The sense of national belonging, especially given its often ambiguous borders with more inflamed forms of nationalism, is a central theme in Isaiah Berlin’s works. The paper aims at analysing Berlin’s interpretation of the historical genesis of nationalism. Its origins seem to be found in a natural human need, which is physiological and irreducible, to identify in a common tradition from which—and in which—people can feel recognized. When making abstraction of national belonging, individuals feel so weakened that they easily fall prey to violent collective passions, and are led to consider the values of their own nation as superior than any other scale of values. Then, it will be argued that, in Berlin’s view, populism is a very specific form of this kind of attitude, whose intellectual origins are to be retraced in Eighteenth Century’s Russian Intelligentsia.
Keywords: Isaiah Berlin, The Crooked Timber of Humanity, The Bent Twig of Nationalism, The Sense of Belonging, Russian Populism.
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