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Neo-nationalism, or new nationalism, is an ideology and political movement built on the basic characteristics of classical nationalism. It developed to its final form by applying elements with reactionary character generated as a reaction to the political, economic and socio-cultural changes that came with globalization during the second wave of globalization in the 1980s.
Neo-nationalism is associated with several positions such as right-wing populism, anti-globalization, nativism, protectionism, opposition to immigration, Islamophobia in non-Muslim-majority countries, and Euroscepticism, where applicable. With globalisation and the idea of a single nation, neo-nationalists see the problems of identification and threatened identities. They call for the protection of symbolic heritage, like art and folk traditions, which is also common for cultural nationalism.
Particularly notable expressions of new nationalism include the vote for Brexit in the 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum and the 2016 election of Donald Trump as the President of the United States. Several neo-nationalist politicians have come to power or run strongly during the 2010s and 2020s, including Giorgia Meloni in Italy, Marine Le Pen in France, Rodrigo Duterte and Bongbong Marcos in the Philippines, and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil.
Neo-nationalism is considered as a pan-West European phenomenon. It has its origins in the post-Cold War period and the changes that the third phase of globalization brought to the West European states. The European Union integration and enlargement gave rise to a series of economic, social, and political changes causing uncertainties on an individual and collective level. Empowerment of the European Union by extending its members and the referendums on European Constitution formed the idea of a transnational quasi-state and a global nation under liberal democracy as the single political ideology that governs that transnational state. After the referendum on the Treaty to establish a Constitution for Europe was rejected, the delegation of national sovereignty to the European Union was seen by the neo-nationalists as a strategic act that aims at accumulation of power that undermines states’ national sovereignty and their right of self-determination.
The dramatic events that marked the Islamic world in the 1980s such as the Iranian Revolution, the assassination of Anwar Sadat and the death of Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, the President of Pakistan set a start of increased immigration towards Western European states. The problems that immigrants encountered in relation to their arrival, accommodation, and integration within the domestic society of the hosting state motivated restructure of the political agenda and policy adjustments that integrated the diversity of immigrants. The inclusion of "foreign principles" next to the traditional elements that constitute the character of the hosting state as criteria for policy led to the feeling of the threat neo-nationalist felt. This process was framed as "Islamization" and turned into the explanatory factor for a specific defensive collective behaviour.
The conflicts and the violence that followed after the political destabilization in some of the Islamic states led to the categorisation of Islam as having an anti-democratic and anti-modern character that is at odds with the Western liberal democracy. After the September 11 attacks, this image of Islam became dominant. The sense of the "Islamic threat" to de modern societies, and their culture that spread along the Western European states resulted in the rise of national awareness and pride in terms of culture and folklore and a need of protection the national cultural identity.
Neo-nationalism is the successor to classical nationalism. Both nationalists and neo-nationalists see the nation as one family but differ in the criteria for affiliation. Nationalists see the state and the nation as a family whose members are inextricably linked based on ethnical, racial, genetic, religious or cultural homogeneity as criteria of belonging In contrast, neo-nationalists take historical association as the major factor for granting membership to the national family, which makes them fundamentally different from their predecessors in terms of inclusiveness.
Writing for Politico, Michael Hirsh described new nationalism as "a bitter populist rejection of the status quo that global elites have imposed on the international system since the Cold War ended, and which lower-income voters have decided—understandably—is unfair." Michael Brendan Dougherty wrote in The Week that new nationalism is a "broad nativist revolt" against post-Cold War politics long "characterized by an orthodoxy of free trade, nurturing the service economy, neoliberal trading arrangements, and liberalized immigration policies." Political science professor Eirikur Bergmann defines new-nationalism as being a specific kind of nativist populism.
The Economist wrote in November 2016 that "new nationalists are riding high on promises to close borders and restore societies to a past homogeneity." Clarence Page wrote in the Las Vegas Sun that "a new neo-tribal nationalism has boiled up in European politics and to a lesser degree in the United States since the global economic meltdown of 2008". In The Week, Ryan Cooper and researchers with the Centre for Economic Policy Research have linked 21st-century right-wing populism to the Great Recession. According to Harvard political theorist Yascha Mounk, "economic stagnation among lower- and middle-class whites [has been] a main driver for nationalism's rise around the globe." According to religion scholar Mark L. Movesian, new nationalism "sets the nation-state against supranational, liberal regimes like the EU or NAFTA, and local customs and traditions, including religious traditions, against alien, outside trends."
