I know it will be hard to read this post as anything other than a response to Britain's decision to leave the U.K. That decision certainly precipitated this. But it only provides an occasion to voice some thoughts about a set of ideas I've been considering for a long time—the past five years or so. And my thoughts, which are mainly about nationalism as a global force, are not mainly about the U.K. alone—nor do I think that nationalism was the only reason why one might have voted to leave. (It obviously wasn't, and I don't claim it was.)
In particular, I've been thinking about nationalism as a force in global politics and modern global history. My analysis is that of a cultural scholar, not a political scientist, and it may come as a surprise to some of you that I have been thinking a lot about this, because it's not high on the list of my obvious published interests. A lot of my ideas take the form of broad generalizations without hard data, and some feel so blindingly obvious that I worry I'm speaking in platitudes. But I haven't seen anyone concisely express what I see anywhere, so I hope that sketching these out here might be of some value.