Where is the Left of Nation?
Left behind by the look of it
Paul Kingsnorth has written an excellent essay on the new dividing line in politics — globalist vs. nationist. Those on the economic right have spotted the opportunity and are wooing the support. Those on the economic left are wandering around like lost sheep.
The new reality is summed up pretty well by a passage from Paul’s post.
In a penetrating essay in ‘The American Interest’ last July, moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt sought to place all this in context. He suggested that the old left-right political divide, which had been looking iffy for years, was being supplanted by a new binary: globalism versus nationalism. Nationalism, in the broadest sense of the term, was the default worldview of most people at most times, especially in more traditional places. It was a community-focused attitude, valuing stability, continuity and social cohesion, in which a nation, tribe or ethnic group was seen as a thing of value to be protected. Globalism, the ideology of the rising city bourgeoisie, was more individualistic. It valued diversity and change, prioritised rights over obligations, and saw the world as a whole, rather than particular parts of it, as the moral community to which we all belong.
The current explosion of nationalism in the West, Haidt said, was due to the globalists having overplayed their hand. Different attitudes to the issue of mass immigration — the spark that lit the fire on both sides of the Atlantic — demonstrated how this had happened. While globalists saw migration as a right, nationalists saw it as a privilege. To a globalist, border walls and immigration laws are tantamount to racism or human rights abuse. To a nationalist, they are evidence of a community asserting its values and choosing to whom to grant citizenship.
Psychologically, Haidt suggested, what happened in 2016 was that many nationalist-inclined voters in the West felt that their community was now under existential threat — not only from huge waves of migration, but from ongoing Islamist attacks and the globalist elite’s dismissive attitude to their concerns about both. In response, they began to look around for strong leaders to protect them. The rest is history, still in the making.
This is the power of the new populists. The likes of Stephen Bannon and Marine Le Pen understand the destructive energy of global capitalism as well as the left does, but they also understand what the left refuses to see: that the heart of the West’s current wound is cultural rather than economic. What is driving the current turmoil is threats to identity, culture and meaning. Waves of migration, multicultural policies, eroding borders, shifting national and ethnic identities, ongoing globalist attacks on ‘dead white men’ and Western culture: all that is solid is melting into air.
Who can promise the return of that solidity? Not the left, which long ago hitched its wagon to the globalist horse, enthusing about breaking down everything from gender identities to national borders and painting any dissent as prejudice or hatred. Instead, a new nationalism has risen to the occasion. As ever, those who can harness people’s deep, old attachment to place and identity — to a belonging and a meaning that goes beyond money or argument — will win the day. This might be as iron a law as any human history can provide.
Thanks to Matt Beresford for the link to the blog post.
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