AskDefine | Define nationalism

Dictionary Definition



1 love of country and willingness to sacrifice for it [syn: patriotism]
2 the doctrine that your national culture and interests are superior to any other [ant: multiculturalism, internationalism]
3 the aspiration for national independence felt by people under foreign domination
4 the doctrine that nations should act independently (rather than collectively) to attain their goals [ant: internationalism]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • IPA: //naʂonalizm/
  • AHD: //năshŏnălĭzm/


national + ism


  1. The idea of supporting ones 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

Extensive Definition

Nationalism is a term referring to a doctrine or political movement that holds that a nation, usually defined in terms of ethnicity or culture, has the right to constitute an independent or autonomous political community based on a shared history and common destiny. Most nationalists believe the borders of the state should be congruent with the borders of the nation (A Nation-State). However, recently nationalists have rejected the concept of "congruency".
Nationalist efforts can be plagued by chauvinism or imperialism. Nationalist efforts such as those propagated by fascist movements in the twentieth century, held the nationalist concept that nationality is the most important aspect of one's identity, while some of them have attempted to define the nation in terms of race or genetics. Some contemporary nationalists reject the racist chauvinism of these groups, and remain confident that national identity supersedes biological attachment to an ethnic group.
Nationalism has had an enormous influence on Modern history, in which the nation-state has become the preferred form of societal organization, however, by no means universal. Historians use the term nationalism to refer to this historical transition and to the emergence and predominance of nationalist ideology. Nationalism is closely associated with patriotism.


This section sets out the components of nationalist ideology as seen by nationalists themselves. (Academic theories of nationalism are skeptical of some of these principles, see below).
Nationalism is a form of universalism when it makes universal claims about how the world should be organized, but it is particularistic with regard to individual nations. The combination of both is characteristic for the ideology, for instance in these assertions:
  • "in a nation-state, the language of the nation should be the official language, and all citizens should speak it, and not a foreign language"
  • "the official language of Denmark should be Danish, and all Danish citizens should speak it."
The universalistic principles bring nationalism into conflict with competing forms of universalism, the particularistic principles bring specific nationalist movements into conflict with rival nationalisms - for instance, the Danish-German tensions over their reciprocal linguistic minorities.
The starting point of nationalism is the existence of nations, which it takes as a given. Nations are typically seen as entities with a long history: most nationalists do not believe a nation can be created artificially. Nationalist movements see themselves as the representative of an existing, centuries-old nation. However, some theories of nationalism imply the reverse order - that the nationalist movements created the sense of national identity, and then a political unit corresponding to it, or that an existing state promoted a 'national' identity for itself.
Nationalists see nations as an inclusive categorization of human beings - assigning every individual to one specific nation. In fact, nationalism sees most human activity as national in character. Nations have national symbols, a national culture, a national music and national literature; national folklore, a national mythology and - in some cases - a national religion. Individuals share national values and a national identity, admire the national hero, eat the national dish and play the national sport.
Nationalists define individual nations on the basis of certain criteria, which distinguish one nation from another; and determine who is a member of each nation. These criteria typically include a shared language, culture, and/or shared values which are predominantly represented within a specific ethnic group. National identity refers both to these defining criteria, and to the shared heritage of each group. Membership in a nation is usually involuntary and determined by birth. Individual nationalisms vary in their degree of internal uniformity: some are monolithic, and tolerate little variance from the national norms. Academic nationalism theory emphasizes that national identity is contested, reflecting differences in region, class, gender, and language or dialect. A recent development is the idea of a national core culture, in Germany the Leitkultur, which emphasizes a minimal set of non-negotiable values: this is primarily a strategy of cultural assimilation in response to immigration.
Nationalism has the strong territorial component, with an inclusive categorization of territory corresponding to the categorization of individuals. For each nation, there is a territory which is uniquely associated with it, the national homeland, and together they account for most habitable land. This is reflected in the geopolitical claims of nationalism, which seeks to order the world as a series of nation-states, each based on the national homeland of its respective nation. Territorial claims characterize the politics of nationalist movements. Established nation-states also make an implicit territorial claim, to secure their own continued existence: sometimes it is specified in the national constitution. In the nationalist view, each nation has a moral entitlement to a sovereign state: this is usually taken as a given.
The nation-state is intended to guarantee the existence of a nation, to preserve its distinct identity, and to provide a territory where the national culture and ethos are dominant - nationalism is also a philosophy of the state. It sees a nation-state as a necessity for each nation: secessionist national movements often complain about their second-class status as a minority within another nation. This specific view of the duties of the state influenced the introduction of national education systems, often teaching a standard curriculum, national cultural policy, and national language policy. In turn, nation-states appeal to a national cultural-historical mythos to justify their existence, and to confer political legitimacy - acquiescence of the population in the authority of the government.
Nationalists recognize that 'non-national' states exist and existed, but do not see them as a legitimate form of state. The struggles of early nationalist movements were often directed against such non-national states, specifically multi-ethnic empires such as Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. Most multi-ethnic empires have disappeared, but some secessionist movements see Russia and China as comparable non-national, imperial states. At least one modern state is clearly not a nation-state: the Vatican City exists solely to provide a sovereign territorial unit for the Roman Catholic Church.
Some critics have maintained that (unlike modern nationalism, which is a creation of the 19th century nation state) authentic nationalism (as the Latin 'natio' would suggest) must be based in some form of genophilia and the sharing of ancestors.
Nationalism as ideology includes ethical principles: that the moral duties of individuals to fellow members of the nation override those to non-members. Nationalism claims that national loyalty, in case of conflict, overrides local loyalties, and all other loyalties to family, friends, profession, religion, or class.


