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The nation-state and security of freedom

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In a recent article for Law and Liberty, Samuel Gregg, Acton’s Director of Research, reviews French political scientist Gil Delannoi’s new book Le nation contre le nationalisme.

“Since 2016,” Gregg writes, “it has become evident that millions of people are not content to be herded, sheep-like, by intellectuals, techno-utopians, and supranational bureaucrats down the path of global governance. Their discontent is being expressed through a renewed emphasis upon the nation and an associated stress on nation-state sovereignty.”

This emphasis on nation-state authority is covered extensively in Le nation contre le nationalism. In his book, Gil Delannoi suggests that “nation-states can protect people from the machinations of those anxious to replace attachment to country with some decidedly abstract ideas that can lead to severe curtailments of freedom.”

Gregg points out that words like “nationalism” and “nation” carry “varied meanings and historical associations”, depending on the individual, so Delannoi carefully defines and clarifies such terms in his book for the sake of his readers. For example, “Most manifestations of patriotism, [Delannoi] writes, have nothing to do with the type of racialist ideology that was central to National Socialism.”

Gregg notes examples of nation-state sovereignty throughout history, such as the “removal of trade barriers between approximately 26 independent German states” in the 1830s and the “reestablishment of the national sovereignty of countries like Lithuania, Georgia, and Estonia following the Soviet Union’s demise” to illustrate the historical power of nation-states in protecting people’s rights and interests.

Gregg then describes Delannoi’s argument that the nation is “a potential and historical locus of democratic freedom”, rather than an entity doomed for failure as some scholars suggest. To prove his point, Delannoi disputes widely-used mantras used to undermine the value of nation-states, such as “nationalism necessarily leads to war.”

Delannoi also suggests that “it’s the essentially undemocratic…character of supranational institutions that…often facilitates destructive forms of nationalism”, a point Gregg deems “hardly surprising.”

Gregg concludes his review with the statement: “The choices of nation-states and the existence of nations, Gil Delannoi shows us, remain as relevant as ever, and they are only likely to become more important, Eurocrat protestations to the contrary. To pretend otherwise is to indulge geopolitical fantasies.”

Read Samuel Gregg’s full book review here.

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Allyson Wierenga

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