Definitions and Observations regarding Nationalism

Some Basic Definitions and
Observations regarding
notes by Denis Bai
PATRIOTISM – love for or devotion to ones country, home
NATIONALISM – loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially : a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other
nations or supranational groups.
CHAUVINISM – excessive or blind nationalism, undue partiality or attachment to a group or place to which one belongs or has belonged, an attitude of superiority toward members of other ethnicities, races, nations, or of the opposite sex.
JINGOISM – extreme chauvinism or nationalism marked especially by a belligerent foreign policy.
FASCISM – a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti – WWII Italy) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands
for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe
economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.
NAZISM – the body of political and economic doctrines held and put into effect
by the Nazis in Germany from 1933 to 1945 including the totalitarian principle of
government, predominance of especially Germanic groups assumed to be racially
superior, and supremacy of the fhrer.
IMPERIALISM – the policy, practice, or advocacy of extending the power and dominion of a nation especially by or by gaining
indirect control over the political or economic life of other areas; broadly : the
extension or imposition of power, authority, or influence.
COLONIALISM – the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically.
Definitions: From Patriotism to Nazism and on
AUTOCRACY – a system of government by one person with absolute
power. (Also, MONARCHY).
ARISTOCRACY – a form of government in which power is held by the nobility. (Also, OLIGARCHY).
DEMOCRACY – a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.
ETHNOCRACY – a form of government where representatives of a
particular ethnic group advance the position of their ethnic group to the
detriment of others.
THEOCRACY – a system of government in which priests rule in the name of God or god.
BUREAUCRACY – a system of government in which most of the
important decisions are made by state officials rather than by elected
TECHNOCRACY – the government or control of society or industry by an elite of technical experts.
PLUTOCRACY – government by the wealthy.
ANARCHISM – belief in the abolition of all government and the
organization of society on a voluntary, cooperative basis without recourse
to force or compulsion.
Definitions: Forms of Government
Getting history wrong is part of being a nation.
Ernest Renan (1823-1892)
French Philosopher In our time, Renan is most famous
for the definition of a nation given in
his 1882 discourse Qu’est-ce qu’une
nation? (“What is a Nation?”). Whereas
German writers like Johann Gottlieb
Fichte had defined the nation by
objective criteria such as a “race” or
an “ethnic group” (das Volk) sharing
common characteristics (language,
etc.), Renan defined it by the
willfulness to live together. Writing
in the midst of the dispute
concerning the Alsace-Lorraine
region, he declared that the
existence of a nation was based on a
“daily referendum” (un plbiscite de
All nationalists believe that …
humanity is naturally divided into smaller units or nations.
nations can be identified by certain characteristics that all its
citizens hold in common (race, language, dynasty, religion,
culture, or history.)
peoples have a special relationship to some particular piece
of land in which their ancestors first emerged as a distinct
group and flourished.
nations possess something called common (national) interest
and it is the role of state to promote it.
the only form of government that can assure the common
interest of the nation is self-government.
All nationalist movements …
take one or more linguistic, religious, or ethnic attributes of a
given group of people and claim that the attributes they have
highlighted make that group a nation and entitle it to political
independence in its ancestral homeland.
have creeds that are rooted in a common set of assumptions;
therefore, it is relatively easy for people to switch from one to
another as circumstances demand.
succeed or fail not because they represent true or false identities
and aspirations, but because of the often unpredictable
circumstances in which nationalist movements find themselves.
arise in opposition to some internal or external nemesis.
are defined by what they oppose.
The ideology of nationalism…
deals with assumptions about the organization of state and
society; therefore, its advent in any given territory
represents a truly revolutionary departure for the
inhabitants of that territory.
transforms subjects into citizens, and citizens into cogs
of a machine grinding away for something called the
common good (or common wealth.)
a subject becomes a citizen with the Constitution that
acknowledges his/her right to vote
The ideology of nationalism…
puts nation above the citizen and requires sacrifices for the
nation, (interestingly, Fascism has the same attitude)
My felow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you,
ask what you can do for your country. JFK
If we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the
indispensable nation. We stand tal. We see further into the future.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on NBC’s Today Show
(February 19, 1998)
emerged with the modern state and gave modern state
legitimacy and purpose by defining a group of people as a
nation deserving a state of their own, by endowing that group
of people with a common identity and common interest, and
by making the state for advancing that common interest.
All nationalisms
resemble religious movements in the sense that…
they are based on a set of myths and beliefs (rather than
rational analyses),
they require from their adherents
to be absolutely loyal to the higher cause,
to venerate their national iconography (flag, anthem)
to participate in national rituals (parades)
to respect the cult of a national hero/leader (vs. saints), and
to sacrifice themselves for the abstract entity called nation.
Nationalism & Culture
It is often claimed that some political behavior is determined by the national culture,
(national role conceptions, national psyche), in other words, a commonly accepted
point of view, which seems to be self-evident.
The question, however, is what shapes that national culture, national psyche, and
national conceptions, whether they are stagnant and unchangeable or whether they are
political constructs and as such can be changed. The would guide
us to the conclusion that our culture is shaped by our educational system, which is
in turn shaped by politics.
Just think of slavery as a part of the political and economic system of the Western world.
Slavery was commonly accepted as a part of our daily life, culture, even as a God-given
phenomenon and as such was justified through the Bible. For a great many churches for a
long time being a Christian meant accepting slavery.
See Genesis 9:25-27 Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his
brothers… May Canaan be the slave of Shem and may Canaan be the slave of
Nowadays, it is commonly accepted that the Bible is a subject to interpretation and a vast
majority of Christian Churches do not promote slavery.
Nationalism & Historiography
On the note of identity politics and change, Renan believes in science and
education and that the true knowledge of history would eventually dispel the
national(ist) mythology.
Renan: Forgetting, I would even go so far as to say, historical error is a
crucial factor in the creation of a nation, which is why progress in historical
studies often constitutes a danger for [the principle of] nationality.
(source: Ernest Renan, What is a nation?, in Becoming National: A
Reader, ed. by Geoff Eley and Ronald Grigor Suny, translated by Martin
Thom, (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 45)
What is forgotten and what is not will make the collective memory of a people,
which will serve as a base for national identity formation.
According to modernists and constructionists, what is forgotten and what is
not is decided by the elites who shape the educational system based on their
political visions and interests.
Hence, nation is primarily based on the plebiscite/political agreement of the
elites. Other factors are a subject to interpretation and manipulation.
Nationalism as a State Religion
Watch this documentary by Abby Martin of the
TeleSUR TV station
Americas Unofficial Religion

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