The nation-state remains the best foundation for capitalism, and hyper-globalisation risks destroying it.
The populist revolt of our day reflects the deep rift that has opened between the worldview of the global intellectual and professional elites, and that of ordinary citizens. These two groups now live in parallel social worlds and orient themselves using different cognitive maps. Yet the intellectual consensus that brought us to this chasm remains intact. Proposed remedies among mainstream thought leaders rarely go beyond an invocation of the problem of inequality, and a bit more focus on compensating the losers.
But the problem lies deeper, in elites’ attachment to a globalist mindset that underplays and weakens the nation-state. Without a shift, we might find not only our open global economy, but also our liberal, democratic order swept away by the backlash wrought by the blind spots and excesses of this mindset.
Among the intelligentsia, the nation-state finds few advocates. Most often, it is regarded as ineffectual – morally irrelevant, or even reactionary – in the face of the challenges posed by globalisation. Economists and centrist politicians tend to view globalism’s recent setbacks as regrettable, fuelled by populist and nativist politicians who managed to capitalise on the grievances of those who feel they have been left behind and deserted by the globalist elites. Last October, the British prime minister Theresa May ignited an outcry when she disparaged the idea of global citizenship. ‘If you believe you’re a citizen of the world,’ she said, ‘you’re a citizen of nowhere.’