Nationalism and Authoritarianism in Interwar Europe: Contemporary Lessons?

      Comments Off on Nationalism and Authoritarianism in Interwar Europe: Contemporary Lessons?

This article is a study on the reactionary appropriation of the concept of nation in interwar Continental Europe. It shows how this takeover occurred in political theory by examining the writings of two key thinkers on the right, Carl Schmitt (1888-1985) and Eric Voegelin (1901-1985), and placing them in the broad interwar political as well as in their specific intellectual contexts. The article discusses Schmitt’s engagement with the idea of nation in some of his most famous works, such as The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy (1923) and Constitutional Theory (1928), and it unearths a portion of Voegelin’s interwar intellectual output that, for the most part, remained unpublished in the author’s lifetime and has thus far been virtually ignored by the secondary literature. It argues that, albeit through different routes, both authors drained the idea of a national political community from its democratic potential and surrendered it to the emerging strongmen of political reaction. In the conclusion, the paper draws some lessons from this episode in intellectual history to the analysis of contemporary developments within European nationalisms.

Keywords: Nationalism, Radical Conservatism, Reaction, Schmitt, Voegelin


Pedro T. Magalhães | University of Helsinki

Pedro T. Magalhães holds a PhD in Political Science, awarded by NOVA-University of Lisbon, and is currently a post-doctoral researcher at the Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence in Law, Identity, and the European Narratives, hosted by the Centre of European Studies of the University of Helsinki, and a research fellow of the Portuguese Institute of International Relations (IPRI). He specializes in political theory and European intellectual history, having just started a project on the intellectual foundations of European nationalisms.