What Is Nationalism?

  • Dusan Kecmanovic
Part of the Path in Psychology book series (PATH)


Nationalism, like nation, is very hard to define clearly and unequivocally. The contention that nationalism is what nationalists make of it is, in fact, an evasion. There are no two authors, whether sociologists, historians, political scientists, or psychologists, who define nationalism in the same way. This may lead novices in the study of nationalism to infer that, having read a few works on the subject, they are even less knowledgeable than when they began.1


Social Identity National Identity National Feeling Social Identity Theory National Group 
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  1. 1.
    Nationalism as a term was mentioned for the first time in 1409 at Leipzig University. It was not before the end of the eighteenth century that it began to be used in the sense of national egoism, (cf. Hyslop, B., 1934, French Nationalism in 1789 According to the General Cahiers, and Kemilainen, A., 1964, Problems Concerning the Word, Concept and Classification).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Many scholars who have dealt with nationalism share the idea that nationalism is but a modern form of the human tendency to congregate and to submit to a social entity that is dominant, that is most important, at a given epoch. Thus Hertz (1944:292) points out that nationalism is “certainly but one expression of human instinct and not a bit more natural and more ‘latent’ than tribalism, clannishness.... Yet it is nationalism, far more than any other expression of human gregariousness, which has come to the fore in modern times.” Geertz (1963:106-7) stresses that “the grouping under a common rubric” such as tribalism, parochialism, communalism, nationalism, etc., is not simply adventitious. “These phenomena are in some way similar.” Shafer (1980) made the same point: “Group and community sentiments are as old as humankind; nationalism is a late modern, powerful, and pervasive variant.” Hayes (1968:12), for his part, contends that “modern nationalism signifies a more or less purposeful effort to revive primitive tribalism on an enlarged and more artificial scale.” Yet Gellner (1983:138) argues that nationalism is “a distinctive species of patriotism, and one which becomes pervasive and dominant only under certain social conditions, which in fact prevail in the modern world, and nowhere else.” Cobban (1969:106-7) states that while “loyalty to the community in which for the time being are enshrined the highest aspirations is a perennial quality, the object of that loyalty varied widely from age to age. There is little to suggest that the combination of cultural and political unity in the idea of the nation state is the last, or that is the highest, of those mortal gods to which men have sometimes paid undue adoration.” According to Kedourie (1960:72), “patriotism, affection for one’s own country, or one’s group, loyalty to its institution, and zeal for its defense, is a sentiment known among all kinds of men; so is xenophobia, which is dislike of the stranger, the outsider, and reluctance to admit him into one’s own group. Neither sentiment depends on a particular anthropology and neither asserts a particular doctrine of the state or of the individual’s relation to it. Nationalism does both; it is a comprehensive doctrine which leads to a distinctive style of politics.... If confusion exists, it is because nationalist doctrine has annexed these universally held sentiments to the service of a specific anthropology and metaphysic.” Pfaff (1993:196) observes that ethnic and communal conflict, and racial, religious, or linguistic rivalry and struggle exist for reasons having nothing originally to do with nation states, and concludes: “Nationalism is an expression of the primordial attachments of an individual to a group, possessing both positive and destructive powers, and this is a phenomenon which existed long before the group to which such passionate loyalty was attached became the modern nation-state.” Garvin (1993:64-5), pointing to the continuities between modern nationalisms and older traditions of collective identitty, stresses that these older traditions have a “life of their own and can dictate the form of the succeeding nationalist identity in many important ways, or even take it over Modern nationalisms...’ sit on top’ of older traditions or collective belief systems....” And Walzer (1995:331-2) concludes, along the same lines, that tribalism, that is, “the committment of individuals and groups to their own history, culture and identity, is a permanent feature of human social life,” and its destruction “lies beyond the reach of any repressive power.” Yet parochialism, which has been bred by tribalism, “is similarly permanent. It can’t be overcome; it has to be accommodated, and therefore the crucial universal principle is that it must always be accommodated: not only my parochialism, but yours as well, and his and hers in their turn.”.