In a recent article on the international news channel CNN, Nile Gardner proclaimed the end of liberalism. It’s over, he says, because “supranationalism goes against the grain of history and human instinct, and will surely go the way of the dinosaur”. Where should I start with this miserable view of the world? This reminds me of Francis Fukyama who already proclaimed the end of the history by saying that liberal democracy is the most advanced way of societal organising that it is impossible for the humankind to go beyond and above it. Same flawed thinking is followed by Gardner.
I might agree that supranationalism goes against a human instinct, whatever that is. I don’t know exactly what a human instinct would be like, but perhaps Mr Gardner is sort of an expert in instincts. However, “supranationalism going against the history” shows a troubling lack of historical knowledge. First, nationalism is a relatively new concept on the human history scale and it rose to power in the 18th century (if there is a historian reading please correct me) as a form of government, an ideology to coagulate the plethora of ethnically similar groups that were living on a territory under the same country. The reasons why one would do that are multifold: a) increasing the military power of a country; b) increasing the natural resources; c) increased bargaining power. If Gardner referred to these groups of people that populated Europe, then it might be the outcome of a human instinct. Or maybe not, because instinct is acquired during hundreds of thousands of years of evolution and definitely not since the 18th century.
Second, “supranationalism”, making abstraction that is a relatively new concept, could have existed since the first known empire, the Akkadian empire, or since other more “famous” empires, the Roman empire. Basically, those empires managed to unite under the same ruler lands inhabited by people that had different languages, cultures, habits, etc. Of course, what we know from history is that all empires fell eventually. But they were not necessarily replaced by nation-states, but by other smaller empires (in Europe). This happened until the WW II that brought the end of the empires. But don’t you worry, this obvious (outdated) form of imperialism was replaced by the economic imperialism (or economic supranationalism) that was way more efficient than fighting war, or at least fighting wars on the European territory.
This means that if we have to go back to an instinctual way of organising as Gardner proposes, we should perhaps go back to tribes. Otherwise, Gardner proposes a populist argument: going back to the 18th century. That is not part of any human instinct, but part of a constructed ideology that had a precise agenda behind it.
The problem with this type of arguments is that most of the people take them from granted because they appear on CNN. Any journalist that has a political agenda can find a platform and influence the audience. But how many readers do actually go beyond what is written and do some research for themselves? Don’t worry, liberalism is not over.