Nationalism is an ideology and movement that promotes interest of a particular nation (as in a group of people) especially with the aim of gaining and maintaining the nation’s sovereignty (self-governance) over its homeland and uniting the different ethnicities of the nation. Nationalism holds that each nation should govern itself, free from outside interference (self-determination), that a nation is a natural and ideal basis for a polity, and that the nation is the only rightful source of political power (popular sovereignty). It further aims to build and maintain a single national identity—based on shared social characteristics of culture, ethnicity, geographic location, language, politics (or the government), religion, traditions and belief in a shared singular history—and to promote national unity or solidarity. Nationalism, therefore, seeks to preserve and foster a nation’s traditional cultures, and cultural revivals have been associated with nationalist movements. It also encourages pride in national achievements, and is closely linked to patriotism. Nationalism is often combined with other ideologies, such as conservatism (national conservatism) or socialism (socialist nationalism).
Throughout history, people have had an attachment to their kin group and traditions, to territorial authorities and to their homeland, but nationalism did not become a widely recognized concept until the 18th century. There are three paradigms for understanding the origins and basis of nationalism. Primordialism (perennialism) proposes that there have always been nations and that nationalism is a natural phenomenon. Ethnosymbolism explains nationalism as a dynamic, evolutionary phenomenon and stresses the importance of symbols, myths and traditions in the development of nations and nationalism. Modernism proposes that nationalism is a recent social phenomenon that needs the socio-economic structures of modern society to exist.
There are various definitions of a “nation”, however, which leads to different strands of nationalism. Ethnic nationalism defines the nation in terms of shared ethnicity, heritage and culture, while civic nationalism defines the nation in terms of shared citizenship, values and institutions, and is linked to constitutional patriotism. The adoption of national identity in terms of historical development has often been a response by influential groups unsatisfied with traditional identities due to mismatch between their defined social order and the experience of that social order by its members, resulting in an anomie that nationalists seek to resolve. This anomie results in a society reinterpreting identity, retaining elements deemed acceptable and removing elements deemed unacceptable, to create a unified community. This development may be the result of internal structural issues or the result of resentment by an existing group or groups towards other communities, especially foreign powers that are (or are deemed to be) controlling them. National symbols and flags, national anthems, national languages, national myths and other symbols of national identity are highly important in nationalism.
In practice, nationalism can be seen as positive or negative depending on context and individual outlook. Nationalism has been an important driver in independence movements, such as the Greek Revolution, the Irish Revolution, the Zionist movement that created modern Israel, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Conversely, radical nationalism combined with racial hatred was also a key factor in the Holocaust perpetrated by Nazi Germany. More recently, nationalism was an important driver of the controversial annexation of Crimea by Russia.
Main article: De jure belli ac pacis
Nationalism as derived from the noun designating ‘nations’ is a newer word; in English the term dates from 1844, although the concept is older. It became important in the 19th century. The term increasingly became negative in its connotations after 1914. Glenda Sluga notes that “The twentieth century, a time of profound disillusionment with nationalism, was also the great age of globalism.”
The political development of nationalism and the push for popular sovereignty culminated with the ethnic/national revolutions of Europe. During the 19th century nationalism became one of the most significant political and social forces in history; it is typically listed among the top causes of World War I.
Napoleon’s conquests of the German and Italian states around 1800–06 played a major role in stimulating nationalism and the demands for national unity.
Henceforth, until the enemies have been driven from the territory of the Republic, all the French are in permanent requisition for army service. The young men shall go to battle; the married men shall forge arms in the hospitals; the children shall turn old linen to lint; the old men shall repair to the public places, to stimulate the courage of the warriors and preach the unity of the Republic and the hatred of kings.
This nationalism gained pace after the French Revolution came to a close. Defeat in war, with a loss in territory, was a powerful force in nationalism. In France, revenge and return of Alsace-Lorraine was a powerful motivating force for a quarter century after their defeat by Germany in 1871. However, after 1895 French nationalists focused on Dreyfus and internal subversion, and the Alsace issue petered out.
The French reaction was a famous case of Revanchism (“revenge”) which demands the return of lost territory that “belongs” to the national homeland. Revanchism draws its strength from patriotic and retributionist thought and it is often motivated by economic or geo-political factors. Extreme revanchist ideologues often represent a hawkish stance, suggesting that their desired objectives can be achieved through the positive outcome of another war. It is linked with irredentism, the conception that a part of the cultural and ethnic nation remains “unredeemed” outside the borders of its appropriate nation state. Revanchist politics often rely on the identification of a nation with a nation state, often mobilizing deep-rooted sentiments of ethnic nationalism, claiming territories outside the state where members of the ethnic group live, while using heavy-handed nationalism to mobilize support for these aims. Revanchist justifications are often presented as based on ancient or even autochthonous occupation of a territory since “time immemorial”, an assertion that is usually inextricably involved in revanchism and irredentism, justifying them in the eyes of their proponents.
The Dreyfus Affair in France 1894–1906 made the battle against treason and disloyalty a central theme for conservative Catholic French nationalists. Dreyfus, a Jew, was an outsider, that is in the views of intense nationalists, not a true Frenchman, not one to be trusted, not one to be given the benefit of the doubt. True loyalty to the nation, from the conservative viewpoint, was threatened by liberal and republican principles of liberty and equality that were leading the country to disaster.
- Orthodoxy—Orthodox Christianity and protection of the Russian Orthodox Church.
- Autocracy—unconditional loyalty to the House of Romanov in return for paternalist protection for all social estates.
- Nationality (Narodnost, has been also translated as national spirit)—recognition of the state-founding role on Russian nationality.
By the 1860s, as a result of the educational indoctrination, and conservative resistance to ideas and ideologies from Western Europe, a pan-Slavic had emerged that produce both a sense of Russian nationalism, and a nationalistic mission to support and protect pan-Slavism. This Slavophile movement became popular in 19th-century Russia. Pan-Slavism was fueled by and was the fuel for Russia’s numerous wars against the Ottoman Empire with the goal of liberating Orthodox nations, such as Bulgarians, Romanians, Serbs and Greeks, from Ottoman rule. Slavophiles opposed influences of Western Europe in Russia and were determined to protect Russian culture and traditions. Aleksey Khomyakov, Ivan Kireyevsky, and Konstantin Aksakov are credited with co-founding the movement.