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    It was Nairn (1981:348) who first said that nationalism can be pictured as the old Roman god, Janus. Nairn contends that it is, essentially, groundless to draw a distinction between “healthy” and “degenerate” sorts of nationalism, because “the substance of nationalism as such is always morally, politically, humanly ambiguous.” “Without for a moment,” writes Nairn (1981:347-8), “denying that these moral and political distinctions are justified, and indeed obvious, one is none the less forced to point out that the theoretical dimension attaching to them is quite mistaken. The distinctions do not imply the existence of two brands of nationalism, one healthy and one morbid. The point is, as the most elementary comparative analysis will show, that all nationalism is both healthy and morbid. Both progress and regress are inscribed in its genetic code from the start. This a structural fact about it. And it is a fact to which there are no exceptions: in this sense, it is an exact (not a rhetorical) statement about nationalism to say that it is by nature ambivalent.” Griffin (1993:150) calls schizoid this ambiguous nature of nationalism, its capacity for “double thinking, and at times to act both as an enlightened Dr Jekyll and a sociopathological Mr Hyde.... “As long as it has been an active force in history,” this author emphasizes (1993:150), “it has always contained the potential for promoting both genuine liberal democracy and its grotesque travesty, one which upholds the rights of on segment of humankind at the expense of others.”.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Mazzini was the first to argue for a need to distinguish a good and a bad nationalism (Hertz, 1944:34), and Balibar (1991:47) points out that all the questions concerning the definition of nationalism revolve around the dilemma: a good nationalism or a bad nationalism. “There is one,” writes this author, “which tends to construct a state or a community and the one which tends to subjugate, to destroy; the one which refers to right and the one which refers to might; the one which tolerates other nationalisms and may even argue in their defense and include them a single historical perspective... and the one which radically excludes them in an imperialist and racist perspective. In short, the internal split within nationalism seems as essential—and as difficult to pin down—as the step that leads from ‘dying for one’s fatherland’ to ‘killing for one’s country.’” Various authors use different terms to refer to mainly identical phenomena—a good and a bad nationalism: original nationalism and derived nationalism (Hayes, 1928); political nationalism and cultural nationalism (Kohn, 1944); people-oriented nationalism and power-oriented nationalism (Bay, Gullvag, Ofstad, and Tonnessen, 1950); a belligerent, megalomaniac, superiority-delusional nationalism and a relatively peaceful, self-conceited, isolationist form (van der Dennen, 1987); an ordinary nationalism and a destructive nationalism (Berke, 1989); political nationalism and ethnic nationalism (Nodia, 1994); and so on.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    The authors of a report on nationalism, published by the Royal Institute of International Affairs (1939), in a introductory note point to this twofold meaning of nationalism. “Its [of nationalism] effect is not necessarily taken as being confined to the individual’s own nation, although admittedly this is very often the case, nor is the nationalist necessarily conceived of as making the interest of his own nation supremely important. In short, the term is used in such a sense that Mazzini, Gladstone, and Woodrow Wilson can be described as exponents of nationalism, as well as Herr Hitler.”.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    By applying Meinecke’s principle of distinction between the political and cultural nation (see Chapter 1), Kohn (1944:455-576) has contrasted the western European, and the central and eastern European concepts of nation. Like the different concepts of nation, there are different understandings of nationalism in these regions. Germanophilism and Slavophilism provide examples of central-eastern European nationalism, in which the emphasis is on Eigenart (or samobytnost). Arendt (1951:226-7) calls the western European type of nationalism chauvinism, and the central and easternEuropean, tribal nationalism. “Chauvinism now usually thought of in connection with the nationalism integral of Maurras and Bares... even in its most wildly fantastic manifestations did not hold that men of French origin, born and raised in another country, without any knowledge of French language would be ‘born Frenchmen’ thanks to some mysterious qualities of body and soul.... In psychological terms, the chief difference between even the most violent chauvinism and this tribal nationalism is that one is extroverted, concerned with visible, spiritual and material achievements of the nation, whereas the other, even in the mildest forms... is introverted, concentrates on the individual’s own soul which is considered as the embodiment of the general national qualities.” See also Pejovic (1993), who states that “the ethos in Eastern Europe has a strong bias towards communalism. The prevailing concept of the community in the region is not the classical-liberal one of a voluntary association of individuals who, in the pursuit of their private ends, join and leave the community by free choice. Instead, the community is seen as an organic whole to which individuals are expected to suboordinate their private their private ends and in which all cooperate to pursue their common value.” Along the same lines Hutchinson (1994:17) makes the distinction between the two conceptions of the nation. “The first is civic, focusing on the achievement of an autonomous state of equal citizens, a concept which emerged first in Western Europe, and the second is ethnic, associated with Central and Eastern Europe, where the nation was initially conceived of as a historical and cultural individuality which must be preserved or revived.”.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    About the transition from liberal nationalism to imperialist nationalism see Arendt, “Imperialism,” In part II The Origins of Totalitarianism.