Friday, October 9, 2009

Mass politics: nationalism and identity

The rise of mass politics coincided with the rise of the working class. This, not new, but newly empowered group of the population sought political power and did so through unionization. This rise of the working class was happening around the world with the exception of the USA where unionization was resisted. Working class groups had found their identity within their own cultures but the rise of mass politics around the globe prompted competition. The identity of being of a certain class was no longer useful since there was no real way for steel workers in the USA to ‘unite’ with laborers in Europe. The rise of nationalism would augment the workers identity by adding an additional dimension to their identity. One was no longer a member of the working class but was an American worker or a Polish worker. This new identity was strong in that it united people of different regions of the world more so than did the cry for “Workers of the World Unite!” The middle class also benefited from national sentimentalities. The politics of this time centered on creating a sense of security within one’s own nation (a relatively new concept for many). Protectionism was on the rise since the people of various nations saw themselves as superior but in competition to their rivals. It has been hypothesized that this protectionism was a major cause of high tensions between European nations leading up the First World War.

I was unaware of the relationship between nationalism and language during this time. For a long time language was a major contributor to a person’s identity but the rise of mass politics and nationalism had the power to unite various groups (even if they speak different dialects) under one identity. This made the whole nation of people seemingly more homogenous. Does anyone think that the role of nationalism is still stronger (as a means to create an identity) than language?

1 comment:

  1. In response to your question, yes I think the role of nationalism does more to create an identity than language. Or maybe it is not language, but cause that does more than language. For example, look at the EU. Most of these countries do speak diverse languages and still have an economic and political bond.