The Daily Wire has been given an exclusive adapted excerpt from philosopher Yoram Hazony’s powerful new book, “The Virtue of Nationalism,” a work that offers a stirring defense of nationalism in the face of withering attacks authored by leftists in recent decades. The excerpt is below:
“Liberal internationalism” is not merely a positive agenda for the erasure of national boundaries and the dismantling of the national states in Europe and elsewhere. It is an imperialist ideology that incites against nationalism and nationalists, seeking their delegitimization wherever they appear in Europe, or among nations such as America and Israel that are regarded having emerged from European civilization.
Why has the hatred emanating from liberal circles been so little discussed? It seems that this is because the existence of such a hatred does not fit within the Kantian paradigm, according to which reason should be moving mankind toward the abandonment of the independent national state, along with the hatred and violence that characterized the era of independent nations. According to this view, the coming international state will arise together with reason and peace.
But if it were to turn out that support for the liberal imperialist program produces not reason and peace, but hatred and violence, the claim that liberal empire is the only position available to reasonable people would be badly damaged.
There is, in other words, a blind spot in contemporary liberal discourse. Due to their commitment to a universal political order, liberal imperialists tend to attribute hatred to national and tribal particularism (or else to religion), while overlooking or downplaying the hate that is a direct consequence of the advance of their own aspiration of attaining universal political order.
None of this should be surprising.
Historically, every imperial theory with which we are familiar—whether Egyptian or Assyrian, Greek or Roman, Christian or Muslim, liberal or Marxist—has offered an ideology of universal salvation and peace. And each such imperialist ideology, as soon as it collides with a determined rejection of the salvation it offers, responds to this rejection with an intense and abiding hatred.
The universal, it seems, can love all men and all nations only as long as they are willing to allow themselves to be determined, in their thoughts and actions, by this universal. The moment that particular nations and particular men insist on self-determination, everything changes. We then find that the universal hates the particular, is appalled and disgusted by it. And this hate and disgust only grows more inflamed as the resistance of the particular proves itself resilient and enduring.
This is the story of Christianity’s hatred for the Jews, who rejected the Gospel’s message of salvation and peace. And it is the story of Europe’s hatred for modern-day Israel, which has rejected the European Union’s message of salvation and peace. Kant’s proposal to dismantle the national states of Europe and bring them under the rule of an international federation is, in other words, an Enlightenment recapitulation of an ancient Christian trope.
The anger that advocates of liberal empire feel in confronting Israel’s refusal to accept their program of perpetual peace is very much akin to what some of their forefathers must have felt in confronting the Jews’ refusal of the Gospel. And the Jews, too, when they find this hatred bearing down upon them once again, experience feelings akin to what their forefathers must have felt. Once this is said, we must consider again Hitler’s hatred of the Jews, which is so often identified as an archetypal case of a national or tribal hatred, the hatred of one nation for another.
The Germans, however, have never cultivated an Old Testament conception of themselves as an independent national state, as the English, the Dutch, and the Americans did. The Catholic-German dream of Austriae est imperare orbi universo, the Nazi German dream of becoming “lord of the earth,” and the Enlightenment German dream of “an international state, which would necessarily continue to grow until it embraced all the people of the earth,” are all transformations of a single ideal and passion, that of emperors and imperialists, who dream of extinguishing all nations that are self-determining and free upon this earth, and suffusing them with a universal will bearing a single, universal salvation to all.
This is an ideal and passion that has found the Jews, with their irreducible concern for their unique cause and covenant, to be an insufferable impediment. For this reason, German hatred of the Jews has indeed become a byword and an archetype. But it is not an archetype of the hatred of one nation for another with which it competes. It is an archetype of the hatred of emperors and imperialists, whose universal will cannot abide even a single, obstinately dissenting people, no matter how small.
One must take time to consider this, so that it is understood well: To those in the grip of universalist delusions, there is no truth unless it is pure, without exceptions. And so the salvation they offer cannot be true unless it is pure, without exceptions—meaning that it must hold good for all nations, for every woman and every man, in every age. To allow even this one small dissent, to tolerate this one small dissent, would mean that the universal salvation that has been offered to mankind is false. And yet the Jews insist on dissenting.
This horror for the national and the particular has waned somewhat among Christians. Where Hebrew Scripture is firmly embraced, we now meet many Christians who are able to love the particularity of a unique national purpose and perspective. This is why so many devout Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, remain nationalists in America and Britain, even as the commitment to national independence has fallen into deep disrepute. They identify personally with ancient Israel, and it is this affinity that teaches them to love the particularity of a unique national purpose. It is also why so many in these countries love Israel, a love that has no source except in their personal identification with the ancient Israelite nation in the Old Testament.
But the horror for the national and the particular, the hatred of emperors and imperialists, burns bright today among “liberal internationalists.” They have taken up the yearning for universal empire, believing in it as Christians once believed, and as Marxists once believed. The Jews will remain an object of special outrage for proponents of liberal empire, just as they were to their predecessors.
The heart of the liberal imperialists is, however, capacious. And their hatred for the particular that will not submit, which has at times been directed almost exclusively against Israel, has in recent years discovered that there are many others who wish obstinately to defend their own unique cause and perspective. These holdouts against universal liberalism are to be found these days in America and Britain; in Italy, the Netherlands, and Denmark; in Czechia, Poland, Hungary, and Greece; in India and Japan; and in many other countries as well. And they will, all of them, in turn, be hated as the Jews have been hated, for wishing to chart an independent course that is their own.
Ironically, in the eyes of liberal imperialists, every dissident and every dissent look the same: They are all illiberal, deplorable. But these dissident movements and nations do not and never will possess a single worldview that they seek to advance. They share no universal doctrine that they offer for the salvation of all mankind. In some countries, the opposition to liberal empire is rooted in aspirations that I cannot help finding attractive and admirable, whereas in others it is in the name of things that I find distasteful or worse.
What these very different peoples and movements have in common is only a desire to see their nation set its own course, for good or for ill. I cannot defend all of the particularist movements that will arise from this desire for national freedom, nor should anyone be asked to do so. Free nations cannot always make the right choices. They advance by trial and error, by pursuing what they perceive to be their own interests according to their own national traditions and their own unique point of vantage. Humanity’s interest lies not in suppressing these views in the name of some fixed doctrine that will enthrone yet another world empire.
Our interest is, rather, to allow the nations, insofar as this is possible, to pursue aspirations that are original to them. We will not be enamored with what every nation does with this freedom. But in tolerating the ways of other nations, we will be released from the old imperialist hatred of the different and diverse. And we may even come to see that a world of experiment and innovation will bring a greater blessing to the families of the earth than any universal design that we ourselves might have chosen.
Adapted excerpt from The Virtue of Nationalism by Yoram Hazony. Copyright 2018. Available from Basic Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
For Hazony’s speaking schedule, see here.