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Griffin (1993:148-9) rightly noticed that the demarcation line between the two nationalisms—nationalism that is “indispensable to the cohesion of democratic institutions and values”, and nationalism as “chauvinism, integral nationalism, hyper-or ultra-nationalism”—is rarely as straightforward as it might seem.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    “What we call fascist style was in reality the climax of a ‘new politics’ upon the emerging eighteenth century idea of popular sovereignty. A common substance of citizenship was said to exist, of which all could partake. No longer would royal or princely dynasties take the place of popular self-expression. The concept popular sovereignty was given precision by the ‘general will,’ as J.J. Rousseau has expressed it, by the belief that only when men are acting together as an assembled people does man’s nature as a citizen come into active existence. The general will became a secular religion, the people worshipping themselves, and the new politics to guide and formalize this worship. The unity of the people was not merely cemented by the idea of common citizenship; rather a newly awakened national consciousness performed this function” (Mosse, 1975:1).Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Mead (1968:222) emphasizers that war depends upon the establishment of unequivocal and mutually exclusive identities and loyalties, today represented by national boundaries. In this sense, in considering the alternatives to war, Mead, among negative requirements, points out “the reduction of the strength of all mutually exclusive loyalties, whether of nation, race, class, religion or ideology, and constructing some different form of organizations in which the memory of these loyalties and the organizational residues of these former exclusive loyalties cannot threaten the total structure”; and among positive requirements she emphasizes “the establishment of the conditions for a variety of mutually overlapping and non-exclusive identifications with larger groups of many kinds, without any single or overriding loyalty.” This last requirement comes down to a depatriotizing. Morris (1969:153-4), in his book “The Naked Ape,” posits that “defeat is what an animal wants, not murder; domination is the goal of aggression, not destruction,” and basically humans “do not seem to differ from other species in this respect.” However, the original goal has become blurred for the individuals involved in the fighting due to “the vicious combination of attack remoteness and group cooperativness.” The result is that humans “attack now more to support their comrades than to dominate their enemies.” Morris warns that “this unfortunate development may yet prove to be our undoing and lead to the rapid extinction of the species,” and proposes three possible solutions: massive mutual disarmament, to depatriotize the members of the different social groups and to provide and promote harmless symbolic subistitutes for war. The question arises how feasible are these solutions. As far as the depatriotizing is concerned, the author is very skceptical. “This would be working against a fundamental biological feature of our species. As fast as alliances could be forged in one direction, they would be broken in another. The natural tendency to form social in-groups could never be eradicated without a major genetical change in our make-up, and one which would automatically cause our complex social structure to desintegrate.” However questionable is Morris’s opinion that such a thing as group mentality is naturally, biologically, genetically conditioned, he is near the mark when he states that there is no way to change humans’ tendency to form social ingroups and to prevent all the ramifications and consequences of such a proclivity or disposition. Scheff (1994:2) also blames excessive committment to only one social group for one of the most devastating plights humans may experience. “Destructive wars require not only isolation between nations but also engulfment within: blind loyalty that overrides reason and dissent.” According to this author (1994:58), nationalism constitutes a bimodal alienation: engulfment within the group, isolation outside of it.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Connor (1987:213) states that the question of accommodating ethnonational heterogeneity within a single state revolves about two loyalties—loyalty to the national and loyalty to the state, and gives his opinion about the most likely outcome of this conflict of loyalties. “The great number of bloody separatist movements that have occurred in the past two decades within the first, second, and third worlds bear ample testimony that when the two loyalties are seen as being in irreconcilable conflict, loyalty to the state loses out.”.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Except in periods of crisis, “when international tensions and national fears become dominant,” certain circumstances, according to (Grodzins, 1956:51-68), make it comparatively easy for individuals to reconcile nonnational and national loyalties. The ambiguity of the meaning of the nation. “It is by no means clear in a democratic state what the ‘nation’ is to which loyalty is required. Is it the government in power? Is it the system of government? Is it the moral creed or the historic ideas on which government rests. Is it the duly elected leaders? Is it the enduring cultural complex?... Individuals and groups define for themselves to which of these ‘nations’ they owe their allegiance.... It is thus possible for all manner of activities to be defined as loyal by all manner of men.” In addition to that, loyalty is defined in law