I have previously expressed the opinion that it was not nationalism that created WWII, but it was nationalism that won it. The German attitude was more properly described as a tribalism or racialism, though they called it nationalism. Jews, Slavs, or Roma who lived within the German nation were not considered part of Das Volk, but ethnic Germans who lived over the borders were considered part of the larger family. Some nations, of Scandinavian, Frankish, or Anglo-Saxon descent were considered people to be ruled if they would not cooperate, but not exterminated. Hungarian and Romanian “nationalist” figures such as Antonescu were likewise protectors only of ethnic Romanians, not all within the borders. (This is unsurprising in Europe up until that time, because borders moved frequently, but language and ethnic heritage remained primary. It’s just wrong to call it nationalism.)
In contrast, while the Allies had a lot of international cooperation, they ran largely on nationalist sentiment. Not only the Americans, who, as a mixed people had no choice except nationalism, but as the war progressed, the Soviet Union hunkered down into its constituent parts and Stalin made his appeals on behalf of Mother Russia, not the New Soviet Man. My thought has been that while nationalism has dangers and can be a false god, internationalism is a worse one. It might in theory be a better thing, and if we ever do become better humans I will change my vote. At the moment, however, I consider it an overreach. When we pretend to be better than we are we are in enormous danger, and those who are loyal to international enterprises smuggle in some much more primitive prejudices. They do not transcend nationalism, as they imagine, but replace it with something that aims higher but strikes lower.
That is an observation of the group mentality, not the individual. I am fully prepared to accept that there are many people who do transcend nationalism on an individual basis. As Steve Sailer has pointed out, however, in the traditional concentric circles of loyalty humankind tends to use, they more often skip over ring rather than include. There is more virtue to be signaled in loving those far away rather than neighbors. How much more noble to love illegal aliens at the expense of poor citizens!
I will have to revise my WWII picture however. It still applies to Germans. Yet my reading of Japanese history recently convinces me that nationalism was indeed their motive. They did not find Koreans, Taiwanese, or Chinese racially inferior, but culturally so. Their attitude toward those in Vietnam, the Philippines, and the Pacific Islands was more tinged with a racialism.
I’m not sure how I incorporate this into the overall picture, but I have to start by wounding my old model. Any of you who have knowledge about Japanese and other Asian cultural and racial attitudes, please weigh in.
Cross-posted at Assistant Village Idiot
18 thoughts on “Nationalism Revisited”
Some of this is related to high and low trust societies.
Read Rebecca West’s terrific book, “Black Lamb and Grey Falcon. “
It explains how the Ottoman Empire, by the 20th century at least, was completely ineffective in governing.
The Serbs reverted to a tribal and clan society. The Bosnians who had adopted Islam, for reasons of economics, lived in cities.
After the 30 years war, Europe was ruled by nation states with monarchy the type of governance. It worked fairly well until the French Revolution. Napoleon destroyed much of the European system, although Metternich and the English kept it going until World War I.
After World War I the system broke down in Europe, although America survived intact. The Great Depression was the result of Versailles and WWI but Roosevelt made it worse. Nobody knew how to deal with this sort of crisis. The panic of 1893 lasted years but not ten years. The Panic of 1907 was quickly ended by JP Morgan but after that the economy was too big,
We were a high trust society until 1965 and the Vietnam War. I don’t know where we go from here.
An interesting example of nationalism compared to racism: In the Kaiser’s Germany, Anne Frank’s father received a field promotion to officer status. In the Third Reich, he was thrown into a concentration camp.
I’m pretty sure you’re just redefining nationalism. Today we think nation-state is redundant, but it’s not. Nation didn’t mean a government entity, it meant a tribe. That’s why so many Jews dreaded the rise of nationalism and nation-states in the 19th century, because they knew that compared to multi-ethnic states like the Hapsburg Empire, they’d be far worse off because they’d be left with no land of their own.
In most cases, nations resulted from combining tribes (for lack of a better word). The French weren’t always the French. Somehow, Aquitaine and Burgundy became France (and then there’s Alsace).
Remember Smith’s Moral Sentiments. Nationalism is already an enormous stretching of empathy. Nationalism has very shallow roots in much of the world.
WWII may or may not be a cautionary tale about nationalism, but it is not a reason to condemn it broadly. I see nationalism as very similar to fire—a dangerous but useful (maybe necessary) tool. Where would Chicago be if fire (or cows) had been banned after 1871?
A useful tool. If you want to promote diversity, it can be done best within the warm embrace of nationalism. Convince the Burgundian that he is French, and his hostility towards the man from Aquitaine will lessen.
E pluribus unum.
Brian – Good points. The idea of nationalism which arose in the nineteenth century Europe was that every ethnic group should have it’s own homeland. Most ethnic groups had some sort of claim to some particular territory. These claims were at least plausible to members of these ethnic groups although rarely corresponding very closely to actual history. Jews though had no plausible claim to any European land so Zionism came about as a reaction to the rise of nationalism.
