Friday, October 16, 2009

Nationalism, Democracy...and Awesome?

This week, we discussed the topic of nationalism.  More specifically, we talked about how nationalism ties directly into things such as democracy, education, and war.  (Just so we all have the right idea on nationalism, this is not it: )  It seems that nationalism and democracy in particular are connected.  The rising wave of nationalism coincides exactly with new systems of government or a greatly expanded franchise leading to a large number of first time voters.  Many of these voters were not educated and tended to be rural farmers.  Through no fault of their own, they tended to not be the most informed on matters of state and government.  Therefore, they became easy targets for campaigns based around whipping new voters into a nationalist frenzy, driven to the polls by fear of those who are different and a belief that their nation was better than all others to around it, and they should see their country rise to greatness (or restore former glory, or maintain its strength, etc).  This tactic was very, very successful, and led to a string of electoral victories across Europe for right wing nationalists.  This led to an upswing of nationalism across the continent, leading to an increased call for (and an increase in) territorial expansion and colonialism.  This obviously created a need for an increase in armaments for all nations.  The combination of all of these factors, stoked by the nationalist fervor of each populace (which had been, in turn, stirred by government officials as candidates for office) led, inevitably, to armed conflict between nations.  This is because, as several sources (according to nationalism, unlike patriotism, implies a hatred (or aggression, at least) towards other countries.  At a minimum, it causes rivalries, as seen here: and here: and at most it can lead to wars such as the Franco- Prussian War and World War One.  Nationalism arose as a tool to win votes and exploit new voters by appealing to their base instincts in order to win elections, and it often led to bloodshed and hatred between countries.  I do have a question to pose however.  We’ve discussed nationalism and unification and independence, but how do you feel about nationalism and patriotic feelings when not directed at the system governing you ( for an example of nationalism not directed to the nation in charge).  Is this still nationalism and patriotism?  Is it only one of the two?  Is it something else entirely?


  1. Hey chazz, nice commentary. I enjoyed the readings on nationlism too. The only thing I have a comment on is when you say "nationalism and democracy are particulary connected". It is completely true, but throughout history I feel more nondemocraticc states have used nationalism as a tool than democratic states. (Tactics of Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, other Islamic movements, Arab nationalism, etc.) Just a thought.

  2. Kate's comment is interesting, too. Your blog actually made me think of Palestinians and other ethnic groups who no longer have (or never had) a geographical state, but consider themselves a nation of people regardless of land or boundaries. I suppose we we can that it is nationalism and patriotism if non-ruling party they are proud and supportive of is what they would already refer to as a "nation" regardless of its powerlessness in the state they are subject to. As a side note, what is the difference between patriotism and nationalism? The OED defines patriotism as "love of or devotion to one's country." Nationalism, on the other hand (or the same hand?), is defined as "a. Advocacy of or support for the interests of one's own nation, esp. to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations. Also: advocacy of or support for national independence or self-determination." The difference between the two are very subtle; the latter suggests action or active support of one's country while the first does not. Is that it though?

  3. I think the crucial difference between nationalism and patriotism comes down to nationalism including an aspect of animosity towards those who are not a part of your national group.

    Obviously totalitarian states have used nationalism to keep the populace in check, though the widespread current of nationalism first came to the mainstream with expanding democracy...also, I don't think nationalism is at the heart of Islamist movements...there really is much more to that, and I think it would be the superiority of one's religion or class struggle, rather than a nationalist feeling.