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Nationalism refers to an ideology, a sentiment, a form of culture, or a social movement that focuses on the nation.[1] It is a type of collectivism emphasizing the collective of a specific nation. While there is significant debate over the historical origins of nations, nearly all specialists accept that nationalism, at least as an ideology and social movement, is a modern phenomenon originating in Europe.[2] Precisely where and when it emerged is difficult to determine, but its development is closely related to that of the modern state and the push for popular sovereignty that came to a head with the French Revolution in the late 18th century. Since that time, nationalism has become one of the most significant political and social forces in history, perhaps most notably as a major influence or cause of World War I and especially World War II with the rise of fascism, a radical and authoritarian nationalist ideology.[3][4][5][6]

As an ideology, nationalism holds that 'the people' in the doctrine of popular sovereignty is the nation, and that as a result only nation-states founded on the principle of national self-determination are legitimate. Since most states are multinational, or at least home to more than one group claiming national status,[7] in many cases nationalist pursuit of self-determination has caused conflict between people and states including war[8] (both external and domestic), secession; and in extreme cases, genocide.

Nationalism is a strong social phenomenon in the world as national flags, national anthems and national divisions are examples of 'banal' nationalism that is often mentally unconscious.[9] Moreover, some scholars argue that nationalism as a sentiment or form of culture, sometimes described as 'nationality' to avoid the ideology's tarnished reputation, is the social foundation of modern society. Industrialization, democratization, and support for economic redistribution have all been at least partly attributed to the shared social context and solidarity that nationalism provides.[10][11][12]

Even though nationalism ultimately is based on supporting ones own nation, nationalists of different states may perfectly well cooperate among each other as to support the ultimate worldwide belief that all groups of nationalities have the right to have their own nations.

Nevertheless, nationalism remains a hotly contested subject on which there is little general consensus. The clearest example of opposition to nationalism is cosmopolitanism, with adherents as diverse as liberals, Marxists, and anarchists, but even nationalism's defenders often disagree on its virtues, and it is common for nationalists of one persuasion to disparage the aspirations of others for both principled and strategic reasons. Indeed, the only fact about nationalism that is not in dispute may be that few other social phenomena have had a more enduring impact on the modern world.



Background and problems

People define nationalism on the basis of their local experience. Theory (and media coverage) may overemphasize conflicting nationalist movements, and war - diverting attention from many general theoretical issues; for instance, the characteristics of nation-states.


The first studies of nationalism were generally historical accounts of nationalist movements. At the end of the 19th century, Marxists and other socialists (such as Rosa Luxemburg) produced political analyses that were critical of the nationalist movements then active in central and eastern Europe (though a variety of other contemporary socialists and communists, from Lenin (a communist) to Józef Piłsudski (a socialist), were more sympathetic to national self-determination)[13]. Most sociological theories of nationalism date from after the Second World War. Some nationalism theory is about issues which concern nationalists themselves, such as who belongs to the nation and who does not, as well as the precise meaning of 'belonging'.


(Eugène Delacroix, 1830) is a famous example of nationalist art]] Recent general theory has looked at underlying issues, and above all the question of which came first, nations or nationalism. Nationalist activists see themselves as representing a pre-existing nation, and the primordialist theory of nationalism agrees. It sees nations, or at least ethnic groups, as a social reality dating back twenty thousand years.

The modernist theories imply that until around 1800, almost no-one had more than local loyalties. National identity and unity were originally imposed from above, by European states, because they were necessary to modernize economy and society. In this theory, nationalist conflicts are an unintended side-effect. For example, Ernest Gellner argued that nations are a by-product of industrialization. Modernization theorists see such things as the printing press and capitalism as necessary conditions for nationalism.[14] Unfortunately, this theory falls short of addressing all nationalist efforts, including the Flemings repulsion of the French in the 14th century, or any nationalist efforts against empires before 1800[citation needed] .

Anthony D. Smith proposed a synthesis of primordialist and modernist views now commonly referred to as an ethno-symbolist approach. According to Smith, the preconditions for the formation of a nation are as follows:

  • A fixed homeland (current or historical)
  • High autonomy
  • Hostile surroundings
  • Memories of battles
  • Sacred centers
  • Languages and scripts
  • Special customs
  • Historical records and thinking

Those preconditions may create powerful common mythology. Therefore, the mythic homeland is in reality more important for the national identity than the actual territory occupied by the nation.[15] Smith also posits that nations are formed through the inclusion of the whole populace (not just elites), constitution of legal and political institutions, nationalist ideology, international recognition and drawing up of borders.

