Nationalism is an ideology that highlights and promotes the idea that the nation is the most important element in the constitution of a state.
To better understand what nationalism is, we must first define, briefly, the concept of nation. It can be defined as a set of people who share certain elements, whether they are aware of it or not. Elements such as ethnicity, culture, religion, language or the historical past. With which, nationalism defends this idea of unity, and that nation is the element on which all state and territorial politics revolve.
Origin of nationalism
Nationalism is a relatively recent term that is accompanied by the concept of nation. You cannot speak of nationalism before the French Revolution, since the modern concept of the nation arose from it.
Therefore, nationalism is an ideology that emerged at the end of the 18th century and developed during the 19th century.
Nationalism in the 20th century
Nationalism arose to claim that each nation, united by a series of elements, could constitute itself as a State within well-defined borders. In confrontation with the ancient empires and the Napoleonic invasions of the 19th century. But in the 20th century, nationalism undergoes a turn and becomes a shield that justifies racism and xenophobia. Also the conquest of other countries and racial superiority.
These ideas are what give shape to the nationalist totalitarianisms of the 20th century, well-known regimes such as Hitler's Nazi Germany or Mussolini's fascist Italy.
It should be noted that nationalism itself, as an ideology, is neither warlike nor violent, thus the above-cited examples are regimes that have become extreme, driven not only by their nationalist character.
Characteristics of nationalism
- Exaltation of the central government and the defense that there is only one single nation within its territory.
- Symbology. Flags, anthems and other national symbols are those that embody and represent the State.
- Heightened feeling of the defining characteristics of the state.
- Promotion of national folklore: traditions, beliefs, customs, music, etc. In general, all the culture that defines the country.
Causes of nationalism
Among the causes of nationalism, we can mention:
- It can arise in response to another nationalism or the threat of another country.
- It can be a mechanism for the search, by society as a whole, of certain ideals.
- It may be the consequence of a crisis or war that the country is suffering, so that it seeks to overcome that episode by looking for a culprit, in this case, abroad.
- From a more anthropological point of view, humans are gregarious beings, that is, we always look for a group to belong to, and nationalism has a narrative that reflects this need.
Consequences of nationalism
The consequences of nationalism can be the following:
- War conflicts, for example, in the face of a nationalist discourse that exacerbates the need to invade a neighboring country. This, with consequent human and material losses.
- The implementation of a protectionist trade policy, despite the fact that this may have negative effects on the economy of the country as a whole (See protectionism).
- Violence or discrimination against foreigners, or against individuals from the country that is considered antagonistic.
- The consolidation in power of a populist and / or authoritarian government that bases its power and legitimacy on gathering the nationalist sentiment of a part of the population.
Types of nationalism
Depending on the characteristics, we can distinguish different types of nationalism:
- Liberal nationalism: It defends that the nation has its origin in the will of each of the individuals. It is not an imposition, but a voluntary commitment. In this sense, any society can become a nation if it wants to. That is, without the need to have ties of tradition, religion, race, language ...
- Conservative nationalism: Unlike liberal nationalism, it defends that it arises from customs, religion, tradition, music, territory ... That is, it believes that it is inherited and cannot be changed.
- Religious nationalism: It is identified with the origin of the predominant religion in the nation. For example, it can be related to the Islamic or Catholic religion.
- Cultural nationalism: It is also known as ethnic nationalism. It is closely related to religious nationalism. In fact, they have certain points in common. However, this type of nationalism is more linked to race, customs, language, history, etc.
- Musical nationalism: It focuses on the music of a group. For example, in Spain a type of music that identifies the Spanish people a lot is flamenco. This does not mean that all the people like it, but it is a sign of identity.
- Romantic nationalism: It is frontally positioned against rationalism. It develops its postulates around existence and the meaning of life.
- Economic nationalism: It is related to protectionism and colonialism. Both fascism and socialism propose economic measures that imply economic nationalism.
- Integrative nationalism: Also known as centripetal or unifying, this type of nationalism tries to unite peoples of different origins but with common objectives.
- Disintegrating nationalism: It is also called as centrifugal or separatist. It is about a community or a group that is integrated into a town and does not want to be part of it.
Examples of nationalist regimes
As we mentioned earlier, nationalism is not exclusively violent, although many regimes and movements have led to it. Why does this drift occur? Because the acts of unification on the part of those who promote them are not always accepted, since each of the people that make up a territory have their own preferences. And if this imposition is not accepted, it is tried to be done in a coercive way. One of the examples we have in the German Third Reich.
Nazi Germany is an example of extreme or exacerbated nationalism, also motivated by Hitler's own personal resentments.In 1939, with the beginning of the Second World War, Germany began to attack and annex territories for the belief that the Aryan race is superior to the others and therefore must dominate over the rest. This regime brought with it the attempt to exterminate the Jews and other ethnic groups that inhabited Germany and the countries it was conquering.
Nationalism is not only typical of recognized states, the independence and secessionist movements also have this nationalist component. This is the case, for example, in some Spanish regions. In Catalonia and the Basque Country there are numerous political parties that advocate the secession of the territory and establish themselves as a nation-state totally independent from the central government. Basque nationalism was so intense that the terrorist group ETA carried out multiple attacks, from the late 1960s to 2009.
A similar case is what happened with the IRA in Ireland. The military group carried out a multitude of attacks and terrorist episodes in order to unify the entire island of Ireland and make the northern part of the United Kingdom independent.