Why Nationalism Will Win the Twenty-First Century
Most Americans take it for granted that there is an American people or nation with its own particular culture and traditions, and that the human race in the world as a whole is divided among culturally distinct peoples or nations.
Defending a “creedal” conception of identity, Goldman seeks to synthesize American constitutional patriotism with pluralism, among whose defenders he lists me. But this confuses two different things. The tradition of institutional or social pluralism—associated with Catholic and Calvinist social thought, modern English pluralism, and the secular French republican pluralism of Durkheim and Duguit, as well as with American thinkers like Christopher Lasch and Robert Nisbet—seeks a “third way” between atomized individualist liberalism and collectivism, in which the state reigns but does not rule over self-governing communities. In pluralist thought, the most important communities are occupational, like trade unions, religious, and sometimes local.
Pluralism is neutral with respect to the question of whether the citizens in a pluralist society share a common national language and culture or not. Pluralist institutions like occupational representation that supplements territorial political voting can work in explicitly binational states like Canada or Belgium, or explicitly multinational states like Switzerland. But institutional pluralism is equally possible and desirable in highly homogeneous nation-states like Japan or Austria. So there is no necessary correlation between institutional pluralism and ethnocultural pluralism. And there is unlikely to be one in the United States, as long as most immigrants of all backgrounds continue to assimilate voluntarily to the Anglomorph majority culture and to marry outside of immigrant diasporas that tend to dwindle over time, with the exception of small, self-segregated sectarian communities.
IN ANY event, a definition of American identity as a common commitment to abstract universal ideals and governing institutions on the part of groups, as distinct from individuals, is unlikely to appeal to anyone other than a few academics and journalists and career ethnic activists. Most Americans take it for granted that there is an American people or nation with its own particular culture and traditions, and that the human race in the world as a whole is divided among culturally distinct peoples or nations, who should be able to choose their leaders rather than be ruled against their wishes by foreigners. And they are right.
Michael Lind is a professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, a columnist for Tablet, and a fellow at New America. He is the author of The New Class War (2020) and The American Way of Strategy (2006).
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