Nationalism in depth


The term 'nation' has been in use since the thirteenth century, originating from the Latin nasci, which means to be born. Originally, 'nation' referred to a group of individuals united by birth or birthplace, implying a specific ethnic group or race without any political connotations. It wasn't until the late eighteenth century that the term started to carry political implications with the emergence of 'nationalists'. The term 'nationalism' was coined in 1789 by the anti-Jacobin French priest Augustin Barruel, and by the mid-nineteenth century, it had become widely accepted as a political doctrine, evident in the revolutions of 1848 in Europe. Nationalism can be broadly defined as the belief that the nation is the fundamental principle of political organization, based on two core beliefs. Firstly, it assumes that humanity is naturally divided into distinct nations, and secondly, it asserts that the nation is the most suitable, if not the only legitimate, unit of political governance. Classical political nationalism aimed to align state borders with national boundaries, ensuring that nationality and citizenship coincided within so-called nation-states. However, nationalism is a multifaceted and diverse ideological concept, encompassing various political, cultural, and ethnic forms. The political implications of nationalism have been extensive and at times contradictory. While nationalism has been linked to the belief in national self-determination and equality among nations, it has also been employed to uphold traditional institutions, the existing social structure, and to support agendas of war, conquest, and imperialism. Additionally, nationalism has been associated with a wide array of ideological traditions, spanning from liberalism to fascism.


Nationalism emerged during the French Revolution, replacing the previous concept of countries as 'realms', 'principalities' or 'kingdoms'. Instead of being 'subjects' with allegiance to a ruler, the French revolutionaries of 1789 championed the idea of the 'French nation', influenced by thinkers like Jean-Jacques Rousseau. This new ideology promoted popular self-government and the transition from 'subjects of the crown' to 'citizens of France'. The spread of nationalism during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars sparked a desire for independence in countries like Italy and Germany, leading to a newfound sense of national unity. This wave of nationalism also reached Latin America in the early 19th century through figures like Simon Bolivar, who fought against Spanish rule. Over the next two centuries, nationalism became a dominant political force, reshaping Europe by dismantling autocratic empires and fostering movements for national unity. The 19th century was characterized by intense nation-building efforts across various regions.


