Magazine August 16, 2021, Issue

Can We Still Be Nationalists?

(Stephen Maturen/Reuters)
After Nationalism: Being American in an Age of Division, by Samuel Goldman (University of Pennsylvania Press, 208 pp., $24.95)

American nationalism is an odd thing. Our shared history is short. Our ethnic backgrounds are diverse. Our political system is decentralized. From the point of view of most other nationalisms, these facts would be somewhat embarrassing. But American nationalism prefers to treat them as points of pride.

Because of those same facts, Americans have had to make “the creation and maintenance of a shared identity” an unusually “intentional and self-conscious project.” For “surely residents of the same places, subject to the same laws, must share some answers to the question of who we are.” “The sanctification of national principles” seems to

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Daniel E. Burns — Mr. Burns is an associate professor of politics at the University of Dallas and a contributing editor of Public Discourse.

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