Nationalism

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By Elie Kedourie

This variation of Elie Kedourie's Nationalism brings again into print one of many vintage texts of our occasions. With nice attractiveness and lucidity, the writer lines the philosophical foundations of the nationalist doctrine, the stipulations which gave upward thrust to it, and the political results of its unfold in Europe and in different places over the last centuries. As Isaiah Berlin wrote of the unique version, "Kedourie's account of those principles and their influence is exemplary: transparent, realized and just."

In a brand new creation the writer displays upon the origins of the ebook and the connection of his argument to modern nationalist conflicts.

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Nations are separate natural entities ordained by God, and the best political arrangement obtains when each nation forms a state on its own. The true and lasting state is one where a nation is formed through natural kinship and affection. States in which there is more than one nation, on the other hand, are unnatural, oppressive, and finally THE ex c ellen c e of d iv er sity 59 doomed to decay. Herder’s argument here is not so much that in such states one element may dominate the others; rather, that they sin against the principle of diversity, for in them the different nations always run the risk of losing their identity, and are not able fully to cultivate their originality.

Rousseau had also argued that neither individual nor state could attain happiness or virtue unless man exchanged a general will for his own selfish particular will, and willed the good of all, rather than his own. The affinity becomes even more striking when we read Rousseau’s advice to the Poles on the reform of their government, which he penned in 1772. Here Rousseau insists that if a state is to be cohesive and lasting men must be trained to obey the law, not because they feel it is their duty or their interest to do so, but because they cannot desire or will anything which the laws do not prescribe; the laws then have, as he put it, ‘the internal assent of their will’.

They were, most of them, the sons of pastors, artisans, or small farmers. They somehow managed to become university students, m ost often in the faculty of theology, and last out the duration of their course on minute grants, private lessons, and similar makeshifts. When they graduated they found that their knowledge opened no doors, that they were still in the same social class, looked down upon by a nobility which was stupid, unlettered, and which engrossed the public employments they felt themselves so capable of filling.

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