Patriotism, stemming from the Latin term patria meaning 'fatherland', is a sentiment that involves a strong emotional attachment to one's nation, essentially defined as 'love of one's country'. The distinctions between 'nationalism' and 'patriotism' are often blurred. Nationalism has a doctrinal nature and represents the belief that the nation serves as a central principle of political organization. Patriotism forms the emotional foundation for this belief, thus supporting all forms of nationalism. It is challenging to imagine a national group seeking political independence without at least some level of patriotic loyalty or national awareness. However, not all patriots are nationalists. Not everyone who identifies with, or loves, their nation views it as a platform for expressing political demands. Italy, previously labeled as a 'mere geographical expression' by the Austrian Chancellor Metternich, achieved unification in 1861, finalizing the process by acquiring Rome in 1870. Germany, formerly a grouping of 39 states, unified in 1871 after the Franco-Prussian War. Nonetheless, it would be erroneous to assume that nationalism was an unstoppable or widely popular movement at that time. Enthusiasm for nationalism was mainly confined to the emerging middle classes, attracted to concepts of national unity and constitutional governance. Although middle-class nationalist movements sustained the vision of national unity or independence, they lacked the strength to independently execute the nation-building process. When nationalist objectives were achieved, such as in Italy and Germany, it was due to the alignment of nationalism with the ambitions of ascendant states like Piedmont and Prussia. For instance, German unification owed more to the Prussian army's victories over Denmark, Austria, and France than to the liberal nationalist movement. By the late nineteenth century, nationalism had evolved into a widely popular movement, marked by the proliferation of flags, national anthems, patriotic literature, public ceremonies, and national holidays. Nationalism emerged as the language of mass politics, facilitated by the expansion of primary education, widespread literacy, and the availability of popular newspapers. The nature of nationalism also transformed. Initially associated with liberal and progressive ideologies, nationalism was increasingly embraced by conservative and reactionary leaders. Nationalism came to symbolize social unity, order, and stability, especially in response to the growing threat of socialism advocating social revolution and international working-class solidarity. Nationalism aimed to integrate the burgeoning working class into the nation, thereby upholding the existing social order. Patriotic zeal was no longer ignited by aspirations of political freedom or democracy but by commemorations of past national triumphs and military victories. This form of nationalism progressively turned chauvinistic and xenophobic. Imperialism broadly refers to the policy of extending state power or control beyond its borders, typically by establishing an empire. Initially, imperialism advocated military expansion and imperial acquisition, often drawing on nationalist and racialist ideologies. Traditional imperialism involved the imposition of formal political dominance or colonialism, characterized by state power expansion through conquest and potentially settlement. Neo-imperialism or 'neocolonialism' is distinguished by economic and ideological domination rather than political control, often attributed to structural imbalances in the global economy or biases within international economic institutions. Each nation asserted its distinct or superior attributes, while regarding other nations as foreign, untrustworthy, or even threatening. This surge in popular nationalism fueled imperialistic policies that intensified notably in the 1870s and 1880s, eventually bringing a significant portion of the global population under European rule by the century's end. It also contributed to an atmosphere of international competition and distrust, culminating in the outbreak of World War I in 1914. Post-World War I marked the conclusion of nation-building in central and eastern Europe. At the Paris Peace Conference, US President Woodrow Wilson championed the principle of national self-determination. The German, Austro-Hungarian, and Russian empires disintegrated, leading to the establishment of eight new states such as Finland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Yugoslavia. These new nations aimed to align with the existing national or ethnic groups geographically. However, World War I failed to resolve the underlying national tensions that triggered the conflict. The aftermath of defeat and dissatisfaction with the peace treaties left a legacy of unfulfilled ambitions and resentment. This was most evident in Germany, Italy, and Japan, where fascist or authoritarian movements rose to power in the interwar years, promising to revive national pride through expansionist and imperialist policies. Nationalism played a pivotal role in instigating both the wars of 1914 and 1939. Over the twentieth century, the doctrine of nationalism, originating in Europe, spread worldwide as Asian and African populations challenged colonial rule. Colonialism not only entailed political and economic dominance but also introduced Western concepts, including nationalism, which were eventually used against the colonial powers themselves. Nationalist uprisings occurred, such as in Egypt in 1919.



Nationalism is centered around the belief that the nation is, or should be, the primary foundation of political organization. An area of confusion exists regarding the definition of nations. Terms like 'nation', 'state', 'country', and 'race' are often used interchangeably. Many political disagreements revolve around whether a specific group should be acknowledged as a nation and thus entitled to the rights and status tied to nationhood. This issue arises in debates concerning various groups such as the Tibetans, Kurds, Palestinians, Basques, Tamils, and others. At its core, nations are cultural entities comprising individuals united by shared values and traditions, notably a common language, religion, culture, history, and typically residing in the same geographic region. Nations can be identified by 'objective' elements: individuals meeting specific cultural criteria are considered part of a nation, while those who do not are categorized as non-nationals or members of foreign nations. However, defining a nation solely as a group bound by shared culture and traditions raises complex questions. Although certain cultural aspects like language, religion, ethnicity, history, and tradition are commonly linked with nationhood, there is no definitive guideline or objective standard to determine the existence of a nation. Language often symbolizes national identity. A language encompasses unique attitudes, values, and modes of expression fostering a sense of familiarity and belonging. German nationalism, for example, is grounded in cultural unity, evident in the preservation and purity of the German language. However, there are instances where people share a language without identifying with a common national identity. Americans, Australians, and New Zealanders may speak English as their first language but do not perceive themselves as part of an 'English nation'. Some nations have achieved significant national unity despite lacking a national language, as seen in Switzerland where French, German, and Italian are spoken due to the absence of a unified Swiss language.

