The Corner

Culture

Against Oikophobia and Xenophobia

Well, James Taranto in the Wall Street Journal does a service by continuing the project of mainstreaming oikophobia as concept. The word, invented by the British conservative Roger Scruton, is the kind of phobia (our language, you have may have noticed, is exploding with new phobias) that afflicts vain fake cosmopolitans who feel an unnatural aversion to the conditions of life that allow people to experience themselves as at home.

I, of course, have deployed oikophobia for years. According to our friend Roger, the nation properly understood is the mean between oikophobia and xenophobia. It is the properly political way of experiencing being at home. Loyalty to the nation is to be distinguished from nationalism, which is a virulent and often aggressive ideology.

Trump, at his best, helps us remember the nation. But various public intellectuals are overdoing it when they talk up nationalism. Being a citizen of the American nation doesn’t imply America first always and everywhere. It’s possible to get so pro-American that you end up being anti-American. The American nation, as G. K. Chesterton observed, is all about “the romance of the citizen,” but that romance is disciplined by a an egalitarianism that makes our country, in principle, “a home for the homeless” everywhere. That doesn’t mean open borders, but it does mean a generous solidarity with the struggles of free people everywhere. Sometimes it is America first; there’s a lot to do at home. But not always. And we do have to remain on guard against xenophobia tribalism too.

In any case, I have accused the WSJ of having become too oligarchic and oikophobic. So I’m glad to see Taranto affirming a civic correction.

Many Berry students have written fine papers on Scuton on the excesses of oikophobia and xenophobia, always carefully distinguishing between the nation and nationalism.

Peter Augustine LawlerPeter Augustine Lawler is Dana Professor of Government at Berry College. He is executive editor of the acclaimed scholarly quarterly Perspectives on Political Science and served on President George ...

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