Types of nationalism

Nationalism may manifest itself as part of official state ideology or as a popular (non-state) movement and may be expressed along civic, ethnic, cultural, religious or ideological lines. These self-definitions of the nation are used to classify types of nationalism. However, such categories are not mutually exclusive and many nationalist movements combine some or all of these elements to varying degrees. Nationalist movements can also be classified by other criteria, such as scale and location.

Some political theorists make the case that any distinction between forms of nationalism is false. In all forms of nationalism, the populations believe that they share some kind of common culture. A main reason why such typology can be considered false is that it attempts to bend the fairly simple concept of nationalism to explain its many manifestations or interpretations. Arguably, all "types" of nationalism merely refer to different ways academics throughout the years have tried to define nationalism. This school of thought accepts that nationalism is simply the desire of a nation to self-determine.

Civic nationalism

Civic or cultural nationalism is focused on cultural rather than hereditary connections between people. Civic nationalism promotes common cultural values and allows people of different origins to assimilate into the nation.

Ethnic nationalism

Ethnic nationalism is based on the hereditary connections of people. Ethnic nationalism specifically seeks to unite all people of a certain ethnicity heritage together. Ethnic nationalism does not seek to include people of other ethnicities.


Irredentism is a form of nationalism promoting the annexation of territories, which have or previously had members of the nation residing within them, to a state which comprises most or all of the nation's members.

Expansionist nationalism

Expansionist nationalism promoted spreading the nation's members to new territories, usually on the claimed basis that existing territory which the nation has resided in is too small or is not able to physically or economically sustain the nation's population.

Radical or revolutionary nationalism

Liberation nationalism

Many nationalist movements in the world 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 i.e. fighting for national liberation without racial or religious divisions.


Fascism is an authoritarian nationalist ideology[16][17][18][19] which promotes national revolution, national collectivism, a totalitarian state, and irredentism or expansionism to unify and allow the growth of a nation. Fascists often promote ethnic nationalism but also have promoted cultural nationalism including cultural assimilation of people outside a specific ethnic group.

Stateless Nationalism

With the establishment of a nation-state, the primary goal of any nationalist movement has been achieved. However, nationalism does not disappear but remains a political force within the nation, and inspires political parties and movements. The development of state nationalism leads to the development of stateless nationalism movements that feel oppressed by the mainstream nationalistic conception of the nation — such as the "eternal Spain", "La Grande France" - and aspire at setting up their own state either within the nation state or a state of its own.

Stateless Nationalists in this sense typically campaign for:

  • Defending from strengthening national unity, including campaigns for national salvation in times of crisis
  • Confronting nation state policies that attempt to impose a model of political behaviour from the top
  • Unlike state nationalism, it is more open to foreign influences. Influenced by civic liberalism, stateless nationalists reject the extreme xenophobia of state nationalist parties.
  • Attempting to make borders flexible so as to collaborate with neighbouring territories sharing common interests.
  • Redefining the national territory which is considered part of the national homeland. This is called irredentism, from the Italian movement Italia irredenta.
  • Small nations cannot survive unless they are opened to foreign trade so that they reject economic nationalism of nation states.
independentist mural in Republican district in Belfast]]

Nationalist parties and nationalist politicians, in this sense, usually place great emphasis on national symbols, such as the national flag.

The term 'nationalism' is also used by extension, or as a metaphor, to describe movements which promote a group identity of some kind. This use is especially common in the United States, and includes black nationalism and white nationalism in a cultural sense. They may overlap with nationalism in the classic sense, including black secessionist movements and pan-Africanism.

The emotions can be purely negative: a shared sense of threat can unify the nation. However, dramatic events, such as defeat in war, can qualitatively affect national identity and attitudes to non-national groups. The defeat of Germany in World War I, and the perceived humiliation by the Treaty of Versailles, economic crisis and hyperinflation, created a climate for xenophobia, revanchism, and the rise of Nazism. The solid bourgeois patriotism of the pre-1914 years, with the Kaiser as national father-figure, was no longer relevant.


Nationalism does not necessarily imply a belief in the superiority of one ethnicity over others, but some people believe that some so-called nationalists support ethnocentric protectionism or ethnocentric supremacy. Studies have yielded evidence that such behaviour may be derived from innate preferences in humans from infancy[20].

