Why does nationalism exude a seductive appeal?

Grounding one’s life in a culturally cohesive community is a basic human desire

Far-right demonstration in Chemnitz, Germany: The banner reads “We are the people”. Photograph: Matthias Rietschel/Reuters

Far-right demonstration in Chemnitz, Germany: The banner reads “We are the people”. Photograph: Matthias Rietschel/Reuters

On Sunday, Sweden handed impressive electoral gains to its controversial nationalist-conservative party, the Sweden Democrats. With 17.6 per cent of the vote, they are now a close third behind the Moderates and Social Democrats, moving them into the mainstream of Swedish politics. The surge in support for an anti-immigration party in Sweden, a country traditionally renowned for its welcoming attitude toward immigrants, holds huge symbolic significance for other nationalist movements in Europe, and appears to reflect a steady upward trend in European support for nationalist and Eurosceptical parties.

This trend is part of a shift in public sentiment, in Europe and America alike, that has taken many seasoned observers unawares. Just when it seemed as if globalisation and European integration were unstoppable, we beheld the shock elevation of a TV celebrity to the White House on a platform promising to “make America great again,” the passing of Brexit, the dramatic Spanish standoff with Catalonia’s independence movement, and the consolidation of nationalist and Eurosceptical political parties in numerous EU member states such as Germany, Denmark, Austria, Italy, Poland and Hungary.

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