Conor Cruise O’Brien’s conservative anti-nationalism: retrieving the postwar European connection

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From the early 1970s Conor Cruise O'Brien acquired a reputation in Ireland and internationally as one of the most vociferous critics of nationalism. While many see the origins of his critique in his reaction to the emergence of militant nationalism in Northern Ireland at this time, in this article I argue that the foundations of O'Brien's anti-nationalism had already been laid in the postwar European context. The article illustrates how O'Brien's historical and intellectual experience in the aftermath of the Second World War had an essentially conservative influence on his thought, providing him with a pool of ideas which he would later employ in his attack on nationalism, and Irish nationalism in particular. I therefore maintain that there is a lot more continuity in O'Brien's thought than is sometimes assumed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)308-330
Number of pages23
JournalEuropean Journal of Political Theory
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • anti-humanism
  • anti-nationalism
  • conservatism
  • fascism
  • irrationalism
  • mysticism
  • nationalism
  • pessimism
  • religion
  • violence


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