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Notes and Comments on "The Virtue of Nationalism"

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6 hours ago, Eiuol said:

You've already made one error here by changing the subject to ethnicity.

Secondly, the concept ethnicity already conflates race and culture, such that a culture is a race.

Thirdly, the cultural practices involving food don't come as a result of a person's race, in the same way that language isn't a result of race. 

Example:

Look at the recent avatar I picked. It's the flower that symbolizes Hong Kong, on a black background. It represents the protests against the communist government of China. I can't say that these people are one political culture by virtue of being Chinese (in terms of race/being Asian). The Hong Kong political culture is different than mainland China political culture. Being Chinese or not has nothing to do with it. The same goes for the language. They speak Cantonese, not Mandarin. The Chinese government doesn't really like that, and they push to treat Mandarin as more important, or treat Cantonese as a dialect even though it is a full language of its own. 

 

More nit-picking.  I have tried to return always to the essence of a culture, while acknowledging the great number of lesser elements - you keep falling back on what I called superficials and inessentials. It is this:

"...to speak of a culture is to speak only of the DOMINANT ideas..." [AR]

against this: the variety of foods (you find "very" important).

So different foods seem to matter to you in the cultural context but different people's races-ethnicities you are visually unaware of. I don't believe the latter is possible to one's mind or desirable.

I repeat, these aspects are *inessential* in a culture, what only matters is a (great) nation's and culture's fundamental, "dominant" ideas: individual freedom/individual rights. That's what matters, the rest in the hierarchy is less important to minor to irrelevant.

If there weren't existing in a country the cultural superficials, xyz, they could be abc ... or ... (etc.) in innumerable combinations.

Edited by whYNOT

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34 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

Why did you link to an article that contradicts your usage of "ethnicity"? You associated it with "skin-deep" physical traits... 

Yet your article associates it with cultural or regional characteristics.

I'm more interested in your answer to my question about what aspects of "ethnicity" you perceive directly when you see someone. That'll help me grasp your concept.

I perceive that different individuals look different. Each difference can be interesting to me. But non-essential.

Above that, I don't care a fig for their race-ethnicity, nor the subject as a whole.

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2 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

Yet your article associates it with cultural or regional characteristics.

I think by now we should forget about whyNot. He barely reads posts, his arguments are bad, and the thinking is sloppy. I hope he doesn't take it as an insult, more as a matter that a lot of conceptual cleanup is needed.

I mean, he's been unable or unwilling to as much as acknowledge that there are different standards to use to judge a culture. It's quite clear to us that Rand, in the offered quote, was speaking of how to describe a complete culture. But then completely forgot about everything I wrote before about it and why I think it isn't a good quote. He missed any acknowledgment of different broad aspects of the culture, including ethics and aesthetics. He even interpreted me saying "race is irrelevant" as "I don't see race". Basically, it's all strawmanning.

=

Anyway, I'm halfway through the book, I should be able to go over the major flaws soon. There are some blatant factual errors. They could be seen as controversial interpretations of history. But that would require a lot more explanation. Minimal explanation is provided. He offers the Italian states during the Renaissance as an example of how nations can be beneficial. If only someone wrote a book about political science discussing political order, Imperial takeovers, finding trust and loyalty in a group of people. If only there was a book discussing all the constant strife despite brilliant advancements in the Italian peninsula.

Oh wait, someone did. Machiavelli wrote The Prince. The best and only classic literature Hazony seems to be able to talk about is the Bible. Any other citations are pretty modern.

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On 8/6/2019 at 6:46 AM, Eiuol said:

I think by now we should forget about whyNot. He barely reads posts, his arguments are bad, and the thinking is sloppy. I hope he doesn't take it as an insult, more as a matter that a lot of conceptual cleanup is needed.

I mean, he's been unable or unwilling to as much as acknowledge that there are different standards to use to judge a culture. It's quite clear to us that Rand, in the offered quote, was speaking of how to describe a complete culture. But then completely forgot about everything I wrote before about it and why I think it isn't a good quote. He missed any acknowledgment of different broad aspects of the culture, including ethics and aesthetics. He even interpreted me saying "race is irrelevant" as "I don't see race". Basically, it's all strawmanning.