only negatively. “No constitutional provision or statute attempts to set forth what loyalty is. The legal documents define disloyalty: treason, espionage, sabotage, and related crimes.” Legitimization. The practice of “making other loyalties right and justified by equating them with national loyalty” is quite widespread. “Private and special interests are given the prestige of the national interest. Some persons and organizations argue that their own goals are—or should be—the nation’s goals; others take up national programs as their own.” The segmentation of life and multiplicity of roles. “The very segmentation of life makes it typically easy for individuals to reconcile the different kinds of action demanded of them by their various group loyalties.... A citizen can be exclusively concerned with private affairs and he can still assume that his fulfils his role as citizen.... The center of his life and the center of his interests are rarely the nation. The nation’s demands can thus be put into a pigeonhole alongside other pigeonholes. The segmentation of life makes possible the segmentation of loyalties. Expressions of loyalty to the nation seldom conflict with the expression of other loyalties.”.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    According to Hertz (1944:21), national aspirations are composed of four elements: the striving for national unity, the striving for national freedom, the striving for separateness, distinctiveness, individuality, originality, or peculiarity, and the striving for distinction among nations. Hertz considers the striving for distinction among nations to be the strongest of all four aspirations and to underlie them all. And what seems to be even more important, “the striving for distinction among nations, for honour, dignity, prestige and influence easily becomes a striving for domination.”.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    See the paper “Ethnic Mobilization in New and Old States: an Extension of the Competition Model,” in which Nagel and Olzak (1982) account for the resurgence of ethnic mobilization in the modern world by urbanization, the increased scale of social organization, the expansion of the secondary and tertiary economic sectors, the expansion of the political sector, and the supranational organizations.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Distinction is to be made between crimes inspired by a supraindividual entity and committed in its name and crimes, the perpetrator of which, tries to justify by referring to the dictates and interests of a supraindividual entity.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    liiere are a number of psychological studies in which group members are shown to prefer ingroups to outgroups (e.g., Doise, 1972; Kahn and Ryen, 1972; Turner, 1978; Brewer and Silver, 1978; Locksley, Ortiz, and Hepburn, 1980).Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Connor (1994:46) rightly observes: “Ethnic strife is too often superificially discerned as principally predicated upon language, religion, customs, economic inequity, or some other tangible element. But what is fundamentally involved in such a conflict is that divergence of basic identity which manifests itself in the ‘us-them’ syndrome.”.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    “Only when our sense of justice is offended do we react with rage, and this reaction by no means necessarily reflects personal injury” (Arendt, 1970:63).Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    See Smith’s (1983) criticism of the van den Berghe’s sociobiological position.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    “Even if it is true that more nationalistic or ethnocentric groups are more likely to survive in time of danger, more nationalistic or ethnocentric groups may decrease the chances for continued existence by increasing the number of dangerous situations in which they get involved, by decreasing the amount of constructive criticism offered by group members in the face of threats to survival” (Rosenblatt, 1964). Braunthal (1946:5), in a more open and direct form, expresses the same opinion about the perilousness of nationalist views. “Nationalist emotion was the strongest creative force during the last hundred and fifty years. In the age of modern warfare and world-wide economic interdependence it became, however, the most destructive force. Hitherto, nationalist emotion sought its political satisfaction in the sovereignty and grandeur of the national State. In the atomic age, however, national egotism conflicts with the conditions for national self-preservation, because national self-preservation requires the subordination of national sovereignty to an international sovereignty and the subordination of national economic interests to those of the whole world. The true nationalist must therefore become a true internationalist in order to avoid the peril of the impoverishment and destruction of his nation.”.