chapter  1
20 Pages

Perennialism and modernism

The shock of two World Wars, and the horrors of the Holocaust, undermined both racist and nationalist ideologies, as well as the theoretical naturalism of the ‘perennialist’ understanding of nations. Not only was nationalism condemned along with fascism – the two being often conflated as forms of ‘tribalism’ – it no longer became possible to equate the concept of the nation with that of ‘race’. Already in the 1920s and 1930s, serious scholars of nationalism such as Carlton Hayes and Louis Snyder were emphasising the modern, secular content of nationalist ideologies and their close relationship to rationalism and liberalism. At the same time, in the spirit of Hans Kohn’s dichotomy of rational, liberal nationalisms in the West, and organic, authoritarian nationalisms east of the Rhine, nations were being increasingly associated with the eighteenth-century democratic revolutions and came to be seen as products of the rise of the modern West.2