David Brog and Yoram Hazony wrote in National Review that some conservatives view the new nationalism associated with Brexit, Rodrigo Duterte, and Donald Trump as a betrayal of conservative ideology, while they see it as a "return". According to conservative commentator Jonah Goldberg, the nationalism associated with Trump is "really little more than a brand name for generic white identity politics."
Writing for The Week, Damon Linker called the idea of neo-nationalism being racist "nonsense" and went on to say that "the tendency of progressives to describe it as nothing but 'racism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia'—is the desire to delegitimize any particularistic attachment or form of solidarity, be it national, linguistic, religious, territorial, or ethnic."
Regarding new nationalism, The Economist said that "Mr Trump needs to realise that his policies will unfold in the context of other countries' jealous nationalism" and called nationalism itself a "slippery concept" that is "easy to manipulate". They also repeatedly contrasted ethnic nationalism and civic nationalism and implied new nationalism could become "angry" and difficult to control, citing Chinese nationalism as an example.
The President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro of the country's Liberal Party has been described as a leading new nationalist. Bolsonaro's ideology and policies have been heavily influenced by his adviser, nationalist thinker Olavo de Carvalho.
See also: New Conservatism (China)
Chinese Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping's concept of "Chinese Dream" has been described as an expression of new nationalism. His form of nationalism stresses pride in the historic Chinese civilisation, embracing the teachings of Confucius and other ancient Chinese sages, and thus rejecting the anti-Confucius campaign of Party chairman Mao Zedong.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (assumed office in 2014), and Nation's Future Party has been described as a new nationalist.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (assumed office in 2010), the leader of the ruling Fidesz party, has been described as a new nationalist.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (assumed office in 2014) and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been referred to as neo-nationalist. Modi is a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a right-wing paramilitary organisation aligned with the BJP, which has also been said to advocate a neo-nationalist ideology. Modi's nationalist campaigns have been directed by BJP strategist Amit Shah, who currently serves as the Indian Home Minister (assumed office in 2019), and has been touted as a potential successor to Modi as Prime Minister.
Yogi Adityanath, Chief Minister of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh (assumed office in 2017), has also been identified as a neo-nationalist. He has also been touted as a future Prime Minister of the country.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (assumed office from 2009 to 2021), the leader of the Likud party, has been described both as promoting new nationalism, and as pursuing a foreign policy of close ties with other new nationalist leaders, including Trump, Orbán, Salvini, Putin, Modi, Bolsonaro, Duterte and Sisi.
In 2019, Netanyahu has forged a political alliance with the ultranationalist Union of Right-Wing Parties.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (assumed office in 2018), head of the populist coalition Government of Change, and in particular former Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister and the League's leader Matteo Salvini (2018–2019), were often described as new nationalists. While in office, Salvini was described by some media outlets as the most powerful politician in the country, and a "de facto prime minister". In August 2019, Salvini filed a motion of no confidence in the coalition government, asking new election to take "full powers", but Conte formed a new government between Five Star Movement (M5S) and Democratic Party (PD). At the head of this new cabinet, Conte toned down his neo-nationalist rhetoric.
In the 2022 Italian general election, the neo-nationalist Brothers of Italy emerged as the most voted party and its leader, Giorgia Meloni, became the new prime minister on 22 October 2022, at the head of what it was described as the most right-wing government in Italy since 1945.
The 63rd Prime Minister Shinzō Abe (assumed office from 2012 to 2020), a member of the far-right organisation Nippon Kaigi, promoted ideas of new nationalism, as did the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan, which he led.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (assumed office in 2018) has been described as Neo-nationalist and often dubbed as "Mexican Donald Trump" by the media.
Former Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan (2018-2022), the leader of the then-ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Pakistan Movement for Justice) was compared to Donald Trump and described as a neo-nationalist populist during his tenure.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (assumed office in 2016) has been described as a new nationalist. His party PDP-Laban has adopted Filipino nationalism as a platform. The country has also a "far-right" reputation politically. Bongbong Marcos, elected in 2022, is expected to govern in continuity with Duterte with a more far-right agenda.
