Passion and Paradox

Passion and Paradox: Intellectuals Confront the National Question

Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 233
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  • Book Info
    Passion and Paradox
    Book Description:

    From Kosovo to Québec, Ireland to East Timor, nationalism has been a recurrent topic of intense debate. It has been condemned as a source of hatred and war, yet embraced for stimulating community feeling and collective freedom. Joan Cocks explores the power, danger, and allure of nationalism by examining its place in the thought of eight politically engaged intellectuals of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: the antagonist of capital, Karl Marx; the critics of imperialism Rosa Luxemburg, Hannah Arendt, and Frantz Fanon; the liberal pluralist Isaiah Berlin; the neonationalist Tom Nairn, and the post-colonial writers, V. S. Naipaul and Edward Said. Cocks not only sheds new light on the complexities of nationalism but also reveals the tensions that have inspired and troubled intellectuals who have sought to lead lives between detached criticism and political passion.

    In lively, conversational prose, Cocks assesses their treatment of questions such as the mythology of national identity, the right to national self-determination, and the morality of nationalist violence. While ultimately critical of nationalism, she engages sympathetically even with its defenders. By illuminating the links that distinguished minds have drawn between thought and action on nationalism in politics, this stimulating work provides a rich foundation from which we ourselves might think or act more wisely when confronting a phenomenon that, in fundamental and perplexing ways, has shaped our world.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2502-8
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-17)

    Nationalism began to outweigh all other political problems for me in 1991, when a large segment of the American people backed the U.S. offensive against Iraq in retaliation for Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Inevitably, the Gulf War flagged that enduring question in the modern age of how a first state is able to whip up popular feeling against a second, often for its intrusions in a more distant third. Why do the citizens of any one state see themselves as violated by violations of the sovereignty and borders of another state they may know or care little about? How is...

  5. Chapter One Karl Marx Uncovers the Truth of National Identity
    (pp. 18-44)

    Many thinkers in our period have been entranced by the notion of life as a horizontal play of appearances across the shimmering surface of reality. “Appearances” are taken to be performances, or narratives, or self-interpretations, and “reality” to be those performances, narratives, and self-interpretations in their shifting and multiple forms. The idea that reality is made solely of appearances has the virtue of cultivating the human eye extensively, by preparing it to see the sheer plenitude of the world. But the different notion of life as vertically layered into surface and depth, though now much out of favor, has its...

  6. Chapter Two Imperialism, Self-Determination, and Violence: Rosa Luxemburg, Hannah Arendt, and Frantz Fanon
    (pp. 45-70)

    On the national as well as every other question, Rosa Luxemburg, Hannah Arendt, and Frantz Fanon are enough unlike each other that they would probably protest “against being gathered into a common room.”¹ They not only belong to separate generations but also are contemporaries only in pairs, and Luxemburg and Arendt only at one edge of their life spans. Although all three take the long view of history, they are sparked to think, write, and agitate by different and differently timed immediate events. Luxemburg responds to nationalist threats to socialist internationalism in the last decade of the nineteenth century and...

  7. Chapter Three On the Jewish Question: Isaiah Berlin and Hannah Arendt
    (pp. 71-91)

    “Probably no one in our time has come nearer to being regarded as the academic equivalent of a saint than Isaiah Berlin,” remarks Stefan Collini in theTimes literary supplement. Writing several months before Berlin died, after which the accolades multiply everywhere, Collini notes Berlin’s many honorary degrees, his Oxford chair, his knighthood,¹ his “apparently effortlessentréeinto the overlapping social worlds of Britain’s upper class and governing elite.”²

    Collini might just as easily have cited the felicitous phrases with which others praise Berlin’s scholarly work. For example, Noel Annan describes Berlin as having written “the truest and the most...

  8. Chapter Four Are Liberalism and Nationalism Compatible? A Second Look at Isaiah Berlin
    (pp. 92-110)

    A case has recently been made, with a nod of gratitude to Isaiah Berlin, for joining liberalism and nationalism together.¹ Although its proponents may concede, with another nod to Berlin, the general incommensurability and incompatibility of values, they are out to harmonizethesespecific two. More exactly, they hope to harmonize what they see as the core truths of liberalism and nationalism: individual equality and autonomy on the one side, cultural particularity and belonging on the other. In the words of Yael Tamir, a prominent advocate of liberal nationalism:

    [T]he liberal tradition, with its respect for personal autonomy, reflection, and...

  9. Chapter Five In Defense of Ethnicity, Locality, Nationality: The Curious Case of Tom Nairn
    (pp. 111-132)

    Ideas have always been able to fly on the wings of speech far away from their place of origin. Today, new technologies of global communication and transportation insure that even theories of nationalism will not be nation bound. The half intrinsic, half technologically magnified boundlessness of ideas helps account for the world-straddling effects of Ernest Gellner’sNations and Nationalismand Benedict Anderson’sImagined Communities. Soon after they were published in the early 1980s, these texts precipitated a sea change in scholarship from London to Prague to Delhi to New York, by taking as their starting point the tension between nationalism’s...

  10. Chapter Six Cosmopolitanism in a New Key: V. S. Naipaul and Edward Said
    (pp. 133-157)

    In the final decades of the twentieth century, people with very different political pedigrees come to favor particularistic loyalties, organic traditions, and homogeneous identities over cosmopolitan outlooks, cultural admixtures, and the jostling of diverse peoples inside the same society. American communitarians assert that political societies must be glued together by relations of trust based on familiarity, shared values, and inherited habits of the heart.¹ European conservatives and Hindu communalists protest the integration of aliens, immigrants, and minorities as equal rather than subordinated or assimilated elements within the nation-state. The French New Right calls for the demise of Enlightenment universalism and...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 158-166)

    No single recipe either can or should be offered in response to the conundrums provoked by nationalism that we have met in this book. No recipecanbe offered, because there is something so deeply recalcitrant about those conundrums that any attempt to resolve them by means of a simple formula would be doomed to irrelevance and failure. A better plan would be to envision new forms of political community in which the tensions between particular and universal, majority and minority, citizen and exile, home and the world, might play themselves out less cruelly than they have done in the...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 167-200)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 201-212)
  14. Index
    (pp. 213-220)