National Review: Is Nationalism “Liberal”?

If you are talking about the 19th century, the strain of liberalism that existed back then was comfortable with nationalism and racialism and was often opposed to monarchy, dynasties and multinational empires. The highly educated used to be fervent nationalists.

If you are talking about the 20th century, the strain of liberalism that became ascendant after the 1920s rejected its predecessor. It championed a strong state led by experts drawing on social science over a weak state pinned down by constitutionalism. It rejected racialism in favor of antiracism. It rejected the Victorian patriarchy, separate spheres and gender roles in favor of feminism. It embraced modernism and cosmopolitanism. It rejected nationalism in favor of globalism. H.G. Wells popularized the concept of the World State. It elevated aesthetic self-expression and self absorption over moralism.

National Review:

“Sohrab Ahmari wrote a cover story for Commentary in 2016 titled “Illiberalism: The Worldwide Crisis.” In this essay, he mourned the fact that “as an ideology and as a governing philosophy, liberalism is fast losing ground.” In Hungary, Ahmari regretted, Viktor Orbán had “mused about ‘building an illiberal new national state’ on Turkish, Russian, and Chinese blueprints,” driven by a longing “for the return of national will and cohesion — as well as the territories and populations — lost to the cruel 20th century.” …

Today, Ahmari rejects nationalism and liberalism as birds of the same feather. In a recent Compact essay, “The Return of Liberal Nationalism,” Ahmari — in keeping with his latest Marxist-curious turn — recites a version of Eric Hobsbawm’s historical account of nationalism, arguing that “in practice, liberalism and nationalism arose in tandem, beginning in the late 18th century and throughout the 19th.” The marriage of the twin ideologies ruptured after World War II, as “19th-century liberalism’s defense of the nation as the ‘sacred community’ that framed liberal rights” was transplanted by “a cosmopolitan liberalism, in which the empire of rights was to span the whole globe.” (A “sacred community” that gives “concrete shape to our individual rights and identities” — sound familiar?) But today, in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Ahmari sees liberalism and nationalism as reuniting …”

The culture war began in the 1920s when Sinclair Lewis published Babbitt.

About Hunter Wallace 12342 Articles
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Occidental Dissent


  1. Liberalism and today’s conservatism is pretty much synonymous and nationalism is nationalism.

    • “No republic without the peasants” means: nationalism without socialism is not national. “Nationalism” that is not true socialism is fake nationalism.

      A true nationalist is also an internationalist with respect for the rights of all peoples, as well as his own.

      Liberalism and conservatism are two sides of the same capitalist (and imperialist) coin. So are the “neo” versions.

      • @Merthyr Rising, 1831

        > true socialism is fake nationalism.

        You post all this ideological spam in every single comment thread, and everyone ignores it because it’s all just ideological bullshit. Anyone can come up with a bunch of ideological axioms than declare this or that “true” or “false” ideology.

        Your silliness in the other thread about “reformism” as an impediment to “true revolution” is just low-rent 60s leftover Marxism.

        Why do you even bother? You’re the online equivalent of the Hari Krishnas chanting and passing out tracts at the airport.

        • Welcome back Banned Hipster. I have been bemoaning the loss of yourself and other grounded OD commenters as of late. Good to see you return.

          As far as as this fake and gay “true believer ” Merthyr Rising 1831 ghost, he/she has been spouting pseudo collectivist nonsense under the anonymous banner since forever. I have tried to engage Mr. MR1831 on the merits of his or her rants a time or two. The commenter never gets outside the walls of the ideological prison encasing him/ her. So pointless. The Hari Khrishna give fits like a glove.

          • You wrote: “(A)ll governments anywhere in the world are extortion rackets (…) they are stationary bandits, extracting tribute from owners of wealth generating assets (…) ALL politics is accepting bribes from the Oligarchs, nothing more. Even ‘real’ socialists do (…) They all are corrupt.”:

            I disagree, respectfully, that your “third” position that you constantly advocate – that is neither socialist nor capitalist, or is both at the same time, or is half-way in between – is no less ideological than the first and second “positions.” The supposed “third” way, or system, that you constantly advocate is, in my opinion, illogical, self-contradictory, unreal and impossible.

          • Re: “My Sovereign Wealth Fund based UBI,” as in “any socio-political-economic modus vivendi must incorporate both human felt values, freedom and security, in order to be effective. My Sovereign Wealth Fund based UBI does just that, linking production with consumption in a stable fashion”:

            Who creates and administers your UBI, and your wealth fund, and what is the nature of the production and of the security you intend? I am assuming that this is all privately-run, since you believe that all governments are extortion rackets. Please explain how this third way works in concrete, practical terms.

