Book

Anglo nostalgia (2020)

the politics of emotion in a fractured West

in: Oxford scholarship online

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Abstract

Nostalgia has become a major force in global politics. While Donald Trump hopes to 'make America great again', Xi Jinping calls for a 'great rejuvenation of the Chinese people', and a majority of Russians still mourn the Soviet Union. But it is Brexit, with its idealization of a bygone era of full sovereignty, that epitomizes nostalgic nationalism in its purest form. Despite its romantic flavour, nostalgia is a malaise - a combination of paranoia and melancholy that idealizes the past, while denigrating the present. This epidemic of mythicizing national history is shaping politics in risky ways, fuelled by ageing populations, shifts in the global order, and technological disruption. When deployed in the political debate, collective nostalgia is used as an emotional weapon, capable of mobilizing a nation towards illusory goals.