Patriotism, Local and Global

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The terms “patriotism” and “nationalism” are distinguished historically, conceptually, and geographically. Historically, patriotism is shown to have roots in the classical republican tradition of political thought, according to which citizens should
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  Patriotism, Local and Global Charles Blattberg Professor of Political Philosophy Université de Montréal Introduction “Patriotism” has, of course, been understood in numerous ways. I want to propose yet another one here. It derives from a definition of politics according to which it consists of neither the struggle over power nor the management of affairs of state or government; rather, politics is the practice of responding to conflict with dialogue. What this means, exactly, should become clear as the essay unfolds. It begins by distinguishing between the ideas of “patriotism” and “nationalism” in historical, conceptual, and geographical terms. Patriotism, it is claimed, constitutes a political philosophy, a very general account of the form, or forms, of dialogue that citizens should engage in when responding to their conflicts. Nationalism, by contrast, is a political ideology, which is best understood as an account of the kinds of things citizens should be saying within those dialogues, in particular, when they take the form of negotiation. Then, in contrast to proceduralist and value pluralist political philosophies, patriotism is shown to uphold “conversation first, negotiation second, force third” as its central political maxim. Finally, the essay concludes with the claim that we should  –   all of us  –   be affirming a global patriotism, alongside the more local forms. Patriotism and Nationalism The two words, it goes without saying, are often used synonymously. But thinkers as different as George Orwell and Hannah Arendt have raised their objections, and they are right to do so. 1  Before explaining why, however, it ’ s worth noting that both patriotism and nationalism support the idea that people should do more than take merely instrumental stances towards one another. Because to do only this is to be capable of sharing strictly “public  goods, ”  as economists call them, such things as dams or highways, whereas it is “common good s ” that are the bases of genuine * Published in Mitja Sardoč , ed.,  Handbook of Patriotism  (Berlin: Springer, 2020). Previous version published in the  Journal of International Affairs  13, no. 2 (Dec. 2009): 1  –  12. 1   See Orwell, “Notes on Nationalism,” in  England, Your England: And Other Essays  (London: Secker & Warburg, 1953); and Arendt, “Herzl and Lazare,” in The Jewish Writings , eds. Jerome Kohn and Ron H. Feldman   (New York: Schocken Books, 2007), p. 338.   2 communities. And if there is one thing about which both patriots and nationalists can agree, it is that there can be no real countries without them. But what kind of community is a country? Countries are best understood as civic rather than national communities, since they are, above all, communities of citizens. One reason this must be so is that many of them contain more than one nation. States often fail to recognize this officially, of course, but it is the reality, even if only sociologically speaking. That is why it would have been better to have called the most encompassing political organization in the world the “ United States ”  rather than “United Nations,” since this would help us to appreciate how it ’ s possible for many nations to share a single state. Alas, the name appears to have been taken. Not that we should  be satisfied with “United States”  either; as we shall see, “Uniting States” would have been best. But first we need to look more closely at the distinction between patriotism and nationalism. The two differ in at least three ways: historically, conceptually, and geographically. Regarding history, a “patriot” –   to both the American and French revolutionaries, for example  –   is someone who “lov es the laws, ”  in Montesquieu famous phrase. Republican Rome was perhaps the chief model here, according to which citizens are friends of a sort, those who fulfill the ideal of vivere civile  by making the laws that govern how they live their lives. Only this way can they ensure that those laws express their common good and so may be followed willingly, even spontaneously, rather than because of the police. Indeed, this is the only way a citizenry can be considered truly free. That, at least, is the central claim of the civic humanist tradition of political thought, one which extends back even further than Rome to the ancient Greek idea of the  polis . 2  Nationalism is different. For one thing, it is quintessentially modern, which is why the ancient Jewish “ nation ”  in the Bible is today probably best referred to as a “ religious community ”  instead. Of course, Jews have also come to constitute a nation in the modern, secular sense as well  –   one which, like all other nations, is lived through largely quotidian practices. These are carried out free of hierarchical institutions or structures that, whether conceived in terms of houses of worship or a Great Chain of Being, in some sense link them to the transcendent. Perhaps this is why the Jewish 2  See J.G.A. Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition  (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003, 2nd ed.).   3 community in Israel, which is embraced by most secular and religious Jews today (though not all 3 ), is often said to be supported by the political ideology known as “Zionism” rather than “Jewish nationalism,” since the latter expression fails to make enough room for the religious. Be that as it may, consider what Charles Taylor has had to say about the rise of modern nationalism: The causes of modern nationalism are very deep and have to do with the erosion of earlier communities and identifications: the withering away of local community, the decline of religious identifications which often by-passed nationality. Indeed, the very notion of a group identification founded on a relation to the supernatural is strange to many moderns in Atlantic civilization; and the local neighbourhood society cannot have the place it once had. But people need a group identification, and the obvious one to take the place of the earlier forms is the one that springs to the attention of the speaking animal, namely, nationality based on language. 4  Had such nations been around during ancient times, thinkers such as Aristotle would probably have described their members as sharing not only a form of friendship (  philía ) but also other kinds of love. These include the love between relatives ( storg ē  ), given that the members of a nation often see themselves as a kind of family, and the love that can lead to producing relatives ( ér  ō s ), as with the passion expressed in so much nationalist poetry. And d epending on a given nation’s history, we can expect these three to be variously combined in different proportions. Moreover, despite the distinction with religious communities, which should be maintained, we may also add religious love to the mix, since it would be wrong to assume that national communities are wholly  secular. 