Nationalism is the normal political form of the modern world. It was announced in 1648, right at the dawn of the modern era, in the series of treaties known as the Peace of Westphalia. The treaties created a basis for national self-determination, justified the citizen as the source of legitimacy, and established the primacy of sovereign nations in the division of the world. Nationalism is also a natural political form because it recognizes a shared feeling of geography, ethnicity, culture and language as unifying factors. It is the expansion of the family and the tribe to an extreme that can still be considered as a similar enough group to be a common possession. Nationalism is emotional and concrete.
On the other hand, globalism, the group of ideas giving justification to globalization, is a scaffolding artificially built on top of nations without any root in human nature below it. Globalism began in the 1970s and its basis is the primacy of economics over politics and of international organizations over national governments and sovereignty. Globalism can also be thought as a creation of postmodernism, an invented reality, a “socially constructed” part of the general idea of relentless liberal progress towards a borderless world where all humans are brothers. Globalism is intellectual and abstract.
To understand globalism’s artificiality and the opposite pull of nationalism, all one needs to do is watch any soccer match during any international competition: the national flags waving, the national anthems blaring, the national citizens at their most tribal, as if playing their savage role in Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Compared to those strong and primeval feelings, the idea of a universal brotherhood of man as the reason for international competition is a weak alternative.
This difference is also clear in religion. Judaism as a religion is strong —no matter how many attempts to destroy it — because it is the expression of a particular people, even more particular by being the chosen one. Christianity is a universalist creed but could only develop as a national religion, with triumphant nations such as Spain, France, England, Germany and America each believing in turn their capitals were the new Jerusalem and their nations the new chosen people. Christianity as the religion of a universal empire reigned for a time over a small, civilized, European part of the world but only because of the chaos unleashed by the collapse of the Roman empire and its takeover by Northern barbarians. The universality of Christianity was destroyed by the wars of religion and, with the birth of nationalism, it became as particular as any other religion.
The triumph of globalism during the last 45 years could only be achieved by its imposition by a small but powerful and vocal elite, the ones who benefited the most from implementing the idea. In that way, it could only appear as a veil on the eyes of the people. In Europe and America the elite has been exposed as the UniParty, a true ruling class composed of traditional financial capitalists, new digital-age capitalists, political donors, establishment politicians of all parties, and the media, pundits and intellectuals, the last three being amanuenses for the ruling class and conjurers of illusions for the common people.
Therefore it is not difficult to see why there is a rebirth of nationalism above and beyond the real suffering of most people in most countries due to the ravages of globalization. Brexit and the nationalist parties in Europe and Trump and his movement in America are the leading edges of this rebirth. Which of them will triumph and which will only be prophetic is not for us to know, but nationalism will certainly be part of the political and economic debate from now on.