        • “silliness (…) about reformism as an impediment to true revolution”

          It is fact that reformism (such as the New Deal) has frequently been INTENDED as an impediment or antidote to revolution.

          “everyone ignores it because it’s all just ideological”:

          It is not true that “everyone” here ignores socialist commentary, while paying attention to right-wing, conservative commentary such as yours. Furthermore, my comments are generally historical and concrete, as well as theoretical and “ideological” – and it is not wrong but normal to have an ideology (a system of ideas, especially one which forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy). You seem to have one, that informs your comments, and you must admit that some ideologies must be better, more true, than others, and we should all strive to know the truth.

        • “@Merthyr Rising, 1831
          > true socialism is fake nationalism”:

          That is the opposite of what I wrote and meant. I wrote: “nationalism that is not true socialism is fake” – which means simply that a nation and nationalism that does not include – is not “of, by and for” – all the people, not just elites and their upper middle class allies, is fake, not a real nation, and not true nationalism but an exploitation scheme. “No republic without the peasants.”

          • There is no “third way” being advocated by you know who. Collectivism and Individualism are inherent in all people at all times and in all places, as humans value both giving the unknown future a chance and supporting a status quo that to them has stood the test of time.

            In the use of their freedom people create new things or new ways of living, both of which they will then try to conserve by converting them into a status quo. In their desire to give the unknown future a chance when the status quo begins failing, traditionalists/conservatives make, then accept, a different status quo, in an evolution of cultural and technological reality.

            As a result, any socio-political-economic modus vivendi must incorporate both human felt values, freedom and security, in order to be effective. My Sovereign Wealth Fund based UBI does just that, linking production with consumption in a stable fashion. You can run from that reality but you cannot hide from it.

            Finally, you cannot refute my observation that all authoritative apparatuses invoke their authority to force creators of value to provide tribute for the privilege of plundering the masses. That, too, is human reality, at all times, in all places, involving all socio-political-economic operating systems. Even your “pure” socialism. So take your rants elsewhere. They are worthless as ahistorical.

          • The nuts and bolts of my SWF-UBI proposal have been spelled out by myself multiple times, both at OD and the Unz Review. Google my name and the terms applicable to the search, and you will find your answer to the secret to collectivist/individualist nirvana. The short answer is that the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend Program contains the basic architecture, scaled up for a USA SWF/UBI.
            Of course, for any proposed social policy, the society must have a minimally-accepted set of rules for behavior for all its citizens, enforced fairly and consistently. We of course have no such society in American 2022, so at this point my “solution” has no salience. That must await the counterrevolution against TPTB, all 600 billionaires and their Turchin overproduced “elites” who are the handmaidens to the Oligarchy. Care to join us in that revolution, Sir/Madame?

      • This is why nationalism is represented as some sort of phenomenon of 19th Century liberalism even though we’ve had national identities and patriotic sentiment for many centuries. Leftists cannot discuss past institutions objectively and realistically: they can only discuss the past terms of their own fantastical notions, which forbids objective analysis.

  2. Jews took over liberalism in the 1920s after they established financial control over the nascent empire. National liberalism (classical liberalism in one country) was thus replaced by international liberalism (Usury-plutocracy dressed up as liberalism), after their boy Trotsky (who advocated international socialism – another skinsuit for usury-plutocracy). Classical liberalism of the 19th century died on Flanders’ fields, replaced by “liberal democracy” and the bogus “libertarianism” after (((Ayn Rand))) came on the scene.

  3. Sohrab Ahmari is a good example of the zeal of the convert. I’m sure if he and the other “Trad Catholics” ever got to a position to really threaten the American elites the church would condemn him as it condemned Charles Maurras and just as it condemns dissenting Chinese Catholics in favor of sucking up to Beijing today.

  4. “The culture war began in the 1920’s91922 actually) when Sinclair Lewis published ‘Babbitt’- – bingo! Noted atheist and modernist H. G. Wells said, “I wish i had written Babbitt!’- enough said!

  5. The real turning point was the 1960s, from that moment liberal capitalism understood that it was better to ally with the progressive left agenda and abandon the right that it had previously supported. This is due to the social pressures exerted from that moment until today by groups of progressives and Marxists. The Marxists were the greatest opponents of liberal capitalism, but in the 1960s liberalism silenced them by giving them some satisfactions such as gay marriage, abortion, drugs. And this is how it does today too, not being able to guarantee a stable job, to appease and silence the anti-capitalist Marxists it gives them gender, immigrants, the demolition of some monuments and anti-racism. Thus the Marxists are also out of work or with a precarious job, but at least they can say that they have defeated the “evil racist right or white nationalism”.

