Rejoinder to Goldberg/National Review

I normally despise anything National Review writes, but every now and then they can be very helpful even if very wrong.  In “Denationalizing Politics” Jonah Goldberg notes,

Donald Trump almost never uses the language of traditional American conservatism, with its emphasis on classically liberal notions of limited government, constitutionalism, individualism, and free trade.

Well, yes. Though given National Review’s support for neocon wars, one wonders how committed to constitutionalism they are.

Still, these visions leave millions of traditional conservatives and committed libertarians without a natural home in either major political party

Welcome to my world for the past two decades. Not fun, is it?  

No one simply lives in the United States of America. We live in Peoria, Harlem, and Seattle. The virtues built close to home, Levin argues, are those that make us good citizens and ultimately draw us together.

This is almost true.  I like the “go local” part of it.  The problem is that the United States as a singular entity was never supposed to exist.  We are supposed to be a collection of federal republics.

What would be so terrible about letting diverse communities decide how they want to live and spend their tax dollars?

Didn’t you guys call for the mass suicide of white communities?

As a whole much of Goldberg’s post sounds like something I would write.  The problem is the neocon agenda.  How can we empower local communities (“not cede power to Washington”) when the federal government expanded under his hero George W. Bush?

But isn’t “nationalism” dangerous?  Depends on what you mean by that term.  I think “nationalism” as used today is an empty term that serves only to link the enemy with Hitler. Of course, those who studied philosophical romanticism and the development of cultural cohesion know that no proponent uses the term like that.  

So what is nationalism?  Goldberg doesn’t actually define it but I think he means something like state centralization of power at the expense of local and international communities.  In doing so he makes a classic error in defining the state in modern, post-Enlightenment terms as some sort of bureaucratic apparatus. Goldberg sees the state as synonymous with the nation. Earlier Romantics (and the middle ages) did not use such a definition.  “Nation” for them was the cohesion of a number of unifying factors: culture, religion, language. Oh yeah, see Augustine’s City of God 19.24-26, “common bonds of love.”  State as a modern bureaucratic invention did not happen until much later.

Thus, we can define nationalism–no doubt as Herder defined it–as promoting the cultural cohesion of different groups who are defined and bound together by their shared objects of love.  Far from being “xenophobic” or “wacist,” this is the most loving and culturally enriching thing one can do.

Tell me what is better:  Ethiopian Orthodox art or some watered down white-boy band pop music?  Tell me what is better: the mosque at Timbuktu or Bauhaus architecture?  Tell me what is better: the Tao te Ching or 50 Shades of Grey?

I wonder if the loss of a culture is the reason for much of the mental illness in America today.

But moving on:  without nationalism and a strong identity, we are simply Lockean atoms bouncing in the Void.  Uprooted communities who live in fear and angst will not be able to stop the Internal Bankster Regime.



5 thoughts on “Rejoinder to Goldberg/National Review

  1. What about distinctly multi-cultural, cosmopolitan places/spaces that create a new cultural identity that defies nationality and complicates the notion you’re pushing? Particular examples might be 18th century New Orleans, 21st century New York, Chang’An, ancient Alexandria, 20th century Paris, Samarkhand under Tamorlane, etc etc.

    The Cosmopolitan, non-national culture of these centers defies Herder’s requirement. In fact, his definition of the Nation is a synthetic creation in order to fight the Ancien Regime and yet preserve a sense of conservative values from an abstract called Volk. So, instead of this being the more loving option, I’d contend that Nationalism’s end form is the kind of bio-politics that led to the Holocaust, Lebensraum, and the horrific genocides of the 20th century.

    I don’t think the only alternatives are Lockean Individuals or National citizens/constituents.



    1. ***complicates the notion you’re pushing? Particular examples might be 18th century New Orleans, 21st century New York, Chang’An, ancient Alexandria, 20th century Paris, Samarkhand under Tamorlane, etc etc***

      I’m certainly open to the idea. As a Louisianian, New Orleans has its own ethnic flavor (if not autonomous nationality).

      However, either these entities will reduce to a nation or be absorbed by global capitalism. Unless they are autonomous and willing to defend their interests.


      1. I suppose those are the only options if nation is defined exclusively in Augustinian form, and not in 19th century categories. However, wouldn’t global capitalism itself be a kind of nation, as well as international socialism, or revolutionary communism, or any other kind of ideology? I think Augustine’s definition of nation as community as shared love is far too broad and vague.

        The interesting thing about cosmopolitan centers is that it is usually in the fact that they share no common culture that a common culture is created. In ancient Alexandria, there were many peoples with differing ideas and allegiances, but the city formed an agreed upon space to coexist within. So in a sense a cultural pluralism became its own secondary tier culture, allowing Christians to have allegiance to Christ and yet value the city as a safe space worth an apology.

        While persecution may grow the church, i think it’s in places such as these that would be most desirable and fertile for common life. But of course, the desire for Babylon usually erases such or turns it into a monocultural, imperial entity.


      2. And so, you’re right that global capitalism, as a Babylonian ideal, is the imperious beast trying to swallow up all space. Nationalism is an opposing, though equally malignant force (in my estimation). The hope is to try and support regimes that sustain this balance. That’s why I would never justify the Assad family’s murderous reign as just or good, but I would certainly prefer it to that of ISIS or fundamentalist-inspired Islamic democracy.


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