Adversaria: Transcript for Yoram Hazony, ‘The Virtue of Nationalism’

https://adversariapodcast.com/2019/02/26/transcript-for-yoram-hazony-the-virtue-of-nationalism/

As the concept of nationalism is much discussed these days, there may be some interest in contemporary works which seek to define and understand the term. One such is The Virtue of Nationalism, by Yoram Hazony (2018), an Israeli philosopher, Bible scholar and political theorist.

6 thoughts on “Adversaria: Transcript for Yoram Hazony, ‘The Virtue of Nationalism’

  1. Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) has published a lengthy, accessible review which has the virtue of quoting Hazony in bulk, thus saving the trouble of reading the whole book for those who want only a critical summary.

    Per Roberts,”Hazony defines nationalism as: ‘The nationalism I grew up with is a principled standpoint that regards the world as governed best when nations are able to chart their own independent course, cultivating their own traditions and pursuing their own interests without interference. This is opposed to imperialism, which seeks to bring peace and prosperity to the world by uniting mankind, as much as possible, under a single political regime.'”

    I find Hazony’s ideas compelling, especially his view that nations arise ultimately from families. From the book:

    “Like ties of loyalty to the clan, the bond of loyalty to one’s tribe or nation grows out of loyalty to one’s parents. The child experiences the suffering and triumphs of his tribe or nation as his own because he experiences the suffering and triumphs of his parents as his own. And the parents feel and give expression to the suffering and triumphs of the tribal nation as these unfold.”

    Roberts summarizes the argument:

    “The order of tribes and clans is the proto-political order. The state developed out of the weakness of this order, because this order of tribes and clans is held together in a way that makes it difficult to achieve peace, because you have these warring tribes and warring interests. It is also difficult to achieve justice because you have capricious leaders and you have a system where it is very hard to achieve justice where people are fundamentally at war—because justice becomes weaponized and justice cannot really arbitrate when there is no fundamental peace at the root of society. And so, there is a need to move beyond this tribal order. This proto-political order then leads to the development of the state, whether that is a free state as different tribes join together willingly, or a despotic state as certain tribes dominate over others and establish rule through military might.”

    Roberts ultimately finds fault with Hazony for failing to solve all the problems of the contemporary world. This criticism is unserious in my view. You have to define a problem before you can solve it, and Hazony’s definitions are worthwhile for that reason alone. Besides, Hazony implies a solution: To the extent that nations derive naturally from the cultural institution of the family, sustaining healthy families may be all, or the most, we can do to obtain a healthy world.

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  2. “… the world as governed best when nations are able to chart their own independent course, cultivating their own traditions and pursuing their own interests without interference. This is opposed to imperialism, which seeks to bring peace and prosperity to the world by uniting mankind, as much as possible, under a single political regime.’”

    Imperialism establishes empires by force, either economically or militarily. That invariably results in some form of autocracy and colonialism.

    Yet the concept of trying to pursue interests without interference has not brought much peace either. Particularly if a nation, state or tribe has valuable resources that other, larger states may want to exploit.

    However, migration and absorption over time can very well strike a nice balance. And the global trade and travel we have in the modern era have made isolationism virtually a thing of the past. The most insular states such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, N. Korea are creating most of the problems. Japan may be homogeneous in population, but Western culture is much admired. World trade and influence by and with Japan have opened up that country to levels unheard of since WW2.

    We can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. People are moving, trading and migrating on a larger scale now than ever before in history. Nationalism is trying to put the brakes on the flow of people. A futile endeavor in the long run. It is hard to hate people you know. Resentment at first is pretty universal. Yet in our country a few generations is usually enough accept a culture and then adding it to ours. Yet giving it a unique American flavor.

    The one culture many Americans are having the hardest time with is the only one we kept forcibly segregated for centuries: African-Americans. It kind of like we just let them immigrate around 1965, so they are just in the 2nd generation.

    IMHO

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    1. RE: “Imperialism establishes empires by force, either economically or militarily. That invariably results in some form of autocracy and colonialism.”

      I certainly agree that imperialism can establish empires by force, but the notion seems limiting to me. For example,imperial economic influence can be voluntary, as in China’s One Belt, One Road initiative. Similarly, America’s Monroe Doctrine is clearly imperialist in establishing political hegemony over an entire hemisphere, but you can’t really say we physically conquered Canada and South America in the process. Or take our trade relations with independent sovereignties like Australia and France. Is it really necessary to assume that the use of force is the underlying explanation there as opposed to voluntary engagement?

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  3. I probably wasn’t clear. Trade relationships are not necessarily forced.

    But if a trading relationship is lopsided to the extent that one of the partners cannot negotiate properly, then there is effective economic coercion.

    Closer to home Walmart was famous for this. They would offer to give shelf space to a vendor if they can meet the volume requirements. The vendor borrows money, hires people and really ramps up production.

    Then Walmart demands much better prices or sayonara. The vendor either complies and often loses a lot of money, or they go under.

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    1. RE: “Then Walmart demands much better prices or sayonara. The vendor either complies and often loses a lot of money, or they go under.”

      What makes Walmart’s actions a use of force or coercion? Surely the vendor can anticipate Walmart’s moves before making the deal, or walk away if it chooses.

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