Albert Einstein: “Nationalism is an infantile disease”

Albert Einstein (source Library of Congress)

Nationalism is an infantile disease, the measles of mankind.

“What Life Means to Einstein: An Interview by George Sylvester Viereck” The Saturday Evening Post (26 October 1929)

Our world faces a crisis as yet unperceived by those possessing power to make great decisions for good or evil. The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparallel catastrophe.

“Atomic Education Urged by Einstein”, New York Times (25 May 1946)

Many persons have inquired concerning a recent message of mine that “a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels.”

Often in evolutionary processes a species must adapt to new conditions in order to survive. Today the atomic bomb has altered profoundly the nature of the world as we know it, and the human race consequently finds itself in a new habitat to which it must adapt its thinking.

In light of new knowledge…an eventual world state is not just desirable in the name of brotherhood, it is necessary for survival… Today we must abandon competition and secure cooperation. This must be the central fact in all our considerations of international affairs; otherwise we face certain disaster. Past thinking and methods did not prevent world wars. Future thinking must prevent wars.

New York Times Magazine (23 June 1946)

The position in which we are now is a very strange one which in general political life never happened. Namely, the thing that I refer to is this: To have security against atomic bombs and against the other biological weapons, we have to prevent war, for if we cannot prevent war every nation will use every means that is at their disposal; and in spite of all promises they make, they will do it. At the same time, so long as war is not prevented, all the governments of the nations have to prepare for war, and if you have to prepare for war, then you are in a state where you cannot abolish war.

This is really the cornerstone of our situation. Now, I believe what we should try to bring about is the general conviction that the first thing you have to abolish is war at all costs, and every other point of view must be of secondary importance.

Address to the symposium “The Social Task of the Scientist in the Atomic Era” at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey (17 November 1946)


About the Author