  6. There are ongoing inconsistencies in establishment ideology, as certain vehicles like ‘nationalism’ or ‘secessionism’ or ‘freedoms’ are either supported or denounced, 180° opposite, depending on how a particular situation serves the larger agenda

    That larger agenda is
    destruction of middle classes
    destruction of white societies
    destruction of traditional family life and related culture

    These above are all targeted & hated because they powerfully nourish independence of mind, and ability to resist elites

    ‘Liberalism’ has shifted to merely mean ‘anti-traditional’, having the destroyers of tradition in control, freedom for them, normies to shut their mouths

    Ukraine nationalism is ‘good’ because it is a weapon against Russia with its symbolic stand of supporting trad religion & trad family life

    Hungarian nationalism is ‘bad’ because it is linked to supporting that very same trad religion & family life

    Russians in Ukraine have ‘no right to rebel’ because of the anti-Russia agenda … but Muslims in Kosovo had a ‘right to rebel’ against Serbs, because a more Muslim, less-white Europe is elite-supported … and Serbia for all its faults was worker-supporting, anti-neo-liberal, hence marked for ruin

    Middle classes are attacked from either the ultra-capitalist, neo-liberal side, or alternatively from the allegedly opposite leftist commie burn-it-all-down side … either way ends similarly, a mass of poor plebs governed by small elites and their fawning servants

    Civil liberties were pumped for a while till trad culture and family life were significantly demolished … now, non-degenerate ‘liberties’ are being denounced as sources of violence and terrorism

    China was long supported, as an economic vehicle to undermine Western middle classes … that latter job well underway, China can now be targeted as an ‘enemy’ for its lingering trad family aspects, anti-migrationism, and attempt to have its own middle class

  7. “The culture war began in the 1920s when Sinclair Lewis published Babbitt.”

    Y’know—that’s probably right. When I encountered that little gem of a sentence at the end of this blog-entry of yours, Mr. W., my reaction was the same as that of commenter Blowtorch+Mason above: Bingo.

    That one sentence is a remarkable distillation of everything you examined and presented here, at Occidental Dissent, a year and a half or so ago, as you looked into the rise of modernism.

      • That was great stuff.

        Was struck by commenter Blowtorch+Mason’s mention that Babbitt came out in 1922, i.e., exactly a century ago. Just now found—behind a paywall that I can’t afford to breach—the following:

        Has the following more-or-less predictable heading and sub-heading:

        “The Novelist Who Saw Middle America as It Really Was”

        “Sinclair Lewis captured the narrow-mindedness and conformity of middle-class America in the first half of the 20th century. On the 100th anniversary of his best-selling novel ‘Babbitt,’ Robert Gottlieb revisits Lewis’s life and career.”

  8. Nationalism and Liberalism are products of Western liberalism period.

    Why does the Fourth Political Theory reject nationalism?

    The Fourth Political Theory rejects racism and any form of nationalism precisely because it is an anti-traditional bourgeois Western and modernist construct. And operating with the concept and theory of nationalism to explain the political and social processes of non-Western and especially in traditional societies is an act of the same universalist – essentially colonial – strategy. This is where racism and the claim that the West and its political science have the last word in explaining all socio-political processes in any peoples and societies lies. Once we agree to use the three theories (liberalism, communism and nationalism), we are already under the direct ideological control of Western hegemony.

    The Fourth Political Theory strongly disagrees with the basic premises of nationalism –

    with the inevitability of the dismemberment of an organic (whole) society into atoms, that is, with the Western interpretation of “modernity”;

    with capitalism as a necessary stage in the development of mankind,

    with linear and copied from Western history social progress, which consists in more and more individualism, comfort, technical development, fictitious dispersion of power on the atomized masses and a real increase in control from the hidden oligarchic clans and their monopolies.

    · with citizenship in its European modernist interpretation,

    · with mandatory secularity (essentially anti-religious),

    · with the abolition of estates and

    · with the destruction of rural communities in favor of urbanized “lonely crowds” – both bourgeois and proletarian.

    And since these phenomena belong to the history of the West, the Fourth Political Theory considers them a local, regional case. Other civilizations do not necessarily have to go through this stage – Modernity, capitalism, secularism, industrialization and urbanization – may or may not go through. And neither capitalism nor its nationalistic or racist phases represent any universal law of development.

    It is indicative that the Russian Slavophiles and their followers both in the right and in the left spectrum of Russian political life of the 19th and early 20th centuries thought in the same way. The Slavophiles rejected the universality of the West and especially the modern West. The same line was supported, on the one hand, by conservative Orthodox-monarchist circles, and, on the other hand, by Russian populists. The Russian Eurasians rejected even more clearly and radically the claims of the West to universality.

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