Sunday, June 23, 2019

Nationalism: Ethnic and Philosophical Formulations

Professor  Hodges has been engaged in a polemic on the subject of "Nationalism."  See HERE, HERE and HERE for a sample of his exchanges (apparently back-channel) with an anonymous interlocutor.

A number of remarkable remarks have been made; perhaps the most useful is Professor Hodges' distinction between "ethnic " and "civil" nationalism, which parallels the distinction I draw between, respectively, "ethnic" and "philosophical" nationalism.

Many years ago in an 18th century European history course the professor made a good case that European nationalism(s) and American nationalism are distinct. Here is his idea, embellished with my own thinking on the matter:

European nationalism is configured around language, ethnicity and culture (and religion is a component of this). On the other hand, American nationalism is based on political philosophy, law and the US Constitution. Now, the law and the Constitution (and the Declaration) are clearly descendants of English and Scottish culture and political movements, and linguistically are tied to the English language, as the law (the Constitution) is written in English. But importantly in American nationalism, the operative principle are coherent legal and ethical philosophies rather than ethnic identification.

European ethnic nationalism vs. American legal-philosophical nationalism represents an important distinction, and this distinction should be kept in mind when considering arguments on the subject. Nationalism, of the American variety, is a pretty good apparatus for protecting property, advancing the equitable distribution of wealth, and creating new pathways for promoting social justice.

An early formulation of such a nationalism--creating institutions protecting a broad middle class, and the political philosophy that under-girds such a project--can be found Aristotle. See HERE, for example.

Franklin, Adams and Jefferson formulate the plan for a new nation.

No comments: