Nationalism for Integralists


In “Inhabit your Democracy”, Corey brought up the topic of Nationalism and how he had a turn-around on this topic after some discussion with his more conservative leaning integrally informed friends.
Well: I am hoping for some enlightenment on this myself (I think this is honest, and not just a way to pretend to want to be “enlightened”, when in reality I just want to prove that my opinion is the right one–at least I hope it is)

So, here is how it appears to me: I can absolutely see many positive, secondary qualities that can come out of nationalism, or qualities that can be honed through nationalism. These include: self-sacrifice for something larger than self (or family or narrow tribe), togetherness and love for others (again a larger group than may be natural to human nature), self-esteem (if it is otherwise lacking), the simple joy and beauty of joining in some common traditions or values, and there are probably a few others.

BUT: I cannot quite see how this is more than a transition-phase or a stepping stone, or how these qualities aren’t even more present and even stronger and have far fewer down-sides, when moving to a more world-centric view. So, I can see nationalism as a transition-phase (obviously, if you’re centered in Red, it is a great step up), but not how it is in itself such a valuable thing that needs to be preserved as we move beyond it. Why is nationalism required in a world-centric world? How is the very concept of “a nation” not completely arbitrary? (yes, historically it is what we have to deal with, but how is it a universally true concept that needs to be preserved, as we move on?

It bothers me to some extent that I cannot quite understand this, and I interpreted Corey’s comment at the end of the video to mean that he understood nationalism now as something universally true and good and necessary (and not just something that he tolerates in people as a kind of: “well that is great, that you have this as a stepping stone, but eventually you’ll grow out of it, as I have”…which, I am afraid to admit, is closer to how I see it, when I am truly honest.)

So: What is a good argument for the universal value of nationalism that can not be replaced or transcended by world-centrism or what would be lost, if we found ourselves in a world where nations (and therefore nationalism) simply weren’t a reality?


I might guess what’s bothering you is forgetting (as I do sometimes) that this isn’t merely “transcend” but “transcend AND INCLUDE.” Pick the things of nationalism (tribalism) that work and bring them along with you: proprietary science, fair taxation, military (admitting that other countries will be at a tribal wanna be conquering state for at least our lifetimes, optimizing competitive trade systems and production, etc. What bothers me about TRUMP’S “nationalism” is the underlying “we suck and give up competing, so let’s put up the drawbridge and pretend we don’t suck.” An example would be our reticence to copy other countries’ FAR more effective approaches to health care. Trump’s nationalism is based on gaslighting and used-to-bes. Integral nationalism should be honest.


Thanks for the reply, Scott. I think what I am looking for are some arguments that really hold up nationalism as an ideal in itself.
I can see bringing some of the qualities along (to me they are more things like self-sacrifice to something larger and other internal qualities like that) and I can also see arguments about why it may be necessary right now for a specific nation (which is what you are saying, I believe)–because other nations are at the same stage and we need to compete with or defend against them.
But none of this really holds up nationalism as an absolute good in and of itself.


In the “Reflections” category, I posted the topic “Nationality and Identity” a year ago or more, if you want to read that. There was no interest in the topic at the time, so I’m glad you’ve brought it up again. As I said in my post, the nitty-gritty for me in working with nationalism was interior work, around the pride and shame polarity, with national symbols, particularly the flag and eagle playing prominent roles in my personal work. I don’t think you can honestly embrace nationalism without studying and working both of those–what there is to be proud of about this (or any) country, and where some shame or conscience might come into play. Where I ended up, and still am, is that I don’t feel any particular pride about being a US of A-an, nor do I feel the kind of shame I felt at green stage. What I feel is simply gratitude, for the privileges and relative ease we have, compared to other parts of the world.

That said, I think when considering internationalism, nation relating to nation, there’s a case to be made for each nation being firmly grounded in their own identity, but again, that identity has to include both the “positive” and the “negative” of its history and present, and when both of those are accounted for honestly, I think the tendency for arrogance might be decreased, which would further working relationships. If countries lack a strong sense of identity, of what their values are, their history, their visions, etc. well, it would sort of be like a group of wishy-washy individuals trying to solve problems around values and actions and future and such, that affect the entire group.

So that’s it for me; it’s more about having a good sense of the identity of one’s nation, rather than being identified with one’s nation, that can be of use in world-centrism. As far as integralism’s transcend-and-include process, I take that to mean that we transcend and include perspectives; so my world-centrism doesn’t mean I am hanging on to the nationalist perspective I had when I was at a different/lower/earlier stage of development. Rather, it means I can take the perspective of others who are at a stage where nationalism figures prominently, either as a source of pride or shame, or both.

As I have been suggesting, I can see nationalism as a form of identitarianism…so identity politics figure into the whole nationalism conversation too. Some who are really into nationalism are as “woke” as those people who are woke around race, gender, etc.


I think it depends on one’s version of “good.” Assuming that it means that one’s society survives when other tribal/nationalist nations want to eliminate it, nationalism can coalesce people around the common defense, then one might consider it “good.” True, but partial.


