By Bonnie Liu, high school student at Greenhills School, MI, United States
When president-elect Donald Trump vowed to “Make America Great Again,” he was appealing to American nationalist sentiment amidst overwhelming globalization. Arguably, the epic 2016 U.S. presidential battle between Clinton and Trump is quintessentially an ideological struggle between globalism and nationalism. Some contend that Trump’s triumph foreshadows a proud ascendency of nationalism to the throne of U.S. politics, rooted in Trump’s promise to “no longer surrender this country or its people to the false song of globalism,” and to “put America First.” But is that true?
In a time of heightened international conflicts, from transitional if not transformational U.S. politics, to North Korea’s nuclear proliferation, heinous attacks in Iraq and Syria, ethno-sectarian violence in Turkey, territorial sovereignty disputes in South China Sea, we are confronted with myriad quagmires arising from imbalance between nationalism and globalism, which underscores the necessity to characterize nationalism, examine the dynamic between nationalism and globalism, and propose ethically-justified yet practically-applicable solutions such as meta-social contracts.
When deliberating on the nature of nationalism as constructive or destructive, we must discern between varying ulterior motives and manifestations of nationalism within the economic, civic and political realms, and analyze them on a gradation of rationality and ethicality.
Within the economic sphere, nationalism can be either a hindrance through radical economic isolationism, or an asset through rational multilateral corporatism. Isolationism, originally believed to protect industries and diminish unemployment, entails abstention from interactions with foreign markets, which proved detrimental to vibrant national and global economies.
China serves as a prominent example: After Zheng He's voyages in 1430s, China became increasingly isolationist; premature industries, introverted markets, and inadequate diplomatic experience inflicted detrimental loss on Qing dynasty during the Opium Wars. However, the tragedy of isolationism unfolded again with the establishment of new China in 1949. Isolationist self-sufficient and centrally-planned economy dragged China into famine and poverty. However, after the adoption of Open-Door Policy in 1978, China experienced astronomical progress and material affluence due to stimulated foreign investment, increased volumes of trade, and enhanced technology.
Extroverted economic reforms worldwide have accelerated penetration of multinational corporatism in transparent and liberal markets, allowed nations to pursue economic opportunity, and fostered win-win cooperation and galvanizing competition. Evidently, globalized economic nationalism is more conducive to progress than its isolated version. In opposition to the protectionist mercantilism, Enlightenment philosopher Adam Smith elucidates the laissez-faire economy in The Wealth of Nations. In Report on Manufactures, federalist Alexander Hamilton integrated pragmatically-oriented corrections to Smith’s “System of Natural Liberty” while preserving entrepreneurial and liberal markets, which proved successful in U.S. economy. A quick comparison between North and South Koreas further highlights the disparities of progressive and regressive nationalism.
In civic and racial realms, nationalism also has two manifestations: an insidious means of obliteration as in ethnic nationalism, but a vital ingredient to inclusive harmony as in civic nationalism. With infamous reputation, extreme ethnic nationalism is believed to breed and cradle heinous militant aggression. The distorted mentality that specific races are ontologically, intellectually and morally superior than others inflates a hazardous sense of ethnocentrism and egocentrism---the villain provoking military confrontations and genocides, including the Rwandan genocide of Tutsis by Hutus, the Holocaust by Nazi Germany against Jews, the Bosnian genocide targeting Croatians. Mass atrocities originated from over-augmentation of ethnic pride.
However, civic nationalism, expressly non-xenophobic patriotism, is highly compatible with values of individuality, liberty and equality promoted by globalization. Intrinsically conciliatory and inclusive, civic nationalism contains a framework of discerning virtue from vice and deliberating civic obligations, which transcends national boundaries and cultural barriers, thus consistent with globalism. Moreover, civic nationalism, including a citizen’s reverence towards national legislation and patriotism towards the Peace Corps, can heal lingering rifts and unite citizens to accomplish productive enterprises. An appropriate dose of civic nationalism also facilitates retention of cultural identity amidst incessant influx and infiltration of homogenous and assimilated cultures through globalization, like American pop music and fast food. Globalization implies local diversification, as well as global unification; hence, nationalism is a distinctive and unifying force.