An upsurge in nationalism in Latin America in 1810s and 1820s sparked revolutions that cost Spain nearly all its colonies there. Spain was at war with Britain from 1798 to 1808, and the British Royal Navy cut off its contacts with its colonies so nationalism flourished and trade with Spain was suspended. The colonies set up temporary governments or juntas which were effectively independent from Spain. The division exploded between Spaniards who were born in Spain (called “peninsulares”) versus those of Spanish descent born in New Spain (called “criollos” in Spanish or “creoles” in English). The two groups wrestled for power, with the criollos leading the call for independence. Spain tried to use its armies to fight back but had no help from European powers. Indeed, Britain and the United States worked against Spain, enforcing the Monroe Doctrine. Spain lost all of its American colonies, except Cuba and Puerto Rico, in a complex series of revolts from 1808 to 1826.
Nationalists sought to encompass masculinity in their quest for strength and unity. It was Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismarck who achieved German unification through a series of highly successful short wars against Denmark, Austria and France which thrilled the pan-German nationalists in the smaller German states. They fought in his wars and eagerly joined the new German Empire, which Bismarck ran as a force for balance and peace in Europe after 1871.
In the 19th century German nationalism was promoted by Hegelian-oriented academic historians who saw Prussia as the true carrier of the German spirit, and the power of the state as the ultimate goal of nationalism. The three main historians were Johann Gustav Droysen (1808–1884), Heinrich von Sybel (1817–1895) and Heinrich von Treitschke (1834–1896). Droysen moved from liberalism to an intense nationalism that celebrated Prussian Protestantism, efficiency, progress, and reform, in striking contrast to Austrian Catholicism, impotency and backwardness. He idealized the Hohenzollern kings of Prussia. His large-scale History of Prussian Politics (14 vol 1855–1886) was foundational for nationalistic students and scholars. Von Sybel founded and edited the leading academic history journal, Historische Zeitschrift and as the director of the Prussian state archives published massive compilations that were devoured by scholars of nationalism.
The most influential of the German nationalist historians, was Treitschke who had an enormous influence on elite students at Heidelberg and Berlin universities. Treitschke vehemently attacked parliamentarianism, socialism, pacifism, the English, the French, the Jews, and the internationalists. The core of his message was the need for a strong, unified state—a unified Germany under Prussian supervision. “It is the highest duty of the State to increase its power,” he stated. Although he was a descendant of a Czech family he considered himself not Slavic but German: “I am 1000 times more the patriot than a professor.”
Meanwhile, the Nazis rejected many of the well-established citizens within those same countries, such as the Romani (Gypsies) and of course Jews, whom they did not identify as Aryan. Meanwhile, a key Nazi doctrine was “Living Space” (for Aryans only) or “Lebensraum,” which was a vast undertaking to transplant Aryans throughout Poland, much of Eastern Europe and the Baltic nations, and all of Western Russia and Ukraine. Lebensraum was thus a vast project for advancing the Aryan race far outside of any particular nation or national borders. The Nazi’s goals were racist focused on advancing the Aryan race as they perceived it, eugenics modification of the human race, and the eradication of human beings that they deemed inferior. But their goals were trans-national and intended to spread across as much of the world as they could achieve. Although Nazism glorified German history, it also embraced the supposed virtues and achievements of the Aryan race in other countries, including India. The Nazis’ Aryanism longed for now-extinct species of superior bulls once used as livestock by Aryans and other features of Aryan history that never resided within the borders of Germany as a nation.
(Crispi) pursued policies whose openly aggressive character would not be equaled until the days of the Fascist regime. Crispi increased military expenditure, talked cheerfully of a European conflagration, and alarmed his German or British friends with this suggestions of preventative attacks on his enemies. His policies were ruinous, both for Italy’s trade with France, and, more humiliatingly, for colonial ambitions in East Africa. Crispi’s lust for territory there was thwarted when on 1 March 1896, the armies of Ethiopian Emperor Menelik routed Italian forces at Adowa … in what has been defined as an unparalleled disaster for a modern army. Crispi, whose private life (he was perhaps a trigamist) and personal finances…were objects of perennial scandal, went into dishonorable retirement.— R.J.B. Bosworth, Italy and the Wider World: 1860–1960, 2013, Routledge, p.29, ISBN978-1-134-78088-4
Meanwhile, a third major group emerged that was hostile to nationalism as radical socialist elements became a force in the industrial North, and they too rejected liberalism. Italy joined the Allies in the First World War after getting promises of territory, but its war effort was a fiasco that discredited liberalism and paved the way for Benito Mussolini and a political doctrine of his own creation, fascism. Mussolini’s 20-year dictatorship involved a highly aggressive nationalism that led to a series of wars, an alliance with Hitler’s Germany, and humiliation and hardship in the Second World War. After 1945, the Catholics returned to government and tensions eased somewhat, but the former two Sicilies remained poor and ridiculed. The working class now voted for the Communist Party, and it looked to Moscow rather than Rome for inspiration, and was kept out of the national government even as it controlled industrial cities across the North. In the 21st century, the Communists have become marginal but political tensions remained high as shown by Bossi’s Padanism in the 80s (whose party has come to partially embrace a moderate version of Italian nationalism over the years) and other separatist movements spread across the country.
During the early 19th century, inspired by romanticism, classicism, former movements of Greek nationalism and failed Greek revolts against the Ottoman Empire (such as the Orlofika revolt in southern Greece in 1770, and the Epirus-Macedonian revolt of Northern Greece in 1575), Greek nationalism led to the Greek war of independence. The Greek drive for independence from the Ottoman Empire in the 1820s and 1830s inspired supporters across Christian Europe, especially in Britain, which was the result of western idealization of Classical Greece and romanticism. France, Russia and Britain critically intervened to ensure the success of this nationalist endeavour.
In 1918, the region of Banat, Bačka and Baranja came under control of the Serbian army, later the Great National Assembly of Serbs, Bunjevci and other Slavs voted to join Serbia; the Kingdom of Serbia joined the union with State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs on 1 December 1918, and the country was named Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. It was renamed Yugoslavia, and a Yugoslav identity was promoted, which ultimately failed. After the Second World War, Yugoslav Communists established a new socialist republic of Yugoslavia. That state broke up in the 1990s.