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Wertham’s reasoning (1966:88) about the psychological preparation needed for racism-driven mass killing may also be applied to ethnocentrism-inspired taking of other people’s lives. This author points out that the dehumanization of people of other races is a part of the rationalization process designed to provide acceptable reason for killing, especially mass killing. Rationalization actually encompasses two steps. The first step is deindividualization: people of another ethnonational background (and another race, too) are not looked upon as individuals but rather as a type or a stereotype. The stereotypical view of other people supersedes the individualized approach aimed at respecting the individual specificities of every human being. In the second step the victim is “consigned to nonhuman status and is no longer entitled even to mercy”; in other words, he or she is dehumanized. Sanford (1972:40) argues that “since in most cultures there are strong prohibitions against killing people... this process of defining them as outside the human race makes the killing or enslavement possible.” Schwartz and Struch (1989:153) share the same opinion: “It is when people dehumanize others, viewing them as lacking the moral sensibilities that distinguish humankind, that they can ignore the internalized and social norms that enjoin compassion and oppose cruelty to others.” And Bernard, Ottenberg, and Redl (1971:102) observe that dehumanization as a kind of misperceiving of others ranges from viewing them en bloc as “subhuman” or “bad human” (a long-familiar component of group prejudice) to viewing them as “nonhuman.” There are two kindred but distinct forms of dehumanization (Rieber and Kelly, 1991:16). Self-directed dehumanization “relates to intrapsychic events where the self protects itself by immunizing itself against stress-laden situations that threaten to be traumatizing.” On the other side, object-dehumanization aims at depersonalizing the other; it strips other people of their human traits. Rieber and Kelly (1991:16) state that enmification, a derivative of enemy (see Chapter 4, “Nationalism and Aggressiveness”), takes the process of object dehumanization “one step further and reduces the other to a ‘thing’ that is potentially dangereous.” The sequence of events might also be reversed so that enmification precedes object dehumanization. Yet Fein (1990:36) questioned the concept itself of dehumanization, because “it presumes an universalistic norm barring collective violence.” However, the existence of such a norm, according to this author, cannot be taken for granted. That is why Fein prefers the notion of “the exclusion of the victim from the universe of mutual obligations” to the concept of dehumanization. Fein rightly stresses that the exclusion of the victim from the universe of obligations is necessary but not sufficient condition for genocide, which is always precipitated by purposeful “state action, by instrumental rationality of its perpetrators, given their ends.” Dehumanization is, according to Bar-Tal (1990:93), one of the most commonly used contents of delegitimization. This author defines delegitimization (or beliefs of delegitimization) as those “beliefs that downgrade another group with extreme negative social categories for the purpose of excluding it from human groups that are considered as acting within the limits of acceptable norms and/or values.” Delegitimization is a wider notion than dehumanization, as it includes, among others, the use of extremely negative and unique contents, the rejection of the delegitimized group, and so on.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    McCall et al. (1974:28) see the social relationship as a form of social organization. Although they considers a relationship between two individuals to be the basic form of social relationship and thereby of social organization, the authors assert that a dyadic relationship is in many regards comparable to relations existing in groups and communities.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Eriksen (1993:62) calls children from “mixed” couples ethnic anomalies. He says that their identity problems “may be similar to those of the children or grandchildren of immigrants”. Children from ethnically “mixed” couples, according to this author (1993:62), can be considered “as ‘neither-nor’ or ‘both-and/ depending on the situation and/or the wider context.” It is interesting, this author adds, that in some places, for example in Mauritius, “mixed” people may be considered a particular ethnic group.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Allport (1954:13-4) points out that attitude and belief are at one and the same time related and different, particularly ethnocentric attitudes and beliefs (e.g., I cannot abide Negroes, is an attitude, and Negroes are smelly, is a belief). “The belief system has a way of stitchering around to justify the more permanent attitude. The process is one of rationalization—of the accommodation of beliefs to attitudes.” If effort were made to suppress, to correct an ethnocentric attitude, it, as a rule, would hide, slip into respective belief, and as soon as corrective pressure eased up the attitude would resurface. According to van Dijk (1987:195), ethnic prejudice has five basic properties. “A first property of prejudice is that it is a ‘group attitude’—it is shared by the members of a social group (the ‘in-group’).” In other words, “it is not a set of personal opinions.” “Second, the objects of attitude are one or more other groups (‘out-groups’) that are assumed to be different on any social dimension.” In ethnic prejudice, “this difference is attributed to the ethnic characteristic of the out-group.” Third, “the overall (macro)evaluation dominating the group attitude is negative.” Fourth, “the negative opinions of the ethnic attitude are generalizations based on lacking, insufficient, or biased models.” Fifth, “the ethnic attitude is acquired, used, and transformed in social contexts and functions as the cognitive program for intergroup perceptions and interactions that are structurally favorable for the in-group and its members.”.