Recent Developments in Nationalism

The early 21st Century has seen a rise of popular nationalism which draws on the same themes of chauvinist nationalism as in the last two centuries:  

Examples include President Trump in the USA, Viktor Orban in Hungary, Hindu nationalism in Modi's in India, Islamic nationalism in Iran, and Turkey, as well as and Putin's Russia.

The rise in popular nationalism is part of a more general crisis in a democracy which focuses on the issues of how nations define their citizenship; how they view their historical memory; how they define their cultural identity and how they reconcile sovereign identity with the forces of globalization. 

Case study The struggle over Brexit 

Who should we let in?

Europe's refugee crisis, caused by global conflicts and economic and climate distress, has impacted the policies of numerous European countries. Sweden has expressed deep concerns regarding its immigrant integration model, leading to the election of a right-wing government in 2022. Immigration played a significant role in the United Kingdom's Brexit decision. In India, the government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to enforce the 2019 Citizenship Amendment Act, which restricts Muslim refugees from certain neighboring countries from seeking citizenship. New Delhi's membership concerns prioritize the country's large ethnic majority. The status of migrants in South Africa is facing growing challenges. The United States has seen a surge of migrants at its southern border, bringing immigration to the forefront of political discussions and prompting the Biden administration to backtrack on some of its liberal policies. Immigration has always been a crucial political issue in the U.S., but it gained new significance with Donald Trump's presidency. Trump's "Muslim ban," although eventually overturned, raised fears of potential discrimination shaping future U.S. immigration policies 

Numerous global political figures supporting exclusive or biased membership policies, such as Viktor Orban of Hungary and Geert Wilders of the Netherlands, also tend to oppose liberal principles. This blurs the line between anti-immigration stances and anti-liberal beliefs.

Trump calls migrants 'animals'

Politicising History

In India, historical memory plays a crucial role in the strengthening of Hindu nationalism. In January, Modi is set to inaugurate a temple dedicated to the god Ram in Ayodhya. The temple stands at the location where Hindu nationalists destroyed a mosque in 1992, making it a significant religious symbol. Furthermore, it aligns with the governing Bharatiya Janata Party's narrative, emphasizing that Indians should prioritize the millennium-long history of subjugation by Islam over the colonial rule by the British. Modi has proclaimed Aug. 5, the day the temple's foundation stone was laid in 2020, as a milestone of national importance comparable to Aug. 15, the day India gained independence from British rule in 1947.

In the United States, the debate on narrating the national history traces back to the Founding Fathers. Nowadays, these discussions are more prominent in politics, with figures like Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis incorporating their views on American identity and the concept of "making America great again" into their campaigns. For instance, Florida has introduced controversial guidelines for teaching Black history, aiming to control the information students receive about race and slavery. This issue transcends educational policies and reflects a broader political discourse on how the country recalls its history and, consequently, shapes its future.

Jon Stewart on  GOP's Performative Patriotism: Why do the Conservative right claim to be 'more American' than Democrats or liberals?

Most modern populists, including Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Modi, Orban, and Trump, distinguish between the common people and the elite based on who truly embodies the nation. The concept of the genuine nationalist is at the core of this distinction. The disdain towards the elite stems not only from their status but also from portraying them as individuals who have disconnected from the nation. This type of rhetoric increasingly views differences as rebellious rather than simply dissenting opinions. In India, for instance, students who challenge the government's position on Kashmir are charged with threats to national security. Such actions are considered not just disagreements, but as unpatriotic deeds that require legal consequences.

Political leaders are increasingly adept at using nationalism to further their interests without regard for ethics. For instance, President Xi Jinping of China is fostering nationalist feelings through revised high school curricula and propaganda efforts. Similarly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India has led the country into a form of illiberalism dominated by the majority Hindu population. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey initially avoided nationalism and even worked towards peace with the Kurds in the early 2010s. However, he has now fully embraced nationalism and taken harsh actions against the media, political opponents, and critics.

The location of sovereignty in the UK

Globalization's winners and losers

Globalization resulted in both winners and losers. The decline of manufacturing jobs in the United States and the premature de-industrialization in India led to a reevaluation of globalization. These changes were occurring before the COVID-19 pandemic, which heightened concerns about reliance on global supply chains. The trend is to feel more skeptical about globalization and to seek out greater self-sufficiency for national security or economic reasons. “America First” and “India First” are to a certain extent understandable, particularly in a context where China has emerged as an authoritarian competitor. 

Globalization increased pre-existing tensions. Not only did it deepen inequalities in many countries (often in unfair ways, by enriching those with political connections); it also eroded longstanding traditions and social norms.  Secularism in India and Turkey remained unchallenged for decades but now is under attack.

Globalization benefited developing countries that shifted their economies towards industrial exports and kept wages low, contributing to China's growth. It also favored emerging economies abundant in oil and gas. However, these trends have also enabled charismatic nationalist leaders. With increased resources, strategically positioned developing countries have enhanced their propaganda capabilities. Russian political and security leaders feel that the West has demeaned their nation since the Berlin Wall fell. The country's participation in the global economy has not greatly improved the lives of its citizens but has instead enriched a small group of corrupt oligarchs with political ties. President Vladimir Putin oversees a large patronage network and effectively nurtures and uses nationalist feelings.

Culture Wars

The McDonaldization of Society 

Economic Nationalism

 Economic nationalism preceded liberalism as an aspect of mercantilist thought. Although there was a common reference to the aspect of protectionism, the term economic nationalism became popular by the 1930s. This approach also served as a key component of the postclassical German economists as well as early American political economists. Economic nationalism is closely tied to sociopolitical philosophies that view the state as the center of our social lives. 

Governments promoting local purchasing and supporting domestic markets are often criticized as practicing economic nationalism. This viewpoint has been evident during the Covid-19 crisis, with examples like Emmanuel Macron's push for French supermarkets to prioritize local products and Germany's aid to struggling domestic companies. In the US, President Joe Biden's economic recovery plan has been compared to Trump-era nationalism for its focus on domestic manufacturing. Even supporters of Biden's plan, such as economist Paul Krugman, acknowledge the presence of economic nationalism in varying forms. Despite differing opinions on these policies, most observers agree that they exhibit nationalist tendencies.

In 2016, the Brexit referendum vote in the United Kingdom, the election of Donald Trump as President in the United States, and political shifts in France, Germany, and Italy were seen as manifestations of what Andrés Rodríguez-Pose labels as "the revenge of neglected regions." The premise is that the manner of globalization since the 1970s has favored urban elites while neglecting various cities, regions, and locales. These areas have suffered from deindustrialization, worsened by globalization and the industrial growth of nations like China. A perception of unfair competition, greater state assistance for foreign manufacturers, and a belief that governments have disregarded the needs of marginalized social groups and regions have driven their endorsement of economic nationalism and populism. The opposition to current globalization asserts that other nations have profited from free trade to the detriment of domestic industries and workers.

In the eyes of many Russians, Vladimir Putin has restored Russia’s pride and made it a great superpower again. His program is based on a return to traditional values of the “Great Russia” of the Tsars: strong nationalism and orthodoxy. In Moscow alone, 60 churches have been built in recent years. To oppose the power of the church is to be considered an enemy of the nation.