Jonathan Haidt: The Psychological Roots Of Nationalism vs. Globalism


Via PhilosophyInsights on YouTube: Jonathan David Haidt (born October 19, 1963) is an American social psychologist and Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University's Stern School of Business. His academic specialization is the psychology of morality and the moral emotions. Haidt is the author of two books: The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom (2006) and The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion (2012).

In this clip from a 2016 interview at the Emmanuel Centre in London about "The Rise of Populism and the Backlash Against the Elites," Haidt explains the new paradigm developing in politics around the world (globalism vs. nationalism) and why both viewpoints are valid and necessary to a functioning society. Watch the full discussion below the selected transcript:

JONATHAN HAIDT: I've been reading about the history of capitalism, and what happens when nations adopt free-market policies. And what happens is that wealth goes skyrocketing upwards. And it is not just that the rich get richer, everybody gets richer.

And then, a generation or two later, everyone gets rights. That is why the world is getting better and better and better, and if we were having this conversation two years ago, I would very much agree with my libertarian friends who say, 'It is amazing how good everything is,' but there are some interesting paradoxes, interesting ways, in which the progress of a free market society creates conditions that undermine either the progress of a free-market society or democratic capitalism.

Here is the main one I want to put out for discussion: I've spent a lot of time reading the work of psychologists and sociologists who create the World Values Survey... every seven years, where you can see these beautiful maps showing the whole world and where they are on this two-dimensional values space. Sweden and Scandinavia is on the upper right -- their values are the most freedom-loving and emancipative. And they are the most secular/rational.

On the bottom left is mostly African and Islamic countries that still have the values appropriate to an agricultural society that has no trust in government, no faith that there will be food six months from now.

As countries get wealthy, they move up and to the right, towards that zone where Scandinavia is now. It is a good thing, a wonderful thing, and what happens is everyone's values change, and in the next generation, they begin to care about women's rights, gay rights, animal rights, human rights, the environment. You get a very progressive shift in values. For this kind of audience, I'm sure that all sounds great.

That is step one, but here is step two: Once you have these incredibly prosperous people, this peaceful, progressive society, the people there begin to do a few things. First of all, it is not everybody who has those values. It is everybody in the capital city and the university towns. They all have these values. If you look at America, we're like pre-retrograde in some days, but if you look at our bubble places, they are just like Sweden.

That means that these people now think that nation states are so arbitrary, 'Imagine, just imagine if there were no countries, it isn't hard to do. Imagine if there was nothing to kill or die for -- no religion too.'

This is the way the values shift, and this is what I and others are calling the "globalists." The new left/right is the globalists vs. the nationalists.

So the globalist ethos is tear down the borders, tear down the barriers, nation-states are arbitrary, why should my government privilege the people who are born here rather than people elsewhere who are much poorer? You begin to get a denial of patriotism -- the claim ... of anti-Trump protesters saying that "patriotism is racism."

You get people acting in this globalist way, inviting immigration, spitting on the nation-state, the country, and people who are patriotic, and who are very opposed to integration when it comes to immigration. People on the left would say that is cultural genocide.

This is step two: You get wealthy, wonderful, successful societies that are so attractive to people around the world that they get a flood of immigrants, who are met by the globalists who say welcome, welcome, welcome, don't assimilate because we don't want to deny your culture.

And that leads to step three: Which is, this triggers an incredible emotional reaction in people who have the psychological type known as authoritarianism, which is a negative term, but there is an incredible psychological diversity in this world. There are some people who are attracted to the Lennonist vision, the John Lennon vision. There are other people who are more parochial -- people who really care about hearth and home, and God and country -- they are actually friends of order and stability and they are friends of many good things about civic life.

But when they perceive that everything is coming apart, and the moral world is coming apart, that is when they get really racist, homophobic, they want to clamp down and restore moral order.

If you saw Donald Trump's [Republican nomination] acceptance speech, he modeled it after Richard Nixon's 1968 speech, a time when cities were burning, there were riots. He said "Law & Order will be restored," and that is basically what Donald Trump's whole speech was.

What I'm saying is successful Democratic capitalist societies change values, generate wealth, invite people in, and then they make some of the people act in ways that trigger the other people to be furious, and those other people actually have a point, because you have to have trust and social capital to have a redistributive welfare state.

This is getting a little too complicated, but my point is: The economy matters, economic changes matter, but they matter in ways that always run through psychology...

In politics, always look at what each side makes sacred. And for anybody who remembers World War Two in the UK and in America -- the country, the flag, and freedom, democracy, all these other virtues... and then fighting the communists. It was a good time to be a liberal, freedom meant liberty. Freedom, fighting for liberty. The older generation has those values circling around.

Then we get the New Left in the 1960s, the fall of the Berlin wall in the 1990s, and we get the rise... of a new set of sacred values around racism, sexism, oppression, and basically the sacred victim. This is part of the clash -- if you have groups on the left whose religion is fighting racism, that is a very admirable thing to do, but if it becomes a religion and you become a fundamentalist, now everything that opposes or contradicts that must fall...

It is like a new religion, but every political movement is like a religion. So, to bring it back to immigration, one of the new religions is all about diversity and inclusion... of course you feel sympathy, what do you do about it? If it is your central religion, you welcome them.

And if anybody says they are linked to terrorism, they are forcing us to change our ways, then you say they're a racist! So you have the dawn of this new religion, which is in many ways extremely illiberal.

I stopped calling myself a liberal because of we, in the American sense, butchered the word and made it mean 'Left.' In was a liberal my whole life until I realized... this new illiberal left -- you can't have a functioning multi-ethnic society if you have this kind of attitude.

That is the clash we have now over immigration, it is essentially a religious battleground...

Many people on the left, because they are globalists, they don't get that the idea of the nation is something sacred. They don't get ideas of patriotism...

People say: 'Why is it that the areas with the most immigrants are the most tolerant. Therefore if we just flood the zone with immigrants, they'll all get tolerant.'

That is obviously not going to work... because people move where they feel most comfortable. If you're born in Central Kansas with a globalist John Lennon worldview, you're going to get to Chicago or New York or London as fast as you can. And vice versa...

There is a kind of a blindness on the left, where they approach things in economic terms, it really is like a color-blindness, like they are missing receptors... What they're missing is you can have diversity within a shared sense of identity, and if you don't have that shared sense of identity, it is going to be very divisive.

Full event:

Show commentsHide Comments

Latest Political Videos

Video Archives