When “Constitutional Patriotism” Is Not Sufficient

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There may be little or no to disagree with, and far to commend, in Steven Hayward’s characteristically crisp, clever, and witty examination of the problems which have arisen of late concerning “nationalism” and its revival—or for those who choose, its recrudescence. His Liberty Discussion board essay is made particularly refreshing by its distinction with the astonishing quantity of garbage being written on this topic, a lot of it within the “recrudescence” vein, turning on arbitrary definitions of “nationalism” that find yourself being little greater than straw males arrange for the aim of being knocked down.

A transparent indication of Hayward’s superior knowledge is his drawing upon the sources of the much-missed Sure, Minister tv present, a minicourse within the realities of contemporary sensible politics. Sir Humphrey had it proper: It’s not attainable to grasp the politics of at this time’s Germany with out reckoning with the large and lingering burden of guilt that haunts that land. Neither is it attainable to grasp the risk-aversion of Europeans with out additionally connecting it with the ways in which Europeans have been taught responsible “nationalism” for the calamities of the 2 nice world wars. Jürgen Habermas’s notion of “constitutional patriotism”—the assumption that norms deriving from summary and common commitments to a pluralistic liberal democracy have to be substituted for the norms engendered by the particularisms of nationwide historical past, reminiscence, customs, tradition, and consciousness, and for the pursuit of the nationwide curiosity—would make little sense with out the presumption of that grim German historic background.

However a set of summary ideas can’t by themselves bind individuals collectively in any enduring means. That’s the issue with constitutional patriotism, and that’s not less than one of many issues with the European Union. Furthermore, as Hayward factors out, the success of an in depth welfare state (or of socialism itself) will depend on the existence of a cohesive nation-state to which residents give their affectionate loyalty, not merely their rational assent. A workable system of comprehensively socialized well being care is much extra conceivable in a coherent and homogeneous society than in a wildly heterogeneous one, riven by id politics and roiled by excessive charges of unassimilated immigration.

We’re required to repeat, again and again, that a various society is a powerful society. However that may solely be true if there may be one space—that of nationwide pleasure, nationwide aspiration, and nationwide solidarity—about which there’s normal settlement. Writers on the Left from Edward Bellamy to Todd Gitlin have understood this. They’ve had little enduring affect on their comrades, nevertheless.

The actual fact is that the imposition of summary political and ethical requirements fails on a number of grounds.

For one factor, as will be seen readily sufficient within the instance of the EU, it leads to an influence seize by an elite class of transnational managers that’s blind to the wants of the residents of the member states, significantly if these residents are poor and politically impotent.

Simply as importantly, such abstraction offends towards our elementary humanity. Amongst different issues, it fails to acknowledge that issues reminiscent of household loyalty, private loyalty, regional loyalty, and sure, nationwide loyalty, are usually not merely parochial or sentimental attachments to lesser issues. They’re half and parcel of what it means to be human, to be the form of creatures that we’re, to cherish our bonds to explicit issues, to the flesh-and-blood and concrete options of our Lebenswelt, over towards the tyranny of abstractions—a tyranny that may simply grow to be the indispensable instrument of a tyrannical authorities. The free flourishing of our explicit and provincial loyalties could be the single most essential barrier there may be to the success of such totalism.

And eventually, some extent amply illustrated by the more and more rocky prospects of the European Union:  Until we’re ready to jettison the concept governments derive their legitimacy from the consent of the ruled, and that this dictum is especially binding upon democratic governments; until we’re ready to jettison the concept of constitutionalism itself, and of a structure as a sturdy expression of the nationwide will, to which the individuals of a nation have freely consented—until we abandon all pretense of believing in consultant and accountable authorities—we want the nation-state greater than ever. It’s the indispensable automobile of self-government. With out the existence of a nationwide entity possessing particular borders and a system of legal guidelines and authorities to which its individuals have assented by each formal and casual means, there will be no significant democracy, no significant idea of self-rule. It’s so simple as that.

The Brexit vote occurred as a result of a big variety of Britons had come to concern that they had been dropping the means and the capability for self-rule. The dogged, dishonest, and contempt-filled resistance to the implementation of Brexit that we have now been watching unfold since 2016 exhibits that they had been completely proper.

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