In the USA for example, non-indigenous ethnocentric nationalist movements exist for both so-called "black" and "white" peoples. These forms of "nationalism" often promote or glorify foreign nations that they believe can serve as an example for their own nation, see Anglophilia or Afrocentrism.

Explicit biological race theory was influential from the end of the 19th century. Nationalist and Fascist movements in the first half of the 20th century often appealed to these theories. The National Socialist ideology was amongst the most comprehensively "racial" ideologies: the concept of "race" influenced aspects of policy in Nazi Germany. In the 21st century the term "race" is no longer regarded by many people as a meaningful term to describe the range of human phenotype clusters; the term ethnocentrism is a more accurate and meaningful term[21].

Ethnic cleansing is often seen as both a nationalist and ethnocentrist phenomenon. It is part of nationalist logic that the state is reserved for one nation, but not all nationalist nation-states expel their minorities.

Opposition and critique

Nationalism is sometimes an extremely assertive ideology, making far-reaching, if sometimes justified, demands, including the disappearance of entire states. It has attracted vehement opposition. 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. This resulted in severe repression by the (generally autocratic) governments of those empires. That tradition of secessionism, repression, and violence continues, although by now a large nation typically confronts a smaller nation. Even in that early stage, however, there was an ideological critique of nationalism. That has developed into several forms of anti-nationalism in the western world. The Islamic revival of the 20th century also produced an Islamic critique of the nation-state.

In the liberal political tradition there is widespread criticism of ‘nationalism’ as a dangerous force and a cause of conflict and war between nation-states. Nationalism has often been exploited to encourage citizens to partake in the nations conflicts. Such examples include The Great War and World War Two, where nationalism was a key component of propaganda material. Liberals do not generally dispute the existence of the nation-states. The liberal critique also emphasizes individual freedom as opposed to national identity, which is by definition collective (see collectivism).

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. Famous pacifist Bertrand Russell criticizes nationalism of diminishing individual's capacity to judge his or hers fatherland's foreign policy.[22] William Blum has said this in other words: "If love is blind, patriotism has lost all five senses"[23][page needed]

The anti-racist critique of nationalism concentrates on the attitudes to other nations, and especially on the doctrine that the nation-state exists for one national group, to the exclusion of others. It emphasizes the chauvinism and xenophobia that have often resulted from nationalist sentiment

Political movements of the left have often been suspicious of nationalism, again without necessarily seeking the disappearance of the existing nation-states. Marxism has been ambiguous towards the nation-state, and in the late 19th century some Marxist theorists rejected it completely. For some Marxists the world revolution implied a global state (or global absence of state); for others it meant that each nation-state had its own revolution. A significant event in this context was the failure of the social-democratic and socialist movements in Europe to mobilize a cross-border workers' opposition to World War I. At present most, but certainly not all, left-wing groups accept the nation-state, and see it as the political arena for their activities.

In the Western world the most comprehensive current ideological alternative to nationalism is cosmopolitanism. Ethical cosmopolitanism rejects one of the basic ethical principles of nationalism: that humans owe more duties to a fellow member of the nation, than to a non-member. It rejects such important nationalist values as national identity and national loyalty. However, there is also a political cosmopolitanism, which has a geopolitical program to match that of nationalism: it seeks some form of world state, with a world government. Very few people openly and explicitly support the establishment of a global state, but political cosmopolitanism has influenced the development of international criminal law, and the erosion of the status of national sovereignty. In turn, nationalists are deeply suspicious of cosmopolitan attitudes, which they equate with eradication of diverse national cultures.

While internationalism in the cosmopolitanist context by definition implies cooperation among nations and states, and therefore the existence of nations, proletarian internationalism is different, in that it calls for the international working class to follow its brethren in other countries irrespective of the activities or pressures of the national government of a particular sector of that class. Meanwhile, most (but not all) anarchists reject nation-states on the basis of self-determination of the majority social class, and thus reject nationalism. Instead of nations, anarchists usually advocate the creation of cooperative societies based on free association and mutual aid without regard to ethnicity or race.