=

 

This is simple ad hominem. No arguments contra my main arguments. Do you have the intellectual authority over others to dismiss what my input has been?? which you mostly don't take in nor reply to in good faith. You nitpick a lot. Though I prefer not to study and review scholars theories empirically, like you, I have done little else but attempt to conceptualize what nationalism could mean, and if it is a good and positive to people, and how to possibly resolve it with individualism. 

You could be right that I put too much into "race is irrelevant", but that's s a single and narrow issue you could respond to, rather than dictate to others "to forget" about me? Moderate me if you have the power, but your 'suggestion' to other posters is ludicrous, and undermines their independent judgment.

One has to be conceptual in such a deep and broad topic of nationalism, when envisaged originally and freshly like no past instances in history - one cannot get lost in the surface details and quibbles of 'cultures' , e.g. foods. You don't like that approach, well I am not mad about your style and method either.

Edited by whYNOT

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The aim: "Setting man free from men".

The means: Individual rights (and limited government). 

This, the elegantly simple core of the Objectivist social theory. 

Altruism and collectivism - the sacrificial ethics and the power of the 'group' - are the first and ultimate enemy of individual freedom. When they coincide, one has group sacrifice. As everyone has seen in some form. If one group or tribe can be morally blamed and negated, it can be dominated, and another group/tribe can rise over it. Since it is much easier and quicker to sacrifice entire groups - especially if they humbly and guiltily accept their tribe's inferior status - than to sacrifice individuals (who would put up self-preserving resistance). The crudest form of sacrificial-tribalism, is that by racial identity - and the flipsides of it: "racism" and "racialism", both used to gain power for tribes over other tribes. One (at times), by physical force, the other, continuously, by psychological coercion.

All collapses with individual rights, which allow no group to dominate or to be restricted - by coercion, either from the populace or by government. Totally divorced from individuals who associate with others by value, or who choose to aid others by value. The aim and means are right and proper so let us not quibble and become side-tracked. Making that happen in actuality, even in the far future, is all I personally care about here.

 

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56 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

Not sure who you are responding to or what you're arguing against, or what it has to do with the book. 

I imagine, why you don' t understand me. I am over- general. Admittedly not to the precise point of the topic, connecting individual rights to nationalism has been my repetitive theme.  If so doing hurries along the former, without compromise, then it's all for the good. I want above all, outcomes, and convincing a majority of people of the value of individual rights is the only way ahead.

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I'm writing this criticism because it's helping me develop ideas about civic nationalism, contra cultural nationalism.

A shallow theory

If you want the basic idea of Hazony, just read the notes Grames provided. They are pretty good for summarizing. But the notes leave out some important criticisms that should be of concern to us.

To begin with, much of the grounding for his ideas comes from the Old Testament. In a sense, he already concluded that nationalism is correct, and all he does is use the principles from Moses and the Israelites (and therefore, from God) and uses them to analyze history. In this way, he specifically offers a biblical theory of nationalism. Not that he necessarily opposes non-Jewish and non-Christian nations, but it is a form of cultural nationalism, where people are foremost unified and operate as a collective revolving around the totality of culture. It is not a form of civic nationalism, where nations are essentially only a unification of people along political principles and documents. He is not unclear about this: "There are certainly individuals and families that attach themselves to these sacred things in adulthood, but for most human beings an awareness of sacredness arises together with the bonds of mutual loyalty we form in our childhood and youth" (pp. 158-159). He is careful never to praise the American Revolution for bringing attention to individual rights or for attempting to enshrine liberty (not to mention he doesn't realize he implicitly makes the case that America could not maintain its independence). Any praise is given insofar as he thinks America is a Christian nation (that is, based on cultural, not civic, nationalism). 