Religion plays a significant role in shaping national identity, reflecting shared moral values and spiritual beliefs among a population. In Northern Ireland, language has not been a unifying factor as people have been divided along religious lines, with Protestants identifying as Unionists aligning with the UK, and many Catholics favoring a united Ireland. Meanwhile, Islam has played a crucial role in shaping national consciousness in North Africa and the Middle East. While religious beliefs can influence nationhood, they do not always align with it. For instance, the divisions between Catholics and Protestants in the UK do not lead to rival nationalisms, and the religious diversity in the USA has not threatened to fragment the nation. Countries like Poland, Italy, Brazil, and the Philippines share a common Catholic faith but do not perceive themselves as a unified 'Catholic nation'. National identity can also be based on ethnic or racial unity, as seen in Germany during the Nazi era. However, nationalism typically has a cultural rather than a biological foundation, drawing on shared values and cultural beliefs. Nations often share a common history and traditions, preserving national identity through commemorations of past glories, independence days, or important historical events. The concept of nationhood is complex, reflecting a blend of cultural factors rather than a specific formula. Ultimately, nations are subjectively defined by their members and rooted in shared loyalty and patriotism. Objective challenges like limited resources do not hinder a group's demand for national rights, as exemplified by Latvia's independence despite its small population and scarce resources. Similarly, the Kurdish people in the Middle East harbor nationalist aspirations despite being dispersed across different countries. Differing perspectives on the nation have led to contrasting concepts of nationhood. Exclusive notions emphasize ethnic unity and a shared history, blurring the line between nations and races. On the other hand, inclusive concepts such as civic nationalism underscore civic consciousness and patriotic loyalty, promoting diversity within nations and blurring the distinction between nationality and citizenship.


Religion plays a significant role in shaping national identity by reflecting shared moral values and spiritual beliefs among a population. In Northern Ireland, language has not been a unifying factor, as people have been divided along religious lines. Protestants identify as Unionists aligned with the UK, while many Catholics favor a united Ireland. In North Africa and the Middle East, Islam has played a crucial role in shaping national consciousness. While religious beliefs can influence nationhood, they do not always align with it. For example, the divisions between Catholics and Protestants in the UK do not result in rival nationalisms, and the religious diversity in the USA has not threatened to fragment the nation. Countries like Poland, Italy, Brazil, and the Philippines share a common Catholic faith but do not perceive themselves as a unified 'Catholic nation'. National identity can also be based on ethnic or racial unity, as shown in Germany during the Nazi era. However, nationalism typically has a cultural rather than biological foundation, drawing on shared values and cultural beliefs. Nations often share a common history and traditions, preserving national identity through commemorations of past glories, independence days, or important historical events. The concept of nationhood is complex, reflecting a blend of cultural factors rather than a specific formula. Ultimately, nations are subjectively defined by their members and rooted in shared loyalty and patriotism. Objective challenges like limited resources do not hinder a group's demand for national rights, as seen in Latvia's independence despite its small population and scarce resources. Similarly, the Kurdish people in the Middle East hold nationalist aspirations despite being dispersed across different countries. Differing perspectives on the nation have led to contrasting concepts of nationhood. Exclusive notions stress ethnic unity and shared history, blurring the line between nations and races. Inclusive concepts like civic nationalism highlight civic consciousness and patriotic loyalty, fostering diversity within nations and blurring the distinction between nationality and citizenship.


Nationalism emerged as a political ideology when the concept of national community intersected with the principle of popular sovereignty during the French Revolution, influenced by the works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. While Rousseau did not directly discuss nationalism, his emphasis on popular sovereignty and the 'general will' laid the foundation for nationalist beliefs. Rousseau's experience with the Polish fight for independence led him to believe in the power of a culturally united populace. He advocated for a government based on the collective will of the community rather than absolute monarchic rule. The French Revolution further solidified these ideals by declaring the French people as 'citizens' with inherent rights and obligations, no longer mere subjects of the monarchy. This form of nationalism was rooted in the vision of a self-governing people or nation, emphasizing a natural political community rather than just a social one. In this nationalist tradition, the concepts of nationhood and statehood are closely intertwined, with the ultimate goal being the establishment of a 'nation-state'. This objective can be achieved through either unification, as seen in German history under Charlemagne and Bismarck, or through gaining independence, exemplified by Poland's struggles against foreign powers. The creation of nation-states provides cultural unity and political coherence, aligning nationality with citizenship. Nationalism also serves to legitimize governmental authority, asserting that sovereignty resides with the people or the nation itself, promoting the idea of popular self-governance and the pursuit of the national interest. While nationalism typically aligns with the concept of the nation-state and self-determination, some nationalist movements may seek political autonomy without full statehood, as evidenced by Welsh nationalism in the UK and Breton and Basque nationalism in France. These instances showcase that nationalism can manifest through federalism or devolution, although the extent of self-government granted may not fully satisfy nationalist aspirations. Even with significant autonomy, separatist movements like ETA in the Basque region of Spain and the Scottish National Party in the UK persist, highlighting the complexities of nationalist demands. The struggle for secession in regions like Catalonia further underscores the ongoing tension between nationalist aspirations and existing political structures.