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Bay et al. (1950:19-20) also state that one cannot talk about distinct and descrete entities—nationalists and nonnationalists. Both can be presented on a dimension. On one pole of this dimension are persons showing a high power orientation, low people orientation, and strong hostility toward outgroups; on the other pole are persons showing low power orientation, high people orientation, and no or very little hostility to outgroups. According to the authors, people-oriented identification means identifications with people as individual human beings, independently of their social status or power, and power-oriented identification means an identification with symbols of power and authority, that is, with events, institutions, persons, or any other objects in so far as they are perceived as representing power and authority.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    It was Sumner (1906:13) who first coined the term ethnocentrism and defined it as “this view of things in which one’s own group is the center of everything, and all others are scaled and rated with reference to it.... Each group nourishes its own pride and vanity, boasts superior, exalts its own divinities, and looks with contempt on outsiders. Each group thinks its own folkways the only right ones, and if it observes that other groups have other folkways, these exite its scorn” Originally, ethnocentrism involved a tendency to apply the values and criteria of one’s own ethnic group “to other cultural contexts where different values are operative” (Le Vine and Campbell, 1972:1). Ethnocentrism in a broader sense implies people’s strong attachment to their national group, whereas “symbols of other groups or their values become objects of contempt and hatred.” In this broader sense, the idea of ethnocentrism is close to that of nationalism. In fact, “nationalism and ethnocentrism are similar in the sense that they both usually involve positive attitudes toward an ingroup and negative attitudes toward some or all outgroups. They do not overlap completely. Nationalism, more often than ethnocentrism, involves loyalty to a politically distinct entity, membership in an elaborately organized and relatively populous social grouping, adherence to a formalized ideology, and performance of relatively stereotyped allegiance-expressing behavior” (Rosenblatt, 1964). Stack (1981:4) also considers nationalism as “only the most visible and politicized manifestation of the phenomenon we call ethnicity.”.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    If a partner to an, in ethnonational terms, mixed marriage happens to have ethnonationalist beliefs and, in addition, by his or her psychological make-up, is a assertive person, the other partner, in order to establish and sustain peaceful marital relations (“the peaceful life under the same roof”), may use the defensive mechanism called identification with the aggressor; and by so doing become the preacher of the same nationalist attitudes as his/her spouse. However, once the partner, who in this context may be considered an authentic (“genuine”) nationalist, has died or the partners, for whatever reason, have split up, the partner who resorted to nationalism for (in the above sense) defensive purposes, quite often, and almost overnight, becomes a fierce enemy of the ethnonational group of his or her former (or late) spouse. I have witnessed many a time this kind of switching from one nationalism to another during the most recent clashes among the ethnonational groups in the Balkans.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    “Nationalism proved most successful in creating the new politics in part because it was based on emotion. But this emotion did not produce ‘a crowd in ecstasy’ simply because reason and logic were missing. Rather, the careful efforts of nationalist movements were directed towards disciplining and directing the masses in order to avoid that chaos which defeats the creation of a meaningful movement” (Mosse, 1975:16).Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    About the mythopoeic dimension of nationalism see Smith (1976:5).Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    “The past is an essential element, perhaps the essential element in these ideologies (nationalistic). If there is no suitable past, it can always be invented The past legitimizes. The past gives a more glorious background to a present that does not have much to show for itself” (Hobsbawm, 1993b) Smith (1995:63) calls the same nationalist invention and glorification of the past calls ‘ethno-history’ or ethnic mythistoire. “I mean,” says this author, “not an objective historian’s dispassionate enquiry into the past but the subjective view of later generations of a given cultural unit of population of the experience of their real or presumed forebears. That view is inseparable from what the historian and social scientist would term ‘myth’.”.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Many scholars consider nationalism to be one of the forms of historicist culture (cf. Breuilly, 1982:336; Smith, 1991:97, and others).Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Two other paradoxes of nationalism, according to Anderson (1987:14), are “(1) the formal universality of nationality as a sociocultural concept—in the modern world one—versus the irremediable particularity of its concrete, so that, by definition, ‘Greek’ nationality is sui generis, and (2) the political power of nationalism versus its philosophical poverty and even incoherence.”.