The Civilizing Force of National Competition
U.S. Nationalist Reasoning in the Mid-to-Late Nineteenth Century
This chapter explores mid-to-late nineteenth-century U.S. nationalism in its global context. We focus on what we call scarcity nationalism: A type of nationalism which introduces notions of scarcity to imagine competition between nations. We use this concept to analyze two discourses, on protectionism and navalism, showing how in both cases measures to protect U.S. interests in inter-national competition – through tariffs or battleships – were introduced as a means of contributing to human progress in the long run. By imagining competition between nations as a transitional stage of human development, scarcity nationalism aimed (and still aims) at justifying national competition while relating it to a universalist and progressive framework.