See also

Related lists


  1. ^ Smith, Anthony D. (1993). National Identity. Reno: University of Nevada Press. p. 72. ISBN 0874172047. 
  2. ^ Smith, Anthony D. (1998). Nationalism and Modernism: A Critical Survey of Recent Theories of Nations and Nationalism. London: Routledge. ISBN 0415063418. 
  3. ^ Laqueuer, Walter." Comparative Study of Fascism" by Juan J. Linz. Fascism, A Reader's Guide: Analyses, interpretations, Bibliography. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976. Pp. 15 "Fascism is above all a nationalist movement and therefore wherever the nation and the state are strongly identified."
  4. ^ Laqueur, Walter. Fascism: Past, Present, Future. Oxford University Press, 1997. Pp. 90. "the common belief in nationalism, hierarchical structures, and the leader principle."
  5. ^ "Goebbels on National-Socialism, Bolshevism and Democracy, Documents on International Affairs, vol. II, 1938, pp. 17-19. Accessed from the Jewish Virtual Library on February 5, 2009. [1]Joseph Goebbels describes the Nazis as being allied with countries which had "authoritarian nationalist" ideology and conception of the state "It enables us to see at once why democracy and Bolshevism, which in the eyes of the world are irrevocably opposed to one another, meet again and again on common ground in their joint hatred of and attacks on authoritarian nationalist concepts of State and State systems. For the authoritarian nationalist conception of the State represents something essentially new. In it the French Revolution is superseded.".
  6. ^ Koln, Hans; Calhoun, Craig. The Idea of Nationalism: A Study in its Origins and Background. Transaction Publishers. Pp 20.
    University of California. 1942. Journal of Central European Affairs. Volume 2.
  7. ^ Connor, Walker (1994). Ethnonationalism: The Quest for Understanding. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. p. 29.,M1. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ Billig, Michael (1995). Banal Nationalism. London: Sage. ISBN 0803975252. 
  10. ^ Gellner, Ernest (2005). Nations and Nationalism (Second ed.). Blackwell. ISBN 1405134429. 
  11. ^ Canovan, Margaret (1996). Nationhood and Political Theory. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. ISBN 1840640111. 
  12. ^ Miller, David (1995). On Nationality. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198293569. 
  13. ^ Cliff, Tony (1959). "Rosa Luxemburg and the national question". Marxists Internet Archive. Retrieved on 2008-08-02. 
  14. ^ Anderson, Benedict. 1991. Imagined Communities. ISBN 0-86091-329-5, p. 6.
  15. ^ Smith, Anthony D. 1986. The Ethnic Origins of Nations London: Basil Blackwell. pp 6–18. ISBN 0-631-15205-9.
  16. ^ Laqueuer, Walter." Comparative Study of Fascism" by Juan J. Linz. Fascism, A Reader's Guide: Analyses, interpretations, Bibliography. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976. Pp. 15 "Fascism is above all a nationalist movement and therefore wherever the nation and the state are strongly identified."
  17. ^ Laqueur, Walter. Fascism: Past, Present, Future. Oxford University Press, 1997. Pp. 90. "the common belief in nationalism, hierarchical structures, and the leader principle."
  18. ^ "Goebbels on National-Socialism, Bolshevism and Democracy, Documents on International Affairs, vol. II, 1938, pp. 17-19. Accessed from the Jewish Virtual Library on February 5, 2009. [2]Joseph Goebbels describes the Nazis as being allied with countries which had "authoritarian nationalist" ideology and conception of the state "It enables us to see at once why democracy and Bolshevism, which in the eyes of the world are irrevocably opposed to one another, meet again and again on common ground in their joint hatred of and attacks on authoritarian nationalist concepts of State and State systems. For the authoritarian nationalist conception of the State represents something essentially new. In it the French Revolution is superseded.".
  19. ^ Koln, Hans; Calhoun, Craig. The Idea of Nationalism: A Study in its Origins and Background. Transaction Publishers. Pp 20.
    University of California. 1942. Journal of Central European Affairs. Volume 2.
  20. ^ Bar-Haim, Yair; Yair Bar-Haim, Talee Ziv, Dominique Lamy, Richard M. Hodes (2008), "Nature and Nurture in Own-Race Face Processing", Psychological Science 17 (2): 159–163, doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2006.01679.x, 
  21. ^ Timothy G. Reagan (2005), Non-Western Educational Traditions: Indigenous Approaches to Educational Thought and Practice, Routledge, pp. 4–5,  ISBN 0805848576, ISBN 9780805848571
  22. ^ Russell Speaks His Mind, 1960. Fletcher and son Ltd., Norwich, United Kingdom
  23. ^ Blum in his book Rogue State

Further reading


  • Breuilly, John. 1994. Nationalism and the State. 2nd ed. Chicago: Chicago University Press. ISBN 0-226-07414-5 .
  • Brubaker, Rogers. 1996. Nationalism Reframed: Nationhood and the National Question in the New Europe. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-57224-X .
  • Greenfeld, Liah. 1992. Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-60319-2
  • Hobsbawm, Eric J. 1992. Nations and Nationalism Since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality. 2nd ed. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-43961-2 .

