What is the Definition of Nationalism and Why Does it Matter?

Flags are often intended to be a representation of national identity and pride.
Flags are often intended to be a representation of national identity and pride.

Nationalism is a political ideology which advocates for people to identify with and take pride in a nation whose members share certain cultural, ideological, religious or ethnic characteristics. Nationalism can also be defined as the devotion of people to their respective countries. Nationalism is comparable to patriotism, with the two sharing certain characteristics such the celebration of a nation’s achievements by its citizens. However, it can be said that patriotism comes from the actions of one's country, and nationalism exists regardless of the actions of one's country.

Varieties of Nationalism

The ways in which nationalism can manifest itself is quite broad, and could concern the ethnic, cultural or political background of a country. These varieties include civil nationalism, religious nationalism, territorial nationalism, ethnic nationalism, anti-colonial nationalism, economic nationalism, cultural nationalism and racial nationalism.

What is Civil Nationalism?

Civil nationalism is the instance where people from different cultural, ethnic and economic background identify as being equal citizens of a particular nation. Civil nationalism is also termed as liberal nationalism as it involves the nurturing of liberal values such as individual rights, freedom, and tolerance.

What is Ethnic Nationalism?

Ethnic nationalism is the nationalism variety where a nation defines it citizens through ethnic composition where the desirable members of a nation are of a common ethnicity, common religious belief, and a common language. Ethnic nationalism can be viewed as the direct opposite of civic nationalism.

What is Religious Nationalism?

Religious nationalism involves the relations between religious beliefs and nationalism where persons sharing a common religious belief or a common religious affiliation have a sense of national unity. Religious Zionism is one example of religious nationalism.

What is Anti-colonial Nationalism?

Anti-colonial nationalism is the variety of nationalism seen with countries under a colonial authority and had its peak during the decolonization period in the mid-20th century particularly in African and Asian countries. Anti-colonial nationalism in these countries was propagated either through peaceful protests (India’s Mahatma Gandhi is a perfect example) or through armed conflict.

What is Territorial Nationalism?

Territorial nationalism is the form of nationalism where every person is required to be from a specific nation and should pledge allegiance to their respective nation. Citizenship is sometimes seen as a product of territorial nationalism. Cultural nationalism is defined as the variety of nationalism where members of the nation are identified through sharing a common cultural heritage. Cultural nationalism can be labeled as the intermediate variety between civic nationalism and ethnic nationalism.

What is Economic Nationalism?

Economic nationalism is the type of nationalism where a political authority prioritizes on economic and labor control through placing restrictions on the international movement of capital, labor, and products while encouraging doctrines such as mercantilism, protectionism, and anti-globalization.

What is German Nationalism?

In Germany, nationalism exists in the form of German Nationalism where people of German heritage are encouraged to be united and identify with a common nation. German people are mainly identified through language as all are native speakers of a particular variety or dialect of the German language. Friedrich Karl von Moser, who was one of the early German nationalists stated in the 18th century that German people lacked the pride of national identity seen in the Swiss and the British. Friedrich, as well as other German nationalists, called for the establishment of a German nation which the German people would identify with. The German nationalism movement grew through the 18th and 19th centuries and by the early 20th century, the movement had a huge following in Germany. However, extreme forms of German Nationalism whose beliefs were based on racial purity were also popular in the country and particularly with the members of the Nazi Party. These extreme forms of German Nationalism ultimately led to the start of the Second World War as Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler invaded Austria and Poland in his violent way to unify the German nation.

What is African Nationalism?

African Nationalism was a form of nationalism which was exhibited in many Sub-Saharan African countries from the mid-20th century to the late 20th century as the former European colonies fought to realize self-rule and independence. African Nationalism is an example of Anticolonial Nationalism, and it involved the self-determination of Africans and the realization the importance of fighting against European colonial authority. The origin of the African Nationalism movement is traced back to the mid-19th century in West Africa among educated middle-class black Africans who believed in the establishment of nation-states. However, it was not until the end of the Second World War that the movement became a mass movement as Africans who had extensively traveled all over the world began calls for the expulsion of European colonial authority and the establishment of independent nation-states. These movements either engaged the colonial powers through peaceful political processes or through violent protests and armed conflict with the latter being the preferred means in most Sub-Saharan countries.

What is Chinese Nationalism?

Chinese Nationalism is the political ideology which advocates for the national unity and cultural unification of the Chinese people. In Chinese Nationalism, Chinese people are encouraged to identify with their common cultural ancestry as well as to collectively identify themselves as a nation. China as a nation has existed in numerous forms since ancient times. Chinese Nationalism is mainly based on the imperialism practiced in the early Chinese Empire. During this period, the Han Chinese was the underlying ethnic description of the Chinese people. Chinese Nationalism is seen as the primary motive behind the unification of Taiwan and mainland China. In some instances, popular events such as the 2008 Summer Olympics as well as natural disasters such as the Sichuan earthquake galvanize Chinese citizens to have a sense of national pride.

What is French Nationalism?

French nationalism is said to have first emerged as a byproduct of wars with England. Joan of Arc is known as the traditional icon of French pride. Napoleon Bonaparte, who was an important figure in the French Revolution from 1789 to 1799, believed in the expansion of French ideals and enlightenment.

What is American Nationalism (United States Nationalism)?

American Nationalism, also known as United States Nationalism, is a form of nationalism unique to the United States. American Nationalism has its roots in the 1700s when the Thirteen Colonies began to identify less with the identify of being British and more with a new "American" identity. The idea of American nationalism is said to have evolved over time, and still plays a prominent role in American politics today.

What are Some Common Criticisms of Nationalism?

While nationalism is seen as noble by many politicians and citizens, the political ideology is not without its critics. Nationalism and particularly the economic nationalism variety is seen by some scholars as the main hindrance to globalization. History has shown how extreme forms of nationalism is linked to social ills such as racism, segregation and even wars.


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