The New Globalism Looks a Lot Like the Old Imperialism

Brexit, Trump and other recent populist movements have highlighted a major intellectual battle taking place in the Western world in recent years—namely, the clash between nationalism and globalism.

Brexit, Trump and other recent populist movements have highlighted a major intellectual battle taking place in the Western world in recent years—namely, the clash between nationalism and globalism.

Nationalism emphasises the sovereignty of the nation-state—the right of a group of people who are united by their shared history, language or religion to govern themselves as a free nation among other free nations.

Nationalism is not a disregard for other nations; rather, it assumes that each nation is responsible for its own destiny. This may, of course, include rich partnerships with other nations for commerce, travel and more—but this will always be an agreement reached by both parties based on their respective national interests.

Globalism, by contrast, sees all people first as “world citizens”, and it downplays the sovereignty of individual nations. Shrugging off shared traditions as the basis for political stability, globalism assumes that values like individual freedom and human reason are equally embraced by all people in all places at all times—and that these values are therefore a better foundation for the world’s political order. The European Union and the United Nations are of course the two most prominent experiments to this end.

While globalism is viewed as forward-looking and is embraced by academic, media, business and political elites, nationalism is increasingly dismissed by these same elites as irrelevant—and even morally suspect. Indeed, there is a widespread mood today that nationalism equals racism—so that, for instance, any American who supports Donald Trump and his “America First” agenda is by definition a xenophobe or a white supremacist.

This is plainly not true. For the vast majority of nationalists throughout the Western world—including in America—nationalism is unrelated to ethnicity. As Yoram Hazony points out, this traces all the way back to the Old Testament Scriptures, which profoundly shaped the West’s concept of nationhood.

In the Old Testament, we see Egyptians joining Hebrew slaves in fleeing Egypt, and outsiders like Jethro and Rahab being incorporated into the Jewish community. We see the same with Ruth the Moabite, who famously left her people and vowed to her Jewish mother-in-law, “Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.” (Ruth 1:16).

In the words of Historian Victor Davis Hanson, “the logic of Western civilization was never predicated on blood-and-soil chauvinism”. Rather, in the Western tradition, nationalism is about shared national values that anyone can embrace when they adopt a new nation as their own.

But consider that globalists benefit when nationalism and patriotism are portrayed as racist: love of nation is best set aside if the nations of the world are going to surrender their sovereignty to a global order.

What many are yet to notice about the globalist doctrine is that it is by nature imperialistic. Just like the pre-modern expansionist empires of Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome, so globalists today imagine a future in which nation-states are subsumed under a more expansive political architecture.

Just like the imperialist empires of old, globalists today can only see the benefits of this—whether fewer wars, increased trade and productivity, or greater geopolitical stability and peace. And perhaps they are right.

But like the nations overrun by those imperialist powers, everyday people rightly fear the creep of globalism. Peace and prosperity were indeed enjoyed by those conquering empires—but it came at the cost of submission, expropriation of property, national shame, and even slavery for the nations they conquered. As Hazony explains:

Liberals do not seem to understand that the advancing liberal construction is a form of imperialism. But to anyone not already immersed in the new order, the resemblance is obvious.

Much like the Pharaohs and the Babylonian kings, the Roman emperors and the Roman Catholic Church until well into the modern period, as well as the Marxists of the last century, liberals, too, have their grand theory about how they are going to bring peace and economic prosperity to the world by pulling down all the borders and uniting mankind under their own universal rule.

This is not to say that the barbarity of the ancient world should be pinned on the globalist agenda today. But at the very least, proponents of globalism should be honest to themselves and to everyone else about their bent for imperialism.

One of the challenges for us in Australia is that both of our major parties are committed to the ideals of the liberalism born of the Enlightenment—the very wellspring of the globalist doctrine.

More than ever before, we need to rediscover ourselves as a nation. This begins with understanding the much stronger conservative traditions upon which Australia was founded. Only then can we stand fast in the face of an imperial globalist agenda.

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