Hazony discusses the double standard that reviles nationalist behavior by some countries and accepts it in others:
The Americans are reviled, and their behavior deplored, for exercising independent judgment in the pursuit of their interests as a nation, whereas no such scandal is attached to China or Iran exercising independent judgment and pursuing their own interests. Again, it is the national independence of a ‘European’ people that should have reached moral maturity and should know better that is driving the anger and hatred (216).
When a little kid announces, “Mommy, I’ve gone potty!” it’s cute and greeted with delighted applause. But if an adult does it, we find it disgusting. The liberal mentality, Hazony says, treats first-world countries like adults who should be too mature to engage in something as disgusting as acting in their own national interest. But when countries considered inferior do it, that’s OK because nobody holds them to the same high standard.
What’s really curious here is not the double standard, which is something we’ve all noticed many times. It’s the horrified repulsion of anything that smacks of defending national interest. People are trained to feel this repulsion because it brings enormous profits. To somebody else. They are schooled to cheer the dismantling of the nation-state that will make them poorer. But it’s OK because in return they get a sense of moral superiority.
What Hazony’s book misses is developing his ideas a bit further and taking them into the terrain of profits and gains. But he’s clearly not a Marxist, so for him it’s all ideas, Kant, morality, etc. I always find such an analysis insufficient but I fully recognize that other folks might see my obsession with the capital as boring and pedestrian.
What is the liberal empire that is proposed as an alternative to nationalism like? Here is my favorite quote from Hazony’s book:
Dogmatic and utopian, it assumes that the final truths concerning mankind’s fate have long since been discovered, and that all that remains is a way to impose them. . . As the opponents of liberalism have been vanquished one by one, and universal liberal empire has seemed to come within reach, dogmatic imperialism [became] the dominant voice within the liberal camp – a voice that has rapidly taken on the worst features of the medieval Catholic empire upon which it is unwittingly modeled, including a doctrine of infallibility, as well as a taste for the Inquisition (46).
You can see from the style of writing why I liked this book in spite of disagreeing with a large chunk of the argument. Hazony tries to find roots of the modern nation-state in the Hebrew Bible, which I find kind of embarrassing in its sheer ludicrousness but this part I just quoted is spot-on and very powerful. I never thought about globalism this way but it makes a lot of sense to me. I hate authors who tell me what I already know because I feel like they are stealing my time. And I feared Hazony would be like that. But from the start, I discovered that the book was giving me new insights.
More to come later.
P.S. Isn’t it great to have me read all the hottest new books on nationalism and give reviews? This is a response to those who think that Humanities profs don’t contribute to the public good outside of teaching. This is also an argument against those who want to silence academics like me.
The greatest contribution of this book to the discussion of nationalism is that Hazony doesn’t refer to the alternative to nationalism with the vague terminology of globalism, transnationalism, or post-nation state. Instead, he uses the term “liberal imperialism,” which I haven’t encountered before but find productive and insightful.
There are many things I didn’t like about the book, such as, for instance, the obsessive and utterly unjustified attempts to link the rise of modern nationalism to the Protestant tradition. Nationalism is the child of the Enlightenment, and some of the greatest enlightened thinkers were French. It is no accident that the first grand success of nationalism was Napoleon’s mobilization of soldiers. And Napoleon’s greatest defeats happened when his used nationalism to advance imperialist goals and was rebuffed by nascent nationalisms in Spain, Russia, etc.
In any case, looking at nationalism as an alternative to imperialism (currently, of Germany in the EU, the US everywhere else, and, I’d add, Russia in Eastern Europe) is very productive and I don’t know that it’s been done by anybody else before.
People hate long posts, so I’ll break this one up in a bunch of smaller ones.
Just what we need:
The Food and Drug Administration has approved a potent new opioid painkiller, despite warnings from physician critics who say the drug will contribute to the addiction epidemic.
And notice this:
On Wednesday, ahead of the FDA’s final decision, four U.S. senators — Ed Markey, Claire McCaskill, Joe Manchin and Richard Blumenthal — sent a letter to Gottlieb, the FDA’s commissioner, echoing concerns from Brown and Public Citizen and asking the agency to deny approval to Dsuvia until Brown and the full drug safety committee were allowed to participate.
I told you McCaskill is great. And so is Manchin. I hope they both win their races on Tuesday. But my question is: why just these four? Where is everybody else? Lying snugly in the pockets of the drug industry?
Please don’t vote for people until you see them take a firm stand on opioids.