Classical nationalism is typically associated with political objectives, such as striving for or safeguarding independent statehood. On the other hand, various forms of nationalism are more closely linked to ethnocultural aspirations and requests. This is especially evident in the cases of cultural nationalism and ethnic nationalism. Cultural nationalism places emphasis on reinforcing or protecting cultural identity over explicit political requests. It primarily focuses on rejuvenating the nation as a distinct civilization, considering the state as a peripheral or even foreign entity. In contrast to rational political nationalism, cultural nationalism tends to be mystical, rooted in a romantic belief in the nation as a unique historical and organic entity. Cultural nationalism often draws more from popular rituals, traditions, and legends than from elite or higher culture. While it typically carries an anti-modern essence, cultural nationalism can also facilitate modernization by offering a means for people to recreate themselves. An instance of this is the resurgence of native North American indigenous cultures in the twentieth century. Johann Herder, along with writers like Johann Fichte and Friedrich Jahn, is commonly credited as the architect of cultural nationalism, emphasizing the uniqueness and superiority of German culture in contrast to French Revolutionary ideas. Herder believed that each nation possesses a Volksgeist, manifested through songs, myths, and legends, serving as a source of creativity. Herder's nationalism embodies a form of culturalism, aiming to foster an awareness and appreciation of national traditions and collective memories, rather than solely fueling a political pursuit of statehood. The prevalence of cultural nationalism, particularly in nineteenth-century Germany, was evident in the revival of folk traditions and the rediscovery of German myths and legends. For example, the Brothers Grimm collected and published German folk tales, while composer Richard Wagner based many of his operas on ancient myths. Although cultural nationalism often emerges within a European context, it is not confined to this region. It has been observed in various parts of the world, such as black nationalism in the USA, exemplified by figures like Marcus Garvey and groups like the Black Panthers and the Black Muslims. Similarly, cultural nationalism has found expression in India, with forms of nationalism rooted in the image of India as a distinctly Hindu civilization. Modern China also showcases cultural nationalism through an increasing emphasis on 'Chineseness', reflected in a revival of traditional cultural practices and a focus on Chinese principles and moral values. However, the implications of viewing nations primarily as cultural communities rather than political entities have sparked debates. Cultural forms of nationalism are sometimes seen as tolerant and aligned with progressive political objectives, setting them apart from ethnic nationalism, despite some overlap between the concepts of culture and ethnicity. Ethnicity denotes allegiance to a distinct population, cultural group, or territorial area and encompasses both racial and cultural connotations. Ethnic nationalism, being exclusive in nature, tends to merge with racism, while cultural and ethnic nationalisms are often perceived as closely interconnected, forming part of a phenomenon known as ethnocultural nationalism. From this perspective, cultural nationalism is often interpreted as chauvinistic or hostile toward other nations or minority groups due to its association with assimilation and the pursuit of cultural 'purity', making it incompatible with multiculturalism.


