There is an ever-expanding terminology generated to describe the vortex engulfing the West, be it “illiberal democracy”, “populism” or (from the extreme left) “neo-fascism,” notes Andrew A. Michta, dean of the College of International and Security Studies at the George C. Marshall European Centre for Security Studies. But all the terms are attempting to grapple with the same truth: consensus that the nation-state should remain paramount in world politics has weakened. It is this that lies at the base of the deepening political crisis in Western democracies.
Though its fundaments are still in place, the era of the post-Cold War triumph of liberal internationalism is more than a decade behind us. The liberal international order cannot function without strong national communities acting as the baselines for democratic government. Regrettably, in the past half-century we have witnessed the gradual unravelling of the cultural foundations of this compact: the idea of the nation as an overarching identifier linking people across space and time, he writes for The American Interest:
Today, after decades of espousing multiculturalism and group rights buttressed by the politics of grievance, the foundations of a larger shared national identity have eroded such that governance — or, better yet, governability — has become an increasingly scarce commodity across the West. We are at an inflection point, where a growing systemic disorder is stoked not just by shifts in the global power distribution but by the progressive decline in governability. The dismantling of the core principle that the national homeland should be under the sovereign control of its people lies at the root of this problem.
The hypothesis that institutions ultimately trump culture has morphed in the past quarter century into an article of faith, alongside the fervently held belief that nationalism and democratic politics are at their core fundamentally incompatible. The decades-long assault on the idea of national identity steeped in a shared culture and defined by a commitment to the preservation of the nation has left Western leadership frequently unable to articulate the fundamentals that bind us and that we must be prepared to defend.
“National identity, national culture and history, and the sense of belonging to a distinct community are not antithetical to the notion of an interdependent international system,” Michta contends. “On the contrary, when bereft of the core building blocks of consolidated nation-states, the system will grow less stable with each passing year.” RTWT