Obviously nationalistic claims to territory conflict in myriad ways so nationalism was bound to cause enormous conflict. However as a result of a lot of violence the older multiethnic empires such as the Ottoman or Habsburg Empires broke up into nations dominated mostly by a single ethnicity. Of course there are still countries such as Belgium with strong internal ethnic divisions.
Singapore has strong internal ethnic [and religious] divisions and it developed an authoritarian government to keep those divisions in line. One example of that authoritarianism is forced housing integration:
Racialism, tribalism, nationalism, and all the other isms, including identification with an ideology, such as Communism or Nazism, and with a religion, such as Islamism, are just variations of the same human behavioral trait – outgroup identification. At the time the behavior in question evolved there was little chance that we would botch it. The outgroup was always just the next tribe over. It could be identified by tiny nuances in behavior, dress, speech, etc., with little probability of confusing ingroup and outgroup. We are still capable of identifying the outgroup based on such slight nuances, but it doesn’t work quite as well in the radically different environment we’ve created for ourselves today. To see examples of outgroup identification based on ideology, you need look no further than the comment threads on any blog or website with a political slant. There you’ll see furious hatred of the ideologically identified outgroup expressed in all its glory. All of us have the same tendency to identify others in terms of ingroup and outgroup. Results may vary.
Capitalist Roader – Democracy tends to exacerbate internal conflict so if a multicultural society is to work it cannot be a democracy and requires an authoritarian government. The Ottoman Empire is an example.
Somewhat related. There are serious racial conflicts in our country right now that the media loves to pretend don’t exist:
The Dem coalition has massive faultlines.
The peace of Europe after WWII was greatly aided by tribes retreating or moving back to old neighborhoods, in some cases quite old and remote. Ethnic Germans moved out of Romania, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, back to Germany, for example. Villages on the wrong side of a border tended to depopulate with one group and sometimes fill up with nationals from the ethnic majority. This did not happen so much in Yugoslavia, where people were able to remain in ancestral regions. When the external control was removed it wasn’t pretty.
Even in Nice Places, as in Belgium mentioned above, or in Ireland, people didn’t get along all that well.
Brian, I agree that my definition of nationalism was largely the American usage, and even the usage of those who dislike nationalism here. It is not quite the same thing in other parts of the world. But that was largely my aim, to tear the word away from its criticism of it as something dangerous. Those descended even one generation from tribal wars in Europe get along well in America, because we define our nationalism differently. We are a people who actually are mixed and different. Perhaps the Canadians rival us in that, but not many others.
Those descended even one generation from tribal wars in Europe get along well in America, because we define our nationalism differently.
Black and white Americans have been in your country the longest and they don’t get along very well or behave similarly despite this supposedly different definition of nationalism. Irish immigrants from the 1850s on and old stock Anglo settlers vote for different parties just about everywhere on the eastern seaboard – particularly northern states like NH and PA are good examples – suggesting they may not really be part of the same nation.
The world’s main international organisation being called the ‘United Nations’ probably causes some confusion on the nationalism issue.
“Ethnic Germans moved out of Romania, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, back to Germany,”
Well, that’s a rather passive way of describing what happened…
@ East Anglian – compared to the IRA?
I don’t think voting for different parties is a legitimate criteria for separate nationhood.
Black and white Americans have been in your country the longest and they don’t get along very well or behave similarly despite this supposedly different definition of nationalism.
The racial thing was derailed about 50 years ago when it had been progressing fairly well.
It was Lyndon Johnson who decided to “abolish poverty” by paying poor people not to work.
In particular, black women learned that having a baby was a ticket to her own apartment and welfare payments.
A somewhat similar dynamic has been at work in Britain with white women in the Midlands.
The illegitimacy rates have been roughly parallel for years. The pathology is a bit different as poor whites seem to have less violence than poor blacks.
The “Jim Crow” era is often blamed for this and was an outgrowth, I think, of the rather violent Reconstruction process that was set off by Lincoln’s assassination by a southerner.
It is ironic that radical blacks are now embracing segregation.
@ Brian – fair enough. As the move had been initiated by Germans I hadn’t treated it as involuntary. Yet it was to the people who had to do the moving.
The Anglosphere is different in general in terms of people getting along, and I think better in the colonies than in the UK. In the New World we have people who are much more different that the Flemish are from the Walloons. Black and white people actually do get along quite well generally here, in contrast to, oh, France, which had a World Cup controversy over it. When I was growing up there was a great deal of buy-in of blacks into American nationalism and pride. I can’t tell if that is still the case. The complainers get so much attention that it’s hard to tell bhow numerous they are. In the city centers, I think there is not a lot of American pride. But black working class and middle class is a real thing now, and those I know are not that different from whites in their attitudes.
The coolness factor is huge, not only for black kids showing off, but for the goodwhites forever trying to prove how evil the badwhites are. That is a bottomless pit, and I don’t know how it gets fixed.
AVI: A more accurate observation would be that the German heritage survivors were expelled back to Germany. It would also account for the fact that nowhere near all of them made it. It was probably only exceeded in ugliness by the previous German occupation.
@ MCSm – In Romania, at least, the government only expelled them when Hitler told them to. That is the history I am most familiar with. Reading up on this, I see it was different in other countries.
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