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The Liberal Case For Nationalism


Does it seem like the world’s democracies are less stable these days — under assault from strongmen, undermined by digital propaganda and stretched to the limit by partisan personal animosity?

Writer and political scientist Yascha Mounk was one of the first to start waving red flags. And he has an idea for how to fix it. The left, he says, should embrace nationalism … but not nationalism in the way it’s long been practiced.

He writes:

So long as nationalism is associated with one particular ethnic or religious group, it will serve to exclude and disadvantage others. The only way to keep the destructive potential of nationalism in check is to fight for a society in which collective identity transcends ethnic and religious boundaries — one in which citizens from all religious or ethnic backgrounds are treated with the same respect as citizens from the majority group.

To effect this transformation is one of the great political challenges of our age. It requires principled resistance to right-wing nationalism, but it can succeed only if those who are most open to diversity abandon their hostility to other forms of nationalism.

Mounk writes that nationalism “is like a half-wild beast. As long as it remains under our control, it can be of tremendous use. But if we abandon it, others are sure to step in, prodding and baiting the beast to bring out its most ferocious side.”

But can this beast be tamed? And is it really as destructive as it can sometimes seem on the surface?


Yascha Mounk, Lecturer on government, Harvard University; senior fellow, political reform program, New America; author: “The People vs. Democracy”; host, The Good Fight podcast; @Yascha_Mounk

For more, visit https://the1a.org.

© 2018 WAMU 88.5 – American University Radio.

Copyright 2018 WAMU 88.5

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