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Balancing Nationalism

Ainslie Pierrynowski

How much is too much? On Thursday May 2nd, 2019, Yael Tamir’s newest book Why Nationalism was presented and discussed during the book panel bearing the same title. Providing their insights were Nadia Urbinati (Columbia U, US), Rogers Smith (U Penn, US), Michael Walzer (Institute for Advance Study, US), and the panel was moderated by Evgeny Finkel (George Washington U, US).

In her new book, the author and renowned activist Yael Tamir explores the challenges of balancing nationalism with the liberal objectives in the consolidation of modern states.

Discussing some of today’s most contentious issues Tamir defends a point throughout her intervention: there is no one solution to weakening democratic welfare states. Nevertheless, there is a common ground that must be explored politically: nationalism. Highlighting a clear differentiation between populism and nationalism, Tamir argues that this generalized state weakening has served a particular class of global elites while ostracizing a great majority of vulnerable individuals. To discredit them as simply populists is to miss the greater picture. Masses arguing against the elites might not be wrong in describing a phenomenon that has disadvantaged them in significant ways. Democratic liberalism must take into account the voices of these vulnerables in establishing a model of statehood which recognizes the national demands while staying in line with a respect for minority rights and a focus on diversity. As highlighted by fellow panelists, the challenge lies in tailoring a meaningful solution to the cultural and local realities of the population through narrative construction of distinct identities. Finding solutions to modern nationalist concerns such as immigration must be done by appropriately identifying the underlying tensions, namely concerns for sovereignty and burden sharing. The vulnerability finds its voice through the nationalist discourse, which must be acknowledged. By recognizing the intimacy between the liberal, national and democratic arguments, solutions can be developed in responding to this vulnerability.

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