Nationalism was once an ideology for those on the fringes of society, but, over the past few years, it has become central to mainstream western politics. It has formed a major part of political campaigns surrounding the EU referendum in the UK, Trump’s rise to presidency in the US, and Marine Le Pen’s bid to become French President.
At its core is the concept that anything that is different and separates our identity from others, for example, language, religion, or skin colour, is a threat and the cause of everyday problems.
We need to work together to counteract the feeling of ‘us’ and ‘them’– Dr Pablo de Orellana, Department of War Studies
Now, Dr Pablo de Orellana, Fellow of the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, says that 2018 is the year we need to start breaking down the identity related divisions that nationalism relies upon.
He believes that nationalism has become mainstream as it offers a much simpler explanation for problems, such a poverty, which are actually caused by complex economic or social issues. For instance, during the 2016 EU referendum, with unemployment, poverty, healthcare and social change on the UK political agenda, it was offered up by some politicians as an explanation for public grievances in these areas. The solutions to these grievances, they suggested, lay in protecting the country’s identity.
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Dr de Orellana suggests the future of nationalism may now depend on whether nationalists can deliver on promises to improve everyday issues in society.
He says, ‘We must watch closely as to the success of Trump’s tax reforms and anti-immigration measures and whether Brexit negotiations deliver a positive deal to those in the UK. Any perceived failure to do this may derail the nationalist ideals.
‘We can’t rely on this potential failure to halt nationalism in its tracks though. We, instead, need to work together to counteract the feeling of ‘us’ and ‘them’ that appears to have risen in popularity in much of the Western world in recent years.’
Watch this short documentary written by Dr Pablo de Orellana and directed by Fernanda Marin of OuiShare Paris about the rise of nationalism: