What are the Two Important Models of Nationalism?

Nationalism generally involves the identification of an ethnic identity with a state.

The subject can include the belief that one’s nation is of primary importance. It is also used to describe a movement to establish or protect a homeland (usually an autonomous state) for an ethnic group.

In some cases the identification of a homogeneous national culture is combined with a negative view of other races of cultures.

In former eras, people were generally loyal to a city or to a particular leader rather than to their nation.

MAIN causes of WWI-Nationalism-The N stands for Nationalism, which ...

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If one goes through the movement’s genesis with the late-18th century American Revolution and French Revolution; one would find historians point specifically to the ultra-nationalist party in France during the French Revolution. Nationalism is sometimes reactionary, calling for a return to an idealized version of the national past and sometimes for the expulsion of foreigners.

Other forms of nationalism are revolutionary, calling for the establishment of an independent state as a homeland for an ethnic underclass. Nationalism emphasizes collective identity – a ‘people’ must be autonomous, united, and express a single national culture. Some nationalists stress individualism as an important part of their own national identity

The two models of nationalism are:


1. Gellner’s typology

Gellner, writing exclusively about Europe, divided Europe into four zones travelling from west to east and formulated four different types of nationalisms applicable to each zone. Gellner understood nationalism in terms of a marriage between the states and a pervasive high-cultural and saw four different patterns of this marriage in the four European zones.

Zone 1

It is located on the western belt consisting of England, France, Portugal and Spain witnessed a rather smooth and easy marriage of the two, because both the ingredients (state and high-culture for the defined territory) were present prior to the arrival of nationalism. In Gellner’s metaphor, the couples were already living together in a kind of customary marriage and the strong dynastic states more or less corresponded to cultural linguistic zones anyway, even before the decree of nationalisms ordered them to do so.


Zone II

It is (present day Italy and Germany), situated on the territory of the erstwhile Holy Roman Empire, was different from Zone 1 in the sense that, metaphorically speaking, the bride (high cultural for the territory) was ready (among the Italians from the days of early Renaissance and among the Germans since the days the days of Luther) but there was no groom (state for the exclusive territory).

Whereas strong dynastic states had crystallized in Zone 1 along the Atlantic coast, this zone was marked by political fragmentation. The age of nationalism, which had found both the elements (state and high culture for the territory) present in Zone 1, found only one (high culture) in Zone II.

So, although no ‘cultural engineering’ or ethnic cleansing was required here, a state-protector corresponding to the area had to be found or created. It was for this reason the nationalist project here had to be concerned with ‘unification’.

Here also, as in Zone I, nationalisms were benign, soft and conflict-free. There were no claims and counter-claims for the territory. Culturally homogeneous territories did not have to be carved out; they already existed. The high-culture also existed; it only needed to reach out to peasants and workers.

Zone III

It is in (territories east of Germany and west of Russian Empire, areas of present day Poland, Ukraine, Yugoslavia, Greece, Albania, Balkans etc.) that nationalism ceased to be benign and liberal and had to necessarily be nasty, violent and brutal.

The horrors, generally associated with nationalism, were inevitable here as neither or the two preconditions (state and high-culture) existed in a neat congruent fashion.

Both a national state and a national culture had to be carved out. This process required violence, ethnic cleansing forced transfer of population in an area marked by complex patchwork of linguistic and cultural differences. The cultures living at the margins of the two empires (Ottoman and Russian) did not correspond either with a territory or language or state.

Here, in order to meet and fulfill the nationalist imperative (passion for nationalism was quite strong in 19th century Europe), plenty of brutal earth-shifting had to be done in order to carve out areas of homogeneous cultures requiring their state.

Culturally uniform nation-state could only be produced by violence and ethnic cleansing. To quote Gellner, ‘In such areas, either people must be persuaded to forego the implementation of the nationalist ideal, or ethnic cleansing must take place. There is no third way.’

Zone IV

It is the area of Russian Empire on the farthest east in Europe. This zone was unique in some ways. The First World War relegated the empires of the world (Habsburg, Ottoman, and Russian) to the dustbin of history.

