Thursday, October 15, 2009

Chapter 6 Nationalism

One important result of the rise of the working class was the rise of nationalism in politics. The word nationalism first appeared in the end of the nineteenth century to describe groups of right wing ideologists in France and Italy, who were opposed to any kind of foreigners, liberals or socialists and in favor of aggressive expansion of their own state. Nationalism was based in the readiness of a people to identify with their nation, and to be politically mobilized. This was a readiness that was politically exploited by the leaders of these states. They called it “patriotism”, and used it to establish others as some kind of traitor or alien. This kind of patriotism was a somewhat new phenomenon, as most nationalism in the early nineteenth century had identified with the liberal and radical movements of the French revolution.

This new kind of nationalism could be seen as a mutation within the new nationalism, which would have major effects on the twentieth century. The first major mutation was nationalism being taken over by the political right. The second was the assumption that national self determination could be available to any group of people or states that happened to call themselves a “nation”. What was most important at this time was not how much support for the cause achieves at the time, but rather, the transformations that that took place which redefined nationalism. Another important development was the creation of the idea of the “nation-state”. The state not only made the nation, but needed to make the nation.

What made nationalism so successful was the leaps in technology, communication, education, and literacy. Schooling increased in most every European nation, and so did literacy and awareness as a result. The national, state organized education led to the institution of the national language. A unity among language was yet another factor that contributed to nationalism and nationalist identity.

It is quite undeniable that the outbreak of war in 1914 produced genuine outburst of mass patriotism in the main belligerent nations. The nationalism of the Irish Fenians would have never existed had they not identified with the Catholic Irish. The Russian revolution would not have been possible if the people had not been moved by the idea of this new kind of super patriotism. All of these were the result of nationalism’s effect upon the common man, the force behind each nation.

One thing I found exceptionally interesting about the reading was the sheer power of a united nationalist core of a country. It seemed that when united under nationalism, almost anything was possible, from a practical and needed small change to a radical change like a revolution. This harnessed energy was not always positive. It led to massive waves of anti-Semitism in central and Eastern Europe.

What led to nationalism’s decline? It seems as if it’s not as easy to garner the working classes’ attention and focus it on such a radical cause. It takes, time and will only work on a moderate cause, and many times, no support can be gathered at all.

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