Richard Rorty on National Pride


National pride is to countries what self-respect is to individuals: a necessary condition for self-improvement. Too much national pride can produce bellicosity and imperialism, just as excessive self-respect can produce arrogance. But just as too little self-respect makes it difficult for a person to display moral courage so insufficient national pride makes energetic and effective debate about national policy unlikely. Emotional involvement with one’s country-feelings of intense shame or of glowing pride aroused by various parts of its history, and by various present-day national policies-is necessary if political deliberation is to be imaginative and productive. Such deliberation will probably not occur unless pride outweighs shame…

…Those who hope to persuade a nation to exert itself need to remind their country of what it can take pride in as well as what it should be ashamed of. They must tell inspiring stories about episodes and figures in the nation’s past–episodes and figures to which the country should remain true. Nations rely on artists and intellectuals to create images of, and to tell stories about, the national past. Competition for political leadership is in part a competition between differing stories about a nation’s self-identity, and between differing symbols of its greatness.

In America, at the end of the twentieth century, few inspiring images and stories are being proffered. The only version of national pride encouraged by American popular culture is a simpleminded militaristic chauvinism. But such chauvinism is overshadowed by a widespread sense that national pride is no longer appropriate. In both popular and elite culture, most descriptions of what America will be like in the twenty-first century are written in tones either of self-mockery or of self-disgust.


  1. Rorty, Richard. Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-century America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1998. Print. 3-4.

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Filed under History, Notes on History, Philosophy, Politics

One response to “Richard Rorty on National Pride

  1. Pingback: Richard Rorty on National Pride | A bleeding heart lib Social Ocean. In the company of N. Chiaromonte, E. Levinas, M.Conceiçao Tavares & S. Weil

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