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    In comparing the popularity of the nationalist and Marxist explications of human suffering, Moore (1978:485-6) points to the general advantage of nationalism. “In the first place, it is simple, which Marxism certainly is not. Nationalism puts the blame for whatever is painful in one’s own society squarely on an easily identified group: the outsiders, the foreign enemy. There is no need for nuances and complicated causal links. Class consciousness, on the other hand, runs counter to many obvious facts from daily experience. It is hard to put domestic power-holders in the same emotional and intellectual category as foreign ones, when every day’s news brings evidence of conflict between “our” leaders and those of other states. It is also not so easy to make a steelworker believe that he has a great deal in common with a brewery worker if the price of beer goes up.... The foreign enemy is also a relatively safe target for day-to-day symbolic aggression. Retaliation is far less likely than in the case of an attack on local power-holders. For that reason too the attack is much more likely to attract diverse social support.”.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    There are many aspects of the relationship between religion and nationalism. We will mention but a few of them. 1. Nationalism is a substitute for religion. The binding force of nationalism plays the role which religious beliefs used to perform. “The insecurities arising from changes in the material environment have been augmented,” asserts Lasswell (1935:50-51), “by the stresses arising from the decline in potency of the older religious symbols and practices. Nationalism and proletarianism are secularized alternatives to the surviving religious patterns, answering to the need of personalities to restabilize themselves in a mobile world.” Llobera (1994:144) observes that modern national identity appeared in Western Europe at a time “when all the intermediary bonds were collapsing, and religion itself was losing its grip on the masses.” This author attributes the success of nationalism in modernity largely to “the sacred character that the nation has inherited from religion. In its essence the nation is the secularized god of our times” (Llobera, 1994:211). Nationalism can substitute for religion because they have many common features, most clearly articulated by Hayes (1980:164-5) in his book “Nationalism: A Religion.” “Nationalism, like any religion, calls into play not only the will, but the intellect, the imagination and the emotions. The intellect constructs a speculative theology or mythology of nationalism. The imagination build an unseen world around the eternal past and the everlasting future of one’s nationality. The emotions arouse a joy and an ecstasy in the contemplation of the national god who is all-god and all-protecting, a longing for his favors, a thankfulness for his benefits, a fear of offending him, and feelings of awe and reverence at the immensity of his power and wisdom; they express themselves naturally in worship, both private and public. For nationalism, again like any other religion, is social, and its chief rites are public rites performed in the name and for the salvation of a whole community.” 2. Religion is a political extension of traditional religions. (Smith, 1976:19). The notion of political religion in the sense in which Apter (1963:77-89) uses this term in some way exemplifies this aspect of the relationship between religion and nationalism. Reconciliation systems (a government of laws and not of humans) are undergoing, according to this author, a crisis intensified by the secularization of the religious sphere. “The logic of this argument would be a return to religious belief as the way out of our difficulty.” However, this course of action seems to be “highly unlikely,” and therefore new solutions are needed. “The resulting internal danger is that reconciliation systems might turn to political religions to reinforce their own position or in an illusory effort to eradicate enemies both within and without. This was the Nazi solution in Germany, and the Fascist solution in Italy.” States in which political religion dominates, which arose in the West as a response to the loss of faith, have something in common with theocratic states. “States created through nationalism have taken a form not dissimilar to theocracies in that they attempt to create new systems of transcendental values that have the twin effects of establishing legitimacy for the state and the moral underpinnings necessary to political objectives. In this respect political religion is at least partly employed for nonreligious objectives.” 3. The secular and religious nationalism. It was Jurgensmeyer (1993:13-24) who made this distinction. According to this author, “the secular-nationalist loyalties are based in the idea that the legitimacy of the state was rooted in the will of the people, divorced from any religious sanction.” Yet the religious nationalism “dismisses secular nationalism as bereft of moral and spiritual values,” and its advocates reproach secular nationalism for having failed to political freedom, economic prosperity, and social justice. “The vision of religious nationalists is appealing in part because it promises a future that cannot easily fail: its moral and spiritual goals are transcendent and not so easy to gauge as are the more materialistic promises of secular nationalists.” 4. The holy of religion is in many ways entwined with the unholy of nationalism. Nationalism-inspired and driven warriors seek the blessings of their respective gods. “However cynical the leaders might ever have been, their followers generally believed they had these blessings and killed and died because they held certain creeds to be true, practiced certain rites, or—perhaps most commonly—lacking faith or piety or both, simply wore the badges of belonging or not belonging to this or that religious persuasion” (Isaacs, 1975:154). The same point is made by Jurgensmeyer (1993:15). He says that religion and nationalism provide an overarching framework of moral order, a framework that commands ultimate loyalty from those who subscribe to it. “Nowhere is this common form of loyalty more evident than in the ability of nationalism and religion, alone among all forms of allegiance, to give moral sanction to martyrdom and violence.”