As always (or certainly most of the time) I love your reply.
Your last paragraph is interesting to me as I very much agree. I always felt that the most powerful and liberating possibility of spiritual growth was to let go of any kind of limited identity. It is still one of the most disillusioning and disappointing repeated experiences to me that almost any spiritual path (and more so any spiritual community)–while initially helping to break new participants out of their old identifications, always eventually ended up building up new limited identifications.
Given how deep our love for identifying with some limited concept goes, I am still having trouble why anyone would purposefully want to identify with something external, such as nationality, race, gender identities, etc. and hold that up as something essential and as the most important thing in the world. (I am not talking about actually transcending your gender identity or the many deeply seated unconscious ways how race and nationality may be embedded in us. I KNOW how hard it is to dig deep enough to even find these identifications, much less to free oneself from them)–BUT to consciously say that you WANT to identify with that, and that this identification is the MOST IMPORTANT thing for you and for how you see other people. That seems to go in the exact opposite direction of where freedom lies. So yes: The woke culture and the nationalist culture are very much similar in this respect.

Now the other thing you say about nations–to allow them their uniqueness and specialness: YES, I absolutely agree with that. The most beautiful rose garden will have dozens or hundreds of different kinds of roses–and I may even have my favorite.–But I would never want to cut down all the others, so that my favorite could take over and replace them all.


Scott, I think I see what you are saying–it’s more a practical view than a philosophical one.

I would say that it is not necessary to be a nationalist to want your (or really any) country to have the ability to defend itself.
For example, I have trouble with Nationalism, partially for personal reasons. I was born and grew up in one country (Austria). But I have now lived the larger part of my life in a different country (the US). Which country should I be a nationalist for??? I know that my deeper , subconscious identification is still as an Austrian–those ties are built early in life. But I live in the US now and owe her many things, and of course it is in my interest that she be strong and free.
I also have parents and siblings in Austria, a Wife in the US, who grew up in yet another country (in Asia), I have 1 cousin in Germany, 2 in France and one in Brazil. I have friends in Australia, South Africa, Mexico, Iceland, and many other places. Who am I going to be a nationalist for?
Nevertheless, I agree that each of these nations should be able to defend itself, if needed. I even agree that nations I have no relationship with, should be able to do so (let’s say Iran, for example)–so my question was: Is nationalism necessary, given that it can be replaced with a wider more encompassing view.


One more add-on to my comment: Yes, I am aware that it is easier to let go of an identification with something (let’s say race) if that identity is strong and healthy and proud to begin with–so I can see the privilege in my attitude on this issue–and I guess that is the point of some of the woke philosophy–but it seems to me they get stuck in a place that does not provide any freedom and satisfaction. If they approached it as: “First be proud of your (externally derived) identity, so that you can then move towards disentangling yourself from it”, then maybe it would offer some real chance for empowerment.


Hey, thanks for your kind words,Mbohu, and also for providing the apt terminology–uniqueness–that I was flailing a bit in trying to pin down as regards nations having a firm sense of identity. That’s exactly what I was getting at, and your rose garden metaphor is beautiful.

I think a lot of the extreme woke-mentality, whether around race, gender, or nationality, is as much about membership as it is personal identity, sort of in the same way as people become gang-associated, for a sense of peer belongingness and group power. I can look back on the heyday of my own feminist activism, and see that that membership element was strongly at work, until it wasn’t. I had a strange wake-up call around it. I had been doing some public speaking and had just been the keynote speaker at a women’s march and rally thing. I sweated the preparation for that keynote, as I knew what people wanted and expected–a good dose of anger–and I had let go of most of that already, so I ditched the expectations and fashioned my speech as a spiritual message of sorts, about humanness and unity and such, and the possibility of those things being actualized in the world, while affirming women’s role in that work. I took some heat for it from a couple of women’s studies professors at the university, who thought I was misguided or selling out.

Shortly afterwards, I was in a bookstore, and I overheard two younger women I was vaguely familiar with from the women’s community speaking…“there’s LaWanna…” There was like this awe in their voices, an unusual admiration and idolatry actually… Right there on the spot, I had the realization of my power in that community, and that I could take that and run with it if I wanted to. And right there on the spot, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that that was not what I wanted to commit my life energy to. For me, it felt like a trap; it was almost as if Spirit was speaking to me through those women, asking ‘is this how you want to spend your life energy, in the confines of a temporal identity?’ Nope, definitely not.

Shortly after that, things came to a head in a women’s arts collective I was a part of. I was one of 8 judges for a juried art show, and we were auditioning performance artists, one of whom was a woman who was a songwriter and guitarist and singer. She seemed very talented to me, but everyone voted no on her because the lyrics to her song didn’t “fit” with the image of strong women, as if strong women never feel heartbreak over a broken love affair… So political correctness won out, I was out-voted, and we argued like cats! and there were a lot of hurt feelings, but eventually, over time, some of those jurors came around to seeing things my way. I was pretty persuasive :slightly_smiling_face: but that was the end of those kind of feminist endeavors and identity politics for me.

Which isn’t to say that I don’t think becoming cognitively astute around your race, gender, or national identity, and how that all fits within culture and the world culture, is unimportant. I think it is important. And I think it’s important and necessary that there be activists on behalf of some of these causes, because there are still many problems to be addressed, and most likely for as far as any of us can see, will be. But like you, I don’t think getting stuck or limiting oneself to those identifications is “where freedom lies.”

Wilber quotes from Metamorphosis by Schachtel (in The Atman Project book): “It is in those experiences which transcend the cultural schemata (the biosocial bands of membership-perceptional…) that every new insight and every true work of art has its origin, and that the hope of progress, of a widening of the scope of human endeavor and human life, is founded.” That’s close enough to how I see it. Your last sentence in your last post sums it up well.

Appreciated too your comments about your own multi-national existence. Wow, you have quite the international family and circle of friends!