From Trump’s “Make America Great Again” to Brexiteers’ “Global Britain”, nostalgic nationalism has become a major force in politics around the world. A world which is prone to conflict. Yet nostalgia can still be consistent with some form of international cooperation, especially where culture, history, and values overlap. In this context, the re-emergence of an Anglosphere, a long-held dream for many proud Britons, is no longer so far-fetched.
The idea of the Anglosphere dates back to the collapse of the British Empire. In his voluminous “History of the English-Speaking Peoples”, Churchill weaved through 2,000 years of history a thread of Anglophonism that then inspired the Euroskeptics who opposed the entry of the United Kingdom into the European Economic Area in 1973. In their view, London should have rather focused on the Commonwealth, integrating with what Churchill once called its true “kith and kin”. However, the dream of creating an Anglosphere has stimulated the imaginations of non-Brits too. Despite their growing activism in the Indo-Pacific region, both Australia and New Zealand have always been attached to the Anglo-Saxon world. In his 2009 memoir“Battlelines”, Abbott, the former Australian prime minister, enthusiastically praised Canberra’s alliance with Washington and its ties with London. On the other hand, Canada given its French cultural heritage has been more ambivalent.
The Anglosphere is nebulous. It stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, and includes those countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States) that share Anglo-Saxon culture. This political community represents 6% of the world’s population and 25% of global GDP. Moreover, it boasts some of the highest GDP per capita in the world. Legal systems of Common Law, a relentless defense of democratic principles, English as first language, common business practices, and traditional support for free trade are the glue that holds together countries that are geographically so distant. In a nutshell, cultural ties lower transaction costs between countries and foster trust.
In finance, technology, science, and trade, the Anglosphere already plays a dominant role, albeit in an informal way. But there are also formal means of cooperation, including the “Five Eyes”intelligence-sharing group, the Air and Space Interoperability Council,theUKUSA Agreement,the Rhodes Scholarship, and finally the newly established trilateral security pack between Australia, United Kingdom the USA (AUKUS).Furthermore, it is noteworthy to mention that a recent poll found overwhelming support within Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom for granting nationals reciprocal rights to live and work freely among the said countries.
The time seems ripe for the Anglosphere to intensify cooperation among its members through trade deals, military arrangements, and joint programs in a variety of fields. To be sure, it would never be a European Union among English-speaking nations. After all, it would be the by-product of a time when states seek to regain full sovereignty, cooperating when interests coincide but competing when they diverge. The institutions of the Anglosphere would be open and not exclusive, allowing each nation to pursue its regional goals independently. In this context, thehistorian Robert Conquest wrote in 2000 that the Anglo-Oceanic political association would be “weaker than a federation, but stronger than an alliance”. The first part of this statement is indisputable as members of the Anglosphere are, by definition, sovereigntists. The second matter though is questionable. The Anglosphere is unlikely to become a traditional alliance. Rather, it would be a community of states with preferential relations who would work to set the global agenda.
Eventually, the sum of these stronger bilateral diplomatic ties might lead to a more cohesive and united Anglo-Saxon community. If the Anglosphere comes together as a political project, it could signal the emergence of a new model of globalization, centered on cultural homogeneity, with regional clusters converging around common cultural factors, and without a rigid underlying institutional structure like the European Union. Even now, according to the Economist, two countries that share a common language trade 42% more with each other than those that don’t. Meanwhile, two countries that once shared imperial ties trade a massive 188% more. Gone would be the idea of a flat world. Goods, knowledge, and people would move smoothly within culturally similar areas.
Depending on circumstances, the coming together of culturally homogeneous zones might be spontaneous or coercive, and the interactions between regions could be characterized by either conflict or peace. Nostalgic nationalism will likely reinforce tensions and frictions between regions that are culturally distant, especially when standards of living differ greatly. But it can bring culturally similar countries closer together. Indeed, nostalgic nationalism is already reshaping the global order, but it will not necessarily lead to outright isolationism or conflict. There is room for new forms of cooperation to flourish.
Campanella, E. & Dassù, M. (2017, February 21). A Future of the English-Speaking Peoples: Lie Back and Think of the Anglosphere. Foreign Affairs. Retrieved from: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/world/2017-02-21/future-english-speaking-peoples
Roberts, A. (2020, August 8). It’s Time to Revive the Anglosphere. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from: https://www.wsj.com/articles/its-time-to-revive-the-anglosphere-11596859260
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