The cause of Polish nationalism was repeatedly frustrated before 1918. In the 1790s, the Habsburg Monarchy, Prussia and Russia invaded, annexed, and subsequently partitioned Poland. Napoleon set up the Duchy of Warsaw, a new Polish state that ignited a spirit of nationalism. Russia took it over in 1815 as Congress Poland with the tsar proclaimed as “King of Poland”. Large-scale nationalist revolts erupted in 1830 and 1863–64 but were harshly crushed by Russia, which tried to make the Polish language, culture and religion more like Russia’s. The collapse of the Russian Empire in the First World War enabled the major powers to re-establish an independent Poland, which survived until 1939. Meanwhile, Poles in areas controlled by Germany moved into heavy industry but their religion came under attack by Bismarck in the Kulturkampf of the 1870s. The Poles joined German Catholics in a well-organized new Centre Party, and defeated Bismarck politically. He responded by stopping the harassment and cooperating with the Centre Party.
In the late 19th and early 20th century, many Polish nationalist leaders endorsed the Piast Concept. It held there was a Polish utopia during the Piast Dynasty a thousand years before, and modern Polish nationalists should restore its central values of Poland for the Poles. Jan Poplawski had developed the “Piast Concept” in the 1890s, and it formed the centerpiece of Polish nationalist ideology, especially as presented by the National Democracy Party, known as the “Endecja,” which was led by Roman Dmowski. In contrast with the Jagiellon concept, there was no concept for a multi-ethnic Poland.
See also: Zionism
Jewish nationalism arose in the latter half of the 19th century and it was largely correlated with the Zionist movement. This term originated from the word Zion, which was one of the Torah’s names for the city of Jerusalem. The end goal of the nationalists and Zionists was a Jewish majority and in most cases, a state, in the land of Palestine. A tumultuous history of living in oppressive, foreign, and uncertain circumstances led the supporters of the movement to draft a declaration of independence, claiming Israel as a birthplace. The first and second destructions of the temple and ancient Torah prophecies largely shaped the incentives of the Jewish nationalists. Many prominent theories in Jewish theology and eschatology were formed by supporters and opponents of the movement in this era.
It was the French Revolution of 1789, which sparked new waves of thinking across Europe regarding governance and sovereignty. A shift from the traditional hierarchy-based system towards political individualism and citizen-states posed a dilemma for the Jews. Citizenship was now essential, when it came to ensuring basic legal and residential rights. This resulted in more and more Jews choosing to identify with certain nationalities in order to maintain these rights. Logic said that a nation-based system of states would require the Jews themselves to claim their own right to be considered a nation due to a distinguishable language and history. Historian David Engel has explained that Zionism was more about fear that a majority of worldwide Jews would end up dispersed and unprotected, rather than fulfilling old prophecies and traditions of historical texts.
The awakening of nationalism across Asia helped shape the history of the continent. The key episode was the decisive defeat of Russia by Japan in 1905, demonstrating the military advancement of non-Europeans in a modern war. The defeat which quickly led to manifestations of a new interest in nationalism in China, as well as Turkey, and Persia. In China Sun Yat-sen (1866–1925) launched his new party the Kuomintang (National People’s Party) in defiance of the decrepit Empire, which was run by outsiders. Kuomintang recruits pledged:
- from this moment I will destroy the old and build the new, and fight for the self-determination of the people, and will apply all my strength to the support of the Chinese Republic and the realization of democracy through the Three Principles, … for the progress of good government, the happiness and perpetual peace of the people, and for the strengthening of the foundations of the state in the name of peace throughout the world.
The Kuomintang largely ran China until the Communists took over in 1949. But the latter had also been strongly influenced by Sun’s nationalism as well as by the May Fourth Movement in 1919. It was a nationwide protest movement about the domestic backwardness of China and has often been depicted as the intellectual foundation for Chinese Communism. The New Culture Movement stimulated by the May Fourth Movement waxed strong throughout the 1920s and 1930s. According to historian Patricia Ebrey:
- Nationalism, patriotism, progress, science, democracy, and freedom were the goals; imperialism, feudalism, warlordism, autocracy, patriarchy, and blind adherence to tradition were the enemies. Intellectuals struggled with how to be strong and modern and yet Chinese, how to preserve China as a political entity in the world of competing nations.
Nationalist irredentist movements Greek advocating for Enosis (unity of ethnincally Greek states with the Hellenic Republic to create a unified Greek state), used today in the case of Cyprus, as well as the Megali Idea, the Greek movement that advocated for the reconquering of Greek ancestral lands from the Ottoman Empire (such as Crete, Ionia, Pontus, Northern Epirus, Cappadocia, Thrace among others) that were popular in the late 19th and early to 20th centuries, led to many Greek states and regions that were ethnically Greek to eventually unite with Greece and the Greco-Turkish war of 1919.
The 4th of August regime was a fascist or fascistic nationalist authoritarian dictatorship inspired by Mussolini’s Fascist Italy and Hitler’s Germany and led by Greek general Ioannis Metaxas from 1936 to his death in 1941. It advocated for the Third Hellenic Civilization, a culturally superior Greek civilization that would be the successor of the First and Second Greek civilizations, that were Ancient Greece and the Byzantine empire respectively. It promoted Greek traditions, folk music and dances, classicism as well as medievalism.
South Africa, a British colony, was exceptional in that it became virtually independent by 1931. From 1948 it was controlled by white Afrikaner nationalists focused on racial segregation and white minority rule known officially as apartheid, which lasted until 1994, when elections were held. The international anti-apartheid movement supported black nationalist until success was achieved and Nelson Mandela was elected President.
Arab nationalism, a movement toward liberating and empowering the Arab peoples of the Middle East, emerged during the latter 19th century, inspired by other independence movements of the 18th and 19th centuries. As the Ottoman Empire declined – and the Middle East was carved up by the Great Powers of Europe, Arabs sought to establish their own independent nations ruled by Arabs rather than foreigners. Syria was established in 1920; Transjordan (later Jordan) gradually gained independence between 1921 and 1946; Saudi Arabia was established in 1932; and Egypt achieved gradually gained independence between 1922 and 1952. The Arab League was established in 1945 to promote Arab interests and cooperation between the new Arab states.
Parallel to these efforts was the Zionist movement which emerged among European Jews in the 19th century. Beginning in 1882 Jews, predominantly from Europe, began emigrating to Ottoman Palestine with the goal of establishing a new Jewish homeland. The effort culminated in the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948. As this move conflicted with the belief among Arab nationalists that Palestine was part of the Arab nation, the neighboring Arab nations launched an invasion to claim the region. The invasion was only partly successful and led to decades of clashes between the Arab and Jewish nationalist ideologies.
There was a rise in extreme nationalism after the Revolutions of 1989 triggered the collapse of communism in the 1990s. When communism fell, it left many people with no identity. The people under communist rule had to integrate, and they found themselves free to choose. Given free choice, long dormant conflicts rose up and created sources of serious conflict. When communism fell in Yugoslavia, serious conflict arose, which led to the rise in extreme nationalism.
