Every miserable fool who has nothing at all of which he can be proud, adopts as a last recourse pride in the nation to which he belongs; he is ready and happy to defend all its faults and follies tooth and nail, thus reimbursing himself for his own inferiority,” said Schopenhauer. This inferiority, despite its superiority in global conduct of politics, has been a hard question in international relations. Before the Treaty of Westphalia, the pendulum of nationalism oscillated among tribes, kingdoms, monarchs, empires and clergy. But the character of politics was more towards monarchy. It was the peace of Westphalia that transformed global politics from monarchy to a system of nation-states.
It was Europe which first embraced a nationalistic style of politics beginning with John Milton’s writing to the social contract theories of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau. The Puritan revolution in Britain and the French revolution in France were the culmination of a nationalistic character of European politics.
Up till the end of the Cold War, the character of nationalism remained a dominant feature of global politics. It was Europe which first embraced a nationalistic style of politics beginning with John Milton’s writing to the social contract theories of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau. The Puritan revolution in Britain and the French revolution in France were the culmination of a nationalistic character of European politics. Furthermore, industrialisation and capitalism fortified the rise of a nationalistic role of politics during the age of colonisation by protecting business rights and merchants partnering with national governments to help them beat foreign competitors. The nationalistic governments of Europe reinforced this mercantilism because the merchants paid them in gold. Additionally, the printing press further helped in popularising this specific nationalistic character of politics. Therefore, global politics found last resort in nationalism till the end of the Cold War.
After the end of the Cold War, the victory of capitalism over socialism resulted in the triumph of globalisation. For around two decades, globalism became the most popularised and preached character of global politics. The advent of social media further intensified this preaching that was void in essence. People like Fukuyama termed it the forever era of liberal dominance, but this ‘forever era’ ended with the rise of the great recession of 2008. Developments around the world depict that the resurgence of a nationalistic character is haunting global politics.
At the time of the Arab Spring, the heated debate was that the uprising would be the last nail in the coffin of the monarchy of the Arab Peninsula. Now, it is being said that Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Erdogan and Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman are responsible for turning the Arab Spring into an Arab Winter. The second manifestation is the advent of Donald Trump as the President of the United States. The slogans of collective security, global welfare and one world one system are being replaced by ‘America First’ and ‘Make America Great Again’. The Berlin Wall has collapsed, but the wall between Mexico and America is being built. President Trump is being viewed as the national President of global power.
Another reiteration of the nationalistic character of global politics can be seen in the form of resurging Russia under Putin. The exploitation of nationalist sentiments allowed Vladimir Putin to consolidate power and Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Other manifestations can be seen in the form of nationalist movements in Eastern Europe such as in Hungary under Viktor Orban and Poland under Jaroslaw Kaczynski. In Western Europe, nationalist groups such as Germany’s Pegida, France’s National Front and the UK’s Independence Party gained prominence in their respective nations advocating restrictions on immigration to protect the local populations.
In a 2016 referendum, the British populace voted to withdraw the UK from the European Union (Brexit). Once again, the results were mostly unexpected and were seen as a triumph of nationalism over regionalism and globalism. The referendum of Scottish independence from the UK is another trailer. Terrorism in Christchurch Mosque is another one more such instance.
The vigorous return of mercantilism and national prejudice can be witnessed in almost all regions of the globe. Dialectical nature of politics, once again, brought nationalism in global politics. The 21st century is proving to be the century of nationalistic character with a worldwide outlook.
Furthermore, the Indian flag is not large enough to cover the shameful killings and systematic oppression of Muslims and other minorities under Modi’s regime. The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) under the Narendra Modi has become the brand of hyper-nationalism. It is the first time in India that old names of cities are being replaced for not being Hindu enough. The daily routine of lynching minorities in the name of ‘Gow Raksha’ has become a fashion in India under Modi. Indian hyper-nationalism is living on hatred, oppression, violence and lynching.
In 2016, Rodrigo Duterte became President of the Philippines running a distinctly nationalist campaign. Contrary to the policies of his recent predecessors, he distanced the country from the US and sought closer ties with China and Russia. In China, the dominance of President Xi Jinping is once again reflecting Chinese nationalism not only in domestic but also in regional and global affairs. The ongoing trade war between China and the US is another rationale of the nationalistic character of two global power’s politics.
In conclusion, repeating manifestations of nationalistic character of global politics in different countries and regions have engulfed the world’s politics as well as economics only in one decade. The vigorous return of mercantilism and national prejudice can be witnessed in almost all regions of the globe. Dialectical nature of politics, once again, has ushered nationalism in global debates. The 21st century is proving to be the century of nationalistic character with a worldwide outlook. The ocean of global politics is being filled by national waters.
Khaqan Ahmad has done M.Phil in International Relations from the National Defense University, Islamabad. His areas of expertise are Indo-Pacific region, Middle East, European Affairs, International Political economy, Foreign Policy of USA, China and Russia, Philosophy, Theories of IR and Artificial Intelligence. Currently, he is working as a Research Associate at the CSCR.