The Utter Normality Of Ethnonationalism—Except For Whites

Jerry Z. Muller
`s Foreign Affairs article,

Us and Them: The Enduring Power of Ethnic Nationalism

(March/April, 2008), is a grim and timely reminder of

of ethnicity in human affairs. It has
explosive implications for the future of the United
States and the West.

Muller demonstrates that, over the
last 150 years or so, the general trend in Europe and
elsewhere has been toward the creation of
ethnically-based states—ethnostates.
This trend did not end with the close of World War II.
 In Europe, the war was followed by a forced
resettlement of peoples—mainly
—to create ethnically homogeneous states.
Indeed, the high point of ethnic homogenization in
Europe was in the two generations in the immediate
aftermath of World War II.

Muller writes:

“As a result of this massive process of ethnic unmixing,
the ethnonationalist ideal was largely realized: for the
most part, each nation in Europe had its own state, and
each state was made up almost exclusively of a single
ethnic nationality. During the Cold War, the few
exceptions to this rule included Czechoslovakia, the
Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia. But these countries`
subsequent fate only demonstrated the ongoing vitality
of ethnonationalism.”

This point is crucial. While the
recent spreading of the European Union imperium has
given rise to a great deal of post-nation
rhetoric, it has in fact been accompanied by an
astonishing multiplication of ethnostates, split out of

and the former

— not to mention, of course, the


Ethnic conflict is apparent as well
throughout the developing world, and will likely lead to
more partitioning and nation-creation. As Muller notes:
“In areas where that separation has not yet occurred,
politics is apt to remain ugly”.

But a huge anomaly has arisen.
Recently, Western societies have embarked on a public
policy project in which the ethno nationalism of

white people
is officially proscribed as an
unadulterated evil. 

only is encouraged and viewed as
morally superior. As Muller notes: “Americans … find
ethnonationalism discomfiting both intellectually and

As a social scientist who takes the

of ethnicity seriously (although I readily
agree that there is a cultural component as well), I can
speak from personal experience about the

hostility and moral disdain
one faces from other
academic social scientists when one points to these
unfashionable facts.

Although World War II marked the defeat of the
ethnonationalist National Socialist movement, Muller is
clearly correct that it resulted in a Europe that was
more accurately divided into ethnostates than ever.  But
World War II also saw the triumph of the political and
cultural Left. These two cultural facts have been at
odds ever since.

German National Socialists remain the

of the political and cultural Left to this
day. The Left is utterly

to eradicating any vestiges of European
ethnonationalism. Opponents of immigration are routinely
labeled “racists” or “Nazis” for
advocating policies that are, in fact, the norm in the
rest of the world. Thus Israel favors Jewish immigrants,
Spain favors people from its former Latin American
Empire, India its Non-Resident
(NRIs), China favors the Overseas

As Muller notes: “In a global context, it is the
[Western] insistence on universalist criteria

] that seems provincial.”

And, Muller points out, the anomaly
whereby Western nations have sought to turn their backs
on ethnic homogeneity is quite modern:

“The ethnonationalist view has traditionally dominated
through much of Europe and has held its own even in the
United States until recently. For substantial stretches
of U.S. history, it was believed that only the people of
English origin, or those who were Protestant, or white,
or hailed from northern Europe were real Americans. It
was only in 1965 that the reform of U.S. immigration law
abolished the system of national-origin quotas that had
been in place for several decades. This system had
excluded Asians entirely and radically restricted
immigration from southern and eastern Europe.”

In attempting to account for this
trend in opposition to ethnonationalism in Western
societies, my own writing has emphasized the triumph of
the Left and particularly the role of some Jewish
intellectual and political movements and certain
elements of the organized Jewish community as the  vanguard
of the left

the most important force in passage of the 1965
immigration law
(PDF). As Muller`s essay observes,
Jews were major victims of the ethnonationalism of
others. Anti-Semitism was a general force throughout
Eastern and Central Europe, culminating in the
slaughters of World War II. And Muller notes that a
prime motivation was that Jews dominated areas of the
economy and segments of the social class structure to
which others aspired—a principal theme of my book

Separation and Its Discontents

This history of loss as a result of
others` ethnonationalism doubtless goes a long way
toward explaining the main thrust of Jewish intellectual
and political movements in the 20th Century—a
principal theme of my book

The Culture of Critique

For example, the Jewish opposition
to immigration policies favoring the European majority
of the US dates back to before the immigration

of the 1920s and spans the entire mainstream
Jewish political spectrum, from the far left to the

neoconservative right
,  to this day.

However, Jewish opposition to the
ethnonationalism of Europeans and European-derived
peoples is in remarkable contrast to their unswerving
support for the Jewish ethnonationalist state of Israel

a rather glaring double standard
, to say the least.
There is a rather straightforward analogy of Jews as
victims of nascent ethnonationalism in Europe and
Palestinians as victims of nascent Jewish ethno
nationalism in Israel. (And ex-President Carter, in his
recent Peace Not Apartheid,

much hysteria
by noting the similarities between the
policing techniques of Israel and the Afrikaner
ethnonationalist state of pre-1990 South Africa.)

