Book Notes: The Virtue of Nationalism, Part IV

Now let me tell you what I didn’t like about the book and why I still suggest you turn to Zygmunt Bauman and Philip Bobbitt for their discussion of the erosion of the nation-state.

Hazony is very good at explaining – in the most patient and meticulous way I have ever encountered – what a nation-state is and how it comes into existence. But he has a huge glaring hole where Bauman and Bobbitt possess a profound understanding of the globalizing forces of the economy. Hazony talks as if we were all brains and emotions and had no stomachs, physical bodies, and varying material needs. I strongly believe that any discussion of the globalization has to start with the economy. Ideas are great, I’m all for ideas, but unless you understand how the ideas about the goodness / evilness of the nation-state play into a certain economic order, you aren’t getting anything like the whole picture.

What’s even worse, Hazony is very upbeat about the future of the nation-state model precisely because he doesn’t notice how the very logic of late capitalism makes it obsolete.

Hazony is from a country that arrived quite late at the nationalist game. As people from such countries (Ukraine is another example) tend to do, he wants to convince himself that the nationalist project is still going to be relevant for a long time. As a result, he engages in wishful thinking that is supported by his superficial and limited understanding of the global economy.

This is a useful book that makes some important points but I’d like to see the author try to reinvent the wheel less and engage with the mountain of existing theory on this subject a lot more.

11 thoughts on “Book Notes: The Virtue of Nationalism, Part IV

  1. // What’s even worse, Hazony is very upbeat about the future of the nation-state model precisely because he doesn’t notice how the very logic of late capitalism makes it obsolete.

    What do you make of the following then, which other realistic solutions are there? I mean:

    // This success has not been in spite of Israel’s character as the state of the Jewish people, but because of it. To see this, just compare Israel’s trajectory to that of other states established in the region at around the same time, but based on a “multi-national” model: Syria (independent 1946) was assembled by the French by forcing together Alawite, Druze, Kurd, Assyrian Christian and Sunni Arab peoples—willfully ignoring national and religious boundaries, as well as the vocal demands by some of these peoples to be granted independent states of their own. Iraq (independent 1932) was a similar British construct, imposing a single state on radically disparate Kurdish, Assyrian, Sunni Arab, and Shia Arab peoples, among others. Most states in the Middle East— “Pan-Arab” in name only—were built by the Western powers in just this way.

    The results have been just as Mill predicted: Israel, built around a cohesive and overwhelming Jewish majority, was able to establish internal stability without repression, and quickly developed into a fully functioning democracy. Whereas the other states of the region have been able to retain their integrity only through brutality and state terror. The destruction of the Sunni city of Hama by Syria’s Alawite regime in 1982, and the gassing of Kurds in Halabja by Iraq’s Sunni regime in 1988, are only the best-known examples of what has been a chronic dilemma for these regimes: Either greater repression, or collapse.

    We can hold off on reaching this conclusion as long as we please: But there will not be peace in Syria-Iraq until the borders are redrawn along ethnic and religious lines. In the end, Kurds, Alawites, Christians, Druze, Sunni Arabs and Shiite Arabs must each have their own nation-state, each devoted to the well-being and interests of one people. And each must have its own “Law of Return,” offering a place of refuge and automatic citizenship to the scattered and persecuted members of this one people.


        1. My Jewish grandma was shocked during my parents’ traditional Ukrainian wedding when she was informed that part of the celebration would consist of her being driven in a cart to a garbage heap and dumped in the garbage. (This is a symbolic repudiation of oedipal ties). She refused and my Ukrainian grandfather had to stand in for her and get dumped.

          Liked by 1 person

            1. Yep. You should imagine the Jewish grandma, a successful corporate lawyer in a fancy outfit and complex hairstyle, being told she’s supposed to participate in this “peasant” activity.

              And what do you think? She refused to participate in the ritual and then spent the rest of her life interfering in my parents’ marriage and trying to break them up. Rituals do matter!

              Liked by 1 person

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