nationalism


nationalism
Sentiment, aspiration, and consciousness are all terms applied to what constitutes nationalism, or the valuation of the nation-state above all else. However, it also entails certain assumptions about the will to self-determination, the existence and indeed desirability of diversity, the superiority of the sovereign state over other forms of rule, and the centrality of national loyalty to political power as a basic form of legitimation . Authors as diverse as Émile Durkheim and Lenin have argued that the prerequisite of genuine, solidaristic internationalism is mature nationalism, which alone recognizes the commonalities of diversity. However, others maintain the concept involves spurious notions of natural boundaries, and merely provides a convenient political epithet for both Left and Right alike (see, Theories of Nationalism, 2nd edn., 1983, and National Identity, 1991).
Variants of nationalism have tended to move away from the German version associated with the writings of J. G. Herder, which stressed the organic unity and ties of a nation, emphasizing subordination to the whole (in this case the state), a sense of mission, national purity, and the soul of a nation. This form of organic nationalism was more affectual than other West European rational associational nationalisms. There were also differences between German and Slav nationalisms, the latter tied to liberationist mobilization rather than irredentism, and to a nationalist intelligentsia rather than the whole people or Volk.
In his classic book on The Idea of Nationalism (1945), Hans Kohn distinguishes ‘Western’ type nationalism of the kind that emerged in England and France during the period 1600-1800 from the ‘Eastern’ type of nationalism which appeared in later centuries. In the former case, the nation is identified with the masses and with popular forms of politics, and thus serves to provide a cultural justification for an already existing political structure. In the latter, nationalism is used to justify the creation of nation-states in economically and politically less-developed parts of the world, by redrawing political boundaries in conformity with ethnographic demands-in other words it provides a justification for the invention of states and political processes. This distinction, like most other subsequent typologies of nationalism, serves descriptive and normative purposes; that is, it both classifies the types of nationalism found in the modern world, and simultaneously declares these to be politically valuable or dangerous forms. The Western variant is authentic, liberal, democratic, and good, while the Eastern is alien, ethnic, racist, and generally bad.
A similar, subsequent, and currently controversial typology distinguishes between ‘civic nationalism’ and ‘ethnic nationalism’ (see for example, Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity, 1992). The former equates nationality with citizenship ; is defined primarily in political or legal terms; implies a commitment (embraced voluntarily) to certain duties and rights; and can therefore be acquired and lost. The concept of civic nationalism means that some individuals can be without a nationality at all. Ethnic nationality, on the other hand, is rooted in biological necessity rather than individual choice. It runs in families and is believed to be an inherited characteristic. People are born into a particular nationality, which then determines their interests, sentiments, and sense of attachment to a particular nation. This distinction is appealing to many Western and liberal observers, because it allows them to differentiate between the idea of a freely chosen, politically decent nationalism (such as one might find in the civic pride of Americans), and the nationalism that celebrates inherited cultural identity (of the type that is found in, and causes conflict within, many East European countries).
Many of the typologies of nationalism have been accused of being Eurocentric, and of failing to address Latin American and emerging African post-colonial nationalisms, and the artificiality of imperially imposed boundaries upon tribal lands which were more fluid than the nation-states which followed.
Some writers have suggested that nationalism is itself a modern religion-or is at least akin to what elsewhere in sociology has been called a civil (or civic) religion. Indeed, there are specifically ‘religious nationalisms’, associated mainly with Islam and Judaism but evident also in, for example, the recent histories of Poland and Ireland (where Roman Catholicism has formed a central element in the national-secular-identity). Others maintain that nationalism is an essentially secular form of consciousness, so that the most which can be claimed is a functional equivalence between religion and nationalism.
Some accounts of nationalism appear deterministic. For example, Ernest Gellner's writings (see Nations and Nationalism, 1983) suggest that history can be seen as a succession of changing technologies, each of which generates the need for a specific socio-political order, and that nationalism is the style of politics that is best suited to the current (industrial) technology (because industrial societies, unlike agrarian ones, need homogeneous languages and culture in order to work efficiently). According to Gellner, ‘a man without a nation … provokes revulsion’, so where nationalism does not exist it is (as it were) necessary to invent it. In Gellner's account, emphasis is placed less on spontaneous collective aspirations (of the ‘civic’ kind) or culture (‘ethnic’ considerations), than upon the deliberate (and necessary) nation-building policies of government élites (or aspirant governments), pursued by means of public education and the culture industries. Perhaps not surprisingly Gellner's account has been criticized as materialist and functionalist. In social psychology, the social identity theory (SIT) of Henri Tajfel (see Human Groups and Social Categories, 1981) and his associates traces nationalism to (possibly innate) human tendencies to affiliate in social groups, and then act in furtherance of these groups. Within this particular research paradigm, social identities are viewed as integral aspects of an overall sense of self; those rooted in racial or national groups are found to be particularly important for self-esteem; and so it is difficult for people not to think nationalistically, to feel loyalties to their given (even if ‘imagined’) national community, and to pursue its particular interests against those of other nation-states. (For a summary of SIT research in European social psychology see, Group Identifications, 1988.)
The post-communist transformations in Russia and Central Europe raise the possibility of examining hypotheses about the relationships between nation-building, in terms of the search for new sources of social identification, and the advent of capitalism . In particular, the ‘value vacuum’ created by the collapse of official Marxism-Leninism has provided for a burgeoning of nationalist and populist ideologies , although these often refer to the nationalism of ‘small nations’ which do not possess the attributes necessary for full-blown nationalism.

Dictionary of sociology. 2013.

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