Review: Against Empire, for the Nation; Yoram Hazony and “The Virtue of Nationalism”

By | August 31, 2018

WASHINGTON DC, August 31 (C-Fam) Men and women sit in quiet and carpeted rooms at the UN and the EU and consider they possess the power to tell other men and women around the world how to live their lives.

You see this in the pronouncements of members of treaty monitoring bodies. You see it in the intrusion of “special rapporteurs” who roam around countries taking notes for later directives. You see it in the supposedly soft-law agreements and non-binding resolutions that these people say constitute international law. You see it most especially in the European Commission and its threats to democratically elected leaders who may stray from EU orders.

What we see is Empire, the effort to bring the world under a single political regime. Empire is almost as old as the history of man. It is common for leaders to think they can bring peace and prosperity to the world if only everyone did what they said. The Pharaohs thought so, so did the Babylonian Kings, so did the Romans, and so did the Catholic Church through the Holy Roman Empire.

In his soon to be published book The Virtue of Nationalism, that is already making a splash in intellectual policy circles, scholar Yoram Hazony makes the case against empire and for the nation-state, indeed, for nationalism.

Nationalism is a frightening word for many. We see nationalistic impulses in the resistance to the EU of Hungary and Poland, and you see them called fascists and worse. Suggest nationalism and even some conservatives become alarmed. Promoting his own book, Jonah Goldberg of National Review and the American Enterprise Institute cannot get past the notion that Hitler was a nationalist. Hazony explains that Hitler, properly understood, was not a nationalist but an imperialist. After all, he sought a global thousand-year Reich. Like all imperialists, the National Socialist leader really believed the world would best achieve peace and prosperity under a single political entity, his.

In the Wall Street Journal, Hazony argued that nationalism was championed by both conservatives and liberals and included such revered figures as Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, Mahatma Gandhi, David Ben-Gurion, Charles de Gaulle, and Margaret Thatcher. He argues that the competition among free and independent states leads to history’s most creative and productive eras. He points to ancient Greece and Israel, the Italian republics of the Renaissance, and the nations of Europe set free from empire by the Thirty-Years War and the Treaty of Westphalia.

But what about ethno-nationalistic atrocities, even within recent memory? Hazony would say nationalism does not have a more significant share of hate, bigotry, and cruelty than empire. One can quickly point to atrocities visited by the British and French in Africa. And many more. But, on balance, there is a more significant opportunity for peace and prosperity and happiness when people are free to make their own decisions, or at least live near to where decisions are made, rather than have them imposed on them from a faraway imperial capital.


At the UN, empire goes by the name of global governance and invoking national sovereignty is code for human rights abuse. But, nationalism is afoot is disparate places; Britain, Poland, Austria, Hungary, Japan, India, and the United States. It is time for people to learn what nationalism really means and the best place to start is Yoram Hazony’s The Virtue of Nationalism (Basic Books) on sale September 4.


Tags: Treaty monitoring bodes, sovereignty

Image: The Virtue of Nationalism