Background and problems

Specific examples of nationalisms are extremely diverse since many types, forms, and origins exist. The theory of nationalism has always been complicated by this background, and by the intrusion of nationalist ideology into the theory. There are also national differences in the theory of nationalism, since 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 produced political analysis that were critical of the nationalist movements then active in central and eastern Europe. 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'.


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. 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.
Anthony D. Smith, typically following the Hegelian dialectic of thesis/antithesis/synthesis, 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. 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.

Theoretical literature

There is a large amount of theoretical and empirical literature on nationalism. The following is a minimal selection of some of the more important works, and a series of capsule summaries that do not do justice to the range of views expressed.
  • Anderson, Benedict. 1991. Imagined Communities. 2nd ed. London: Verso. Anderson argues that nations are imagined political communities, and are imagined to be limited and sovereign. Their development is related to the decline of other types of imagined community, especially in the face of capitalist production of print media.
  • Armstrong, John Alexander. 1982. Nations Before Nationalism. Armstrong traces the development of national identities from origins in antiquity and the medieval world.
  • Breuilly, John. 1992. Nationalism and the State. 2nd ed. Manchester: Manchester University Press. This approach focuses on the politics of nationalism, in particular on nationalism as a response to the imperatives of the modern state. It employs the mode of comparative history to study numerous cases of nationalism.
  • Gellner, Ernest. 1983. Nations and Nationalism. Oxford: Blackwell. This work links nationalism to the homogenising imperatives of industrial society and the reactions of minority cultures to those imperatives.
  • Greenfeld, Liah. 1992. Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Greenfeld argues that nationalism existed at an earlier age than previously thought: as early as the sixteenth century in the case of England.
  • Steven Grosby, Biblical Ideas of Nationality: Ancient and Modern (2002)dates the idea of the nation to the ancient Levant.
  • Hechter, Michael. 1975. Internal Colonialism. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Hechter attributes nationalism in the "Celtic fringe" of Britain and Ireland to the reinforcing divisions of culture and the division of labour.
  • Hobsbawm, Eric, and Ranger, Terence, eds. 1983. The Invention of Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. This collection of essays, especially Hobsbawm's introduction and chapter on turn-of-the-century Europe, argues that the nation is a prominent type of invented tradition.
  • Kedourie, Elie. 1960. Nationalism. London: Hutchinson. Kedourie focuses on the role of disaffected German intellectuals in developing the doctrine of nationalism at the beginning of the nineteenth century from Kant's idea of the autonomy of the will and Herder's belief in the primacy of linguistic communities in establishing modes of thought.
  • Kedourie, Elie, ed. 1971. Nationalism in Asia and Africa. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. Kedourie's introduction to this volume of nationalist texts extends his analysis in his earlier work to the efforts of intellectuals in colonial states.
  • Hans Kohn The Idea of Nationalism; a Study of its Origins and Background, MacMillan, 1944. Kohn's pioneering work formulates the distinction between civic and ethnic nationalism.
  • Will Kymlicka, "Multicultural Citizenship," (Oxford, 1995). Argues that certain "collective rights" of minority cultures are consistent with liberal democratic principles.
  • David Miller, "on Nationality," Oxford University Press, 1975, 1995, 1999. Millerargues that national identities are valid sources of personal identity, that individuals are justified in recognizing special obligations to co-nationals, and that nations have good grounds for desiring self-determination, but that nationalism cannot justify suppressing other sources of identity.
  • Jeremy A. Rabkin, Law without Nations? Why constitutional government Requires Sovereign States," Princeton U. Press, 2005, Rabkin argues that nations are necessary for the protection of the human rights of individuals.
  • Ernest Renan, his 1882 lecture Qu'est-ce qu'une nation? ("What is a Nation?")described nationalism as the desire of people who see themselves as a community that "avoir fait de grandes choses ensemble, vouloir en faire encore" (having done great things together and wishing to do more), he famously described commitment to the nation as a "daily plebiscite."
  • Smith, Anthony D. 1986. The Ethnic Origins of Nations. Oxford: Blackwell. Smith traces modern nations and nationalism to pre-modern ethnic sources, arguing for the existence of an "ethnic core" in modern nations.
  • Yael Tamir, 1993, "Liberal Nationalism," Princeton University Press. Tamir makes a liberal political theory argument for nationalism based on the right of individuals to associate as nations.(JR. Lover 2008)