Yet the Russian Empire survived under a new dispensation and the socialist ideology. The marriage of state and culture did not take place here, or at any rate not for a very long time. The nationalist imperative was kept ruthlessly under check by the Tsarist Empire, and was, contained creatively by the supra-nationalist ideology of socialism, by the soviet Empire.

In fact many of national cultures flourished under the USSR; some were even nurtured by the state. There is no evidence that the collapse of the Soviet Russia in 1991 was bought by nationalism, but nationalism certainly benefited by the dismantling of the empire. In other words, the marriage of state and culture followed the disintegration without causing it in any way.

A high culture in different cultural zones had been in a way nurtured by the socialist state, and the other element (the state) simply arrived upon the collapse of the soviet Empire.

2. Anthony Smith’s Typology

So much for Europe is it possibly to create a similar typology for the entire world? Though a neat zonal division of the world (along European lines) is not possible and the pattern would be much more complex, Anthony Smith has attempted some kind of a division of a world into different types of routes that nationalisms takes in its journey towards creation of nation-states. It can best be understood through the table given below:

Smith’s basic division is simple. The creation of nation-states has taken two routes – gradualist and nationalist. The gradualist route is generally conflict free and contest free and is one where the initiative was taken by the state to create conditions for the spread nationalism.

Nation-states were thus formed either by direct state sponsored patriotism (like Zone I of Gellner) or were the result of colonization (Australia and Canada: they did not have to fight for independence) or provincialism where cultures/states just ceded from the imperial
power, were granted independence and were on their way towards becoming nation-states.

One feature of the gradualist route is that it was marked by the absence of conflict, violence, contesting claims over nationhood or any national movement. The other, nationalist route is characterized by rupture, conflict, violence and earth-moving. Smith divides this rupture-ridden route into two sub-routes -those of ethnic nationalism and territorial nationalism. These terms are self-evident and their meanings clear. The ethnic sub-route is divided into two lanes-based on renewal and secession.

Renewal is based on the renewal or the revival of a declining ethnic identity like Persia in the 1890s. The secessionist lane could be further divided into three by- lanes of breakaway, Diaspora and irredentist nationalism.

The breakaway group (either from empires or multi-national states) sought to serve a bond through cessation like Italians and Czechs from the Habsburg Empire; Arabs, Armenians and Serbs from the Ottoman Empire; and Poles and Ukrainians from the Tsarist Russian Empire. Bangladesh that broke away from Pakistan in 1971 could also come in the same category. The Diaspora nationalism is best represented by the Jews.

Completely devoid of a state, territory of their own or even a high-culture till the mid-19th century. Jews lived for nearly two centuries like perpetual minorities on other people’s lands. They were eventually constituted into a nation-state through struggle, other powers’ diplomacy, ethnic cleansing (done to them by others), and earth moving and also by statistical probability of being on the right side in the great world war.

‘Had the war gone the other way, we can be sure that Israel would not have been formed into a nation-state in 1950. The irredentist nationalism normally followed a successful national movement.

If the new state did not include all the members of the ethnic group (this mildly violates the nationalist principle) who lived on the adjacent land under a different policy, they would have to be redeemed and the land on which they lived, annexed. This happened in Balkan nationalism among Greeks, Serbs and Bulgarians and in Germany of Somalia today.

Territorial nationalism occurred when a heterogeneous population was coercively united by a colonial power. The boundary of the territory and the centralized administration of the colonial power formed the focus of the nation to be.

On taking over power (invariably through a national movement) the nationalists try to integrate the culturally heterogeneous population (tribes, various other cultural groups and people living on the margin), who had neither shared history nor common origin except colonial subjugation.

This happened for instance in Tanzania and Argentina. In certain instances (Burma, Indonesia, Malaysia, Kenya, Nigeria) there were national movements that defined their aims in terms of wider territorial units, yet were clearly spearheaded by members of one dominant ethnic group. Later their domination was challenged by other smaller groups, creating space for a breakaway nationalism.

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