Cultural and political-wise, nationalism as fervent expansionism resembles chauvinism, whereas rational nationalism as extension of cultural influence accelerates global prosperity. In Notes on Nationalism, George Orwell defines expansionism as “power hunger tempered by self-deception.” Evident in Napoleonic France, American Manifest Destiny, and foremost British imperialism, expansionism often subjugates and assimilates the colonized into the hegemonic culture and deprives the native residents of their ontological status, which is detrimental to the preservation of native cultural identity. In Orientalism, cultural critic Edward Said documents British nationalists like Arthur James Balfour who espoused colonial expansion and sought justification by invoking Social Darwinism. Especially dangerous is the self-other dichotomy---“ontological and epistemological distinction between ‘the Orient’ and ‘the Occident’”---which promotes cultural stereotypes and characterizes the Occident as intrinsically superior. Further, Balfour’s much contended words “British knowledge of Egypt is Egypt” attempts to define ontological status of a foreign national entity from a dominant and authoritative position. Political philosopher Michael Sandel suggested,“the exchange of goods should be governed by a ‘just price,’ determined by tradition or intrinsic value of things.” Detrimental to self-expression and preservation, the colonized is forced to relinquish its power to determine its intrinsic value.
Nevertheless, nations can extend cultural influence democratically and peacefully, by offering rather than coercing, and by respecting cultural identities. A responsible country can sponsor foreign growth by funding educational institutions in under-educated areas, providing humanitarian assistance to war-torn regions, and initiating win-win economic collaborations. Non-governmental and supranational organizations should be encouraged to take initiative in spreading global peace. As the oldest international affairs think tank in U.S., Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has established joint research centers in Russia, Middle East and Europe, deepening intercultural understanding and facilitating multicultural collaborations.
In an era where individual livelihoods, corporate profitability and national prosperity are inextricably intertwined in an international framework, nationalism and globalization become mutually inclusive and reinforcing. Mutual interdependence in diplomatic, economic and political realms necessitates embracive compromise, as in an oligopolistic market. I believe that extended peace since World War II is due to globalization as a containment of feverish nationalism, as any nation’s interest is tied to the survival and welfare of other nations.
To maintain sustainability of globalized nationalism, I contend that an international meta-social contract has naturally emerged, whereby nations---separate contracting parties---adhere to a common code of conduct. In this model, we metaphysically condense nations into meta-individuals, and the world into a meta-nation, which is an artificial corporate body constructed through diplomatic means on compromised grounds, and representing diversified interests. The meta-social contract resembles the one Jean-Jacques Rousseau illustrated in The Social Contract, which is "an association which defends and protects with the whole common force the person and goods of each associate[...]each may still obey himself alone, and remain as free as before." Expressly, every nation retains rational claims to jurisdictional sovereignty, but surrender irrational desires of territorial expansion, cultural hegemony, and racial superiority---demerits attributed to radical nationalism. Nations are empowered to exercise unalienable rights, and held accountable for failure to fulfil unalienable responsibilities.
The United Nations hosts this meta-social contract and functions as a multipurpose supranational organization indispensable to constructing, promulgating and maintaining peace and prosperity worldwide. While the inchoate and ephemeral League of Nations failed to prevent World War II, the UN, upheld by collective effort of its member states, has forestalled the possibility of World War III since its inception.
Only in the context of general welfare can any nation ensure its prosperity. Further, intricate problems like tax evasion by multinationals, hackers of security data, and illegal immigration pose threats to both national and international welfare, and must be resolved through joint efforts by stakeholders.
A modified vision of the international community is necessary: contrary to Cold War era when Russian communism vied with American capitalism for world domination, contemporary society no longer consists of antagonistic dichotomies---where the “just and virtuous” must obliterate the “evil and corrupt”---but symbolizes a diverse and inclusive spectrum, where each and every nation can achieve progress. Diminishing polarization and dispelling purported dualities of liberal versus conservative, national versus global, and self versus other will encourage reconciliation between divergent national interests towards humanity’s common goal.
The current amalgamation of nationalism and globalization efficaciously fosters national prosperity while maintaining world peace. To prevent future conflict, it is vital to seek a common-denominator and an equilibrium between nationalism and globalism that unites what right permits and what interest prescribes, to maximize overlap between justice and utility, to minimize disparity between the theoretical and the practical, and to optimize compatibility between interests of the individual and the communal.
Nationalism without globalism is a withering tree in a barren forest; conversely, globalism without nationalism is a lifeless forest devoid of trees. The world should function as a vibrant ecosystem: every nation occupies a unique niche, possesses comparative advantage in its microcosm, and fulfils its particular role. Nations should not be battling for the last lifeboat seat on the sinking Titanic, but rather embarking on a collective voyage towards discovering humanity.