In this short article I present my thoughts about our post-modern, post-liberal, and – I would say – post-nationalist age.
Perhaps the first step is to describe what I mean by “post-nationalism.”
The advocates of our postmodern, post-liberal, globalized age regularly speak of the end of classical politics, states, societies, and nations.
Because of left-wing indoctrination by the mass media and the educational systems in Western countries, Western societies now think differently about matters concerning human equality, internationalism, and globalism. Leftist ideologues usually stress that we need to understand that we’re living in a post-nationalistic age, and that multiculturalism and the welfare state have changed what we once called the “nation” hundreds of years ago. And I have to admit I think they are right in some sense.
Idealistic ideas about nations that nationalists like to uphold have already failed. In Western Europe it’s easy to see just by looking at the mass immigration and ongoing “migrant crisis” that have sadly changed the structure of the society in great measure. In Central Europe the situation is different because – ironically – western standards of living have saved us from mass migration for now, and our societies have remained more conservative in some sense – nevertheless, liberalism and capitalism are rooted here too, and the consumer society is a problem even here.
But it is not like the “glorious forces” of nationalism failed against the “dark forces” of liberalism and globalism. The roots of the problem go deeper. The idea of nationalism was doomed from the start, because democratic nationalism, nation-states, and the inherent animosities underlying “petty nationalism” were the first destructive force against the old, traditional European societies and political order. These ideas were what destroyed the diversity of Europe – which at one time was real and organic – and created ongoing hatred between European ethnic groups. Liberalism, of course, does this as well, but in the 19th century liberalism and nationalism were connected and unopposed to each other.
The counter-revolutionaries Joseph de Maistre and Klemens von Metternich had known that. And as weird as it may be, some liberal intellectuals nowadays recognize the same truth monarchists of hundreds of years ago recognized: that small communities and organizations – including, sometimes, international organizations – are the most important actors of politics, not nation-states. Of course these liberals probably wouldn’t agree with my assertion that the Church in the Middle Ages and Early Modern period – which includes compound states like the Holy Roman Empire, the Hapsburg Empire, and the Russian Empire – are good examples of this concept.
I am not saying that the core values behind present-day nationalism are not important and valuable. The intention to save the integrity of a society and to save the culture and identity of a nation are important core values for me, too. But I don’t think nationalism – which usually proves quite chauvinistic – is best equipped to do so. One reason why is that nationalism wants to unify a population by ethnicity, language, and religion, but Europe never was, and is not today unitary in these categories. Just think, for example, of Catalonia, Brittany, the Occitan-speaking people in Southern France, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol in Italy, the historic populations of Silesia, and the Hungarian populations living in portions of Slovakia, Romania, and Ukraine.
As I see it, ethnonationalist thinking oppresses and slowly destroys authentically European regional ethnic cultures, religious traditions, and artisanal crafts that are the heart and essence of Europe’s organic diversity. It is through this unity in diversity, unitas in varietate, which is how premodern nations existed, primarily (but not exclusively) as monarchies. These “compound nations” were interconnected with broader cultural, historical, and religious connections as well as common interests. (Of course I don’t want to deny the ongoing, devastating wars that have occurred between European nations, but even allowing for this my point holds true.)
Sadly, present-day nationalists don’t seem to understand this, and can’t let go of the 19th- and 20th-century nation-state paradigm. Unfortunately, this paradigm can’t create and maintain a much more unified Europe – which is exactly what we need as we face the migration crisis, climate change, and potentially the biggest geopolitical changes the world has seen since the end of the Cold War.
If we continue with old nationalist paradigms we will become each other’s enemies, which we cannot allow in the time of the “migrant crisis,” the LGBT offensive against the traditional family, and the liberal push to “redefine” the nature of things. Of course, the conservative victories of 2016 like the election of Donald Trump, Brexit, and the growth of the alt-right movement in the US have shown us that political opinions are changing for the better in the West. But that’s not enough. After the election of Alexander Van der Bellen, Emmanuel Macron, and the electoral defeat of Geert Wilders, it is clear that problems remain. And in my view we cannot really change Europe’s direction if we remain on the basis of nationalist thinking. The post-liberal globalists think their enemies on the West are “retrograde nationalists”; they know what these people can say and do. Continuing with the dated nationalist paradigm means acting in accordance with their predictions. We need to stop and reconsider.
In the past, the conservative political strategies I mentioned were better able to do this – in the process maintaining and preserving the natural diversity of the European people – and nowadays Identitarian ideas are better suited for this. We therefore need to step beyond nationalism and understand what an illiberal post-nationalism can provide us.