Nationalism

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It is not easy to see how the more extreme forms of nationalism can long survive when men have seen the Earth in its true perspective as a single small globe against the stars.
Arthur C. Clarke
The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.
George Orwell[1]

Nationalism is a term used for any ideology or political cause based on "national consciousness" and a belief in the unity of one's own nation. The nation is, contrary to popular American usage, not necessarily defined by political geography of nation states, but refers to a group of people with certain shared characteristics, usually linguistics, history, religion, or common historical experience, each of which may also delineate an ethnicity.

Nationalism has traditionally been a powerful force in domestic politics and international relations.

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[edit] Sovereignty movements

The nature of nationalism depends on the context. One type of nationalism is that of an ethnic group or region, who are not recognised as a free nation, asserting their right to nationhood and demanding sovereignty. Contemporary examples of this include Irish nationalism (in Northern Ireland), Basque nationalism, Kurdish nationalism and Tibetan nationalism. Some of the current states of the world, including Australia, India and the USA, owe their existence to the struggles of nationalists during colonial history, while others, such as Germany and Italy, were formed by nationalist unifications of smaller existing states.

Since the concept of nation is so fluid, nationalisms can flow and transform from one to another. For example, when Yugoslavia collapsed, and split along ethnic lines, it was possible (and indeed, inevitable) for a former Yugoslav nationalist to transfer that feeling to his smaller ethnic group. Gamal Nasser of Egypt was important in a movement that worked to create a pan-Arab nationalism.

[edit] Sense of superiority

Maybe if we felt any loss as keenly as we felt the death of one close to us, human history would be a lot less bloody.
—Commander Riker, Star Trek: The Next Generation

Other types of nationalism involve promoting the idea that one's own nation is inherently superior to other nations in its values, culture and other attributes. In modern times, this form of nationalism is most associated with fascism and Nazism, and played an important part in Italian, German and Japanese aggression before and during World War II. It is also strongly associated with racism, and the word "nationalist" continues to carry these connotations. In the English-speaking world, few people would describe themselves as a nationalist, and those few are usually also associated with racialism, whereas the word "patriot" or "patriotism" are more readily used in terms of positive sentiments about one's country.

[edit] Schools of thought

Nationalism has paradoxically been seen as both universal and particular.[2] Amid constant debates, schools of thought have emerged that try to explain it. The following are some of the major ones.

  • Primordialism: An early strain of nationalism as a coherent academic thought, its followers argued that nations are timeless, biological phenomena. Though the school has it origins in Romanticism, it has since become discredited by most scholars especially after the Second World War.[3]
  • Perrenialism: A response to (and an off-shoot of) Primordialism, it instead posits that nations are not found in nature, but have changed in shape and kind over time. Similarly to the Primordialists however, it argues that countries have been around for a long time.[4]
  • Modernism: Coming into prominence in part as a rebuttal to Primordialism, Modernist scholars argue that nationalism is an entirely modern construct of relatively recent vintage, a product of modernity itself. Marxist critiques of nationalism tend to either fall here or in postmodern off-shoots. Benedict Anderson's idea of nations as "imagined communities" also largely stems from this tradition.[5]
  • Ethnosymbolism: A response to both Modernists and Perrenialists, Ethno-symbolists and similar offshoots seek to reconcile the two sides, stressing the importance of symbols, myths, values and traditions.[6] In this view, nations are both ancient and modern, invented even as they're rooted in history. The school in its current form was pioneered by scholars such as Anthony D. Smith.

Stuart J. Kaufman meanwhile describes seven core rhetorical tenets observed to be utilized by ethnic nationalist movements:

  1. If an area was ours for 500 years and yours for 50 years, it should belong to us – you are merely occupiers.
  2. If an area was yours for 500 years and ours for 50 years, it should belong to us – borders must not be changed.
  3. If an area belonged to us 500 years ago but never since then, it should belong to us – it is the cradle of our nation.
  4. If a majority of our people live there, it must belong to us – they must enjoy the right of self-determination.
  5. If a minority of our people live there, it must belong to us – they must be protected against your oppression.
  6. All of the above rules apply to us, but not to you.
  7. Our dream of greatness is historical necessity, yours is fascism.[7]

[edit] Political spectrum

Politically, nationalists tend to be rather conservative, as they seek to reconnect with the "old ways" of their people. However, there have been many liberal nationalists, who felt that their nation could only survive by making drastic changes in the social and political systems. Some, such as Mohammad Mossadegh, were part of the anti-colonial movement.

Today, there is a concentration of such nationalists in East Asia.[8] In the past, German nationalism was also a liberal idea, attempting to unite a Germany fractured into a slew of tiny states after the Napoleonic Wars; the Deutschlandlied, much later to become a favorite song of Nazis,[9] was initially written as a drinking song by a liberal professor who was rewarded for his pains by being fired from his job and hounded by the police. After Otto von Bismarck succeeded in uniting most of the German-speaking areas, and German Austria became independent of the non-German parts of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, the idea became a feature of the extreme right.

That said, due to the at times confusing dynamics between nationalism and patriotism, like populism it's hard to really pin down where it fits in the political spectrum when the term itself can have various (charged) meanings in different countries and covers various right-wing and left-wing strains.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Footnotes

  1. According to the essay this came from, the phrase can also apply to anyone blindly following any belief or ideology.
  2. Nationalism, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  3. That this particular school became associated with Nazis, racists and the far-right in general doesn't help.
  4. Smith, Anthony D. "Gastronomy or geology? The role of nationalism in the reconstruction of nations."
  5. Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities
  6. Ethnosymbolism
  7. The Seven Rules of Nationalism
  8. One current example of this could be Guo Quan, who is an extreme Chinese nationalist, but also a leading democracy advocate.
  9. That is, once they had eliminated the third verse, which contained too many references to freedom and justice for their liking, and the second verse, which contained too many references to distractions like wine, women, and song.
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