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We should see the nations of the world as distinct and beautiful flowers in the garden of culture. It is the love of this uniqueness of each nation which should inspire all lovers of national integrity to fight against the globalized monoculture that the globalist Imperium wishes to impose…

In his essay “Towards Patriotism: An Alternative to Nationalism,” Mark Malvasi takes issue with my response to his earlier essay, “History as Tragedy and Farce: The Rise of Nationalism.” In my response to that earlier essay, I had set out to provide “a coherent definition of Nationalism.” Mr. Malvasi seems to have a problem not only with my definition of Nationalism but with the very idea of a definition itself. “I must confess at the outset,” he writes, “to a certain antipathy for definitions,” adding that “there is an elusive, even illusory, quality to definitions.”

Let’s begin, therefore, with a defence of definition.

Mr. Malvasi makes his argument, or communicates his viewpoint, with the use of words. Without words, he could communicate nothing. He can only communicate in this way because he knows that he and his readers share the same understanding of the words he uses. His words have definite meanings because we all possess definitions for them. This is true, regardless of the fact that words, and therefore definitions, can be slippery. They can sometimes slip through our grasp and can in this sense be “elusive,” in which case it is all the more imperative that we endeavor to grasp them firmly. This understanding of words and their definitions was certainly grasped by Dr. Johnson, whom Mr. Malvasi cites rather bizarrely as one who supports his own “antipathy for definitions.” The mind boggles that the world’s greatest lexicographer can be enlisted in Mr. Malvasi’s war on definition. It must be suspected, therefore, that Mr. Malvasi has misunderstood Dr. Johnson’s meaning.

Definition is most important in cases where words appear to have multiple meanings, or when they are “slippery.” If a word such as “love” means something entirely different to the Christian, who sees it as a rational and self-sacrificial choice, than it does to the romantic relativist, who sees it as merely an ultimately irrational feeling, or to the hard-nosed materialist, who sees it as nothing but chemical wiring in the brain, it is imperative that the different meanings are defined before the word can be used meaningfully. A failure to do so will lead inevitably and inexorably to the sort of radical relativism which deconstructs language until the very existence of objective meaning is denied. These are the shifting sands of relativist nonsense upon which no meaningful dialectic or dialogue can be founded.

Shunning such nonsense, and leaving aside Mr. Malvasi’s “antipathy for definitions,” let’s return to the definition of “nationalism.” In his earlier essay, Mr. Malvasi had defined nationalism in terms of the political movements which led to the foundation of modern nation states. In my response, I wrote that “it could be argued that the sort of nationalism which Mr. Malvasi criticizes in his essay was not really nationalism at all but was, in fact, a form of imperialism.” My argument was based upon the fact that the inherent dynamic in nineteenth-century nationalism was a movement towards the “unification” of previously non-existent “nations” through the destruction of the political autonomy of the previously existing regions. This was a manifestation of the progressive centralization of power into the hands of fewer and bigger governments which has since metamorphosed into the globalism which, ironically, threatens to destroy the very nations which this same centralizing dynamic had established.

The alternative to this progressive centralization of power, its antithesis and antidote, is the political dynamic of progressive decentralization. In this sense, I see the political sovereignty of existing nation-states as a bulwark against the centralizing tendency of globalism, hence the definition of nationalism that I employed:  Nationalism is a belief in the political sovereignty of nations. Its antonym is internationalism, a belief in the absence or minimizing of the political sovereignty of nations. It can be seen that all forms of imperialism are essentially internationalist and that, therefore, nationalism in the sense in which I have defined it, can never be imperialist.

As with the definition of “love”, alluded to above, it seems, therefore, that we need to distinguish between the historical “nationalism,” of which Mr. Malvasi writes, which was a manifestation of the centralization or “unification” of power into fewer hands, and the contemporary “nationalism” to which I refer, which serves to prevent or obstruct the centralization or “unification” of power into fewer globalist hands. They are not the same thing (indeed they are opposites) and it is perilous to conflate them.

Although it’s not my primary intention to critique Mr. Malvasi’s appraisal of nineteenth-century nationalism, it is not possible to allow his sympathetic portrayal of the secular fundamentalist regime of Otto von Bismarck to go unchallenged. During the so-called kulturkampf from 1871 until 1890, Catholics were persecuted, suffered legal disabilities, and were imprisoned or exiled, all in the name of national pride and “unity”—a unity that excluded a third of the nation’s population! It is also frankly absurd that Mr. Malvasi appears to believe that the secular fundamentalism of Bismarck’s regime did not lay the foundations for Hitler’s.

Although Mr. Malvasi was gracious enough to concede that I had “ably demonstrated” that it was “too facile to insist that all forms of nationalism are the same,” he claimed to be “hard pressed to know what form of nationalism” I had in mind when I wrote that “genuine nationalism seeks the preservation or restoration of authentic national and regional cultures and the preservation or restoration of the strong local government necessary to defend them. It is intrinsically anti-imperialist, intrinsically local, intrinsically decentralist in its being and its raison d’être.”

Since Mr. Malvasi is “hard pressed” to understand the sort of nationalism to which I refer, I will offer him some examples. One could point to the Scottish or Welsh Nationalists who seek autonomy for their nations from what they perceive as the imperialism of the United Kingdom. Historically one could point to the Irish Nationalists who sought Home Rule from Britain. I would also add that I consider myself an English Nationalist, as distinct from a British Nationalist, and, as such, would welcome Scottish and Welsh independence, should the peoples of those nations vote for it. One could also mention the nations that gained their freedom from the Soviet Union, and one might hope that one day the nations of Europe will gain their freedom from the imperialism of the European Union.

