Nationalism: Core Ideas and Principles

Nationalism: Core Ideas and Principles

  • Nationalism – the political ideas and movements which have the interests and advancement of the NATION as their central theme, inspiration and aspiration.
  • Nationalism – highly relevant in the modern world and modern society. Wherever there is conflict between countries, and often within countries, nationalism is probably the motivation behind it.
  • Nationalism is a romanticist ideology and its appeal is based upon emotion rather than rational logic.
  • In common with fascism, the ideology of nationalism centres upon the politics of action rather than academic rigour.
  • Because of this, nationalism has often been described as intellectually the weakest of all the ideologies; and there is some merit to this claim.
  • Nationalist ideas have shaped the world in a dramatic fashion, and the world we inhabit is – quite literally – defined by national boundaries. Even in an era characterised by mutual dependence and globalisation; nationalist ideas retain their power.
  • The term nation is commonly used and may be defined as a mass community who share an identity that combines elements of nationhood (such as a shared history and language).
  • nation is a subjective entity in which people are bound together by a common language, religion, historical narrative and cultural traditions. It is grounded in a palpable yet intangible sense of national identity. To belong to a nation is a sentiment we feel more than we can ever properly articulate.
  • nation is often confused and conflated with the notion of a nation-state and it is important that YOU distinguish between them.
  • nation is an intangible entity based upon a shared identity, whereas a nation-state is a territorial construct in which a nation’s boundaries are contained within a state.

Core ideas and principles of nationalism

Nations

The term nation may be defined as a mass community who share an identity that combines elements of nationhood.

nation is a subjective entity in which people are bound together by a common language, religion, historical narrative and cultural traditions. It is grounded in a sense of national identity.

nation is therefore self-defined. When a group of people consider themselves to be a nation, but others do not, these differing opinions can often lead to conflict i.e. Northern Ireland, Catalunya/Spain, Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Nation state

nation-state is a territorial construct in which a nation’s boundaries are contained within a state.

nation-state is when a nation rules itself within the geographical area it controls. Most countries in Europe are considered to be nation-states. For example, Italy, Austria and Denmark are all areas controlled respectively by Italians, Austrians and Danes.

However – the KURDISH NATION: a community of people who consider themselves to be connected together through their shared history, culture, values and language . . . but no NATION STATE. Although Kurdistan exists as an idea and a geographical area, the Kurds do not rule themselves within this area – it’s in Syria, Iran, Turkey and Iraq – all of whom are nation states.

Self-determination

Self-determination is the desire to make decisions for oneself.

In other words – AUTONOMY. Self-determination is the primary aim of most nations. This is because most nations believe that only they know what they want and so only they can make decisions that will benefit them.

Self-determination is associated with the 18th century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s idea of ‘GENERAL WILL’, where he argued that a community of people was a recognised political unit who had rights and should be heard.

Rousseau

Culturalism

Culturalism is the way some nations identify themselves.

It is the idea that each nation has a unique and powerful mix of shared VALUES and HISTORY, which, when seen as a whole, represent their CULTURE.

The 18th century philosopher Johann HERDER argued that a nation’s culture is crucial in understanding its VOLKSGEIST (the ‘thing’ / culture that makes a national people ‘unique’).

Some nations do not seek self-determination, preferring instead to be a component part of a larger nation as long as they are given the freedom to practise and protect their unique cultural heritage: the Welsh are a good example of this.

Culturalism thus emphasises the emotional links people have with their nation and are grounded in more ‘mystical’, emotional ties.

Racialism

A few nations, historically, have identified themselves as such on the basis of RACE.

RACIALISM – the belief that there is not a single human race – there are a number of distinct races.

Such beliefs argue that race is biological and, as such, unchangeable. One is born into a specific race. (Only a very small group of nationalists believe this).

Forms of nationalism which use race as their determining factor are highly exclusive as no one can be a part of the nation unless they are born into it. Nazi Germany is an example of racialism.

It is useful for you to understand that the notion of racialism can be seen as a perversion of the idea of culturalism, turning it into something far darker.

Internationalism

The concept of INTERNATIONALISM look beyond the nation and nationalism to the wider world.

Two types of internationalism – LIBERAL INTERNATIONALISM and SOCIALIST INTERNATIONALISM – have very different conclusions as to the role of nationalism in the world.

Liberal internationalism sees the world as made up of independent nation states, freely cooperating with each other.

For socialist internationalists, it is possible to build a better world based upon the twin goals of equality and social justice. Nations should work together to create a more peaceful world and finally bring an end to capitalist exploitation.

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