But it's hard to make sense of this, because it does not appear America's coming into existence is consistent with his ideas. I only bring up America here because his top examples of (cultural) nationalism done right are America and Israel.

To maintain its independence, a national state must have not only internal cohesion but also military and economic strength and a defensible territory, so that it is not annexed by hostile foreign powers at the first opportunity, or overrun by criminal or terrorist organizations. Where these conditions are lacking, there will be no independent national state.

(p. 170)

It isn't controversial to say that that nations arise from family and/or tribal connections. Aristotle understood this, and wrote a book about it as we all know. It isn't controversial either to analyze the interaction of nations and how best to organize them, that's been at least in Western traditions ever since The Prince was written. Hazony provides nothing new here. But bearing in mind that throughout the entire book, it's all grounded on mutual loyalty where individuals are willing to sacrifice themselves for the good and sake of the nation. If people are not unified in this way, it is not stable, or it is businesslike in nature and therefore lacking cohesion among tribes. He goes as far as to suggest that such loyalties are natural, that people naturally feel for their family being hurt, or their nation being hurt, as if it is their own pain. Presumably, if a person does not feel their nation as part of themselves, there is something wrong with them, or this is a big moral error in his eyes. Take this loosely related passage, which suggests incredulity at people choosing to assimilate into a new culture because they see it as superior. The best he can imagine is that people assimilate in a way that resembles losing an argument or a battle:

Moreover, there is no evidence that such a complete homogeneity is necessary for the cohesion, stability, and success of the state. Rather, what is needed for the establishment of a stable and free state is a majority nation whose cultural dominance is plain and unquestioned, and against which resistance appears to be futile. Such a majority nation is strong enough not to fear challenges from national minorities, and so is able to grant them rights and liberties without damaging the internal integrity of the state. Similarly, the national minorities that stand against such a national majority are themselves largely reluctant to engage in confrontations that they know they cannot win. For the most part, they therefore assimilate themselves into the system of expectations established by the constitutional and religious culture of the majority nation, learning its language and resorting to violence only on rare occasions.

(pp. 165-166)

The other parts I want to get to later are Hazony's form of  heavy inclination towards empiricism as an epistemological error (skepticism of abstractions in general), and how while some of his criticisms of liberalism (and neoliberalism) are valid, he ends up rejecting capitalism (i.e., in Rand's sense of extreme concern for individual rights and freedom of action) implicitly. Not because it is inherently wrong to reject capitalism, but that the implicit rejection is due to errors of reasoning. 

Edited by Eiuol

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Epistemological issues

Hazony rejects Kantian-style rationalism and universalism; he rejects Truth that only exists as some kind of platonic perfection in favor of finding truth empirically. The problem is that he goes so far with this position that he rejects any kind of universalism, both metaphysical and epistemological universals. It's not that he rejects abstract reasoning whole hog, but that he finds them detached by their very nature.

In addition, the regime of peace and prosperity imposed by the empire has a very particular quality to it. The empire, which claims to give law to all mankind, necessarily concerns itself with abstract categories of human need and obligation, obligation, categories that are, in its eyes, “universal.” But these categories are always detached from the circumstances and interests, traditions and aspirations of the particular clan or tribe to which they are now to be applied.

(p. 96). 

Accordingly, abstractions may have value, but abstractions with human need and obligations are always detached. That doesn't mean they are sometimes detached, so we should strive to ground our abstractions. I take him literally when he says 'always'. Hazony details some of his theory of knowledge. 


The choice between an imperialist and a nationalist politics thus corresponds to a choice between two theories of knowledge: In Western history, at least, imperialism has tended to be associated with a rationalist theory of knowledge. Having an unbounded trust in human reason, such a theory is bold in its assertion that the great universal truths are already at hand, and that this knowledge needs now only to be brought to bear on humanity. Nationalism, on the other hand, has tended to be based on an empirical standpoint, exercising a moderate skepticism with regard to the products of human reason, and mindful of the calamities that men have brought upon us in the political realm time and again by their over-confidence in their own reason. And being skeptical, it recognizes the wisdom of permitting many attempts to attain the truth, each different from the others. In this way, some experiments will be successful, while others will fail. And those that succeed will do so in different ways, so that the unique experience of each nation will teach us different things that we had not understood before. We may say, in other words, that a nationalist politics invites a great debate among the nations, and a world of experiments and learning. Whereas an imperialist politics declares that this debate is too dangerous or too troublesome, and that the time has come to end it.