5  But this raises the difficult question of the sometimes opposing, sometimes synergizing, relations between religion and ethics, as when religious love takes the form of what Christians call agáp ē  , 3   See, for example, Allan Nadler, “Piety and  Politics: The Case of the Satmar Rebbe ,”  Judaism 31, no. 2 (Spring 1982): 135  –  52. 4   Taylor, “Why Do Nations Have to Become States?” in  Reconciling the Solitudes: Essays on Canadian Federalism and Nationalism , ed. Guy Laforest (Montreal and Kingston: McGill- Queen’s University Press, 1993), p. 42. 5   See my “ Secular Nationhood? The Importance of Language in the Life of Nations ,” in Patriotic Elaborations:  Essays in Practical Philosophy (Montreal and Kingston: McGill- Queen’s University Press, 2009).     4 since its selflessness and universalism is often very hard to reconcile with ethical particularism. Indeed, when Christian writers compare agápē   to the other forms of love, they tend to stress not only its superiority but also how easily the others can degenerate into self-aggrandizement, or worse. 6  Regardless, all of the above suggests that we ought to recognize how, today, the United States, France, and Israel are not nations but civic or political communities, states each of which happen to contain more than one nation: the anglophone majority American nation alongside the Hawaiian, Puerto Rican, other Hispanic and perhaps African American minority nations in the United States; the francophone majority French nation alongside the Basque, Breton, Catalan, and Corsican micronations  in France; and the Jewish majority national and religious community alongside the Arab Israeli or (part of the) Palestinian minority nation in Israel. Alas, these realities have been obscured by the continuing influence of the Westphalian, “ nation-state ”  model of what a country is or should be. It is what has prevented many of us from appreciating how “nation s - state” is usually much more accurate. 7  Still, it was not long after the American and French revolutions that the call of the modern national community became very loud indeed. This is why national liberty tends nowadays to predominate over political liberty, the liberty of the civic community. As noted, the latter is chiefly concerned with the ability of citizens to make the laws that govern how they live their lives. For this reason, we should see it as essentially a matter of “self  -government. ”  Of course, self-government can and should also take place not only at the country-wide state level but also more locally: think of the various civic communities identified as regional, provincial, municipal, or borough, not to mention the policy-making carried out by the many non-governmental organizations found in civil society, from self-governing charities, daycares, schools, and unions, to universities, professional associations, and advocacy groups. It is the patriotic sentiments sustained when all of these communities, together, succeed at making citizens feel truly at home that the political community as a whole can be considered durable. And that is when it is most able 6  See, for example, Søren Kierkegaard, Works of Love , eds. and trans. Howard V. and Edna H. Hong (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995 [1847]), part 1, II.B; and C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves  (London: HarperCollins, 2002 [1960]), ch. 6. 7   The expression “n ations- state” is from Ian Angus, The Undiscovered Country: Essays in Canadian Intellectual Culture  (Edmonton: Athabasca University Press, 2013), esp. pp. 139, 231  –  32.   5 to fend off threats from demagogues and other populists, those essentially anti-political actors who feed, above all, on citizen alienation. The difference between this political liberty and the liberty of the nation should be clear, especially given the two unique conditions of the latter. The first, and better known, is “self  - determination,”  wherein the nation is assured of having a major degree of control over its destiny  –   be it because its members form a clear majority in a democracy, or because one of them rules in a dictatorship (evidently, self-determination is very different from self-government). The second is the recognition of the nation by the state, or states, under whose sovereignty it lives. Often, this can be met purely symbolically, as with a clause in the state’s constitution, or a symbol on its flag. So we can readily understand why Taylor has remarked that “anyone who can use the expression ‘  just symbolic’ has missed something essential about the nature of modern society.” 8   The fact that they are associated with different kinds of liberty is thus one way that patriotism and nationalism can be distinguished. To which we may now add that, conceptually, the two are also qualitatively different forms of thought, since patriotism is a political philosophy and nationalism is a political ideology. A political philosophy is a very general account of the form or forms of dialogue that citizens ought to engage in when responding to conflict. The advocates of different political philosophies can thus be seen as promoting different forms of dialogue. For example, proceduralist political philosophers such as utilitarians or Kantians call on people to appeal to a systematic theory of justice for guidance, and this means that they will need to plead their cases before whatever authority is charged with applying the theory. Often, that authority is identified with their country’s  supreme court, which is understood to make its rulings on the basis of a constitution that (it is hoped) conforms to the theory. One might nevertheless object that pleading is a far too unidirectional means of communication to count as a genuine form of dialogue: one meaning of the ancient Greek dia-  is “between , ” which implies that there must be at least two distinct parties, both  of whom are prepared to change on the basis of what they hear. A theory of justice, however, is something that has been already formulated beforehand, usually by a lone philosopher, and the act of putting it into practice is not supposed to alter its principles in any fundamental way. This  –   and the often highly sophisticated forms of reasoning required for formulating and applying what are, after all, extremely abstract principles  –   is why proceduralist 8   Taylor, “Impediments to a Canadian Future,”  in  Reconciling the Solitudes , p. 194.
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