Book Notes: The Virtue of Nationalism, Part II

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.

16 thoughts on “Book Notes: The Virtue of Nationalism, Part II

  1. \ P.S. Isn’t it great to have me read all the hottest new books on nationalism and give reviews?

    That’s what I love the most about your blog. Making me discover Bobbit, now other writers and being exposed to insights and discussions of modern states / nationalism / world.

    Even when I do not comment much on some posts, I love long posts on those topics. 🙂


    1. There are 5 posts on this book so far and it would have been too long as a single post.

      I think you’d love the book if you haven’t read it yet. The part on Israel blew my mind it’s so good. (A scheduled post on this part of the book will appear tomorrow.)


      1. // I think you’d love the book if you haven’t read it yet.

        I haven’t. I don’t read much now, especially not scholarly books which can be loaned only from a university library. But I love reading your reviews and am very intrigued about my country.

        The one question I want answered is whether we in Israel are truly as behind as I see it now, in the early 20th century, or if global developments have significantly influenced us too and, if yes, then in which fashion.


  2. Now I checked and turns out the author is an Israeli Jew too!

    “Yoram Hazony is an Israeli philosopher, Bible scholar and political theorist. He is the award-winning author of The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture (2012) and The Virtue of Nationalism (2018), among other books. He has appeared in The Wall St. Journal, The New York Times, and on NPR’s “All Things Considered.” He is President of the Herzl Institute in Jerusalem. Subscribe to receive his essays at”

    If he doesn’t discuss those things about our country, then who does?
    Hope to see some answers tomorrow.


  3. As I suspected, “Hazony is a Modern Orthodox Jew” and “an outspoken nationalist” which explains “tries to find roots of the modern nation-state in the Hebrew Bible”.

    As for “utterly unjustified attempts to link the rise of modern nationalism to the Protestant tradition,” it is explained by his also being an American Jew. 🙂

    I know it’s considered bad to judge art (and probably analysis too) by looking into a writer’s personal life, but it explains a lot. That’s why I am already inclined to take his defense of nationalism with a grain of salt. He has extremely strong ideological bias before he starts looking at the realities on the ground.

    Btw, another intersting thing is “Hazony is known for founding The Shalem Center in Jerusalem in 1994, and leading it through its accreditation in 2013 as Shalem College, Israel’s first liberal arts college.”

    // The Shalem Center was a Jerusalem research institute that supported academic work in the fields of philosophy, political theory, Jewish and Zionist history, Bible and Talmud, Middle East Studies, archaeology, economics, and strategic studies.

    In its mission statement the Center wrote that “It seems that the entire Jewish people is suffering from an identity crisis”, making its purpose to “provide a proper response to these processes”. Due to the prestige the center was able to acquire, with time renowned academics of different political orientation have joined the ranks of its faculty.

    The center became Shalem College in January 2013, when it received accreditation from the Council of Higher Education to offer Bachelor’s degrees.



    1. I address this in one of the later parts of the review. It’s clear that he’s influenced by his position in Israel. But it doesn’t mean that the argument is without merit. I read the whole book and I can say that the argument definitely is worthy of interest completely aside from the issue of Israel. Although the part on Israel (which comes at the very end) is extremely strong.


  4. Posted this comment to the wrong post, so repost it here:

    Started reading his articles here:

    Discovered so far

    “Antisocial Texts: Who Removed Zionism from Israel’s Textbooks?” The New Republic, April 17 & 24, 2000

    Remember your old post about somebody criticizing too nationalistic and untrue presentations of Arabs and thus history in general in Israeli textbooks? Turns out a few Israeli academics responsible for creating books felt the same thing. 🙂

    Unfortunately, I am sure Yoram Hazony exaggerates regarding the insufficient nationalism in textbooks now, but if a few words about Palestinians have been added – I am glad. There is no chance of peace ever without recognizing the Other as human too with his truth and not as an Orc from Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” as is often currently presented.

    Also, I am sure Hazony exaggerates since I read a serious criticism of the new Citizenship textbook which stated the opposite in some ways from what Hazony presents. Again, as a nationalist and as a Haredi Jew, I expect him to have bias and present even too nationalistic for my taste books as anti-Zionist.


  5. But what about global illiberalism, as in the Trump-Bolsonaro nexus (in which a few other countries, and movements worldwide participate)?


    1. My answer is that the nation-state is agonizing before being wiped out by globalization. An agony doesn’t look pretty. But I believe it’s doomed because global capital doesn’t like it.

      Hazony seems to disagree but he’s not very good on the economic side of it.


      1. Well, it’s been doing this since the 1990s at least. But what is needed is some kind of international left, that isn’t Communist. With the Amazonian depredation now inevitable unless stopped, we’re all doomed, and Bolsonaro thinks he’s acting in Brazil’s interest and Ecuador is basically forced to sell to the Chinese (I think — maybe this too is considered national interest)


        1. Nothing would make me happier than an international left that kept its eyes on the global capital and not on stupid identity grievances and speech codes. But I don’t see anything like that.


          1. Well, in small ways: environmental movement, indigenous movement. There are human rights groups. But something much more comprehensive needs to arise and I am not sure how to create it.


            1. I don’t think it will happen unless the fake, consumerist pseudo-progressivism is discarded first. It lays claims to moral authority that nobody currently can contest because they are embraced by the corporate world.


              1. Well, there can be no union if everyone has to be suspicious and parse everything all the time. And the most sanctimonious are those who don’t even believe what they’re saying, understand it, they’re just trying to sound right. Yet there are a lot of basic issues to agree on, across party lines too —


            2. The “international left” is a confused mess — has been, since the fall of communism almost 30 years ago.

              In the meantime, the nationalist right — Trumpism in America, the AfD in Germany, elections all over Europe and South America — is sprouting like virulent weeds in a dawning tomorrow that people younger than I am will have to deal with.

              I am well contented in my dotage, protected by my multiple privileges, while tomorrow belongs to your generation. I’ll be watching with bemusement to see how your contemporaries handle it.


              1. Yeah — it does not bode well. It seems there is this nationalist right, and the globalized economy, and then the liberals trying to teach people to play nice and get along (they’re an accessory to globalization in that way). It looks bad.


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