Nationalism is currently resurging in the West. Nationalism explains the Brexit vote in 2016, the rise of anti-European political parties in Europe, and the Trump phenomenon in the US. For the most part, the academy refuses to treat nationalism as at all legitimate, assuming that it is simply a mask for much darker, illiberal forces — which it sometimes is, of course. A new book from Oxford University Press, The Cultural Defense of Nations: A Liberal Theory of Majority Rights, by Liav Orgad (WZB Berlin Social Science Center), takes nationalism seriously and offers a defense of it from within the liberal tradition. Looks interesting. Here’s the description from the Oxford website:
Never in human history has so much attention been paid to human movement. Global migration yields demographic shifts of historical significance, profoundly shaking up world politics as has been seen in the refugee crisis, the Brexit referendum, and the 2016 US election.
The Cultural Defense of Nations addresses one of the greatest challenges facing liberalism today: is a liberal state justified in restricting immigration and access to citizenship in order to protect its majority culture? Liberal theorists and human rights advocates recognize the rights of minorities to maintain their unique cultural identity, but assume that majorities have neither a need for similar rights nor a moral ground for defending them. The majority culture, so the argument goes, “can take care of itself.” However, with more than 250 million immigrants worldwide, majority groups increasingly seek to protect what they consider to be their national identity. In recent years, liberal democracies have introduced proactive immigration and citizenship policies that are designed to defend the majority culture.
This book shifts the focus from the prevailing discussion of cultural minority rights, for the first time directly addressing the cultural rights of majorities and, for the first time, addressed the cultural rights of majorities. It proposes a new approach by which liberal democracies can welcome immigrants without fundamentally changing their cultural heritage, forsaking their liberal traditions, or slipping into extreme nationalism.
Disregarding the topic of cultural majority rights is not only theoretically wrong, but also politically unwise. With forms of “majority nationalism” rising and the growing popularity of extreme right-wing parties in the West, the time has come to liberally address contemporary challenges.