From Pierre Manent:
The Reformation signified the “nationalization” of the universal Church, and from that time on the nation, not the Church, was the community par excellence in Europe. The Church contributed less and less to determining Europe’s political and spiritual configuration: Witness Benedict XV’s admirable and vain efforts early in the twentieth century to moderate nationalist frenzies. From a Christian point of view, nations can seem like idols formed by pride. It was thus not by chance that the first and decisive impulses for the “European project” came from Catholic statesmen. For many Europeans today, the initiative of Robert Schuman, Konrad Adenauer, and Alcide De Gasperi was not only a courageous and judicious political choice but also a sort of collective conversion from the immemorial political order of power to a new order of disinterested cooperation.
However tempting may be the “grand narrative” that justifies the European project “and the ongoing project of global unification” it rests upon a one-sided reading of European history and on a biased estimation of that properly European political form known as the nation, a bias that suggests it is not so easy as one would wish to rise above one’s political passions. Furthermore, it requires a superficial understanding of what the constitution of an effectively universal human association requires. Injustice with respect to the nation and incomprehension of human universals reinforce each other ...
The contribution of the nation-state to moral life also should be underlined. I am not thinking here of the education, through national language and literature, that preserves its legitimacy with difficulty today in the face of the worldwide circulation of information that knows only generic human beings. I am thinking rather of this: There is no more powerful source of moral development for everyone than concern for the common good, or the res publica.
It is not a question of generalizing norms of conduct, which could only produce a mechanical and mutilated morality, but rather of looking beyond ourselves in order to take account of the community that is greater than each one of us which we form together. The education and the deployment of the human virtues require the participation in a unified action before the members of which we feel ourselves responsible. For this action we incur both praise and blame. If we lose that participation, we will have nothing left to orient ourselves by but a general idea of humanity, which cannot draw us away from the passivity of private life.
It will certainly be objected that the eclipse of nation-states will overcome particularism and thereby provide us with a truly universal perspective that takes into account not only the circumscribed group but all human beings. This is not only the most widespread and popular illusion in Europe and the West; it is also the illusion by means of which powerful forces mean to tear us away from the active concern for the common good that in its political aspect is called friendship and in its religious aspect is called charity ...
The question, therefore, is whether we can live humanely without things in common or with having in common only the rules of the game that bind specialized institutions that do not need to be political and that function better when they are less political. We cannot. Human life involves relations more important than the exchange of goods and services. Human life encompasses relations of justice, which cannot be subsumed under the “rules of the game.”