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The importance of nationality (the Albanian case) and the danger of utopianism according to Sir Roger Scruton

The importance of nationality (the Albanian case) and the danger of utopianism

by Albert Bikaj

Language, territory, culture, tradition, and history are elements that unite individuals, transforming them into a community that shares common interests, rights, and obligations. This social connection, developed as a political concept throughout the history of human civilization since its genesis has been and continues to this day to remain closely connected with the desire for freedom and self-government of a people. This desire, transformed throughout history into political ideas, has been and remains the source of the ancient virtue of patriotism – a virtue developed especially in the Greco-Roman civilization, from antiquity, the Middle Ages to the present day.

The majority agreed with this opinion, but after the catastrophe of the middle of the 20th century, continuing until today, the views on the nation and patriotism have changed radically.

A significant number of intellectuals and influential politicians share diametrically opposed opinions regarding the concept of the nation. The part that wants the new spirit, seeing the nation-state as deficient, as anomalous and constantly promoting ideas and policies supposedly in the name of peace and cosmopolitanism, the concept of the nation and especially the nation-state want to replace it with a system of new utopian–multinational–global.

As a result, today the concept of the nation in the Western world is very much in danger, and together with the West, in different forms, the other nations of Europe, including ours, are facing it.

This is also the reason for the selection, translation, and publication of this book in the Albanian language, in which Sir Roger Scruton, from the English perspective, although taking a critical stance towards nationalism, eloquently defends the concept and the important role of patriotism and nationality, as well as warns of the fatal consequences in case of the destruction of this concept. According to him, utopian cosmopolitanism is as dangerous as chauvinistic nationalism.

For the English conservative philosopher, the nation is the successful achievement of Western civilization, which he defends as the cornerstone of the state and contemporary society, arguing that the nation-state has historically proven to be the most stable social organization in terms of the order, freedom, justice, and modern democracy. Proven also in the case of Albanians, with our nation based on the renaissance concept of Albanianism - which remains an irreplaceable cornerstone of unity, and freedom of the nation and the Albanian state. The concept of the Albanian revivalists has impressed Scruton, who has not left it unaddressed, saying:

This is a country where Christians and Muslims have lived for most of time in understanding, sharing their love for the country and the will to protect it. In the village cemetery they rest side by side, their religious differences etched in small symbols on their tombstones. This was one of the first countries in the world where national identity replaced religion as the source of social order, a fact which should surely be a source of guidance on how to survive a new world of religious tensions. Albania has its own difficulties; but in the young people I saw the hope and commitment that will bring this country fully into the flow of European life, a symbol of 'unity in diversity', which has been the hallmark of our common culture since the Enlightenment. [1]

Precisely the concept of Albanianism has begun to be attacked and despised, calling for its change or replacement with other experimental concepts which may have serious consequences not only for the culture, and identity or the two Albanian states but also for the social order and fundamental freedoms. Among them, the freedom of belief and religious harmony that are characteristic and priceless treasures of our nation. These freedoms have their roots in our traditional concept of Albanianism - which remains the best guarantor of the exercise of their rights.

Religious harmony and Albanianism stand as a counterweight to radical tendencies of any kind. Therefore, while reading this book, the reader can learn from the English philosopher that patriotism and the nation, especially in our case Albanianism, should not be taken for granted, much less as outdated ideas.

The utopian alternative offered to us, as always in the past of humanity, remains an extremely dangerous experiment. Indeed, history teaches us that precious things are created with difficulty, but can be lost very easily; the consequences of experiments of such magnitude are very expensive for civilization, freedom, and above all human lives.

-Albert Bikaj

*excerpted from Need for Nations translator Roger Scruton.

[1] See Roger Scruton, Modern Philosophy: From Aristotle to Analytical Philosophy, trans. Spartak Ngjela (Tirana: UET Press, 2017).

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