In this week’s readings, Hobsbawm takes us through the rise of nationalism. Nations strengthened individually and built themselves up into independent hegemonic powers with specific, unique national identities, which they took a great deal of pride in. There were many interesting political trends in this era, and the rise of modern democracy was certainly one of them. The nationalistic attitudes of the people of this time made for a perfect breeding ground of democracy. A government for the people by the people shows such trust and care for your people. With individuals campaigning, patriotism and their love for their people became a crucial factor.
What I found most interesting in this chapter was the shift in nationalism. Hobsbawm addressed the difference between the nationalism he described in earlier chapters in the late nineteenth century to the nationalism of this chapter around 1914, the dawn of the First World War. The earlier nationalism was completely based around imperialism and spreading one’s national borders and beliefs as far as possible. This ‘new’ nationalism was what one would be more likely to associate it with today, to the pride and identification to a particular nation. Hobsbawm defines this nationalism as the readiness of the people to identify with their nation. What is the connection between these two forms of nationalism? On the surface they’re not very similar but I think you can see the roots of the patriotic nationalism from the imperialist nationalism. Imperialism was what gave people a sense of national identity in their common goal of sharing and spreading their culture. When nations found success in expanding their borders and empires, they gained power which produced more pride in their nation. With success in imperialism, of course one was more ready to identify with their nation and take pride in the people.
Besides the contrast in nationalism, I found the relationship between nationalism and democracy to be particularly interesting. If it wasn’t for nationalism, would democracy have been able to exist? And how would the campaigns have differed?