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.

Ethnic nationalism

Ethnic nationalism, or ethnonationalism, defines the nation in terms of ethnicity, which always includes some element of descent from previous generations - i.e. genophilia. It also includes ideas of a culture shared between members of the group and with their ancestors, and usually a shared language. Membership in the nation is hereditary. The state derives political legitimacy from its status as homeland of the ethnic group, and from its function to protect the national group and facilitate its cultural and social life, as a group. Ideas of ethnicity are very old, but modern ethnic nationalism was heavily influenced by Johann Gottfried von Herder, who promoted the concept of the Volk, and Johann Gottlieb Fichte. Ethnic nationalism is now the dominant form, and is often simply referred to as "nationalism".
Theorist Anthony D. Smith uses the term 'ethnic nationalism' for non-Western concepts of nationalism, as opposed to Western views of a nation defined by its geographical territory. (The term "ethnonationalism" is generally used only in reference to nationalists who espouse an explicit ideology along these lines; "ethnic nationalism" is the more generic term, and used for nationalists who hold these beliefs in an informal, instinctive, or unsystematic way. The pejorative form of both is "ethnocentric nationalism" or "tribal nationalism," though "tribal nationalism" can have a non-pejorative meaning when discussing African, Native American, or other nationalisms that openly assert a tribal identity.)

Civic nationalism

Civic nationalism (or civil nationalism) is the form of nationalism in which the state derives political legitimacy from the active participation of its citizenry, from the degree to which it represents the "will of the people". It is often seen as originating with Jean-Jacques Rousseau and especially the social contract theories which take their name from his 1762 book The Social Contract. Civic nationalism lies within the traditions of rationalism and liberalism, but as a form of nationalism it is contrasted with ethnic nationalism. Membership of the civic nation is considered voluntary. Civic-national ideals influenced the development of representative democracy in countries such as the United States and France.
State nationalism is a variant of civic nationalism, very often combined with ethnic nationalism. It implies that the nation is a community of those who contribute to the maintenance and strength of the state, and that the individual exists to contribute to this goal. Italian fascism is the best example, epitomized in this slogan of Mussolini: "Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato." ("Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State"). It is no surprise that this conflicts with liberal ideals of individual liberty, and with liberal-democratic principles. The revolutionary Jacobin creation of a unitary and centralist French state is often seen as the original version of state nationalism. Franquist Spain, and contemporary Kemalist Turkish nationalism are later examples of state nationalism.
However, the term "state nationalism" is often used in conflicts between nationalisms, and especially where a secessionist movement confronts an established "nation state." The secessionists speak of state nationalism to discredit the legitimacy of the larger state, since state nationalism is perceived as less authentic and less democratic. Flemish separatists speak of Belgian nationalism as a state nationalism. Basque separatists and Corsican separatists refer to Spain and France, respectively, in this way. There are no undisputed external criteria to assess which side is right, and the result is usually that the population is divided by conflicting appeals to its loyalty and patriotism.
Critiques of supposed "civic nationalism" often call for the eliminaton of the term, as it often represents either imperialism (in the case of France), patriotism, or simply an extension of "ethnic," or "real" nationalism.

