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Benjamin Geer

The idea that the rise of authoritarian nationalism results from the "elimination of politics as an instrument of this-worldly salvation", or that "charismatic politics is what remains when projects of this-worldly salvation are abandoned", seems incoherent and ahistorical to me. Nationalism *is* a project of this-worldly salvation and has always involved a great deal of charismatic leadership, which has often been used to legitimise authoritarian rule.

Scholars of nationalism have pointed out again and again that the concepts and social relations involved in nationalism closely follow religious models. Since you're talking about France, I should point out that the 18th-century architects of French nationalism consciously and explicitly sought to design a cult of the nation that could take the place of Christianity (see, for example, David Bell's book _The Cult of the Nation in France_). Their efforts were swiftly rewarded with the messianic worship of the military dictator Napoleon Bonaparte, establishing a pattern that would be repeated in many other countries.

Charismatic leadership makes the leader appear to have the prophetic ability to see truths that that others do not have access to (and must simply accept on faith). It is thus incompatible with the scientific outlook that is the basis of environmentalism. So I think a real disenchantment of politics, which would involve the widespread rejection of charismatic leadership, could only be a good thing for the environmental movement.

Eric Schliesser

We agree that nationalism is a this-world worldly project, and so does Van Keersbergen (see the quoted passage). And that it has often been driven by charismatic politics. Not sure why you think I deny that.

Benjamin Geer

In the quote above, Van Keersbergen says that the project of "Nation-State Building" (i.e. nationalism) has been a victim of "gradual elimination" along with all other projects of "this-worldly salvation". This is false, because nationalism is stronger than ever.

Moreover, you and Van Keersbergen argue that disenchantment is leading to a rise in charismatic politics. This is a contradiction, because charismatic leadership is a symptom of enchanted politics, i.e. politics based on religious models.

You refer to Green politics as a "salvation project" that might "re-enchant" politics. This is a misinterpretation of Green politics, which is precisely a disenchanted politics, a politics that requires people to accept scientific knowledge rather than the enchanted myths that charismatic leaders offer.

Eric Schliesser

Your last paragraph, Benjamin, is precisely why I call it an elite mission, alas.

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Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.


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