The world is currently experiencing a state of geopolitical realignment. Nationalism is reasserting itself as a credible alternative to the prevailing liberal-capitalist global order. This rise of neo-nationalism is a response to multiculturalism and global interdependence.
Although such misgivings can be dismissed as being the fears of racist, xenophobic and authoritarian conservatives, I argue that the renewed appreciation of the nation state is due to a reconsideration of the current socio-political orthodoxy, that perceives multiculturalism and globalization as a subtle (yet powerful) form of forced cultural diversity and global political integration. The way in which these ideas impact the world order is that the stronger the tide of globalization, the stronger the response towards fragmentation or plurality.
The Predominate World Order
Liberalism came to dominate the globe during the aftermath of the Great War. The conclusion was reached that realist-nationalism was the cause of international hostility and therefore, in order to prevent further conflicts a transnational world state must be manifested.
The greatest champion of this agenda was US President Woodrow Wilson, who stated that all peoples are partners in world peace the creation of a general association of nations . History then took on two eschatological terms of the Soviet and American views of world order. With the fall of the Soviet Union and declaration of the ‘End of History’, a globalizing Liberalism became the ultimate state of global human existence .
Cosmopolitan Globalism Rethought
Despite the promises of idealism, its true nature has brought a much different reality. What is driving the surge of nationalism across the world? the nations states are experiencing the multifaceted attack of geopolitical integration, the synthesis of domestic politics and internal cultural balkanization.
Arguably, the combination of the loss of national sovereignty along with the dilution of domestic cultures has proven E.H. Carr correct: ‘liberalism is Utopian and therefore quixotic, as it fails to comprehend the workings of reality‘ . In response to these challenges, the tenets of sovereignty are now in doubt and the reconsideration of mono-culture and the nation state are now afoot.
The results of globalization have proven to be the erosion of the power and independence of the state. This has been discussed by Susan Strange, who has stated that political authority has shifted from nation states to both intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations. She went further in The Retreat of the State, stating that ‘heads of governments have lost their power and thus no longer can truly offer solutions to problems that may concern their fellow countrymen‘.
The Rise of Nationalistic False Prophets and the Patriotic Alternative
The revolt against liberalism has simultaneously taken place in various countries across the planet. It has been particular present in Anglo-Saxon nations, as represented by Britain voting to withdraw from the European Union. And in the US, the Presidential campaign of Donald Trump.
According to the in-depth research by Robert Ford in Revolt of the Right, the support base for this revolt is due to globalization creating a post-industrial economy that prioritized corporate jobs, training and professional qualifications . The residual affect has been the growth of a more financially secure, highly educated, socially liberal middle class and the adoption of new values such as environmentalism, human rights and social justice and the shrinking of the traditional working class .
This liberal-agenda saw the abandonment of the blue-collar working class as their historic political parties faced the dilemma of representing the shrinking working class and face political oblivion or reinvent themselves and represent the metropolitan globalized world by making peace with liberalism, de-prioritize worker rights for public services and adopt multiculturalism instead of upholding traditionalism. Does this prove the Susan Strange was correct?
An example of this occurring has been the rise in support for the British National Party and UKIP. The BNP being the successor to the neo-nazi National Front and was grounded in its tradition of ethic nationalism. They argued that British nationalism consisted of race and ancestry and therefore, people of other origins could never truly be British. In regards to foreign policy they advocated Hard Europe-skepticism and wished to withdraw from the European Union as it infringed on their autonomy.
This brand of nationalism began to gain traction with the public with the BNP and peaked in the 2009 European Election with winning almost one million votes and elected two members to the European Parliament (BNP secures two European seats, 2009). However BNP support was quickly siphoned by UKIP as they began to gain support and mainstream exposure by offering a form of non-racist, non-sectarian of civic-nationalism and libertarian-ism and wished to protect the public from big government, support free market capitalism and wished to free the UK from the European Union and restore national sovereignty and their cultural heritage. This led to the BNP to rapidly decline in support and implode as a force in British politics and be ultimately, returned to the far-fringes of public debate.
The US led on a similar path to Britain. Just like their British counterparts, the American people are willing to support the Trump phenomenon as it represents a populist revolt. However, this battle did not emerge from a third party, but through the power dynamics within the Republican Party. The momentous support that Trump has gathered transcends his candidacy and has reduced him to a figurehead of populist support for a people that support American idealism. Once consolidating control over the GOP, Trump declared the credo of ‘Americanism, not Globalism’
In conclusion, the rise of nationalism can be attributed to the hubris of the current liberal world order. By believing itself to be the End of History and condemning the regime of nation states and mono-culture. Of liberalism fermented resentment. By demonizing legitimate concerns, it ultimately started a counter-revolution by the world populace.
It is this reason that the ideas advocated by the likes of Trump or Strange should not be dismissed as their brand of nationalism can gain power if a moderate alternative is not available. Furthermore, the consequences of resurgent nationalism may prove to be beneficial to world peace, as it would allow national cultures to express themselves without being infringed by external forces.