Expansionist nationalism

"Expansionist nationalism" is a radical form of imperialism that incorporates autonomous, patriotic sentiments with a belief in expansionism. It is most closely associated with the likes of Nazism (nationalist-socialism) and also shares some commonalities with American Manifest Destiny and neoconservatism.

Romantic nationalism

Romantic nationalism (also organic nationalism, identity nationalism) is the form of ethnic nationalism in which the state derives political legitimacy as a natural ("organic") consequence and expression of the nation, or race. It reflected the ideals of Romanticism and was opposed to Enlightenment rationalism. Romantic nationalism emphasized a historical ethnic culture which meets the Romantic Ideal; folklore developed as a Romantic nationalist concept. The Brothers Grimm were inspired by Herder's writings to create an idealized collection of tales which they labeled as ethnically German. Historian Jules Michelet exemplifies French romantic-nationalist history.

Cultural nationalism

main article Cultural nationalism Cultural nationalism defines the nation by shared culture. Membershi(the state of being members) in the nation is neither entirely voluntary (you cannot instantly acquire a culture), nor hereditary (children of members may be considered foreigners if they grew up in another culture). Yet, a traditional culture can be more easily incorporated into an individal's life, especially if the individual is allowed to acquire its skills at an early stage of his/her own life . Chinese nationalism is one example of cultural nationalism, partly because of the many national minorities in China.
Cultural nationalism has been described as a variety of nationalism that is neither purely civic nor ethnic. The nationalisms of Quebec and Flanders have been variously described as ethnic or as cultural.

Third World nationalism

Recently, there has been a rise of Third World nationalisms. Third world nationalisms, occur in those nations that have been colonized and exploited. The nationalisms of these nations were forged in a furnace that required resistance to colonial domination in order to survive. As such, resistance is part and parcel of such nationalisms and their very existence is a form of resistance to imperialist intrusions. The Third World nationalism attempts to ensure that the identities of Third World peoples are authored primarily by themselves, not colonial powers.

Liberal nationalism

Liberal nationalism is a kind of nationalism defended recently by political philosophers who believe that there can be a non-xenophobic form of nationalism 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 in order to lead meaningful, autonomous lives and that liberal democratic polities need national identity in order to function properly.

National conservatism

National conservatism is a political term used primarily in Europe to describe a variant of conservatism which concentrates more on national interests than standard conservatism, while not being nationalist or a far-right approach. Many national conservatives are social conservatives, in favour of limiting immigration, and in Europe, they usually are eurosceptics.
National conservatism is related to social conservatism, and as such may be heavily oriented towards the traditional family and social stability.

Anarchism and nationalism

main article Nationalism and Anarchism
Anarchists who see value in nationalism typically argue that a nation is first and foremost a people; that the state is parasite upon the nation and should not be confused with it; and that since in reality states rarely coincide with national entities, the ideal of the Nation State is actually little more than a myth. Within the European Union, for instance, they argue there are over 500 ethnic nations within the 25 member states, and even more in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Moving from this position, they argue that the achievement of meaningful self-determination for all of the worlds nations requires an anarchist political system based on local control, free federation, and mutual aid. There has been a long history of anarchist involvement with left-nationalism all over the world. Contemporary fusions of anarchism with anti-state left-Nationalism include some strains of Black anarchism, Celtic anarchism, and Indigenism.
In the early to mid 19th century Europe, the ideas of nationalism, socialism, and liberalism were closely intertwined. Revolutionaries and radicals like Giuseppe Mazzini aligned with all three in about equal measure. The early pioneers of anarchism participated in the spirit of their times: they had much in common with both liberals and socialists, and they shared much of the outlook of early nationalism as well. Thus Mikhail Bakunin had a long career as a pan-Slavic nationalist before adopting anarchism. He also agitated for a United States of Europe (a contemporary nationalist vision originated by Mazzini). In 1880-1881, the Boston-based Irish nationalist W. G. H. Smart wrote articles for a magazine called The Anarchist. Similarly, Anarchists in China during the early part of the 20th century were very much involved in the left-wing of the nationalist movement while actively opposing racist elements of the Anti-Manchu wing of that movement.

