Complete information on Nationalism, Its theories and growth of Nationalism

Nationalism is a compound of many factors, some of which have their roots in human nature and many of which have a long history. Yet it is a modern phenomenon. To discover it is a difficult. In one sense, it is the extension of a group to which one belongs. In this sense, it is a form of collective egoism. In a negative sense, it is a manifestation of that fear of the ‘stranger’ with its roots deep in human nature. In modern sense, it is born of that love of the familiar land and people which often regarded as the core of patriotism.

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According to Hayes, nationalism has been used in many different ways and it is commonly used “to denote a condition of mind among members of a nationality, perhaps already possessed of a national state, a condition of mind in which loyalty to the ideal or to the fact of a national state is superior to all other loyalties, and of which pride in one. A nationality and belief in its intrinsic excellence and its ‘mission’ are integral parts”. Similarly, Hans Kohan defines nationalism as “state of mind…striving to a political fact.”

On the other hand, Gellner writes, “Nationalism is primarily a political principle which holds that the political unit and the national unit should be congruent …nationalist sentiment is a feeling of anger aroused by the violation of the principle, or the feel of satisfaction aroused by its fulfillment”. Giddens points to the psychological character of nationalism “the affiliation of the individual to a set of symbols and beliefs, emphasizing commonality among the members of a particular community”.


In short, nationalism has two aspects: i)the political character of nationalism as an ideology defending the notion should be congruent, and ii)its capacity to be a provider of identity for individuals conscious of forming a group based upon a common past and culture and attachment to a concrete territory. The power of nationalism emanates from its ability to a engender sentiments of belonging to a particular community. Symbols and rituals play a major role in the cultivation of a sense of solidarity among the people.

Thus, in order to understand the concept of nationalism, we must keep in mind that:

* Nationalism is a sentiment that has to do with attachment to common homeland, a common language, ideals, values and traditions, identifying a particular group with symbols such as flag ,songs which define it as ‘different’ from others.

* How a sentiment of attachment to a homeland and common culture can be transformed into the political demand for the creation of a state; how is it possible to make this transition? A theory of nationalism has to deal with questions such as: how does nationalism use and legitimize the use of violence in its quest for the creation of a state; what is the role of national ideology; what is the role of the leaders in the national movement and how far can they contribute to the propagation of symbols and ideals.

* An important feature of nationalism is its capacity to bring together people from different social and cultural levels. Nationalism is not merely an invention of the ruling classes to maintain the unconditional loyalty of the masses, but also a tool to make them believe that they have much in common. This is one of the basic factors for understanding the persistence of nationalism.

Theory Of Nationalism

The most hotly debated question in the context of nationalism is when and how did the nation appear. In other words, whether national consciousness and sentiment is an evolutionary historical continuum or it is the result of modernism such as commercialization, industrialization, urbanization, mass participation in political culture etc. Different theories of nationalism try to answer this question, though we do not find a final answer. For the sake of study, these theories can be divided into two broad categories: ‘Perennialism’ and ‘Modernism’. Perennialism concentrates on the history of nations which are described as ancient and immemorial.

They see the nation as a cultural community, immemorial, rooted, organic (natural based on languages) seamless (i.e they see society as a whole), and as a popular community that reflects the needs and ideals of the people. Ancestral ties and culture are of great importance to the advocates of this theory. On the other hand, modernists see the nation as a political community-modern, social construct and social creation, designed for an age of revolution and mass mobilization. The nation is seen as a creation of the elite in order to control and influence the thought and actions of the masses. They see the nation as divided, different social groups representing religion, gender and class, having different needs and therefore, split into separate groupings.


A) Perennial Theories

* Primordialist

* Sociobiological

B) Modernization Theories


* Social Communication Theories

* Economistic Theories- Marxist and Non-Marxist

* Political-Ideological Theories

Rise And Growth Of Nationalism

Historically, nationalism has been the product of the rise of nation-states in Europe. During its earlier phase, it was identified with the absolute monarchies of Europe. In the 18th and the 19th centuries, it acquired an imperialist from in the struggle for colonies in Asia and Africa; in the 19th century it associated itself with liberalism, democracy, constitutionalist and civil liberties. It played an important part in the reorganization of Europe, unification of Italy and Germany and the liquidation of Hapsburg and Ottoman Empires.

After the First World War, it acquired an aggressive and racial shape in the form of fascism, during the 20th century; it brought a new awakening in the Asian and African countries, through national liberation movements. After the cold war, the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the rise of a number of new states have once again shown the domination of nationalism as a political force.

Nationalism has found expression through the medium of modern nation-states which were the product of many forces and struggles. The principle factors responsible for the rise of nationalist states have been as follows:

i) The individualistic climate of opinion that characterized Renaissance and Reformation.

ii) The collapse of universal authority of the Church.

iii) The desire of the rising commercial classes for uniform trade regulations, abolition of feudal obstacles to trade for creating conditions under which trade could be carried on peacefully and profitably.

iv) The desire for peace, order and security in an age marked by bloodshed and violence.

v) Personal ambitions of monarchs who allied themselves with rising commercial classes in opposition to the more powerful feudal lords.

vi) The doctrine of territorial sovereignty which provided the kings the most convenient weapon to combat the claims of rivals or religious authorities. The idea of one unified legal system affording order, consistency and certainty in the governing of all social relations within a given national area made a very strong appeal.

Based upon the above factors, the growth of states on nationalistic lines started from England and Western Europe and spread to different continents and region. To have a clear understanding of the phenomenon, we can study it under the following headings:

i) Growth of the nation-state in Western, Southern and Eastern Europe

ii) Nation-state in America

iii) Anti-colonial nationalism in Asia and Africa.

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