Political nationalism is a multifaceted concept, characterized by ambiguity and contradictions rather than a unified set of values and objectives. Nationalism has had both positive and negative impacts, leading to self-government and freedom as well as conquest and subjugation. It has been both forward-looking and regressive, aiming for national independence or greatness while also glorifying past achievements and reinforcing existing identities. Additionally, nationalism has been both rational and irrational, appealing to principled beliefs like national self-determination while also stemming from non-rational emotions such as deep-seated fears and animosities. This ability of nationalism to integrate with and assimilate other political ideologies has given rise to various competing nationalist traditions. Among these traditions, liberal nationalism is considered the oldest and most classical. Liberal nationalism originated during the French Revolution and embodies many of its core principles. The ideas of liberal nationalism quickly spread throughout Europe and found clear expression through figures like Giuseppe Mazzini and Simon Bolivar, who spearheaded the Latin American independence movement. US President Woodrow Wilson's "Fourteen Points," formulated for the post-World War I reconstruction of Europe, were also grounded in liberal nationalist ideals. Moreover, numerous anti-colonial leaders in the twentieth century drew inspiration from liberal concepts, including Sun Yat-Sen and Jawaharlal Nehru. The principles of liberal nationalism were notably influenced by Rousseau's advocacy for popular sovereignty, particularly through the concept of the "general will." As the nineteenth century progressed, the push for popular self-government became increasingly intertwined with liberal principles, as nationalists sought to overthrow oppressive multinational empires. Many European revolutionaries of the mid-nineteenth century viewed liberalism and nationalism as inseparable, shaping their nationalist beliefs by applying liberal ideals originally designed for individuals to nations and international relations. Liberalism, rooted in the defense of individual freedom and rights, saw nations as sovereign entities entitled to liberty and possessing rights, notably the right to self-determination. Liberal nationalism thus acted as a force for liberation in two key aspects: opposing foreign domination and oppression by empires or colonial powers, and advocating for self-governance through beliefs in constitutionalism and representation. Woodrow Wilson, for instance, championed a Europe composed of nation-states governed by political democracy rather than autocracy, viewing a democratic republic modeled after the US as the epitome of a genuine nation-state.

Liberal nationalists believe that nations, like individuals, are equal in their entitlement to the right of self-determination. The main aim of liberal nationalism is to create a world composed of independent nation-states, rather than focusing solely on the unification or independence of a single nation. John Stuart Mill articulated this principle in Considerations on Representative Government, stating that government boundaries should align primarily with those of nationality. Woodrow Wilson further championed the principle of self-determination during the Paris Peace Conference, not only to serve US interests but also to advocate for the political independence of various nations like the Poles, Czechs, and Hungarians. In addition, liberals assert that the principle of balance and natural harmony should extend to nations globally, not just within societies. By achieving national self-determination, a peaceful and stable international order can be established. Liberals believe that World War I was a result of outdated authoritarian empires and that democratic nation-states, respecting each other's national sovereignty, would not engage in war or domination. Nationalism, for liberals, is a unifying force that fosters respect for national rights and characteristics, promoting unity within nations and brotherhood among all nations. Internationalism, on the other hand, involves transnational or global cooperation in politics, rooted in universalist beliefs about human nature. While political nationalism emphasizes national identity, internationalism focuses on cooperation among existing nations. Liberal internationalism aims to prevent conflicts by promoting mutual understanding and economic interdependence through free trade. Additionally, liberals advocate for international organizations like the United Nations to maintain order in the global arena and facilitate peaceful resolutions to international disputes.

Critics of liberal nationalism have at times suggested that its concepts are simplistic and idealistic. While liberal nationalists view nationalism as a progressive and inclusive force, they may overlook its darker aspects, such as fostering irrational divisions and tribalism between 'us' and 'them'. They perceive nationalism as a universal principle, but may not fully grasp its emotional intensity, which can lead individuals to extreme actions during times of conflict, regardless of their nation's cause. Moreover, liberal nationalism's belief in the nation-state as the key to political and international unity is flawed. The failure of Wilsonian nationalism lies in its assumption that nations neatly correspond to specific geographic regions, disregarding the complex mix of linguistic, religious, ethnic, and regional identities within so-called 'nation-states'. For instance, the newly established nation-states of Czechoslovakia and Poland in 1918 included significant German-speaking populations, while Czechoslovakia itself comprised two distinct ethnic groups: the Czechs and the Slovaks. The former Yugoslavia, also a product of the Treaty of Versailles, consisted of various ethnic groups like Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Bosnians, and Albanians, many of which later sought independent nationhood. In reality, the ideal of a unified and culturally uniform nation-state can only be achieved through forcibly displacing minority groups and imposing strict immigration restrictions.