Religious nationalism

details Religious nationalism Religious nationalism is the relationship of nationalism to a particular religious belief, church, or affiliation. This relationship can be broken down into two aspects; the politicisation of religion and the converse influence of religion on politics. In the former aspect, a shared religion can be seen to contribute to a sense of national unity, a common bond among the citizens of the nation. Another political aspect of religion is the support of a national identity, similar to a shared ethnicity, language or culture. The influence of religion on politics is more ideological, where current interpretations of religious ideas inspire political activism and action; for example, laws are passed to foster stricter religious adherence.


Pan-nationalism is usually an ethnic and cultural nationalism, but the 'nation' is itself a cluster of related ethnic groups and cultures, such as Turkic peoples. Occasionally pan-nationalism is applied to mono-ethnic nationalism, when the national group is dispersed over a wide area and several states - as in Pan-Germanism.

Diaspora nationalism

Diaspora nationalism (or, as Benedict Anderson terms it, "long-distance nationalism") generally refers to nationalist feeling among a diaspora such as the Irish in the United States, the Jewish in the United States identifying as Israelis, or the Lebanese in the Americas and Africa, and the Armenians in Europe and the United States. Anderson states that this sort of nationalism acts as a "phantom bedrock" for people who want to experience a national connection, but who do not actually want to leave their diaspora community. The essential difference between pan-nationalism and diaspora nationalism is that members of a diaspora, by definition, are no longer resident in their national or ethnic homeland. In the specific case of Zionism, the national movement advocates migration to the claimed national homeland, which would - if 100% effected - end the diaspora.

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 is more opened to foreign influences, influenced by civic liberalism they 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.
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.
Nationalists obviously have a positive attitude toward their own nation, although this is not a definition of nationalism. The emotional appeal of nationalism is visible even in established and stable nation-states. The social psychology of nations includes national identity (the individual’s sense of belonging to a group), and national pride (self-association with the success of the group). National pride is related to the cultural influence of the nation, and its economic and political strength - although they may be exaggerated. However, the most important factor is that the emotions are shared: nationalism in sport includes the shared disappointment if the national team loses.
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.


Although nationalism influences many aspects of life in stable nation-states, its presence is often invisible, since the nation-state is taken for granted. Michael Billig speaks of banal nationalism, the everyday, less visible forms of nationalism, which shape the minds of a nation's inhabitants on a day-to-day basis. Attention concentrates on extreme aspects, and on nationalism in unstable regions. Nationalism may be used as a derogatory label for political parties, or they may use it themselves as a euphemism for xenophobia, even if their policies are no more specifically nationalist, than other political parties in the same country. In Europe, some 'nationalist' anti-immigrant parties have a large electorate, and are represented in parliament. Smaller but highly visible groups also self-identify as 'nationalist', although it may be a euphemism for neo-Nazis or white supremacists. Activists in other countries are often referred to as ultra-nationalists, with a clearly pejorative meaning. See also chauvinism and jingoism.
Nationalism is a component of other political ideologies, and in its extreme form, fascism. However, it is not accurate to simply describe fascism as a more extreme form of nationalism. Nor is it generally correct to describe non-extreme nationalism as a lesser form of fascism. Fascism in the general sense, and the Italian original, were marked by a strong sense of state nationalism whereas political parties today like the British National Party tend to have a concept of ethnic nationalism, often combined with a form of economic and ethical socialism. That was certainly evident in Nazism. However, the geopolitical aspirations of Adolf Hitler are probably better described as imperialist and, to a lesser degree, colonialist because Nazi Germany ultimately ruled over vast areas where there was no historic German presence (imperialism) with intentions to eventually populate many of the conquered territories with ethnic Germans (colonialism). The Nazi state was so different from the typical European nation-state, that it was sui generis (requires a category of its own).


Nationalism does not necessarily imply a belief in the superiority of one race over others, but in practice, many nationalists support racial protectionism or racial supremacy. Such racism is typically based upon preference or superiority of the indigenous race of the nation, but not always.
In United States for example, non-indigenous racial nationalist movements exist for both black and white races. 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 Nazi ideology was probably the most comprehensively racial ideology in history, and race influenced all aspects of policy in Nazi Germany.
Ethnic cleansing is often seen as both a nationalist and racist 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, despite often 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. 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. Likewise George Orwell, though not a pacifist himself, has stated that "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." William Blum has said this in other words: "If love is blind, patriotism has lost all five senses"
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 of many nationalisms.
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.


