Nationalism, or the desire for a culture to have its own country, is the driving force between the world’s contemporary political dilemmas, says Stephen Walt. After bring down the world’s strongest empires, today if fuels the dispute between Israel and Palestine; it is why Kurds and Chechens aspire to statehood; it is why we now have a South Sudan. And as the European currency crisis slogs on, we see the European Union may have overestimated its ability to form transnational ties. In effect, we are seeing a re-nationalization of Europe.
What’s the Big Idea?
Even if one believes in the narrative of progress, it would be naive to think nation-states will be replaced, says Walt. “Nations—because they operate in a competitive and sometimes dangerous world—seek to preserve their identities and cultural values. In many cases, the best way for them to do that is to have their own state, because ethnic or national groups that lack their own state are usually more vulnerable to conquest, absorption, and assimilation.” The rising star of China has largely lost its transnational communist aspirations and it would be a mistake to think its people will accept a westerly ordered world.