During the early 19th century, conservatives viewed nationalism as a radical and perilous force that threatened order and political stability. However, as the century progressed, conservative leaders such as Disraeli, Bismarck, and Tsar Alexander III started to embrace nationalism, recognizing it as a valuable ally in upholding social order and protecting traditional institutions. Today, nationalism has become a fundamental principle for most conservatives worldwide. Conservative nationalism typically flourishes in established nation-states rather than in those still undergoing nation-building processes. Conservatives prioritize social cohesion and public order over universal self-determination, valuing national patriotism as a means to maintain unity. They view society as organic, believing that nations naturally evolve from people's shared values, habits, and appearances. Conservatives aim to sustain national unity by nurturing patriotic loyalty, especially in response to socialist calls for class solidarity. By integrating the working class into the national identity, conservatives see nationalism as a countermeasure to social upheaval. Notably, Charles de Gaulle effectively utilized nationalism during his presidency in France, emphasizing national pride through independent defense policies and a strong centralized government. The essence of conservative nationalism lies in its reverence for tradition and history, using them as a shield for traditional institutions and ways of life. Conservative nationalism often looks backward, recalling past national triumphs and using rituals and commemorations to glorify military victories. Threats to national identity, such as immigration and supranationalism, fuel conservative nationalism in modern states. Conservatives perceive cultural diversity as a source of instability and advocate for restrictions on immigration or assimilation of minority groups into the dominant culture. This stance puts conservative nationalism at odds with multiculturalism. Concerns about supranational entities like the EU further reinforce conservative nationalism, with Eurosceptics defending national sovereignty as a cornerstone of identity. Critics argue that conservative nationalism can be a tool for elite manipulation, shaping the notion of the nation for political gain. Moreover, it may foster intolerance and bigotry by promoting cultural exclusivity and legitimizing xenophobic sentiments.


Nationalism in many countries is often associated with aggression and militarism, rather than a principled belief in national self-determination. The aggressive nature of nationalism became prominent in the late 19th century as European powers engaged in the 'scramble for Africa' in pursuit of national glory and dominance. Unlike earlier colonial expansions, the imperialism of this era was fueled by a rise in popular nationalism, where national pride was increasingly tied to the acquisition of colonies and each colonial triumph was met with public approval. In the UK, the term "jingoism" was coined to describe this wave of popular nationalism. By the early 20th century, escalating rivalries among European powers led to the division of the continent into two armed alliances: the Triple Entente consisting of the UK, France, and Russia, and the Triple Alliance comprising Germany, Austria, and Italy. The outbreak of World War I in August 1914 was met with public celebration across major European cities. The period between the two world wars saw a peak in aggressive and expansionist nationalism, with authoritarian regimes in Japan, Italy, and Germany pursuing policies of imperial expansion and global domination, ultimately leading to the outbreak of World War II in 1939. This form of nationalism, distinguished from earlier liberal nationalism, was characterized by chauvinism, where certain nations were considered superior to others in their right to self-determination. The ideology of racial and cultural superiority was used to justify European imperialism, with the belief that 'white' European and American peoples were intellectually and morally superior to 'black', 'brown', and 'yellow' peoples of Africa and Asia. Specific forms of national chauvinism, such as pan-nationalism, emerged in different regions. Pan-Slavism, exemplified in Russia as 'Slavophile nationalism', aimed at uniting Slavic peoples under Russian leadership due to perceived cultural and spiritual superiority. Similarly, German nationalism, influenced by figures like Johann Fichte and Friedrich Jahn, emphasized the uniqueness and purity of German culture, evolving into a chauvinistic movement advocating for a German empire dominating Europe. National chauvinism, driven by intense patriotic fervor, often leads to militarism and aggressive expansionist policies. Fascism, as a political ideology, emphasizes the unity of the national community over individual identity, advocating for sacrifice and obedience to a supreme leader for the glory of the nation or race. Italian fascism focused on statism and loyalty to a totalitarian state, while German fascism (Nazism) centered on racial theories promoting Aryan supremacy and anti-Semitism.

