his second trip in 1916-1917 seems to have generated the most excitement. On the verge of American entry into World War I, the Nobel prize-winning writer embarked on an extensive lecture tour critiquing the excesses of nationalism and imperialism. The visit generated a number of remarkable texts, including a series of important letters to family and friends written on the trip and the four long lectures collected and published in 1917 as Nationalism. I argue that the lectures on “Nationalism,” can and should be read as a form of “reverse Orientalist” travel writing, where Tagore aimed to show Americans how their own political and economic system could be seen as rather similar to the European powers. Tagore uses the lectures to develop a series of metaphors for the modern, instrumentalist deployment of power in the nation-state and the colonial world, against which he posited an ideal of modern man cultivated and “perfected,” rather like a work of art.
A Re-Evaluation of The Color Curtain
The Color Curtain reflects Richard Wright's problematical assessment of the 1955 Bandung Conference and his difficult attempts to reconcile his sincere denunciation of the consequences of colonialism and racism on people of Asian and African descent with his condescending representation of Third World nationalism during the middle of the twentieth century. The book reveals striking paradoxes in Wright's evaluation of a nationalism that he occasionally vilifies as an ideology that was grounded on impassioned and essentialist cultural or religious affiliations and feelings. Yet Wright's demeaning, elitist, and patronizing attitudes about Third World nationalism and cultures did not prevent him from identifying with the core spirit of the Bandung Conference. In his assessment of the summit, Wright occasionally reveals his admiration for a Third World nationalism that echoed his disparagement of Western racism and imperialism.
Statists claim that robust egalitarian distributive norms only apply between the citizens of a common state. Attempts to defend this claim on nationalist grounds often appeal to the 'associative duties' that citizens owe one another in virtue of their shared national identity. In this paper I argue that the appeal to co-national associative duties in order to defend the statist thesis is unsuccessful. I first develop a credible theory of associative duties. I then argue that although the associative theory can explain why the members of a national community should abide by egalitarian norms, it cannot show that people have a duty to become or to continue as a member of a national community in the first place. The possibility that citizens might exercise their right to reject their national membership undermines the state's ability justifiably to coerce compliance with egalitarian distributive norms and, ultimately, the statist claim itself.
Israeli poet Yonatan Ratosh was the leader of the Young Hebrews, a nationalist group active from the 1940s to the 1970s. Despite his opposition to Zionism and his aspiration to revive the ancient Hebrews’ premonotheistic civilization, Ratosh shared Zionism’s ambition to elaborate a new Israeli identity. One prominent act of this mission involved enlarging the literary corpus in Hebrew through translation. Although initially a means of income, for Ratosh translation increasingly came to be a way to express his ideological position and his self-image as an intellectual. Thus, Ratosh provides an example of how developing a national identity can coincide with appropriating foreign literature. With his regular exhortations that Hebrew readers attain knowledge of foreign cultures, Ratosh did not intend to promote cosmopolitanism. Rather, he considered these endeavors as ultimately reinforcing a “Hebrew” identity.
Alienation and the American Scene in George William Curtis’s Lotus-Eating: A Summer Book
. Written during a period of extensive literary nationalism in the United States, Lotus-Eating articulates a longing for a lost connection to Europe. In this light, we might consider Curtis’s Lotus-Eating in relation to American accounts of European
A History of Richard Turner’s Eclipse and Resurgence
. Andrew Nash (1999) compellingly argued that Turner and the New Left failed to engage with the salience of nationalism. This article aims to give historical texture to this account, to qualify this criticism by pointing to other factors that led to
Contrasting Representations of Irish and Zionist Nationalism in British Political Discourse (1917–1922)
Britain’s tutelage, took up arms against their former ally to achieve their “independence” and create their own state by force. As a focal point for competing nationalisms, the example of Palestine revealed the glaring inadequacy of British imperial rule
Reading Robert Kroetsch's The Lovely Treachery of Words
Many of the critical essays of the Canadian novelist, poet and theorist Robert Kroetsch, as collected in his 1989 anthology The Lovely Treachery of Words, explore the issue of how Canadian writers attempt to establish a cultural nationalism in the face of the decline of the British Empire. They are an initial expression of ideas about place and language, the problematic discourse of the 'New World', and the reinscription of First Nations peoples into the literature and culture of the Canadian nation. These are concerns which later came to be regarded as 'postcolonial' with the burgeoning of the term in the late 1980s through to the present day. However, his essays are due for reassessment in the light of recent responses to postcolonial subjectivity which critique the 'colonizer-colonized' binary as used in settler-invader contexts. This 'colonizer-colonized' binary has a troubling tendency to efface indigenous peoples. It conceals the imperialistic, land-grabbing aspects of settler-invader history by positing the settler as the true postcolonial subject, searching for a stable national identity – an authentic Canadian sense of citizenship and belonging – in the face of a cultural heritage largely defined by European imperialism.
South African Writing at the Crossroads
Nahem Yousaf and Graham Pechey
The stranger’s words addressed to the hero in J.M. Coetzee’s Life and Times of Michael K bring home in a very concrete way the relentless binarism not only of the apartheid order (revealingly figured in its truth as the disorder of civil war), but also of many Western forms of life and thinking: a typically high-modern technology sums up an epistemology no less typical. The train abolishes the age-old institution of the crossroads, the three- or four-way junction which puts before the traveller two or more options besides the one of retracing his steps back along the way he came. Daredevils who ‘ride staff’ on township trains may be rebellious terms in a system, but terms of that system they remain. Yesterday’s staffrider on the train of progress is today’s builder of his own locomotive. This is the logic whereby we have seen in South Africa rival nationalisms arising out of the early transcultural flux of Empire and then, at length, imposing their different inflections of the modern project upon the rest of their compatriots.