Different types of nationalism
The character of nationalism is quite fluid. Depending on the type, it can be liberating or oppressive; support self-government and freedom or conquest and subjugation; progressive (attempting to improve society) or regressive; look to the future or look to the past; rational or irrational; based on principled beliefs or based on irrational drives. Nationalism has been used to advance a variety of causes and has been fused with other ideologies, creating a number of traditions.
Liberal nationalism applies the principle of individualism to nations- if individuals are all different, and entitled to particular rights and freedoms, the same applies to nations. It emerged due to a desire for popular self-government (dating back to the French Revolution), and a wish for the uniting of states into one nation, Germany is a good example. Liberal nationalists believe in freedom; that nations are sovereign entities, entitled to liberty and rights. The most important right is self-determination- the right to rule itself, and not be ruled by another state. Therefore, it opposes foreign domination and supports principles of constitutionalism and representation.
Liberal nationalists also consider nations to be equally entitled to self-determination, and their ultimate goal is to build a world of independent nation-states. Mill argued that ‘boundaries of government should coincide with those of nationality’, and US President Woodrow Wilson, during discussions to rebuild Europe in the aftermath of World War One, said that European nations should enjoy self-determination, just like the USA.
Liberal nationalists believe the principles of balance and natural harmony apply to nations as well as individuals, and national self-determination will lead to peaceful and stable international order. Politically, democratic nation-states have no incentive to wage war, due to mutual respect for national rights and characteristics.
The risks in such a world are recognised. Each nation could, potentially, pursue its own interests at the expense of others, and with ‘international anarchy’, peace is not guaranteed. The solution is to promote national interdependence through free trade, removing any economic incentive to wage war. This was one of the aims of the organisation which would become the EU. Also, international organisations can be constructed to bring order (e.g. the United Nations).
Liberal nationalism is inclusive, meaning there is merely a civic requirement to join a nation- being committed to that nation’s values. Therefore, it is open to all and membership can be gained quickly and straightforwardly.
This emerged due to concerns by conservatives over the possible threat of liberal nationalism to the existing world order, and the shaping of particular aspects of nationalism into a conservative type. Statesmen saw it as a way of maintaining social order, and it developed in established nation-states, as a way of preserving the existing structures. Conservative nationalists apply the principle of organic society to nations, believing nations emerge naturally, amongst those who want to live with others who are similar to them. Humans seek meaning and security through patriotism, and the national community, so conservative nationalism aims to maintain national unity by encouraging ‘pride in your country’. This can be used as an antidote to revolution.
There is an emphasis on tradition and history. Nationalism in this form represents a defence of traditional institutions and ways of life and is nostalgic and backwards-looking (through references to ‘the glory days’, or ‘the good old days’). For example, presenting past military victories in a glorious light. In Britain, this concept is closely linked to monarchy, which is seen as a symbol of Britishness, stoicism and duty.
Conservative nationalism tends towards exclusiveness, unlike liberal nationalism. It is not really possible to quickly ‘join’ a nation- it takes time to feel part of it. Another belief is that cultural diversity leads to instability and conflict and that stable and successful societies are based on shared values. The consequence of this is that the influence of minority groups should be restricted, or they should assimilate into the ‘host’ culture. This is the opposite approach to multiculturalism.
Conservative nationalists also have reservations about supranationalism, where transnational bodies (like the EU) have the ability to impose their will on nation-states. Such bodies pose a threat to national identity. The rise of ‘Euroscepticism’ has been seen through the defence of sovereign national institutions and national currencies, and the Brexit vote of 2016. Conservative nationalists argued that stable political unions cannot be forged out of national diversity.
Anti-colonial, post-colonial nationalism
These are one type of nationalism which has gone through two stages. Firstly, anti-colonial nationalism questioned foreign dominance- the citizens of countries colonised by other nations started to reject colonial dominance. In 1914, 90% of Africa had been colonised by European powers, who were racing to establish empires in the ‘scramble for Africa’ in order to use the resources available there. The native populations of these countries were encouraged to reject their own cultures and adopt the culture of the host country. The effects of this can still be seen today, through the languages that are spoken in different parts of Africa (French, for example).
Colonised nations started to recognise the fact of their dominance and exploitation, and began arguing for self-determination. The symbol of the anti-colonial movement in India was Mahatma Gandhi, who advocated non-violent resistance in protest at British rule.
Post-colonial nationalism is what happens once these nations have achieved the goal of independence, as happened in Africa and Asia through the second half of the 20th century. Once this occurred, nations turned away from the liberal, Western ideas, and towards alternatives such as socialism. Post-colonial nationalists empathised with Lenin’s analysis of capitalism as having exploited their resources and stolen their wealth and were attracted to values of cooperation and community which represented their pre-colonial ways of life.
Black nationalism is a particular type of post-colonial nationalism, promoted by Marcus Garvey, as a reaction against white oppression. Garvey argued that to ensure true emancipation of black people, they should embrace their ethnic and cultural identity (for example, wearing their hair as an afro, rather than making it straight like a white person’s hair). He also called for a return to Africa for black people living elsewhere, to show that they could be successful in setting up African nations, in order to be perceived as equal by white people.
This is linked to a belief in __chauvinism __- the unreasoned belief in the superiority of a group of people. National chauvinism suggests that certain nations are naturally superior to others and that the superior nation has the right to dominate others through invasion and expansion of its territory.
These ideas are linked to racialism, as membership of the nation is based on race- it is not possible to join it. It is associated with the expansionist fascist regimes of Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, but is perhaps also on display in the ‘scramble for Africa’- one aim of the colonising European nations was to ‘civilise’ the African nations. Hitler believed that the ‘Aryan’ race was naturally superior to the ‘Slavic’ race, which occupied much of the land to the East of Germany. Therefore, Germany was justified in invading territory to make use of the large amount of natural resources, so that they could be used to benefit the Aryans. This would also achieve ‘autarky’ or self-sufficiency, meaning that Germany would not be dependent on importing any goods or services from any other nation.
Expansionist nationalism is strongly militaristic, linking national glory to strong armed forces and military conquest based on the ‘survival of the fittest’ notion. Therefore, a nation’s resources should be geared towards ensuring a strong military. It is a form of integral nationalism, meaning it is not rational but emotional, where members of the nation get caught up in a tide of patriotic fervour, and is encouraged to be highly loyal to the nation amongst anything else- even family members. It is also regressive, meaning that ideas and values from earlier times are supported and cherished.
- To what extent is nationalism progressive? (24 marks - 2-3 arguments for and 2-3 against)
- Your answer should include: Liberal / Colonial / Mutual / Respect / Independence / Inclusive / Harmony / International / Law / Patriotism / War / Shared / History / Ethnic / Expansionist / Races