The civilian population is, in effect, militarised: it is infected by the martial val­ues of absolute loyalty, complete dedication and willing self-sacrifice. When the honour or integrity of the nation is in question, the lives of ordinary citizens become unimportant. Such emotional intensity was amply demonstrated in August 1914, and perhaps also underlies the emotional power of jihad (crudely defined as `holy war') from the viewpoint of militant Islamist groups.

National chauvinism has a particularly strong appeal for the isolated and powerless, for whom nationalism offers the prospect of security, self-respect and pride. Militant or integral nationalism requires a heightened sense of belonging to a distinct national group. Such intense nationalist feeling is often stimulated by 'negative integration', the portrayal of another nation or race as a threat or an enemy. In the face of the enemy, the nation draws together and experiences an intensified sense of its own identity and importance. National chauvinism therefore breeds from a clear distinction between `them' and 'us'. There has to be a 'them' to deride or hate in order to forge a sense of `us'. In politics, national chauvinism has commonly been reflected in racist ideologies, which divide the world into an 'in group' and an 'out group', in which the 'out group' becomes a scapegoat for all the misfortunes and frustrations suffered by the 'in group'. It is, therefore, no coincidence that chauvinistic political creeds are a breeding ground for racist ideas. Both pan-Slavism and pan-Germanism, for example, have been characterised by virulent anti-Semitism


Nationalism may have been born in Europe, but it became a worldwide phenomenon thanks to imperialism. The experience of colonial rule helped to forge a sense of nationhood and a desire for 'national liberation' among the peoples of Asia and Africa, and gave rise to a specifically anti-colonial form of nationalism. During the twentieth century, the political geography of much of the world was transformed by anti-colonialism. Although the Treaty of Versailles applied the principle of self-determination to Europe, it was conveniently ignored in other parts of the world, where German colonies were simply transferred to UK and French control. However, during the inter-war period, independence movements increasingly threatened the overstretched empires of the UK and France. The final collapse of the European empires came after World War II. In some cases, a combination of mounting nationalist pressure and declining domestic economic performance persuaded colonial powers to depart relatively peacefully, as occurred in India and Pakistan in 1947 and in Malaysia in 1957. However, decolonisation in the post-1945 period was often characterised by revolution, and sometimes periods of armed struggle. This occurred, for instance, in the case of China, 1937-45 (against Japan), Algeria, 1954-62 (against France), and Vietnam, 1946-54 (against France) and 1964-75 (against the USA).

In a sense, the colonising Europeans had taken with them the seed of their own destruction: the doctrine of nationalism. For example, it is notable that many of the leaders of independence or liberation movements were western-educated. It is therefore not surprising that anti-colonial movements sometimes articulated their goals in the language of liberal nationalism, reminiscent of Mazzini or Woodrow Wilson. However, emergent African and Asian nations were in a very different position from that of the newly created European states of the nine­teenth and early twentieth centuries. For these African and Asian nations, the quest for political independence was closely related to their awareness of eco­nomic under-development and their subordination to the industrialised states of Europe and North America. Anti-colonialism thus came to express the desire for national liberation in both political and economic terms, and this has left its mark on the form of nationalism practised in the developing world.

Some forms of anti-colonial nationalism nevertheless distanced themselves more clearly from western political traditions by constructing non-Euro­pean models of national liberation. This had a range of implications, how­ever. For example, the Indian spiritual and religious leader Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) advanced a political philosophy that fused Indian nationalism with an ethic of non-violence and self-sacrifice that was ultimately rooted in Hinduism. `Home rule' for India was thus a spiritual condition, and not merely a political one, a stance underpinned by Gandhi's anti-industrialism, famously embodied in his wearing of home-spun clothes. In contrast, the Martinique-born French revolutionary theorist Frantz Fanon (1925-61) emphasised links between the anti-colonial struggle and violence. His theory of imperialism stressed the psy­chological dimension of colonial subjugation. For Fanon (1965), colonisation was not simply a political process, but also one through which a new 'species' of human is created. He argued that only the cathartic experience of violence is powerful enough to bring about this psycho-political regeneration.