In his 1992 article Jihad vs. McWorld, Benjamin Barber proposed that the fall of communism will cause large numbers of people to search for unity and that small scale wars will become common; groups will attempt to redraw boundaries, identities, cultures and ideologies. Communism’s fall also allowed for an “us vs. them” mentality to sprout up. Governments become vehicles for social interests and the country will attempt to form national policies based on the majority, for example culture, religion or ethnicity. Some newly sprouted democracies have large differences in policies on matters that ranged from immigration and human rights to trade and commerce.
Academic Steven Berg felt that at the root of nationalist conflicts is the demand for autonomy and a separate existence. This nationalism can give rise to strong emotions that may lead to a group fighting to survive, especially as after the fall of communism, political boundaries did not match ethnic boundaries. Serious conflicts often arose and escalated very easily as individuals and groups acted upon their beliefs, causing death and destruction. When this would happen, those states who were unable to contain the conflict ran the risk of slowing their democratization progress.
Yugoslavia was established after WWI and was a merger of three separate ethnic groups; Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. The national census numbers for a ten-year span 1971–1981 measured an increase from 1.3 to 5.4% in their population that ethnically identified as Yugoslav. This meant that the country, almost as a whole, was divided by distinctive religious, ethnic or national loyalties after nearly 50 years.
Within Yugoslavia, separating Croatia and Slovenia from the rest of Yugoslavia is an invisible line of previous conquests of the region. Croatia and Slovenia to the northwest were conquered by Catholics or Protestants, and benefited from European history; the Renaissance, French Revolution, Industrial Revolution and are more inclined towards democracy. The remaining Yugoslavian territory was conquered by the Ottoman or Tsarists empires; are Orthodox or Muslims, are less economically advanced and are less inclined toward democracy.
In the 1970s the leadership of the separate territories within Yugoslavia protected only territorial interests at the expense of other territories. In Croatia, there was almost a split within the territory between Serbs and Croats so any political decision would kindle unrest, and tensions could cross the territories adjacent; Bosnia and Herzegovina. Within Bosnia there was no group who had a majority; Muslim, Serb, Croat, and Yugoslav were all there so the leadership could not advance here either. Political organizations were not able to deal successfully with such diverse nationalism. Within the territories the leadership could not compromise. To do so would create a winner in one ethnic group and a loser in another, raising the possibility of a serious conflict. This strengthened the political stance promoting ethnic identities. This caused intense and divided political leadership within Yugoslavia.
In the 1980s Yugoslavia began to break into fragments. The economic conditions within Yugoslavia were deteriorating. Conflict in the disputed territories was stimulated by the rise in mass nationalism and inter-ethnic hostilities. The per-capita income of people in the northwest territory, encompassing Croatia and Slovenia, in contrast to the southern territory were several times higher. This combined with escalating violence from ethnic Albanians and Serbs within Kosovo intensified economic conditions. This violence greatly contributed to the rise of extreme nationalism of Serbs in Serbia and within Yugoslavia. The ongoing conflict in Kosovo was propagandized by Communist Serbian Slobodan Milosevic to further increase Serb nationalism. As mentioned, this nationalism did give rise to powerful emotions which grew the force of Serbian nationalism through highly nationalist demonstrations in Vojvodina, Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo. Serbian nationalism was so high, Slobodan Milosevic was able to oust leaders in Vojvodina and Montenegro, further repressed Albanians within Kosovo and eventually controlled four of the eight regions/territories. Slovenia, one of the four regions not under Communist control, favoring a democratic state.
Within Slovenia, fear was mounting because Milosevic was using the militia to suppress a in Kosovo, what would he do to Slovenia. Half of Yugoslavia wanted to be democratic, the other wanted a new nationalist authoritarian regime. In fall of 1989 tensions came to a head and Slovenia asserted its political and economic independence from Yugoslavia and seceded. In January 1990, there was a total break with Serbia at the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, an institution conceived by Milosevic to strengthen unity and became the backdrop for the fall of communism within Yugoslavia.
In August 1990, a warning to the region was issued when ethnically divided groups attempted to alter the government structure. The republic borders established by the Communist regime in the postwar period were extremely vulnerable to challenges from ethnic communities.Ethnic communities arose because they did not share the identity with everyone within the new post-Communist borders. This threatened the new governments. The same disputes were erupting that were in place prior to Milosevic and were compounded by actions from his regime.
Also within the territory the Croats and the Serbs were in direct competition for control of government. Elections were held and increased potential conflicts between Serb and Croat nationalism. Serbia wanted to be separate and decide its own future based on its own ethnic composition. But this would then give Kosovo encouragement to become independent from Serbia. Albanians in Kosovo were already independent from Kosovo. Serbia didn’t want to let Kosovo become independent. Muslims nationalists wanted their own territory but it would require a redrawing of the map, and would threaten neighboring territories. When communism fell in Yugoslavia, serious conflict arose, which led to the rise in extreme nationalism.
Nationalism again gave rise to powerful emotions which evoked in some extreme cases, a willingness to die for what you believe in, a fight for the survival of the group. The end of communism began a long period of conflict and war for the region. In the six years following the collapse 200,000-500-000 people died in the Bosnian war. Bosnian Muslims suffered at the hands of the Serbs and Croats. The war garnered assistance from groups; Muslim, Orthodox and Western Christian as well as state actors who supplied all sides; Saudi Arabia and Iran supported Bosnia, Russia supported Serbia, Central European and Western countries including the U.S. supported Croatia, and the Pope supported Slovenia and Croatia.
Arab nationalism began to decline in the 21st century leading to localized nationalism, culminating in a series of revolts against authoritarian regimes between 2010 and 2012, known as the Arab Spring. Following these revolts, which mostly failed to improve conditions in the affected nations, Arab nationalism and even most local nationalistic movements declined dramatically. A consequence of the Arab Spring as well as the 2003 invasion of Iraq were the civil wars in Iraq and Syria, which eventually joined to form a single conflict. However, a new form of Arab nationalism has developed in the wake of the Arab Winter, embodied by Egyptian President Abdel Fatteh el-Sisi, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and UAE leader Mohammed bin Zayed.
