Weekend Reading 07/14/2017

Justin Collier's picture

H-Nationalism’s Weekend Reading series highlights recent and thought-provoking reviews, blog posts, brief articles, and op-eds.  Have something to say about something you read?  Feel free to respond here or contact David Prior (prior@mail.h-net.msu.edu) and Justin Collier (collierjustin@gmail.com) about writing a blogpost. Follow us on Twitter @HNationalism.


Dear All,

Foreign Policy has on op-ed on how Trump can reconcile nationalism with liberalism. The Week has an op-ed criticizing American liberals for conflating nationalism with racism. National Review has a piece discussing the historic tension between populism and nationalism in the US. AllHipHop has an editorial piece on Black youth advocate Dr. Umar Johnson and Black nationalism.

The Economist has a piece on Catalonia’s government plans to hold an independence referendum next October. Al Jazeera has an article on Basque nationalists facing terrorism charges in Spain.

Foreign Affairs published an article on Globalism and Nationalism.

Jewish Policy Center has an article looking at how Jews view nationalism.

The Herald Scotland has a story on English nationalists accused of  ‘causing trouble’ in Ireland by promoting 'Irexit'.

Stears has an op-ed that offers a particular view of Nigerian nationalism.

Global Times has an op-ed arguing against Mongolian nationalism.

The Indian Express has a piece on growing nationalism in Nepal.



For Reviews in History, Natalya Vince reviews Jeffrey James Byrne’s book Mecca of Revolution: Algeria, Decolonization and the Third World Order (2016, Oxford University Press), “a fascinating account of how senior Algerian politicians...sought to position Algeria at the vanguard of the Third Worldist movement”.



Kit Man, Emmanuel Dalle Mulle, and Justin Collier


Dear All,

My name is Nicholas James and I’m a MSc student in comparative politics. I’ve decided to begin making weekly commentaries on the Weekend Reading series to fill in some of the egregious free time which I’ve been faced with recently. After a discussion with some of H-Nationalism’s editors, we decided that the best avenue for these commentaries would be as direct replies to the original posts. These commentaries are meant to comment on general themes extracted from the week and so will cover 1-5 of the articles. They are purely for auxiliary reading and represent my own views and understandings. Feel free to reply to me here, on twitter @nicholasdjames, or on my H-Net profile.


Trump’s visit to Poland brought some interesting debate surrounding nationalism, globalism, and liberalism this past week. Many of the debates questioned whether nationalism is reconcilable with liberalism or if globalism and nationalism are destined to be at odds. My former professor, Paul Miller, touched on both.  


This past week in Foreign Policy, Paul Miller wrote a short piece debating whether Trump’s nationalism is reconcilable with liberalism. In the article, a juxtaposition is made between Trump’s celebration of Poland’s undying and unyielding resilience and his celebration of liberal or Western values—the ethnic versus the civic. The purpose of such a juxtaposition is to underline the tension between nationalist and liberal undertones. Throughout the piece, Miller seemingly begs the question, “how can something as exclusive as nationalism reconcile itself with something as inclusive as Liberalism?” Through this question, Miller seeks to explore the implications of Trump’s tightrope walk between the civic and ethnic dimensions present in American nationalism. However, I do not think that his Foreign Policy piece manages to articulate an answer to his own question—though, a piece he wrote in The American Interest can. So, for this week, I want to discuss Miller’s two articles and offer my own answers to the question posed above.

