The notion of nationalism, Maurizio Viroli argues, enters the history of political ideas to describe and justify a prejudice that encourages individuals to love their nation more than others and to despise and hate other peoples. It is not born as a speech that glorifies freedom, but cultural or ethnic homogeneity: it does not teach us to respect the human person, but justifies contempt for one who does not belong to our nation. He considers the happiness that is born within his own national community to be the greatest good, instead of striving for freedom or justice. The crimes against humanity committed in the name of nationalism were not a coincidence, but a logical consequence of the principles of that doctrine.
Patriots love their nation, but they love it in a way that makes them recognize anyone who believes in freedom as a compatriot. What makes them similar and close is precisely the way each of them loves their homeland; their noble attachment to freedom, man’s most precious asset, breaks down cultural barriers. To love freedom, we must learn to think in accordance with public reason, to limit the natural tendency to put love for ourselves and our household in the first place, in relation to the common good. We must undergo civic and moral education under the guidance of reason in order to become patriots in the Republican sense, Viroli concludes.
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If we want to oppose nationalism that relies on local interests, language, culture, memories and ethnos, we must use the language of republican patriotism that values national culture and legitimate interests but wants to elevate both to the level of free and civic life. Reason prescribes that a republic is loved because only in one republic can we live freely, and freedom is the most precious human good.
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Loyalty to the homeland and the people are not the same forms of attachment and love: loyalty to the homeland is deeply rooted in ancient political thought as love for the political institutions through which citizens exercise their freedom. The greatest value of patriotism is the freedom that citizens, and no longer subjects, exercise in the republic, while nationalism emphasizes the spiritual, cultural and linguistic unity of a nation.
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Maurizio Viroli (1952) is Professor Emeritus of Politics at Princeton University, Professor of Government at the University of Texas and Professor of Political Communication at the University of Lugano. He holds a degree in Philosophy from the University of Bologna and a PhD in Political and Social Sciences from the European University Institute of Firenze. He has taught and conducted research at the universities of Cambridge, Georgetown, the United Arab Emirates, Trento, Campobasso, Ferrara, the Institute for Advanced Study of Princeton, the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa, the European University Institute of Firenze, the Collegio of Milano and the Scuola Superiore di Amministrazione dell’Interno.
Some of his most famous books are Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the „Well-Ordered Society“, Machiavelli, Il sorriso di Niccolò. Storia di Machiavelli, Repubblicanesimo, How to read Machiavelli, Redeeming the „Prince“. The Meaning of Machiavelli’s Masterpiece and Nazionalisti e patrioti.
- ISBN: 978-953-8075-91-9
- Dimensions: 125 x 200 mm
- Number of pages: 120
- Cover: paperback
- Year of the edition: 2021
- Original title: Nazionalisti e patrioti
- Original language: Italian
- Translation: Damir Grubiša