(p. 130).

It isn't stated explicitly, but I suspect that to Hazony, the only universals that are valid are those that God provides. Political order is made by man, for man, so any proper political order should not use any kind of universal. What we end up with his emphasis on trial and error, and experimentation. Sure, these are important to proper reasoning, but that should not come at the cost of any and all universals. This is even apparent in his view of rights.

In examining these characteristics of free institutions, we see that the freedoms of the individual guaranteed in England and America are not something that the individual simply has “by nature,” but are, on the contrary, the result of an intricate machinery developed through many centuries of trial and error.

(p. 137)

True, individuals don't have rights (individual freedom by his wording) simply because they are "there" as some sort of disembodied characteristic. They exist in the sense that man has a nature, which implies certain requirements for existing within a social setting. The problem here is that rights are treated as only social constructions, that is, constructions which are dependent on the social context first and foremost (as might be the case for rules in sports, or informal rules of polite behavior), or possibly pragmatic considerations. This is evident when Hazony suggests that individual freedoms are developed through trial and error. In other words, individuals are granted rights by their nation.

If you think Hazony is offering a theory about how we can realize institutions which protect our rights, you are mistaken. For him, individual rights are up for debate, the only thing for sure is what is written in the Bible. Rights are something to be granted by a nation if it turns out that they work well after trial and error. 
 

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13 hours ago, Eiuol said:

by the empire has a very particular quality to it. The empire, which claims to give law to all mankind, necessarily concerns itself with abstract categories of human need and obligation, obligation, categories that are, in its eyes, “universal.” But these categories are always detached from the circumstances and interests, traditions and aspirations of the particular clan or tribe to which they are now to be applied.

Indeed, his nominalism seems to lead him to rejecting universal value claims. Liberalism makes universal value claims about the human good, and therefore must drop reference to the particular and circumstantial context within which he thinks the good is embedded, thus losing the "clan or tribe" aspect of the good.

Yet surely he is moving too fast here and mixing up different levels and kinds of value claims. One moves over a lot of territory from "no universal value claims" to "clan and tribe traditions." Territory for which the Aristotelian liberal, at least, is fully at home and not willing to just gloss over.

It is true that many theoretical defenses of liberalism try to make universal value claims, from Kantian, utilitarian, and natural law ("common good"), to modern pragmatic and linguistic types of defenses of liberalism. But the Aristotelian liberal (AL) does not necessarily face this problem. The AL works from a concept of human flourishing, and knowledge of the specific form of human flourishing cannot be achieved by universal or abstract knowledge alone. One needs knowledge of the particular and contingent aspects of an individual's unique circumstances and context to apply individual insight at the time of action. The nominalist might not recognize a concept of human nature, but with a moderate realism the AL is comfortable speaking of abstract or generic goods of human flourishing (the ability to consider ingredients or constituents of human goods abstractly), but they would not exist as concrete goods if they were not particular objects of an individual's knowledge and efforts. Only practical wisdom can provide this sort of knowledge, not the armchair philosopher. It is precisely these aspects of human flourishing that cannot be planned or prescribed by the clan or tribe or state at all, and an inability to connect that will lead to inability to see the importance of individual rights. The attempt to plan for individuals their attachment to social communities and traditions constitutes its own universal and intrinsic value set for Hazony.

As far as the embedded nature of clans and tribes and traditions, yes of course the AL will recognize and emphasize that we are profoundly social beings and flourish in communities and traditions. There is nothing about liberalism that is incompatible with that. But the non sequitur is committed when one moves from the importance of social embeddedness and relationships to (a) all goods being social in nature, and (b) asserting that the way in which these relationships are integrated into each person's flourishing is determined by the "clan or tribe" or social community and the individual himself will have no say about the matter.