The rise of globalism in the late 20th century led to a rise in nationalism and populism in Europe and North America. This trend was further fueled by increased terrorism in the West (the September 11 attacks in the U.S. being a prime example), increasing unrest and civil wars in the Middle East, and waves of Muslim refugees flooding into Europe (as of 2016 the refugee crisis appears to have peaked). Nationalist groups like Germany’s Pegida, France’s National Front, and the UK Independence Party gained prominence in their respective nations advocating restrictions on immigration to protect the local populations.
In Russia, exploitation of nationalist sentiments allowed Vladimir Putin to consolidate power. This nationalist sentiment was used in Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and other actions in Ukraine. Nationalist movements gradually began to rise in Central Europe as well, particularly Poland, under the influence of the ruling party, Law and Justice (led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski). In Hungary, the anti-immigration rhetoric and stance against foreign influence is a powerful national glue promoted the ruling Fidesz party (led by Viktor Orbán). Nationalist parties have also joined governing coalitions in Bulgaria, Slovakia, Latvia and Ukraine.
In India, Indian nationalism based on Integral humanism of Dharmic Values and Hindutva has gained ground due to the rise of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, its sister organizations of Sangh Parivar, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s closely affiliated Bharatiya Janata Party, world’s largest political party based on primary membership, emphasizing Dharmic values as a guiding principle of the country including Dharmic secularism as opposed to the Westernized secularism stance taken by India’s left and communists. Dharmic secularism includes minorities, most of whose ancestors were forcibly converted into other religions during foreign invasions and religious persecution. Therefore, the movement encourages cultural rediscovery, revival of the roots of Indian Civilizations and its values.
Militant Buddhist nationalism is on the rise in Myanmar, Thailand and Sri Lanka.
A referendum on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom was held on 18 September 2014. The proposal was defeated, with 55.3% voting against independence. In a 2016 referendum, the British populace voted to withdraw the United Kingdom from the European Union (the so-called Brexit). The result had been largely unexpected and was seen as a victory of populism. As the promise of continued EU membership was a core feature of the pro-unionist campaign during the Scottish referendum, the months since the EU Referendum vote have seen renewed calls for a second referendum on Scottish independence.
The 2016 U.S. presidential campaign saw the unprecedented rise of Donald Trump, a businessman with no political experience who ran on a populist/nationalist platform and struggled to gain endorsements from mainstream political figures, even within his own party. Trump’s slogans “Make America Great Again” and “America First” exemplified his campaign’s repudiation of globalism and its staunchly nationalistic outlook. His unexpected victory in the election was seen as part of the same trend that had brought about the Brexit vote. On 22 October 2018, two weeks before the mid-term elections President Trump openly proclaimed that he was a nationalist to a cheering crowd at a rally in Texas in support of re-electing Sen. Ted Cruz who was once an adversary. On 29 October 2018 he equated nationalism to patriotism, saying “I’m proud of this country and I call that ‘nationalism.'”
In Japan, nationalist influences in the government developed over the course of the early 21 century, thanks in large part to the Nippon Kaigi organization. The new movement has advocated re-establishing Japan as a military power and revising historical narratives to support the notion of a moral and strong Japan.
In 2016, Rodrigo Duterte became president of the Philippines running a distinctly nationalist campaign. Contrary to the policies of his recent predecessors, he distanced the country from the Philippines’ former ruler, the United States, and sought closer ties with China (as well as Russia).
During 2017, Turkish nationalism propelled President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to gain unprecedented power in a national referendum. Reactions from world leaders were mixed, with Western European leaders generally expressing concern while the leaders of many of the more authoritarian regimes, as well as President Donald Trump, offered their congratulations.
Since 2010, Catalan nationalists have led a renewed Catalan independence movement and declared Catalonia’s independence. The movement has been opposed by Spanish nationalists.
In the 2010s, As a result of the Greek economic ciris and the waves of immigration, there has been a significant rise of Fascism and Greek nationalism, especially among the youth.
Many political scientists have theorized about the foundations of the modern nation-state and the concept of sovereignty. The concept of nationalism in political science draws from these theoretical foundations. Philosophers like Machiavelli, Locke, Hobbes, and Rousseau conceptualized the state as the result of a “social contract” between rulers and individuals. Weber provides the most commonly used definition of the state, “that human community which successfully lays claim to the monopoly of legitimate physical violence within a certain territory”. According to Benedict Anderson, nations are “Imagined Communities”, or socially constructed institutions.
Many scholars have noted the relationship between state-building, war, and nationalism. Many scholars believe that the development of nationalism in Europe (and subsequently the modern nation-state) was due to the threat of war. “External threats have such a powerful effect on nationalism because people realize in a profound manner that they are under threat because of who they are as a nation; they are forced to recognize that it is only as a nation that they can successfully defeat the threat”. With increased external threats, the state’s extractive capacities increase. Jeffrey Herbst argues that the lack of external threats to countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, post-independence, is linked to weak state nationalism and state capacity . Barry Posen argues that nationalism increases the intensity of war, and that states deliberately promote nationalism with the aim of improving their military capabilities.
The sociological or modernist interpretation of nationalism and nation-building argues that nationalism arises and flourishes in modern societies that have an industrial economy capable of self-sustainability, a central supreme authority capable of maintaining authority and unity, and a centralized language understood by a community of people. Modernist theorists note that this is only possible in modern societies, while traditional societies typically lack the prerequisites for nationalism. They lack a modern self-sustainable economy, have divided authorities, and use multiple languages resulting in many groups being unable to communicate with each other.
Prominent theorists who developed the modernist interpretation of nations and nationalism include: Carlton J. H. Hayes, Henry Maine, Ferdinand Tönnies, Rabindranath Tagore, Émile Durkheim, Max Weber, Arnold Joseph Toynbee and Talcott Parsons.
Henry Maine in his analysis of the historical changes and development of human societies noted the key distinction between traditional societies defined as “status” societies based on family association and functionally diffuse roles for individuals; and modern societies defined as “contract” societies where social relations are determined by rational contracts pursued by individuals to advance their interests. Maine saw the development of societies as moving away from traditional status societies to modern contract societies.
Ferdinand Tönnies in his book Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft (1887) defined a Gemeinschaft (community) as being based on emotional attachments as attributed with traditional societies, while defining a Gesellschaft (society) as an impersonal society that is modern. While he recognized the advantages of modern societies he also criticized them for their cold and impersonal nature that caused alienation while praising the intimacy of traditional communities.
