Skip to main content

US politics

Yuval Noah Harari on the death of conservatism

(Original Caption) 7/30/1966-England-: England captain Bobby Moore “chaired” by his team with the Jules Rimet Cup…after receiving it from the Queen after England won the Cup final 4 goals to 2, against West Germany.

The football World Cup “is a model for good nationalism”, author Yuval Noah Harari tells The Sunday Times. People wave flags and support their national team, but it’s all about global co-operation. “You can’t have a World Cup if every nation invents its own set of rules.” Supporting your team is nationalism at its best – it’s about “love”, the feeling that you are “connected to the other people in your country”. In today’s America, this has broken down. Republicans and Democrats fear and hate each other “more than they fear and hate anybody else on the planet, more than they fear and hate the Russians or the Chinese”. In the long run, it’s impossible to sustain a democracy in such conditions.

The problem underlying this is the “death of conservatism”. The traditional “double act” in democracies is a conservative party that slows things down and a progressive party agitating for change. But the Republicans, and centre-right parties everywhere, have become “radicalised”, pushing to sweep away tradition. That leaves nobody to protect the institutions we rely on for everything from functioning courts to our sewage system. As for the culture war in the West, the “real tragedy” is that the issues dividing people are “much, much smaller” than the issues which divided them in the 1960s: “civil rights, the sexual revolution, the Vietnam War, the Cold War”. People are closer to each other than ever before, yet “they seem willing to destroy the whole thing”.