Individuals making choices about which communities to belong to (doesn't Hazony uphold "adopted communities"?) and about their degree of involvement is not ipso facto a denial of community or of the individualized and particular nature of the good. It is a recognition of these aspects that implies that life in the social community is not passively accepted by the individual, but is actively shaped. Individuals adapt, change, or exit from communities, and these choices imply an open-ended way of incorporating community into ones good that respects the particular and contingent determinations of practical reasoning. Liberalism need not be regarded as "universalist" and is not an imperialist ethics for planning all of life, but a political principle that recognizes human individuality and the particularized nature of the good in social living.

Edited by 2046

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23 minutes ago, 2046 said:

Individuals making choices about which communities to belong to (doesn't Hazony uphold "adopted communities"?)

As far as I can tell, he doesn't make any argument against individuals making choices about which communities to belong to. He would probably just go on to say that a political order, if it is to be stable, doesn't need to place any special concern on individuals. It's more that the communities themselves, with their own pragmatic considerations, are the ones who may determine if someone can join the community or what individuals may or may not do for the good of the nation. The same goes for allowing minority communities to join a nation. Still, he avoids characterizing that as a universal claim.

41 minutes ago, 2046 said:

The attempt to plan for individuals their attachment to social communities and traditions constitutes its own universal value set for Hazony.

I want to emphasize his empiricism here. He rejects attempts to plan the lives of individuals for the same reason he rejects attempts to plan the development of nations. At first, this makes sense, the same way we support capitalistic economies rather than centrally planned economies. No one is infallible (except God, apparently that's why we know nationalist political order is proper), so no one should make plans for others as if there is one infallible plan. Unfortunately, he falls back to trial and error as the only thing we can do on the level of a nation.

The political order is in this respect much like the economic order. The reality is that no human being, and no group of human beings, possesses the necessary powers of reason and the necessary knowledge to dictate the political constitution that is appropriate for all mankind. Anyone tending to a skeptical and empirical point of view will thus recognize the advantages of a nationalist order, which permits many independent national states and allows them freely to compete. Each national state pursues a different set of aims, and is organized in a manner that is different from the others. And yet despite this diversity, the rulers of these independent national states, in constant competition with other members of the order of similar states, are also forever glancing sideways at their competitors to see what is bringing them success, imitating that which they regard as wise and useful and beautiful in the institutions of other nations in order to improve their own. In this way, the rulers of each nation, while concerned principally for the strength and standing of their own nation among its competitors, nevertheless end up sharing with all humanity from their own unique store of experiment and experience.

 (pp. 131-132).

The problem isn't that he uses trial and error, but that he offers nothing else in addition to it (besides the Bible).

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If he rejects attempts to plan the lives of individuals, how does he reconcile the rulers of national states imposing their "unchosen, inherited obligations" to "clan and tribe"? The anti-planning attitude on the international scale disappears when national clans and tribes are in the picture, and the rulers are going about their experimenting. And is that not its own political constitution? Its own international order? Its own universal value claim?

Again I feel I've reached the point of repetition. But the point I'm merely trying to make is that liberalism does not require a theoretical commitment to universalism and rationalistic constructs, nor does it preclude or omit concern for community or human sociality. When human flourishing is seen as individualized (care for particular and contingent facts), social (embedded in open-ended communities and traditions), and requiring practical wisdom (experimentation, trial and error?) then his nationalist solution (intrinsic, unchosen inherited obligations to clan and tribe) will be seen as structurally breaking the very theoretical commitments he employs.

Edit: And let me just add that this does not mean that liberalism is nominalist or relies on extreme empiricism. If the AL's concept of human flourishing holds, then the liberal principle (individual rights) will be a universal political/legal principle equally applicable to all forms of flourishing without being a universal moral Leviathan commanding one particular conception of the good.