Émile Durkheim expanded upon Tönnies’ recognition of alienation, and defined the differences between traditional and modern societies as being between societies based upon “mechanical solidarity” versus societies based on “organic solidarity”. Durkheim identified mechanical solidarity as involving custom, habit, and repression that was necessary to maintain shared views. Durkheim identified organic solidarity-based societies as modern societies where there exists a division of labour based on social differentiation that causes alienation. Durkheim claimed that social integration in traditional society required authoritarian culture involving acceptance of a social order. Durkheim claimed that modern society bases integration on the mutual benefits of the division of labour, but noted that the impersonal character of modern urban life caused alienation and feelings of anomie.
Max Weber claimed the change that developed modern society and nations is the result of the rise of a charismatic leader to power in a society who creates a new tradition or a rational-legal system that establishes the supreme authority of the state. Weber’s conception of charismatic authority has been noted as the basis of many nationalist governments.
Primordialist evolutionary interpretation
Another approach emerging from biology and psychology looks at long-term evolutionary forces that might lead to nationalism. The primordialist perspective is based upon evolutionary theory.
This approach has been popular with the general public but is typically rejected by experts. Laland and Brown report that “the vast majority of professional academics in the social sciences not only … ignore evolutionary methods but in many cases [are] extremely hostile to the arguments” that draw vast generalizations from rather limited evidence.
The evolutionary theory of nationalism perceives nationalism to be the result of the evolution of human beings into identifying with groups, such as ethnic groups, or other groups that form the foundation of a nation. Roger Masters in The Nature of Politics describes the primordial explanation of the origin of ethnic and national groups as recognizing group attachments that are thought to be unique, emotional, intense, and durable because they are based upon kinship and promoted along lines of common ancestry.
The primordialist evolutionary views of nationalism often reference the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin as well as Social Darwinist views of the late nineteenth century. Thinkers like Herbert Spencer and Walter Bagehot reinterpreted Darwin’s theory of natural selection “often in ways inconsistent with Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution” by making unsupported claims of biological difference among groups, ethnicities, races, and nations. Modern evolutionary sciences have distanced themselves from such views, but notions of long-term evolutionary change remain foundational to the work of evolutionary psychologists like John Tooby and Leda Cosmides.
Approached through the primordialist perspective, the example of seeing the mobilization of a foreign military force on the nation’s borders may provoke members of a national group to unify and mobilize themselves in response. There are proximate environments where individuals identify nonimmediate real or imagined situations in combination with immediate situations that make individuals confront a common situation of both subjective and objective components that affect their decisions. As such proximate environments cause people to make decisions based on existing situations and anticipated situations.
- the articulation of cultural evolutionary theory represents theoretical progress over sociobiology, but its explanatory payoff remains limited due to the role of contingency in human affairs and the significance of non-evolutionary, proximate causal factors. While evolutionary theory undoubtedly elucidates the development of all organic life, it would seem to operate best at macro-levels of analysis, “distal” points of explanation, and from the perspective of the long-term. Hence, it is bound to display shortcomings at micro-level events that are highly contingent in nature.
English Historian G. P. Gooch in 1920 argued that “While patriotism is as old as human association and has gradually widened its sphere from the clan and the tribe to the city and the state, nationalism as an operative principle and an articulate creed only made its appearance among the more complicated intellectual processes of the modern world.
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels declared in the Communist Manifesto that “the working men have no country”.
Vladimir Lenin supported the concept of self-determination.
Joseph Stalin’s Marxism and the National Question (1913) declares that “a nation is not a racial or tribal, but a historically constituted community of people;” “a nation is not a casual or ephemeral conglomeration, but a stable community of people”; “a nation is formed only as a result of lengthy and systematic intercourse, as a result of people living together generation after generation”; and, in its entirety: “a nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.”
Historians, sociologists, and anthropologists have debated different types of nationalism since at least the 1930s. Generally, the most common way of classifying nationalism has been to describe movements as having either “civic” or “ethnic” nationalist characteristics. This distinction was popularized in the 1950s by Hans Kohn who described “civic” nationalism as “Western” and more democratic while depicting “ethnic” nationalism as “Eastern” and undemocratic. Since the 1980s, however, scholars of nationalism have pointed out numerous flaws in this rigid division and proposed more specific classifications and numerous varieties.
Civic nationalism and liberal nationalism
Civic nationalism defines the nation as an association of people who identify themselves as belonging to the nation, who have equal and shared political rights, and allegiance to similar political procedures. According to the principles of civic nationalism, the nation is not based on common ethnic ancestry, but is a political entity whose core identity is not ethnicity. This civic concept of nationalism is exemplified by Ernest Renan in his lecture in 1882 “What is a Nation?”, where he defined the nation as a “daily referendum” (frequently translated “daily plebiscite”) dependent on the will of its people to continue living together.
Civic nationalism is normally associated with liberal nationalism, although the two are distinct, and did not always coincide. On the one hand, until the late 19th and early 20th century adherents to anti-Enlightenment movements such as French Legitimism or Spanish Carlism often rejected the liberal, national unitary state, yet identified themselves not with an ethnic nation but with a non-national dynasty and regional feudal privileges. Xenophobic movements in long-established Western European states indeed often took a ‘civic national’ form, rejecting a given group’s ability to assimilate with the nation due to its belonging to a cross-border community (Irish Catholics in Britain, Ashkenazic Jews in France). On the other hand, while subnational separatist movements were commonly associated with ethnic nationalism, this was not always so, and such nationalists as the Corsican Republic, United Irishmen, Breton Federalist League or Catalan Republican Party could combine a rejection of the unitary civic-national state with a belief in liberal universalism.
Liberal nationalism is kind of non-xenophobic nationalism that is claimed to be compatible with liberal values of freedom, tolerance, equality, and individual rights. Ernest Renan and John Stuart Mill are often thought to be early liberal nationalists. Liberal nationalists often defend the value of national identity by saying that individuals need a national identity to lead meaningful, autonomous lives, and that liberal democratic polities need national identity to function properly.
Civic nationalism lies within the traditions of rationalism and liberalism, but as a form of nationalism it is usually contrasted with ethnic nationalism. Civic nationalism is correlated with long-established states whose dynastic rulers had gradually acquired multiple distinct territories, with little change to boundaries, but which contained historical populations of multiple linguistic and/or confessional backgrounds. Since individuals resident within different parts of the state territory might have little obvious common ground, civic nationalism developed as a way for rulers to both explain a contemporary reason for such heterogeneity and to provide a common purpose (Ernest Renan’s classic description in What is a Nation? (1882) as a voluntary partnership for a common endeavour). Renan argued that factors such as ethnicity, language, religion, economics, geography, ruling dynasty and historic military deeds were important but not sufficient. Needed was a spiritual soul that allowed as a “daily referendum” among the people. Civic-national ideals influenced the development of representative democracy in multiethnic countries such as the United States and France, as well as in constitutional monarchies such as Great Britain, Belgium and Spain.
