Page 8 - spring21
P. 8

The implication of Rousseau’s idea was that the inner life was something significant

            and worthwhile in itself; and because it felt itself in conflict with society as it
            traditionally existed, then it was society that must change. This was the most
            profoundly revolutionary moment of modern times. It was the birth of modern
            politics, which is about developing competing programmes to change and even
            transform society for the better. By “politicising” the inner life, Rousseau had given
            birth to all the many competing “isms” of modern times.

            The inner life of nationalism
            One of which was nationalism. The late 18  century German philosopher Johann
            Herder argued that among the strongest influences on your inner life were the place,
            people and culture where you grew up. Identifying more strongly with the idea of
            your national homeland was coming to define the inner lives of more and more
            Europeans. Nor was this a purely or even mostly rational matter; emotion played a
            huge part. The political programme that followed from this, to make states coincide
            with nations, had major ramifications. Where people lived under foreign rule, major

            adjustments to existing frontiers would be demanded. Italy was a case in point. This
            would fuel revolutions and wars throughout the 19th century. It was the tide that
            Mazzini was riding, and the one Metternich was trying to resist.

            And not just nationalism. As we’ll see, the inner life, once politicised, would fuel
            other “isms”, other modern political programmes and ideologies that would demand
            that society be adapted to its particular dictates. This set the agenda for the 19th
            century and beyond.

            Mazzini: nationalism as a moral crusade
            His philosophy of nationalism was very distinctive. He wanted a Europe where every
            nationality had its own democratic republic. Following Johan Herder, he believed
            each nation had its own particular mission. Individuals would find fulfilment though
            participation in the democratic life of their nation. But achieving this Europe of

            nation states would be an uphill struggle. There was widespread suspicion of
            democracy, even, as we’ve seen, in liberal Victorian Britain. And Europe was a
            continent of monarchies, not republics. Further, his native Italy was divided into
            seven separate states (39 in Germany). One was ruled by the Pope. Many Italians
            lived under foreign rule, principally Austrian. The Balkans in a similar state.

            We tend to think that there is something “natural” about living in a nation state. In
            fact, the impact of nationalism was spectacularly disruptive of the European status
            quo. The conquests of the French Revolutionaries and Napoleon had given nationalist

            feeling a tremendous boost. Many welcomed the arrival of French Revolutionary
   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13