The contemporary Right bemoans the suicide of the nation state while either overlooking or not being bothered by the many reasons why persons are both sick of the nation state and have good reasons for wanting it to die. I have no opinions on the matter other than that it is confusing, but since everyone reading this already has a few heartfelt reasons to love the nation state I’ll here give some of the reasons for wanting it to die.
1.) 1914-1945, our Thirty-Years’ War. Just as the Thirty Years’ War was a critique of Christendom the two World Wars were a critique of the nation state that replaced it. The World Wars start with a nationalist assassination, though this was really just pretense for the exercise of a general sense that the nations must fight, and the whole affair culminates in a genocide done for the sake of national purity that was only halted by other nations that (a) were willing to let 20 million of their citizens die and (b) now proved themselves willing to use technology that could kill even more. Whatever good a nation state could provide, it had to be worth accepting the very live possibility that everyone on earth might die in a nuclear fire that could be precipitated by causes that were as unintelligible and chancy as the one that was supposed to have started all this killing (a Serbian national kills an Aristocrat and/or we try to kick some Germans out of Poland and for this we end up killing 98 million persons?)
2.) Our preference for the cosmopolitan. The large cities in nations have two conflicting elements: they are at once expressions of the national strength and character and are internationalist patchworks of ethnic neighborhoods and places to experience, in effect, alternatives to one’s own nation. Because everyone is more impressed by the different than by the familiar, this second element became dominant among the city natives. Add to this the usual contempt that all city dwellers have for those outside the city, and you get a growing sense that nationalism is a provincial, small-minded, redneck idea.
3.) Nationalism outgrew its founding mythology. “Nation” is just the noun-form of natus, meaning “born”. The sense is that Nations are made by natives, i.e. by a people sharing a common blood and birth who were tied together by the cultus of art, language, cuisine and religion. It may be possible to have this in a population of a few thousand, but as the population increases national unity requires more an more abstractions and categories that, while they may reflect something really biological or cultural, come with a large dollop of arbitrary construction, e.g. “white” or “Christian”. How much reality is there in a category including both the Irish and Romanians, or the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the SSPX? This applies just as much to any of the elements just mentioned if they get too large: if any group you call “Irish” has a million persons in it chances are it will have just as much arbitrary construction. Nations thus demanded a source of unity that their increasing population could not provide.
4.) Nationalism is protestant. The charter of the nation state and the more successful protestant political philosophy are the same, even though it certainly was adopted by some Catholic* countries. The catastrophic decline of confessional, high church and nationalist protestant churches could not help but make the nation state unintelligible and anachronistic. We don’t have enough data to decide if a secular nation will be able to provide the sort of cohesion that the nation once got from a common cult, but in one sense this is impossible since anything that replaces religion will have to be relatively more superficial than it.** One simply cannot appeal to anything deeper and more significant than the gods and the eternal destiny of the person. You might debunk it, but there is a logical impossibility in transcending it.
5.) Disgust at racism. Every regime demands its citizens prefer it to all others, and nation states are inter alia racial. Whatever else it is, Nationalism just is a sort of racial preference. Our crusade against racism is therefore both a cause and an effect of our disgust at nationalism.
*That said, whatever one says about the practice of Catholic nationalism there is a contradiction at its heart. “Catholic” means “international” or “worldwide”, and the Church has insisted on this from St. Peter till Pope Francis.
**If we can’t have unity by cult, the only deep unity we can have is from biological or genetic affinities and urges. which runs afoul of objections (3) and (5). This was implicit in Nation all along, as (3) argues. But the whole program is now tarred with the brush of National Socialism.