.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Griffin (1991:26) defines generic fascism in the following way: “Fascism is a genus of political ideology whose mythic core in its various permutations is a palingenetic form of a populist ultra-nationalism.”.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Weber (1948:177) writes that “the earliest and most energetic manifestations of the idea (of the nation), in some form, even though it may have been veiled, have contained the legend of a providential ‘mission.’ Those to whom the representatives of the idea zealously turned were expected to shoulder this mission.”.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    “National unity requires both a sense of cohesion or ‘fraternity’ and a compact, secure, recognized territory or ‘homeland’; all nationalisms, therefore, strive for such fraternity and homelands. But, since neither are born overnight or ex nihil, both presuppose a long history of collective experience. So ‘history’ becomes the focal point of nationalism and nation-formation. The ‘rediscovery’ or ‘invention’ of history is no longer a scholarly pastime; it is a matter of national honour and collective endeavour” (Smith, 1986:148). In the same sense, the progress in historical studies (not “rediscovery” or “invention” of history) may constitute, according to Rennan (1990:11) a danger for (the principle) of nationality. “Historical enquiry brings to light deeds of violence which took place at the origin of all political formations, even those whose consequences have been altogether beneficial. Unity if always effected by means of violence....”.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Fukuyama (1991:182) writes that there is no reason to believe that “all people will evaluate themselves as the equals of other people.” Rather, they may seek to be recognized as superior to other people, “possibly on the basis of true inner worth, but more likely out of an inflated and vain estimate of themselves.” Fukuyama dubs as megalothymia (“a new word with ancient Greek roots”) this desire to be recognized as superior to other people, and, later (1991:201) adds that “nationalism represents a transmutation of the megalothymia of earlier ages into a more modern and democratic form.”.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Connor (1987:204) points at two main effects or consequences of the fact that the sense of common kinship permeates the ethnonational bond. “First, it qualitatively distinguishes national consciousness from non-kinship identities (such as those based on religion or class)... and secondly, an intuitive sense of kindredness or extended family would explain why nations are endowed with a very special psychological dimension—an emotional dimension—not enjoyed by essentially functional or juridicial groupings, such as socio-economic classes or states”.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Weber (1948:179) stresses that, in the eyes of the nationals, “the significance of the ‘nation’ is usually anchored in the superiority, or at least irreplaceability, of the culture values that are to be preserved and developed only through the cultivation of the group.” The politicization of the native culture, Smith (1995:68) observes, often goes hand in hand with the purification of the community. This means, “first of all, jettisoning all ‘alien’ cultural traits—words, customs, dress, food, artistic styles—and reappropriating vernacular traits for a renewed indigenous culture. But it also means purifying the people themselves, forging the ‘new man’ and the ‘new woman,’ in the image of a pristine ideal found only in a idealized past of heroic splendour.”.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Smith (1976:18) shares the same view. “Every secession movement is fundamentally a linguistic movement.” Fishman (1985:71-2) calls the language loyalty movement this nationalists’ insistence on only “our” culture. The main goal of such a movement is “to activate and use unconscious language-and-ethnicity linkages in order to attain or reallocate econotechnical, political and cultural/educational power.... Language loyalty movements utilize language as a medium for reaching the largest possible target population and as a symbol of the purported ‘authenticity’, ‘unity’ and ‘mission’ of that population.” The main objective of national linguistic purism is to draw a linguistic boundary between our language and the language of our enemy. “The same enemies that are opposed in the struggle for national identity and autonomy are also opposed in the quest for linguistic identity and autonomy” (Fishman, 1973:409). And Hobsbawm (1990:9-11) observes that “problems of power, status, politics and ideology and not of communication or even culture, lie at the heart of the nationalism of language” and adds that that “there is an evident analogy between the insistence of racists on the importance of racial purity and the horrors of miscegenation, and the insistence of so many—one is tempted to say of most—forms of linguistic nationalism on the need to purify the national language from foreign elements.”.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dusan Kecmanovic
    • 1
  1. 1.SydneyAustralia

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