German philosopher Monika Kirloskar-Steinbach does not think liberalism and nationalism are compatible, but she points out there are many liberals who think they are. She states:
- Justifications of nationalism seem to be making a headway in political philosophy. Its proponents contend that liberalism and nationalism are not necessarily mutually exclusive and that they can in fact be made compatible. Liberal nationalists urge one to consider nationalism not as the pathology of modernity but as an answer to its malaise. For them, nationalism is more than an infantile disease, more than “the measles of mankind” as Einstein once proclaimed it to be. They argue that nationalism is a legitimate way of understanding one’s role and place in life. They strive for a normative justification of nationalism which lies within liberal limits. The main claim which seems to be involved here is that as long as a nationalism abhors violence and propagates liberal rights and equal citizenship for all citizens of its state, its philosophical credentials can be considered to be sound.
“Creole nationalism” refers to the ideology that emerged in independence movements among the creoles (descendants of the colonizers), especially in Latin America in the early 19th century. It was facilitated when French Emperor Napoleon seized control of Spain and Portugal, breaking the chain of control from the Spanish and Portuguese kings to the local governors. Allegiance to the Napoleonic states was rejected, and increasingly the creoles demanded independence. They achieved it after civil wars 1808–1826.
Nativist nationalism is a type of nationalism similar to creole or territorial types of nationalism, but which defines belonging to a nation solely by being born on its territory. In countries where strong nativist nationalism exists, people who were not born in the country are seen as lesser nationals than those who were born there, and are called ” immigrants” even if they became naturalized. It is cultural as people will never see a foreign-born person as one of them, and is legal, as such people are banned for life from holding certain jobs, especially government jobs. This nationalism is common in the Americas, both in daily life and in legal and work areas.
Ethnic nationalism, also known as ethno-nationalism, is a form of nationalism wherein the “nation” is defined in terms of ethnicity. The central theme of ethnic nationalists is that “nations are defined by a shared heritage, which usually includes a common language, a common faith, and a common ethnic ancestry”. It also includes ideas of a culture shared between members of the group, and with their ancestors. However, it is different from a purely cultural definition of “the nation,” which allows people to become members of a nation by cultural assimilation; and from a purely linguistic definition, according to which “the nation” consists of all speakers of a specific language.
Whereas nationalism in and of itself does not imply a belief in the superiority of one ethnicity or country over others, some nationalists support ethnocentric supremacy or protectionism.
The humiliation of being a second-class citizen led regional minorities in multiethnic states, such as Great Britain, Spain, France, Germany, Russia and the Ottoman Empire, to define nationalism in terms of loyalty to their minority culture, especially language and religion. Forced assimilation was anathema.
For the politically dominant cultural group, assimilation was necessary to minimize disloyalty and treason and therefore became a major component of nationalism. A second factor for the politically dominant group was competition with neighboring states—nationalism involved a rivalry, especially in terms of military prowess and economic strength.
Economic nationalism, or economic patriotism, refers to an ideology that favors state interventionism in the economy, with policies that emphasize domestic control of the economy, labor, and capital formation, even if this requires the imposition of tariffs and other restrictions on the movement of labor, goods and capital.
Religious nationalism is the relationship of nationalism to a particular religious belief, dogma, or affiliation where a shared religion can be seen to contribute to a sense of national unity, a common bond among the citizens of the nation. Saudi Arabian, Iranian, Egyptian, Iraqi, and the Pakistani-Islamic nationalism (Two-Nation Theory) are some examples.
Many nationalist movements are dedicated to national liberation, in the view that their nations are being persecuted by other nations and thus need to exercise self-determination by liberating themselves from the accused persecutors. Anti-revisionist Marxist–Leninism is closely tied with this ideology, and practical examples include Stalin’s early work Marxism and the National Question and his socialism in one country edict, which declares that nationalism can be used in an internationalist context, fighting for national liberation without racial or religious divisions.
Other examples of left-wing nationalism include Fidel Castro’s 26th of July Movement that launched the Cuban Revolution in 1959, Cornwall’s Mebyon Kernow, Ireland’s Sinn Féin, Wales’s Plaid Cymru, the Awami League in Bangladesh, the African National Congress in South Africa and numerous movements in Eastern Europe.
Some nationalists exclude certain groups. Some nationalists, defining the national community in ethnic, linguistic, cultural, historic, or religious terms (or a combination of these), may then seek to deem certain minorities as not truly being a part of the ‘national community’ as they define it. Sometimes a mythic homeland is more important for the national identity than the actual territory occupied by the nation.
Integral nationalism, irredentism, and pan-nationalism
There are different types of nationalism including Risorgimento nationalism and Integral nationalism. Whereas risorgimento nationalism applies to a nation seeking to establish a liberal state (for example the Risorgimento in Italy and similar movements in Greece, Germany, Poland during the 19th century or the civic American nationalism), integral nationalism results after a nation has achieved independence and has established a state. Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, according to Alter and Brown, were examples of integral nationalism.
Some of the qualities that characterize integral nationalism are anti-individualism, statism, radical extremism, and aggressive-expansionist militarism. The term Integral Nationalism often overlaps with fascism, although many natural points of disagreement exist. Integral nationalism arises in countries where a strong military ethos has become entrenched through the independence struggle, when, once independence is achieved, it is believed that a strong military is required to ensure the security and viability of the new state. Also, the success of such a liberation struggle results in feelings of national superiority that may lead to extreme nationalism.
Pan-nationalism is unique in that it covers a large area span. Pan-nationalism focuses more on “clusters” of ethnic groups. Pan-Slavism is one example of Pan-nationalism. The goal is to unite all Slavic people into one country. They did succeed by uniting several south Slavic people into Yugoslavia in 1918.
Benedict Anderson argued that anti-colonial nationalism is grounded in the experience of literate and bilingual indigenous intellectuals fluent in the language of the imperial power, schooled in its “national” history, and staffing the colonial administrative cadres up to but not including its highest levels. Post-colonial national governments have been essentially indigenous forms of the previous imperial administration.
Racial nationalism is an ideology that advocates a racial definition of national identity. Racial nationalism seeks to preserve a given race through policies such as banning race mixing and the immigration of other races. Specific examples are black nationalism and white nationalism.
