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Nationalism is on the rise across the Western world, serving as a rallying cry for voters angry at the unacknowledged failures of the consensus in favor of globalization that has dominated politics and economics since the end of the Cold War. In After Nationalism, Samuel Goldman trains a sympathetic but skeptical eye on the trend, highlighting the deep challenges that face any contemporary effort to revive social cohesion at the national level.
Noting the many obstacles standing in the way of basing any political project on widely shared values and beliefs, Goldman points to three pillars of mid-twentieth-century nationalism, all of which are absent today: coercive Americanization, total mobilization for war, and widespread religious faith. Most of today's nationalists fail to recognize these necessary underpinnings of any renewed nationalism, or the potentially troubling activities and consequences that they would engender (including extensive state activism in Americanization efforts and the massive growth of government that tends to accompany military mobilization).
For that reason, Goldman concludes, those worried about the need for social cohesion should move in the opposite direction—toward support for political projects grounded in local communities.
Samuel Goldman teaches political science and is Executive Director of the Loeb Institute for Religious Freedom at the George Washington University. He is literary editor of Modern Age and author of God's Country: Christian Zionism in America, also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press