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Nationalism and its Alternatives
Karl Deutsch
Book Review With Commentary
Updated 07 Sept 2008

Karl Deutsch looks at nationalism from the perspectives of behavioral science and human history. His illustration of the Western European experience is pertinent to our present times.

He begins by reminding us that the nation state, a European invention, does more things for more people than any prior type of governance. The nation state is here to stay because of this success. Yet it brings problems. for example, Germany and France spent some 900 years preparing for war with each other. This experience led to the old European adage:

"A nation is a group of persons united
by the common error of their ancestry and
a common dislike of their neighbors."

Yet World War II abruptly changed that, thanks to the generosity of America with its Marshall Plan. Deutsch foresaw the steadfastness of the new leadership generation in integrating European societies and ending the cancer of war in Western Europe. Profound political changes occurred. Free-market democracies took hold in Western Europe and are now spreading eastward. NATO was an early glue, and the European Union followed. Both have improved the prospects for peace.

Deutsch also points out a possible paradox: heightened power and lessened awareness can attend nationalism. This too has become true in spades--in America. It is a risk taken by states that provide historically broad services to their societies that meet the emotional needs of the individual, and a need for service in national politics. It need not be that way as Western Europe is proving in these trying times. America suffered an awareness disconnect while Europe did not.

In addressing federalism as an improvement over nationalism, Deutsch also makes some telling points. There is, for example, no difference between commercial republics and monarchies in their tendencies to go to war. He proposes international law as one improvement. He makes the point that it must help, not reform the world to the extent that nation states lose their sovereignty. He also found that pluralistic-security communities work better than federations, for sovereignty is not such a critical issue. Deutsch finally noted that limited functionalism, as with the European Common Market, adds to overall prosperity and integration.

A moral to be drawn from Deutsch, is that reform can happen, if allowed to do so naturally in an evolutionary fashion. Europe is on the leading edge of this experiment, in spite of Bush's criticism of their wise choices. Also in spite of Western criticism, China has evolved away form Communistic ideology toward a pragmatic introduction of the market economy with its attending generations of a middle class and national infrastructure. Within the ruling party, democracy of a sort (majority rule) has also evolved. Deng Xiaoping was the instigator of that dramatic change in direction.

France and Germany are each examples of the internal Locus of Control on the national level we discuss elsewhere in terms appropriate to the individual.

Although this book is dated historically, it contains many timeless messages. We recommend it highly, especially for the insightful states-person.

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