As Muller notes: “Social
scientists go to great lengths to demonstrate that

[ethnonationalism] is a product not of nature but of
culture, often deliberately constructed. And ethicists
scorn value systems based on narrow group identities
rather than cosmopolitanism. But none of this will
make ethnonationalism go away
(My emphasis

Indeed, a mainstay of the
intellectual left since

Franz Boas
and his disciples came to dominate academic anthropology

beginning in the 1920s has been a rejection of
any theories that allow for biological influences on
culture. A corollary is that different peoples and
different cultures do not, therefore, have legitimate,
biologically-based conflicts of interest.

But the data are quite clear: There are genetic distances between different peoples and different peoples therefore have legitimate conflicts of interest.
And: there are

deep psychological roots to ethnocentrism that make us
attracted to and more trusting of genetically similar
. (PDF)

These biological realities will not
simply disappear, no matter how fervently social
scientists and other political and cultural elites

wish they would.

But that does not mean that these
realities cannot be repressed—at least temporarily. The
response of the Left has been to entrench a culture of
“political correctness” in which expressions of
ethnocentrism by Europeans are proscribed. Organizations
such as the

Southern Poverty Law Center
and the Anti-Defamation
League seek draconian penalties against such expressions
by Europeans—and only Europeans. Many European
countries and

have savage legal penalties that enforce
intellectual conformity on these issues. In America the
sanctions are more

—but nevertheless similarly effective.

Whatever the drawbacks to ethnic
nationalism (and the most obvious is the bloodshed that
sometimes accompanies the creation of ethnostates), it
has at least three overriding advantages expressed or
implied by Muller:

  • As also noted by Frank Salter,
    because of closer ties of
    kinship and culture, ethnically homogeneous
    societies are more likely to be open to
    redistributive policies such as social welfare.

  • Sociologists such as

    Robert Putnam
    have also shown that ethnic

    is associated with greater trust of
    others and greater political participation.

  • And finally, as noted also by historians of European
    modernization, ethnic homogeneity may well be a
    precondition of political systems characterized by
    democracy and rule of law.

Political correctness
in the West cannot be
maintained without constantly ratcheting up the social
controls on individual thought and behavior. Western
societies will experience increased ethnic conflict.
Their governments will increasingly be obliged to enact

draconian penalties

from political correctness. And probably
also to “correct” ethnic imbalances in social
status and political power—much as the Hapsburg and
Ottoman empires of old were forced  in their declining
years to constantly bargain with rising ethnic pressure
groups. Democracy, representative government, and
freedom will be likely


Finally, Muller`s essay is
interesting in that it highlights how normal ethno
national strivings are, even among Europeans.

In a very short period, Europe and
European-derived societies, which had achieved an
unprecedented level of ethnic homogeneity following
World War II, have developed a stifling

political correctness
, in which any tiny vestige of
ethnocentrism on the part of Europeans

is crushed
with all the power the ruling elites can
muster. This is taking place while the rest of the world
continues to undergo modernization via the creation of
ethno states. Muller`s essay makes one realize that this
multicultural fad really may be just a phase—and a
backwardly echoing phase at that, recalling the failed
multicultural empires of the pre-modern era.

The climate of anti-ethnocentrism in
the West is utterly anomalous, and set against the rest
of the world. In my own writing, I have emphasized

biologically-based European tendencies toward
individualism and relative lack of ethnocentrism
flaws that have predisposed European whites to these
tactical blunders. And I have emphasized

how political correctness works at the psychological
(PDF) to suppress the legitimate ethnic
aspirations of Europeans.

However, Muller`s essay reminds us
that Europeans have a long history of ethnic conflict.
Ethnic nationalism was a precondition of European
modernization. It also reminds us that, whatever their
tendencies toward individualism, Europeans certainly
also have sufficient levels of ethnocentrism to assert
their interests and to establish ethnically homogeneous
states of their own.

As Muller points out, though, the
process is can be ugly. Just ask the

—and the


Finally, as Muller notes, ethnic homogeneity is
compatible with—perhaps conducive to—liberal democracy.
At a theoretical level, this is because ethnic conflict
produces deep, frequently irreconcilable divisions
within a society and ultimately, causes group-based
competition for resources and political power. These can
be very hard to mediate.

The difficulty of establishing democracy and the rule of
law in societies divided by ethnic conflict is a major
theme of the contemporary world.

So is the campaign

to bully
European-stock whites, alone of all the
world`s groups, to forswear ethnocentric politics and
consequently to

disable themselves in an unchangingly
ethnocentric world.

Kevin MacDonald [email
him] is Professor of Psychology at California State
University-Long Beach. For his website, click