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Böckenförde, Siedentop and Manent are well-known in their countries and beyond. Their arguments were certainly heard. But few European intellectuals seemed to share their sense of alarm. And if they did, they chose to remain silent. Why?

One reason may be that any argument which has something good to say about the nation state is met with a knee-jerk rejection. Richard Rorty took aim at the relentless disparagement of nationhood in Achieving Our Country (also published around that time, in 1997). “National pride is to countries what self-respect is to individuals,” he wrote at the beginning of that book, “a necessary condition for self-improvement.” Political deliberation cannot be “imaginative and productive” unless the people’s emotional involvement with their country is such that “pride outweighs shame”.

This is the book where Rorty made the “something will crack” comment predicting the rise of a “strongman”, which was unearthed after the election of Donald Trump. But the analysis preceding that prediction has not yet received the attention it deserves. Rorty, a thinker of the radical Left in the Deweyian tradition, suggested that a strongman would rise after years in which national pride had been demonised and the bond of citizenship weakened by the “cultural Left” with its “semi-conscious anti-Americanism”. The “cosmopolitan super-rich”, the “smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors” barely think of those left behind in their country as fellow citizens to whom anything is owed. But the forsaken will “sooner or later realise that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or . . . jobs from being exported”. Then, Rorty said, something will crack.

In Europe the rejection of nationhood has been more extreme for reasons that are not difficult to imagine. As Manent wrote, the “historical evil” of the first half of the 20th century has “come to overwhelm European life and conscience to such an extent that European nations, in the name of ‘constructing Europe’, have embarked on a methodical process of self-erasement”.

There is something Orwellian about this collective self-erasement undertaken in the name of historical memory. But it has gone a long way in reshaping the consciousness of European intellectuals and academics. For most of them the main lesson of the 1930s is that any national pride must be nipped in the bud, along with the idea that liberal nationalism might ever have been a positive force in European history. The notion that there might be a relationship between national or cultural identity and democracy must be rejected outright. Indeed, a leading textbook of EU law proclaims: “The sense of a shared identity as a precondition for democracy is a dangerous, even fascistic, idea if it implies that individuals must have certain common traits or ways of seeing the world before there can be a democracy.” Tocqueville “dangerous” and “fascistic” too, then?

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Anonymous
April 19th, 2017
11:04 AM
Fantastic piece, very thought provoking. It is extraordinary that nowadays, national pride's chain of inference becomes descent into fascism. "Liberals" have been peddling this canard unopposed. As a result it has become generally accepted. Ironically, if legitimate concerns continue to go unaddressed, it will eventually come true. But so far there has been demonstrably very little appetite for it despite the best efforts of the police and their lobbyists (see Hate Crime statistics and how they are gathered and then used to peddle a false narrative). Finally here this author is highlighting the fact that the establishment has been so often on the wrong side of history. Does education immunize against common sense? is is used as a substitute for independent thinking? Is group-think unduly rewarded by the system? Clearly there is a problem there.

geomat33
April 2nd, 2017
11:04 PM
The alternative model to both neoliberalism and collectivism is emerging called cooperative liberalism or coliberalism. This development not only affirms that Brexit was the right decision, it also provides the economic pathway for doing so. This development, while exposing the EU as a well-intentioned but flawed experiment, offers a practical pathway to achieving the original goals of the EU. "Coliberalism affirms the long-standing belief that human progress is the result of cooperative effort based on trust and underpinned by an attitude of selflessness, grounded in empathy. It is a rejection of the neoliberal concept of trying to organize society on the principle of self-interest and enforced through the market by its monopoly on defining value, which it defines solely in terms of financial profit and loss. Coliberalism works by relegating the market to being a subset of society rather than being its central institution, as it is under neoliberalism. This has the effect of quarantining the broader community from the withering impact of self-interest while freeing the market to deliver economic benefits with minimum regulation and minimum taxation. Under coliberalism the traditional process of sharing wealth through salary, wages, taxation and redistribution is expanded to include human creativity and social capital as recognized by direct feedback through Trruster. Coliberalism frees the market to automate to improve efficiency while sharing the gains more equitably and more broadly on a global basis by rewarding human creativity, ingenuity and social capital building. While coliberalism is a rejection of the dominion of the market over the individual, it is also a rejection of collectivism in all its forms, which can be broadly defined as the dominion of the state over the individual. Coliberalism can be broadly defined as a system of social, economic and political organization based on individuals cooperating freely for mutual benefit, guided by online feedback and within the bounds of common law." http://bit.ly/2nMgSvT

Anonymous
April 1st, 2017
8:04 AM
Adolf Hitler was the biggest threat to democracy in the 20th Century The EU is the biggest threat to democracy in the 21st Century World War 1 was in the early 20th Century, and its now 2017 I hope that the 21st Century does not have to fight the great wars again to regain or maintain democracy

Democracy lover
March 30th, 2017
7:03 AM
Excellent piece. Thank you for this wake-up call article.

anonymous
March 29th, 2017
7:03 PM
If colonization and it's inherant threat to indigenous culture by military force is wrong then the same result through political peer pressure is just as wrong. If America or any other country wants to participate in the melting pot culture, let them. However those who desire to truly preserve indigenous cultural identity of a country by maintaining autonomy, that is their right as many of the countries have fought, loved, died and worked hard over centuries to create the country and the unique culture. Long live Brittain! Vive Francais! And for all those liberals giving lip service to diversity it is exactly that which you threaten in your demands to integrate. Especially when the demand is against the will of those experiencing forced integration. Trade cooperation should not require a loss of cultural autonomy.

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