The End of the Postnational Illusion


With the advance of modernization, nationalism was supposed to fade away. Yet everywhere we look, even in advanced democracies, nationalism’s influence seems larger than ever. What did we get wrong? The assumption (sometimes implicit) in most theories of nationalism is that it belongs to early modernization and therefore is bound, as development advances, to outgrow its utility and become marginal or even (in the Marxist view) vanish altogether. This understanding allows for a happy congruence between normative and theoretical views. Normatively, nationalism is considered bad because it is antiliberal, opposes individual rights, is hostile to minorities, generally opposes diversity, and so on. But luckily, nationalism is also historically doomed because history will make it redundant. It is this assumption of happy congruence that we must now give up.