And so to “patriotism.”

For all his disdain for definitions, Mr. Malvasi is at pains to insist that “the differences between ‘nationalism’ and ‘patriotism’ are fundamental.” He then bases his discussion of these fundamental differences on what might be called an Orwellian understanding of each word, quoting Orwell’s condemnation of nationalism and his praise for patriotism. According to Orwell, patriotism emphasizes tradition and is often conservative and even reactionary. According to Mr. Malvasi’s paraphrasing of Orwell, it is “deeply rooted in the soil of a specific place and the history of a particular people. It is introverted and defensive.” Orwell wrote that a patriot is proud of his country’s way of life, “which he considers to be the best in the world but which he has no wish to force…upon other people.” Here, and speaking as one who considers himself a patriot, I would object that Orwell’s patronizing patriotism, which presumes a supercilious superiority over other countries, is not something to which any true patriot should subscribe. I love my own country but I wouldn’t dream of thinking that other people’s countries are inferior to mine. We should see the nations of the world as distinct and beautiful flowers in the garden of culture, each offering something unique to the whole bella vista of humanity’s cultural panorama. It is the love of this uniqueness of each nation which should inspire all lovers of national integrity to fight against the globalized monoculture that the globalist Imperium wishes to impose.

“In important respects,” writes Mr. Malvasi, “Orwell’s patriotism was outside of, and beyond, politics. Nor was it primarily intellectual. Orwell’s England was not an idea or a concept. His version of patriotism found its significance and enjoyed its fullest expression, in social custom and practice—that is, in the concrete ways in which and by which a people live.” Absolutely, Mr. Malvasi. It was this patriotic desire which led the English people to vote for Brexit, indicating that the continuum of “social custom and practice” and “the concrete ways in which and by which a people live” can only survive if patriotism is protected by politics. A failure to defend one’s way of life will lead to one’s way of life being destroyed. In this sense, patriotism might exist “outside of, and beyond, politics” but it cannot survive without political protection. And this is why patriotism needs good, healthy, contemporary nationalism, as distinct from the imperialism masquerading as nationalism which Mr. Malvasi and Orwell both correctly despise. “A patriot,” writes Mr. Malvasi, “can love his own country without hating, or seeking to dominate, another.” On this Mr. Malvasi and I can agree wholeheartedly. We only differ insofar as I believe that a nationalist can also love his own country without, hating, or seeking to dominate, another.

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3 replies to this post
  1. “I believe that a nationalist can also love his own country without, hating, or seeking to dominate, another.” … “…contemporary nationalism, as distinct from the imperialism masquerading as nationalism”

    Joseph – I think we agree on more points than not; however, when one, through a spirit of nationalism, loves his country, it’s implied that he loves certain manifest characteristics exhibited by his country. These characteristics might be physical, mental, or spiritual (which is to say, cultural).

    It stands to reason that he he loves these characteristics in his own country, if he does not find them in other countries, he will likely not too much care for those “foreign” or “alien” countries – at the very least, he will not find those other countries welcoming; it’s a simple cultural difference. I don’t think anyone will argue this point. Of course, when we find something (or someone) that exhibits starkly different behavior than we understand as culturally viable, we might just find ourselves feeling a sense of pride – or superiority – in our own country’s manifest characteristics. Not only is this natural, I’d argue it’s supremely healthy.

    If we all felt every “foreign” or “alien” culture was just as viable and valuable as our own, how exactly would we be any different than the “globalists” you mention who, paradoxically, through multiculturalism, are seeking to undermine cultural and ideological diversity?

    What does it say about us and our future if we’re all so deathly afraid of showing a healthy pride in our own cultures and, by natural extension, showing a dislike for dissimilar ones? To me, it says only that many of us have been adequately indoctrinated into the Liberalistic mindset, wherein, though we parade and posture as “conservatives,” we really lack the courage to move our own (perhaps?) ideology and culture forward. At the very least we lack the courage to face the reality of life and human nature by disguising our feelings with politically correct language.

  2. The slippery word here is “internationalism.” I suggest that the two authors, and anyone else who wants to wrestle with the subject, take it from there.

  3. I’m all for definitions, but I think in this case Dr. Pearce has incorrectly defined “Nationalism”. The root problem with Dr. Pearce’s definition seems to be actually a misunderstanding of what the word “Nation” itself originally meant.

    Dr. Pearce seems to use the word “Nation” synonymously with “country” or any politically sovereign entity. This is not what the word Nation meant, though it is a common enough usage in our time.

    The word Nation originally meant specifically a racially or ethnically defined people group. Nations were almost never politically sovereign entities until the modern era, which is why one of the defining elements of the advent of Modernity was the emergence of the “Nation-State”. The whole reason this compound word exists and was used, was because prior to that time Nations had not been States, and States (ie political sovereignties) had not been defined along national lines.

    Nationalism is uniquely defined by the idea that racial/ethnic people groups have an inherent right to be politically sovereign.

    Dr. Pearce’s argument that the unification movements of the 19th century were imperialist rather than national again arises from the misconception that any political sovereignty is and was a “Nation”. This is not the case. In Germany and Italy, in particular, there were politically sovereign entities that were sub-national.

    The only difference between France, England, and Spain on the one hand, and Germany and Italy on the other is that France, England, and Spain unified much earlier and centralized their power much earlier.

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