By Liah Greenfeld
SAIS Review of International Affairs Johns Hopkins University Press Volume 40, Number 2, Summer-Fall 2020 pp. 5-14
Politics within nations and between nations are by definition a product of nationalism, the consciousness which defines polities as nations, presupposing popular sovereignty and fundamental equality of national membership, thus, as democracies. Nationalism lies at the root of national and international political institutions, including the state and civil society; political values of freedom, equality, and human rights; the characteristic forms political participation in nations takes, be it the grassroot work of gradual reform, motivated by rational interest in improving the conditions of one’s immediate community or wars, revolutions, and ideologically-inspired protest movements; and the specifically nationalist discontent behind ideological politics, the fear of being cheated of one’s rightful share of equality (and dignity dependent on equality), being, and being treated as, less than equal, to others within the nation or on the international scene. These general considerations, derived from the historically-based analysis of comparative politics, are connected to the protest movements of the last decade, stressing the complex, double-helix manner in which nationalism affects political action: directly, by translating ways of thinking into ways of acting, and indirectly, through the characteristic psychological discomfort which makes certain strata of society perennially dissatisfied with their surroundings.