Further reading

  • Abizadeh, Arash. 2002. "Does Liberal Democracy Presuppose a Cultural Nation? Four Arguments." American Political Science Review 96 (3): 495-509.
  • Abizadeh, Arash. 2004. "Liberal Nationalist versus Postnational Social Integration." Nations and Nationalism 10(3): 231-250.
  • Alter, Peter. "Playing with the Nation: Napoleon and the Culture of Nationalism," United and Diversity in European Culture c. 1800, ed. Tim Blanning and Hagen Schulze. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. 61-76.
  • Alvis, Robert. Religion and the Rise of Nationalism: A Profile of an East-Central European City. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-8156-3081-6
  • Anderson, Benedict. 1991. Imagined Communities. ISBN 0-86091-329-5 .
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nationalism in Arabic: قومية
nationalism in Aragonese: Nazionalismo
nationalism in Asturian: Nacionalismu
nationalism in Belarusian (Tarashkevitsa): Нацыяналізм
nationalism in Breton: Broadelouriezh
nationalism in Bulgarian: Национализъм
nationalism in Catalan: Nacionalisme
nationalism in Czech: Nacionalismus
nationalism in Welsh: Cenedlaetholdeb
nationalism in Danish: Nationalisme
nationalism in German: Nationalismus
nationalism in Estonian: Natsionalism
nationalism in Modern Greek (1453-): Εθνικισμός
nationalism in Spanish: Nacionalismo
nationalism in Esperanto: Naciismo
nationalism in Basque: Nazionalismo
nationalism in Persian: ملی‌گرایی
nationalism in French: Nationalisme
nationalism in Irish: Náisiúnachas
nationalism in Galician: Nacionalismo
nationalism in Korean: 민족주의
nationalism in Croatian: Nacionalizam
nationalism in Indonesian: Nasionalisme
nationalism in Icelandic: Þjóðernishyggja
nationalism in Italian: Nazionalismo
nationalism in Hebrew: לאומיות
nationalism in Georgian: ნაციონალიზმი
nationalism in Latvian: Nacionālisms
nationalism in Lithuanian: Nacionalizmas
nationalism in Limburgan: Nationalisme
nationalism in Hungarian: Nacionalizmus
nationalism in Macedonian: Национализам
nationalism in Malay (macrolanguage): Nasionalisme
nationalism in Dutch: Nationalisme
nationalism in Newari: राष्ट्रवाद
nationalism in Japanese: ナショナリズム
nationalism in Norwegian: Nasjonalisme
nationalism in Norwegian Nynorsk: Nasjonalisme
nationalism in Polish: Nacjonalizm
nationalism in Portuguese: Nacionalismo
nationalism in Romanian: Naţionalism
nationalism in Russian: Национализм
nationalism in Simple English: Nationalism
nationalism in Slovak: Nacionalizmus
nationalism in Slovenian: Nacionalizem
nationalism in Serbian: Национализам
nationalism in Serbo-Croatian: Nacionalizam
nationalism in Finnish: Nationalismi
nationalism in Swedish: Nationalism
nationalism in Tagalog: Pagkamakabansa
nationalism in Tatar: Millätçelek
nationalism in Thai: ชาตินิยม
nationalism in Vietnamese: Chủ nghĩa dân tộc
nationalism in Turkish: Milliyetçilik
nationalism in Ukrainian: Націоналізм
nationalism in Yiddish: נאציאנאליזם
nationalism in Contenese: 民族主義
nationalism in Chinese: 民族主義

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Americanism, Anglicism, Briticism, Eisenhower Doctrine, Monroe Doctrine, Nixon Doctrine, Truman Doctrine, appeasement, balance of power, brinkmanship, chauvinism, coexistence, colonialism, compromise, containment, detente, deterrence, diplomacy, diplomatic, diplomatics, dollar diplomacy, dollar imperialism, expansionism, flag waving, foreign affairs, foreign policy, good-neighbor policy, imperialism, independence, internationalism, internationality, isolationism, jingoism, love of country, manifest destiny, militarism, nationality, nationhood, neocolonialism, neutralism, nonresistance, open door, open-door policy, overpatriotism, patriotics, patriotism, peace offensive, peaceful coexistence, peoplehood, preparedness, self-determination, self-government, shirt-sleeve diplomacy, shuttle diplomacy, sovereign nationhood, sovereignty, spheres of influence, statehood, the big stick, tough policy, ultranationalism, world politics
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