Harris on Nussbaum

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April 3, 2003 by AK

Lee Harris on Marth Nussbaum’s famous essay, Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism. This is surely not the first criticism I have come across, but, honestly, I can’t remember whether I read the essay in question.

Nussbaum: “nationalism and ethnocentric particularism are not alien to one another, but akin”.

Harris: “The rise of both German and Italian nationalism in the nineteenth century was accompanied by a struggle against all those less inclusive forms of particularism — regional, linguistic, cultural, religious, and ethnic — that had kept both of these nations so politically backward.”

I should probably add the obvious: while German nationalism glued Germany together with the mucilage of ethnicity, American patriotism has (apparently) transcended ethnic boundaries, being based on superethnic values; freedom being more of a religious one. Nationalistic patriotism is still bound to be divisive, thus un-Christian — a greatly improved heathen tribalism as it, stamping out multiple particularisms to clear the space for one — but American patriotism can be universal, which is a precondition for being Christian. A similar case could be made for both old Russian nationalism (for Faith, the Tsar and Fatherhood — the Tsar being the defender of Faith, and Fatherhood its abode — hence “Holy Russia”, not “Mother Russia”) and to some extent early Soviet nationalism (Communism being its universal idea).


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