However, most of the leaders of Asian and African anti-colonial movements were attracted to some form of socialism, ranging from the moderate and peaceful ideas represented by Gandhi and Nehru in India, to the revolutionary Marxism espoused by Mao Zedong (1893-1976) in China, Ho Chi Minh (1890-1969) in Vietnam and Fidel Castro (1926-2016) in Cuba. On the surface, socialism is more clearly related to internationalism than to nationalism. This reflects the stress within socialism, first, on social class, class loyalties having an intrinsically transnational character, and, at a deeper level, on the idea of a common humanity. Marx (see p. 67) thus declared in The Communist Manifesto that 'working men have no country'.

Socialist ideas nevertheless appealed powerfully to nationalists in the developing world. This was partly because socialism embodies values such as community and cooperation that are deeply entrenched in traditional, pre-industrial societies. More importantly, socialism, and in particular Marxism, provided an analysis of inequality and exploitation through which the colonial experience could be understood and colonial rule challenged. During the 1960s and 1970s, in particular, develop­ing-world nationalists were drawn to revolutionary Marxism, influenced by the belief that colonialism is in practice an extended form of class oppression.

The Russian Bolshevik leader V. I. Lenin (1870— 1924) had earlier provided the basis for such a view by portraying imperialism as essentially an economic phe­nomenon, a quest for profit by capitalist countries seeking investment oppor­tunities, cheap labour and raw materials, and secure markets (Lenin, [1916] 1970). The class struggle thus became a struggle against colonial exploitation and oppression. As a result, the overthrow of colonial rule implied not only political independence but also a social revolution that would bring about economic as well as political emancipation.

In some cases, developing-world regimes have openly embraced Marxist—Leninist principles. On achieving independence, China, North Korea, Vietnam, and Cambodia moved swiftly to seize foreign assets and nationalise economic resources. They founded one-party states and centrally planned economies, closely following the Soviet model. In other cases, states in Africa and the Mid­dle East have developed a less ideological form of nationalistic socialism, as has been evident in Algeria, Libya, Zambia, Iraq and South Yemen. The 'socialism' proclaimed in such countries usually took the form of an appeal to a unifying national cause or interest, in most cases economic or social development, as in the case of so-called 'African socialism', embraced, for instance, by Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Angola.

The postcolonial period has thrown up quite different forms of national­ism, however. With the authority of socialism, and especially the attraction of Marxism—Leninism, declining significantly since the 1970s, nation building in the postcolonial period has been shaped increasingly by the rejection of west­ern ideas and culture more than by the attempt to reapply them. If the West is regarded as the source of oppression and exploitation, postcolonial nationalism must seek an anti-western voice. In part, this has been a reaction against the dominance of western, and particularly US, culture and economic power in much of the developing world.

The principal vehicle for expressing such views has been religious fundamental­ism. Although Islam in particular has thrown up a comprehensive programme of political renewal, in the form of Islamism, most fundamentalist religious move­ments have been more narrowly concerned with helping to clarify or redefine national or ethnic identity, examples being associated with Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism and Buddhism. Hindu fundamentalism has been expressed in calls for the `Hinduisation' of Muslim, Sikh and other communities in India. The Bhara­tiya Janata Party (BJP) has been the largest party in the Indian parliament since 1996, articulating, as it does, the newly prosperous middle classes' ambivalence towards modernity and, particularly, its concerns about a weakening of national identity. The more radical World Hindu Council preaches 'India for the Hindus', while its parent body, the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), aims to create a `Greater India', stretching from Burma to Iraq. Sikh fundamentalism is associ­ated with the struggle to found an independent nation-state, lhalistan', located in the present-day Punjab, with Sikhism as the state religion and its government obliged to ensure its unhindered flourishing. Jewish fundamentalists have trans­formed Zionism into a defence of the 'Greater Land of Israel', characterised by territorial aggressiveness. In the case of Israel's best-known fundamentalist group, Gushmun Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful) , this has been expressed in a campaign to build Jewish settlements in territory occupied in the Six-Day War of 1967. Buddhist nationalism has been evident in both Sri Lanka and Burma, in the former case being associated with the `Sinhalisation' of national identity and the war waged against Tamil separatism, finally crushed in 2009.