Edited by 2046

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1 hour ago, 2046 said:

But the point I'm merely trying to make is that liberalism does not require a theoretical commitment to universalism and rationalistic constructs

I agree, I wasn't trying to argue against you, just provide additional support to what you're saying by also giving a fuller picture. I'm not trying so much to give a full rejection of Hazony, mostly just to give a conceptual way to think about a growing form of political thought especially in America. I think it will matter a lot in the coming years, in slightly different variations. It's not just an academic issue.

1 hour ago, 2046 said:

If he rejects attempts to plan the lives of individuals, how does he reconcile the rulers of national states imposing their "unchosen, inherited obligations" to "clan and tribe"?

This is a big part of where his theory loses coherence. I think part of his explanation is that rulers of national states are sufficiently concrete and directly connected to one's loyalties in ways that emperors (or other Imperial rulers) are not. Because individuals can extend their loyalty this far, but not any further into global or federal solutions, it is justified for nations to make impositions on people within the nation.

But why should the individual develop bonds of mutual loyalty extending so far? We have seen that loyalty finds its most characteristic expression in the effort to defend the members of a particular collective against threats from outside: A husband and wife quarrel until they are faced with adversity, but then they rise to meet the challenge before them as a unity. In the same way, the tribes that make up a nation compete against each other until danger unites them in their common defense. What, then, is supposed to establish the loyalty of the individual to every other human being on earth?

(p. 97). 

 

I should say that he certainly accepts some amount of planning the lives of individuals, but really only in the ways that impacted the unchosen and inherited obligations to the client and tribe. I meant to say that he rejects planning the lives of individuals outside of the nation, but within the nation, individuals may be controlled in whatever way ends up being effective. So it could, for instance, be justified to require all schools within the nation to teach that Jesus is the savior. Or it might be justified to say certain violent video games should be banned. At least, that's how I understand him.

Edited by Eiuol

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It's weird because you have the book and I don't, so it seems like I'm arguing against you but not just the chain on reasoning under consideration. 

As far as loyalty goes, it may or may not be that loyalty extends only so far as mutual defense, but that hardly gets us to obeying just any old ruler or authority because they're the authority that happens to rule over your national state, or even your particular tribe. It also, at the very least, isn't clear how and to the extent one is permitted to exit or change one's political allegiance if one just so determined that one wasn't being properly defended or one's loyalties and interests weren't served by said rulers. Nor does it address potential loyalties with others whom are not a part of one's clan or tribe, or overlapping networks of mutual loyalties, given that human beings aren't a priori excluded from sharing values with unincorporated others.

It may be, at this point, Hazony's reasoning just isn't very good. Possibly, he just holds to some deeper social ontology. Or perhaps he just assumes many elements of collectivism. It's clear he wants to target that legitimate obligations require consent, that the individual has any ethical importance. And he brings out all the tropes of family and tribes, to accusations "atomistic individualism." It's just not clear how these various elements are supposed to form a coherent integrated argument.

It is enough to say that once it is seen that human flourishing is individualized, social, and yet self-directed and doesn't rely on being some self-sufficient atom, doesn't rely on impersonalistic or universalized directives, or some rationalistic construct or pure will or existentialist choice, etc. then many of these collectivist assumptions are undercut.

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1 hour ago, 2046 said:

It may be, at this point, Hazony's reasoning just isn't very good.

I think the more confusing points are for this reason. But maybe that's the empiricism I'm talking about. He's not trying to make abstract integrations (I mean, if he did, he would claim something could be universal about political philosophy that isn't God-given). It's only abstract to the extent it's a book on political philosophy.

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Let's face it, the topic "Nationalism" was never so important and has only risen into vogue lately. And because of at least these supranational factors: the large scale movement of migrants/refugees, global warming alarmism, terrorism, trade tariffs/protectionism. The gigantic driver is the internet which gives everyone the sense of being connected to everywhere while not being a citizen of every place. 

This fellow has a simple answer, why globalism OR nationalism?

 

 

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