Reference works

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




  • IPA: /naʂonalizm/


national +‎ -ism




nationalism (plural nationalisms)

  1. The idea of supporting one's country and culture.
  2. Supporting a national identity when it does not exist as a sovereign nation, for example, Basque nationalism, Kurdish nationalism.
  3. jingoism. The support of one nation's interests to the exclusion of others.
  4. patriotism.


See also

Wikipedia has an article on:



Simple English

File:Eugène Delacroix - La liberté guidant le
Eugène Delacroix - La liberté guidant le peuple ("Freedom leads people") This painting is often used as symbol of French nationalism. It also shows the close connection between early nationalism and socialism. There are people from all social classes following a woman. That woman symbolises freedom. The message of painting is that the bad time of social separation is over and French people belong together as a nation.

Nationalism is an ideology that says that every ethnic group of humans should be free to rule itself. Nationalists think that the best way to make this happen is for every ethnic group to have its own nation or society that they can rule without being controlled or oppressed by anybody else. Many nationalists think that nationalism is the best way to save small and not powerful groups, which are threatened by the mixing of ethnic groups. Nationalists think that the world is better with lots of cultural diversity. They also think that diversity is threatened by worldwide influences and mixing.

Nationalism on left-right politics

Originally nationalism was found together with socialism. Many early socialists were also nationalists. Especially the earliest forms of nationalism had lots of socialist features. Many people who thought that ethnic group should not be oppressed by other ethnic groups thought also that normal folk, the backbone of society, like workers and peasants, should not be oppressed by higher social classes like rich people. They thought that it is wrong for somebody to live in great welfare that is made by hard work or even oppression of others. All the social classes should work together and have a common goals that aims for good of everyone. These goals can be called "national interest". National interest is ideal and not always easy to find. There are different ways to reach national interest, for example politics.

Nationalists started to support and admire the normal folk, especially peasants, who were seen uncorrupted, gallant and fair - unlike high classes. For example normal folk often had more original and local ethnic culture than high classes, whose culture was seen more rootless. National Romanticism was based much on the ideal of uncorrupt folk.

Socialism and nationalism grew together, but they have also been put to oppose each other in some cases. The most known opposition between these ideologies was in Soviet Union. The Soviet propaganda made nationalism an insult word that was linked with opposed ideologies like capitalism, liberalism, imperialism or fascism. Still even in Soviet Union and other communist or socialist countries there were lots of nationalism (even if it was not called with that name). The most capitalist countries like United States were rather patriotic than nationalist. The Nordic countries, which were amongst the most pure nation-states, (countries that follow nationalist principle) were not very capitalist or rightist, they were built on social democratic way that is at left side. Only after Nordic countries became more multicultural their politics became more rightist.

Today nationalism does not have a common stand on those fields of politics that are outside of its basic goals, like left-right politics. However nationalism can be a part of bigger political ideology or agenda that can be leftist or rightist or something outside that classification.

Nationalism is still usually connected to goals that resist strong hierarchy between social classes inside society. Nationalist people are usually more or less against the strongest forms of capitalism, which they think gives too much power of rich people and big companies.

Nationalism and imperialism

Nationalism is the opposite of imperialism. Imperialism tries to make big nations that have many ethnic groups. In imperialist states, some groups are usually more powerful and are seen as better than others. Nationalists think that such hierarchy is bad. They say that in nations with one ethnic group, everyone has the same value and power. Sometimes nationalism is used to support imperialism, but that is against the original idea of nationalism. Such using of political ideas against their original purpose is quite usual in politics and happens with many other ideas too.

Nationalism had important role in ending the colonial rule. Nationalism spread to colonies and made their people to desire independence. Nationalism also made the people in metropolitan states (countries that colonized others) to accept more the desire of other people to rule themselves. However nationalists think that the end of colonialization of Africa was not done well. They think that there would not be so many conflicts in Africa if African nations had built in a nationalist way (so that every ethnic group is its own nation). After the imperialists left their African colonies, the new nations were built with borders that were not the same as the ethnic borders. New nations became nations with many ethnic groups, which do not want to or cannot live peacefully in the same society with the others.

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Citable sentences

Up to date as of December 25, 2010

Here are sentences from other pages on Nationalism, which are similar to those in the above article.

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