Trump, Le Pen and the enduring appeal of nationalism by Mark Mazower

The flags are flying, the anthems ring out. We live in the time of the homeland, of Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen and the Freedom party’s presidential candidate Norbert Hofer, fresh from his resounding victory in the first round of the Austrian presidential poll. Trump has called on Americans to resist “the false song of globalism”. “In a huge number of European countries, patriotic movements are surging vigorously,” was how Le Pen greeted news of Hofer’s victory last weekend. Nationalism is back like it never went out of fashion and, with it, the head-scratching, the puzzlement. How to explain the irrational, the commentators ask. Doesn’t the Brexit camp realise leaving the European Union is a crazy idea? Don’t Trump’s millions understand that he is promising the impossible?

There is still no better place to look for an answer than in a little polemic written more than 30 years ago. Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities (1983) remains a classic effort to explain nationalism’s durability and to come to terms with the passions it can unleash. Nationalism, Anderson argued, is not an ancient phenomenon, nor did it emerge in Europe as most commentators seemed to think. Quite distinct from the dynastic appeals of Shakespeare’s Henry V — it is easy to forget that the battle-cry “God for Harry, England and Saint George” is uttered in the play by the king himself — modern nationalism originated, in Anderson’s view, around the time of the American wars of independence. From the outset, he says, it has been more than just another political “ism”, as its deployment of sacral idioms, of the idea of sacrifice and duty, shows. In fact its emergence is best understood in relation to religion, whose compelling power to motivate and inspire it often shares.


Despre Claudiu Degeratu
Expert in securitate nationala, internationala, NATO, UE, aparare si studii strategice

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