With the advance of modernization, nationalism was supposed to fade away. Yet even in advanced democracies, nationalism’s influence seems larger than ever. What did we get wrong? analyst Ghia Nodia asks in The End of the Postnational Illusion, an article in the Journal of Democracy:
The assumption in most theories of nationalism is that it belongs to early modernization and therefore is bound, as development advances, to outgrow its utility and become marginal or even (in the Marxist view) vanish altogether. This understanding allows for a happy congruence between normative and theoretical views. Normatively, nationalism is considered bad because it is antiliberal, opposes individual rights, is hostile to minorities, generally opposes diversity, and so on. But luckily, nationalism is also historically doomed because history will make it redundant. It is this assumption of happy congruence that we must now give up.
“We must stop trying to free democracy from the will of the people, and from the propensity that those same people have to care more for their own homelands, traditions, and beliefs than for the homelands, traditions, and beliefs of others,” Nodia contends. “Efforts to ‘liberate’ democracy from the people will not end well. They will only generate more ‘populist’ reactions by even more angry majorities, leading to outcomes that none of us is going to like.”
Ghia Nodia is director of the International School of Caucasus Studies at Ilia State University in Tbilisi, Georgia, and chairman of the Caucasus Institute for Peace, Democracy, and Development, an independent think tank. He is coauthor of The Political Landscape in Georgia: Political Parties—Achievements, Challenges, and Prospects (2006). For five months in 2016–17, he was a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, D.C.