Sport spectacles like football’s World Cup command worldwide audiences as nations battle for supremacy and the fans invest intense support for their national team. Increasingly people have tied their loyalties and even their cultural identity to national teams. The globalization of audiences through television and other media has generated revenues from advertisers and subscribers in the billions of dollars, as the FIFA Scandals of 2015 revealed. Jeff Kingston looks at football, the Commonwealth Games, baseball, cricket, and the Olympics and finds that, “The capacity of sports to ignite and amplify nationalist passions and prejudices is as extraordinary as is their power to console, unify, uplift and generate goodwill.” The phenomenon is evident across most of the world. The British Empire strongly emphasized sports among its soldiers and agents across the world, and often the locals joined in enthusiastically. It established a high prestige competition in 1930, named the British Empire Games from 1930–50, the British Empire and Commonwealth Games from 1954–66, British Commonwealth Games from 1970–74 and since then the Commonwealth Games.
The French Empire was not far behind the British in the use of sports to strengthen colonial solidarity with France. Colonial officials promoted and subsidized gymnastics, table games, and dance and helped football spread to French colonies.
Gendered and muscular nationalism
Feminist critique interprets nationalism as a mechanism through which sexual control and repression are justified and legitimised, often by a dominant masculine power. The gendering of nationalism through socially constructed notions of masculinity and femininity not only shapes what masculine and feminine participation in the building of that nation will look like, but also how the nation will be imagined by nationalists. A nation having its own identity is viewed as necessary, and often inevitable, and these identities are gendered. The physical land itself is often gendered as female (i.e. “Motherland“), with a body in constant danger of violation by foreign males, while national pride and protectiveness of “her” borders is gendered as masculine.
The status of conquered nations can become a causality dilemma: the nation was “conquered because they were effeminate and seen as effeminate because they were conquered.” In defeat they are considered militaristically unskilled, not aggressive, and thus not muscular. In order for a nation to be considered “proper”, it must possess the male-gendered characteristics of virility, as opposed to the stereotypically female characteristics of subservience and dependency. Muscular nationalism is often inseparable from the concept of a warrior, which shares ideological commonalities across many nations; they are defined by the masculine notions of aggression, willingness to engage in war, decisiveness, and muscular strength, as opposed to the feminine notions of peacefulness, weakness, non-violence, and compassion. This masculinized image of a warrior has been theorised to be “the culmination of a series of gendered historical and social processes” played out in a national and international context. Ideas of cultural dualism—of a martial man and chaste woman—which are implicit in muscular nationalism, underline the raced, classed, gendered, and heteronormative nature of dominant national identity.
Nations and gender systems are mutually supportive constructions: the nation fulfils the masculine ideals of comradeship and brotherhood. Masculinity has been cited as a notable factor in producing political militancy. A common feature of national crisis is a drastic shift in the socially acceptable ways of being a man, which then helps to shape the gendered perception of the nation as a whole.
Critics of nationalism have argued that it is often unclear what constitutes a nation, or whether a nation is a legitimate unit of political rule. Nationalists hold that the boundaries of a nation and a state should coincide with one another, thus nationalism tends to oppose multiculturalism. It can also lead to conflict when more than one national group finds itself claiming rights to a particular territory or seeking to take control of the state.
Philosopher A.C. Grayling describes nations as artificial constructs, “their boundaries drawn in the blood of past wars”. He argues that “there is no country on earth which is not home to more than one different but usually coexisting culture. Cultural heritage is not the same thing as national identity”.
Nationalism is inherently divisive because it highlights perceived differences between people, emphasizing an individual’s identification with their own nation. The idea is also potentially oppressive because it submerges individual identity within a national whole and gives elites or political leaders potential opportunities to manipulate or control the masses. Much of the early opposition to nationalism was related to its geopolitical ideal of a separate state for every nation. The classic nationalist movements of the 19th century rejected the very existence of the multi-ethnic empires in Europe. However, even in that early stage there was an ideological critique of nationalism which has developed into several forms of internationalism and anti-nationalism. The Islamic revival of the 20th century also produced an Islamist critique of the nation-state.
At the end of the 19th century, Marxists and other socialists and communists (such as Rosa Luxemburg) produced political analysis that were critical of the nationalist movements then active in Central and Eastern Europe, although a variety of other contemporary socialists and communists, from Vladimir Lenin (a communist) to Józef Piłsudski (a socialist), were more sympathetic to national self-determination.
In his classic essay on the topic, George Orwell distinguishes nationalism from patriotism which he defines as devotion to a particular place. More abstractly, nationalism is “power-hunger tempered by self-deception”.
For Orwell, the nationalist is more likely than not dominated by irrational negative impulses:
There are, for example, Trotskyists who have become simply enemies of the U.S.S.R. without developing a corresponding loyalty to any other unit. When one grasps the implications of this, the nature of what I mean by nationalism becomes a good deal clearer. A nationalist is one who thinks solely, or mainly, in terms of competitive prestige. He may be a positive or a negative nationalist—that is, he may use his mental energy either in boosting or in denigrating—but at any rate his thoughts always turn on victories, defeats, triumphs and humiliations. He sees history, especially contemporary history, as the endless rise and decline of great power units and every event that happens seems to him a demonstration that his own side is on the upgrade and some hated rival is on the downgrade. But finally, it is important not to confuse nationalism with mere worship of success. The nationalist does not go on the principle of simply ganging up with the strongest side. On the contrary, having picked his side, he persuades himself that it is the strongest and is able to stick to his belief even when the facts are overwhelmingly against him.
In the liberal political tradition there was mostly a negative attitude toward nationalism as a dangerous force and a cause of conflict and war between nation-states. The historian Lord Acton put the case against “nationalism as insanity” in 1862. He argued that nationalism suppresses minorities, it places country above moral principles and especially it creates a dangerous individual attachment to the state. However, Acton opposed democracy and was trying to defend the pope from Italian nationalism. Since the late 20th century, liberals have been increasingly divided, with some philosophers such as Michael Walzer, Isaiah Berlin, Charles Taylor and David Miller emphasizing that a liberal society needed to be based in a stable nation state.
The pacifist critique of nationalism also concentrates on the violence of nationalist movements, the associated militarism, and on conflicts between nations inspired by jingoism or chauvinism. National symbols and patriotic assertiveness are in some countries discredited by their historical link with past wars, especially in Germany. British pacifist Bertrand Russell criticizes nationalism for diminishing the individual’s capacity to judge his or her fatherland’s foreign policy. Albert Einstein stated that
“Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind”.
Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia