Nationalism: A Globalist Necessity

This year Yale Model United Nations introduced an essay contest as one of its new educational initiatives. For this contest, delegates were asked to submit a brief piece examining an aspect of globalization and how it has transformed the modern world. From an incredible selective pool the top three essays have been selected for publication online on YRIS. The following is the First Place essay by Dylan Kim.

Written by Dylan Kim

In the past years, an international slide into nationalistic policies has alarmed many spectators. In the United Kingdom, concerns over the national identity catalyzed a referendum that called for the state’s exit from the European Union. In the United States, the 2016 general election brought a campaign’s worth of nationalist rhetoric to fruition. In Brazil, the most recent presidential election empowered a known nationalist/­populist. Around the globe, nationalist policies are taking hold. Even as these nationalist forces seem to be reaching unprecedented levels, the rise and fall of these movements are not out of the ordinary. Time and time again, history has shown that while nationalism is a force to be reckoned with, it functions solely when globalization reaches uncontrollable speeds; nationalist movements are a fundamental part of an increasingly globalized world.

The rise of globalization has simultaneously brought the world closer together than ever and created deep fissures between nations. If globalization is defined as the integration of economic, political, and social systems, then the world is currently in a state of ultra­globalization as political, economic, and social institutions approach homogeneity throughout the world. This homogeneity manifests itself in a multitude of ways that affect daily life, whether it be liberal ­democratic political systems, Apple iPhones, or McDonald’s; it is impossible to escape the mass­produced institutions. Conversely, if nationalism is defined as the effort exerted by a nation to preserve its culture, political standing, and dignity as an independent people, then it should stand that globalization and nationalism are direct contradictions to each other;1 where globalism breaks down barriers between peoples, nationalism builds and rebuilds those barriers. Political theorist Benjamin Barber calls this clash between seemingly opposed forces “Jihad vs McWorld.” Barber describes two different movements: in the “Lebanonization” of cultures, each nation of people is forced to fight for its values; in a “McWorld” of cultural unity, the globalization of technology and culture has mitigated cultural differences.2,3 There is no future wherein one of these two movements prevails over the other, as the two opposing forces are the children of globalization and cannot exist one without the other. To draw a parallel to physics, Newton’s third law states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This logic applies not only to physics but also to geopolitics: globalization cannot occur without nationalist resistance.

Throughout much of modern history, there exists a multitude of case studies in which increased levels of globalization have prompted nationalist reactions. Three particular instances stand out which resulted from the globalization of political systems, economic systems, and social perceptions. The German Revolution of 1848 resulted from the proliferation of liberal and democratic ideals throughout Europe; after seeing the French Revolution of 1848, German nationalists staged a revolution in order to create a unified German national identity. More than 4 a century later, the dissolution of the USSR left many states struggling to enter into the global market. Georgia, in particular, developed a strong nationalist reaction to this issue. Georgia’s transition to a free market economy and political integration left the nation divided; it still hasn’t completed its state-­building project, and Georgia faces the threat of further divisions from competing national identities. Most recently, Britain’s exit from the European Union5 demonstrated a nationalist response to a combination of political, economic, and social factors. As both a supranational and intergovernmental organization, the European Union is the very incarnation of globalization. However, as the EU increased in size and strength, the United Kingdom decided it no longer wanted to sacrifice its sovereignty. Much of the nationalist fervor that pushed Britain over the edge originated in the population’s concern over immigration. In fact, the migration of peoples into the UK weighed into the decision making process of voters even more than the economic factors. The British worried that the influx of non­-British6 immigrants and cultural values would erode at their national identity; this fear even pushed some voters to vote against their own interests in the referendum. In their decision to leave the EU, the7 British people demonstrated the theory that an increase of globalist forces will result in a nationalist reaction.

The current state of geopolitics appears to be moving towards nationalist­/populist tendencies at an increasing rate. Gráinne de Búrca describes Britain’s involvement in this movement as resembling “a boat on the global tide of populist anti­-internationalism.” If this 8 much is true, where did this tide originate? At what point does the tide cease rising and begin to recede? If history is doomed to repeat itself, then these movements will never truly die out.

Nationalist sentiments are but a small obstacle in the path of globalization, which will continue to adapt and advance to further integrate the world. That said, as globalization augments its reach, so will nationalism. There will never be a world in which globalization exists without nationalism–– and perhaps this is for the better. Statistics often show globalization benefiting developed countries disproportionately more than less developed countries through exploitative economic and political relationships. One needs to look no further than the Chinese involvement in Africa in order to see this exploitation for natural resources at work; in the case of Zambia, Chinese corporations exploit copper mine workers in order to gain the natural resources. In such a case, globalization has worked to the detriment of the Zambian people. Nationalism, although often violent and containing harsh rhetoric, warrants a critical analysis of its causes in order to better understand the many forces—social, political, and economic—that cause such an uprising.9


Barber, Benjamin R. “Jihad vs. McWorld.” The Atlantic , March 1992. Accessed November 14, 2018.­vs­mcworld/303882/.

BBC (London). “Growth of nationalism in Germany, 1815­1850.” Bitesize. Accessed November 15, 2018.

de Búrca, Gráinne. “4: How British was the Brexit vote?” In Brexit and Beyond: Rethinking the Futures of Europe , 46­52. Edited by Benjamin Martill and Uta Staiger. N.p.: UCL Press, 2018.

Greenfeld, Liah. “The Globalization of Nationalism and the Future of the Nation­State.” International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society 24, no. 1 (March/June 2011): 5­9.

Sabanadze, Natalie. Globalization and Nationalism: The Cases of Georgia and the Basque Country . Budapest: Central European University Press, 2010. Accessed November 15, 2018.

Wells, Matt. “You‘ll Be Fired if You Refuse”: Labor Abuses in Zambia‘s Chinese State­owned Copper Mines . Human Rights Watch, 2011. Accessed November 30, 2018.­be­fired­if­you­refuse/labor­abuses­zambias­chine se­state­owned­copper­mines.


1 Liah Greenfeld, “The Globalization of Nationalism and the Future of the Nation­State,” International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society 24, no. 1 (March/June 2011),

2 Benjamin R. Barber, “Jihad vs. McWorld,” The Atlantic , March 1992, accessed November 14, 2018,­vs­mcworld/303882/.

3 Barber, “Jihad vs. McWorld.”

4 “Growth of nationalism in Germany, 1815­1850,” BBC (London), Bitesize, accessed November 15, 2018,

5 Natalie Sabanadze, Globalization and Nationalism: The Cases of Georgia and the Basque Country (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2010), accessed November 15, 2018,

6 Gráinne de Búrca, “4: How British was the Brexit vote?,” in Brexit and Beyond: Rethinking the Futures of Europe , ed. Benjamin Martill and Uta Staiger (n.p.: UCL Press, 2018), 50­51,

7 de Búrca, “4: How British,” 51.

8 Ibid, 51.

9 Matt Wells, “You’ll Be Fired if You Refuse”: Labor Abuses in Zambia’s Chinese State­owned Copper Mines. (Human Rights Watch, 2011), accessed November 30, 2018,­be­fired­if­you­refuse/labor­abuses­zambias­chinese­state­owned­cop per­mines. 1