Thursday, October 15, 2009


In Chapter 6 of Hobsbawm, the author discusses the rise of nationalism. The word nationalism was first associated with far-right idealists who favored expansion of their states and contrasted the liberalist and socialist movements of the time. The rise of democracy enabled nationalism, as elections provided the opportunity to mobilize people who saw nationalism as primary. Often, members of the far right would adopt “patriotism” and “nationalism” as their standards and paint everyone outside of the party as a traitor of the nation. This nationalistic movement contrasted the nationalism from earlier in the century, which had identified more with liberal and radical movements rooted in the tradition of the French Revolution. This new form of nationalism was defined by its integration into politics, its application outside of the traditional definitions of nations, the desire to achieve complete autonomy for the state, and the definition of a nation in terms of language and ethnicity. Along with the development of political association with nationalism was the increased importance of education. “From the state’s point of view, the school had a further and essential advantage: it could teach all children how to be good subjects and citizens” (150). Nationalism continued to spread, mostly through the lower middle class, and culminated with mobilization of citizen armies at the outset of World War I. This march to war proved “the necessity of patriotism for governments operating in democratic societies and its force” (164). Governments were able to form these armies on a nationalist basis because they successfully engrained in their people that the cause of the state was the cause of the people themselves.

Through the reading and our discussions in class, it is obvious that nationalism was closely tied to democracy, education and war. Democracy helped to advance the causes of nationalism because of the opportunities that elections provided for nationalist factions to gain control. Ironically, many “nationalist” parties used this power to quickly thwart democracy and other nation-states (Nazi Germany for example). Government was also involved in the tie between education and nationalism, as governing members saw schools as a primary way to instill national pride in its youth. This is certainly something that remains today, as most countries primarily teach the history of only their country. Even within the United States, nationalism and education runs beyond just American history. In many Southern schools, what the North terms the Civil War is still titled The War of Northern Aggression. While obviously the United States have been reunited, there was a time when the Confederate States of America formed their own nation, and there are still nationalistic feelings rooted in that tradition. The relation to war is an interesting one, as it is debatable as to whether war created nationalism or nationalism created war. It is probably a combination of the two, though I believe it is more the latter. Nations have always been battling to establish supremacy, and while the nationalist cause was not politically mobilized to the extent it was in the late nineteenth century, it was still evident in Greek and Roman societies. This imperialistic aspect of nationalism has remained intact, even today. The United States is heavily involved in several countries, trying to implant a democratic ideal based on the American example. My question stems from this, as I wonder if nationalism will ever fade to be replaced by a truly global society or if the world will always be divided by “national” lines?


  1. I think that is a really interesting question, and also something I have never thought of before. Although I believe it would be a positive thing if the world was no longer divided along national lines, I do not believe they will ever completely disappear. The European Union has somewhat been fading the national lines, people are even wondering if Europe will join and create a sort of "United States of Europe." A global society would help create peace, but I also would not societies to lose their culture to create a global economy. So, while I believe the world can and will become more global, I dont think nationalism will disapear to create a truely global society.

  2. I agree with Justine. I believe nationalism will never fully disappear from our society. There are too many differences in beliefs and cultures among countries in the world to form a completely global society. The world will achieve some sort of a global society but never completely. Some nations have been fighting since the beginning of documented history, and show no signs of ceasing. I would love to live in a peaceful world but the chances of this really happening are slim.