Confederation party is a main political party in Poland that promotes New Nationalism, especially National Movement. There is also a neofascist and National Radical Narodowe Odrodzenie Polski that promotes harshly anti-globalist, anti-immigrant and anti-liberal agenda.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin (second President of Russia from 2000 to 2008 and fourth President of Russia from 2012) has been labelled a new nationalist. Putin has been described by Hirsh as "the harbinger of this new global nationalism". Charles Clover, the Moscow bureau chief of the Financial Times from 2008 to 2013, wrote a book in 2016 titled Black Wind, White Snow: The Rise of Russia's New Nationalism. Russian nationalist thinker Aleksandr Dugin in particular has had influence over the Kremlin, serving as an adviser to key members of the ruling United Russia party, including now-SVR Director Sergey Naryshkin.
Russia has been accused of supporting new nationalist movements across the Western World.
The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad bin Salman (assumed office in 2017), has been described by Kristin Diwan of The Arab Gulf States Institute as being attached to a "strong new nationalism". The "new Saudi nationalism" has been used to bolster support for the Kingdom's economic and foreign policies, and represents a shift away from the Kingdom's earlier dependence on religion for legitimacy. Many of the country's foreign policy actions from 2017 onwards, such as its blockade of Qatar and its diplomatic dispute with Canada have been described as motivated by this nationalism. The policies of Mohammad bin Salman's administration have been heavily influenced by his adviser Saud al-Qahtani, who has been described as a "nationalist ideologue" and whose role has been compared to that formerly of Steve Bannon.
In 2014, Mustafa Akyol wrote of a new "brand of Turkish neonationalism" promoted by Justice and Development Party (AKP), the country's ruling party, whose leader is President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (assumed office in 2014). The Turkish "new nationalism" replaces the secular character of traditional forms of Turkish nationalism with an "assertively Muslim" identity.
Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), has been described as creating a "new nationalist front" by forming the People's Alliance with Erdoğan's AKP in 2018. The MHP is affiliated with the Grey Wolves paramilitary organisation, which Erdoğan has also expressed support for.
The United Arab Emirates, under the leadership of Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed (assumed office in 2004), has been described as propagating a "new Arab nationalism", which replaces the older, leftist form of the Arab nationalist ideology with a more conservative form, through its strong support for the rise of the respective new leaders of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Prince Mohammad bin Salman, as a means of countering Iranian and Turkish influence in the Arab states.
The 23 June 2016 referendum in the United Kingdom to leave the European Union ("Brexit") has been described as a milestone of neo-nationalism. Owen Matthews noted similarities in motives for support of the Brexit movement and Donald Trump in the United States. He wrote in Newsweek that supporters of both are motivated by "a yearning to control immigration, reverse globalization and restore national greatness by disengaging from the wide, threatening world".
Matt O'Brien wrote of the Brexit as "the most shocking success for the new nationalism sweeping the Western world". Leaders of the Brexit campaign, such as Nigel Farage, the former leader of the eurosceptic UK Independence Party (now of Reform UK); London Mayor (now former Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader) Boris Johnson; Vote Leave Co-Convenor Michael Gove; former Brexit Secretary David Davis; and European Research Group chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg, have been called "new nationalists".
Main articles: American nationalism in the Donald Trump presidency and Trumpism
Donald Trump's rise to the Republican candidacy was widely described as a sign of growing new nationalism in the United States. A Chicago Sun-Times editorial on the day of the inauguration of Donald Trump called him "our new nationalist president". The appointment of Steve Bannon, the executive of Breitbart News (later cofounding The Movement), as White House Chief Strategist, was described by one analyst as arousal of a "new world order, driven by patriotism and a fierce urge to look after your own, a neo-nationalism that endlessly smears Muslims and strives to turn back the clock on free trade and globalization, a world where military might counts for far more than diplomacy and compromise".
In the wake of Trump's election, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio has called for the Republican Party to embrace a "new nationalism" to oppose "economic elitism that has replaced a commitment to the dignity of work with a blind faith in financial markets and that views America simply as an economy instead of a nation."
The following politicians have all been described in some way as being neo-nationalists:
Main article: conservative wave
The following parties have all been described in some way as being neo-nationalist parties:
Based on our combined analyses, we conclude that contemporary anti-immigrant parties constitute a new and distinct party family, which we term neo-nationalist.
To listen to both his defenders and critics, Donald Trump represents the U.S. version of a new nationalism popping up around the world.
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...the rise of rightwing populist nativism.
Some protagonists of the new nationalism - such as Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen - also advocate a retreat from the global economy into individual protectionist nation states.
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This article appears in other versions of the October 3, 2016, issue, with the headline "Germany's New Nationalists."