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The peaceful xenophobes

Two new studies of empire and nationalism should make us think again about conflating xenophobia, nationalism and aggression

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For Kin or Country: Xenophobia, Nationalism and War by Stephen Saideman and William Ayres (Columbia University Press, £20.95)

Day of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance—and Why They Fall by Amy Chua (Doubleday, £16.95)

Intolerance towards minorities and belligerence towards other nations are usually regarded as two sides of the same coin. Yet this Nazi-centric interpretation does serious injury to a historical record in which tolerance has often proved the handmaiden of “missionary” imperialism, while xenophobia has constrained expansionist energies. Now, at a time when politicians and academics like to stress the importance of outward-looking, tolerant, “civic” nationhood, it…

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