In Trump, Miller sees an ambitious attempt to court both civic and ethnic nationalisms—liberal versus illiberal. According to Miller, such a courtship could ultimately prove to negatively coalesce the greater populace into some form of populist revolt surrounding class struggles where liberal decay tumbles along concurrently. He seriously considers that this tightrope walk could spur a regressive redefinition of the “American soul” and the end of the “American ideal.” This is not a totally unfounded fear; an extreme level of nationalism is cancerous to a functioning liberal democracy. However, he is wrong in his suggestion that nationalism itself is a burden on the political system. Rather, it is the ideals of the national destiny which matters most to political action—ideals built upon myths, symbols, and memories (e.g., What is the goal which the nation seeks to promote?). Moreover, ethnic and civic nationalisms needn’t be mutually exclusive to incorporating liberalism. Examples abound of ethnic nationalist and liberal states such as Finland or Czechia, and examples of illiberal states with civic nationalisms like Malaysia. Thus, I remain unconvinced that this distinction Miller makes is quite useful in this context. The distinction does remain useful, however, because it can offer context into how Trump has attempted to subvert or manipulate natural tendencies in the population.

The ideals of national destinies are experienced on individual bases. So, when reviewing Trump’s speech, it isn’t enough to analyze his rhetoric; rather, an analysis of how this rhetoric is observed and consumed is a much more productive approach. Trump’s conflation of White with Western and then Western with liberal is troubling not only because it further muddies the perennially murky water of American nationalist thought, but also because it conflates Whiteness with the West and the West with liberal. This is how the speech was consumed by many—an appeal to Europeaness, Whiteness, and “Western values.” Miller dismisses Beinart’s case for this, yet he reads a similar outcome: Trumpian nationalism misconstrues what liberalism means in all its universality. There’s more meat to the argument than “nationalists don’t understand Locke or history.”

I think it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that, in his opinion, the world might be better off without nationalism writ large. However, I vehemently disagree with this. So, at this point I’d like to defend (most) nations and nationalisms as an integral and stabilizing part of the global order. Anthony Smith says in his book, Nations and Nationalism in a Global Era (1995), that the nation, regarding sociopolitical culture in the modern era, is embedded, functional, and necessary—that is, there is no better alternative sociopolitical framework in which we can justly divide ourselves (Ch. 6). The nation has become embedded in the global cultural phenomenon because it stems from proto-national ethnies which give rich historical material such as myths and symbols for national coalescence; it is functional because its brothers and sisters belong to a moral political community which nationalism constructs; and, it is necessary because the nation secures popular sovereignty through the general will of the people. Indeed, the liberal international order depends on national sovereignty and not state sovereignty to function justly. The freedom of people to have will and autonomy is what makes liberal order. Moreover, autonomy is granted through the dignities which national authenticity (real or imaged) harvests. Smith further points out that, “a pluralist world of nations and national states remains the only safeguard against imperial tyranny,” because the nation as an endogenously defined unit should govern itself in a liberal world (Ch. 6). More recently, in Foreign Affairs, Or Rosenboim seems to agree with Smith on some points and observes that globalism—in other words, liberalism—reconciles with nations and nationalism in so far as a pluralist world order is stable through the interconnectedness and interdependencies which have been evolving since WWII. The liberal international order is sustained by nations which recognize themselves as autonomous units in relation to other autonomous nations with each unit having distinctive real or imagined political uniqueness.

For what it’s worth, Miller does an excellent job at painting some of the problems which the eruptive and salient force of nationalism can bring. He has high mind to critique and question the merits of the phenomena of nationalism itself. However, I am wary of endorsing an approach which inadvertently outcasts the very real nationalist experiences felt by people around the globe, as well as one which limits the ability for constructive dialogue about how to successfully incorporate nations and nationalisms into a democratic framework and retain them within this sphere. My critiques of Miller shouldn’t be read as endorsements of the blind nationalisms which sullied the 20th century with the blood of national martyrs, but they ought to be read as the defense of 1.) liberalism and the order which it has brought via nationalism and nation states and 2.) the people who consciously or unconsciously seek prosperity, stability, and immortality through the common bonds in which they were born in. Can liberalism reconcile itself with nationalism? Yes, it can, at least in the most mainstream forms in which nationalism is practiced and at least in how other nations perceive each other and observe international norms. As Smith would say, national renewal by separation and (especially) interdependence is an ongoing and constructive process which influences the global order and especially influences supranational and “liberal” projects like the EU.