What is Nationalism? Simply put, Nationalism is a political theory and movement which hold that the country should be intrinsically congruent to its country. As such nationalistic tendencies tend to support the welfare of a single nation, especially for the sake of gaining and retaining the sovereign authority of the nation. Nationalism also tends to advocate the cultural and social traditions of a nation as it tends to give meaning and purpose to a nation by acknowledging the individual and collective identity of its people.
In order to understand what is nationalism, it is essential to define what exactly patriotism is. According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary patriotic is, “of or pertaining to a nation or state.” Thus, the concept of what is nationalism highlights individual and collective pride. This pride is expressed through valuing the traditions, history, culture, and identity of a nation-state and at the same time respecting the cultural diversity of other nations.
At the heart of what is nationalism is the idea of nation-statehood. Historically, the idea of nation-statehood emerged out of the need for protection from foreign invasion and colonization. The colonists in the Americas eventually established a nation-state system in order to guarantee their rights to self-government. The ideology behind nation-statehood is protection against external aggression and violation of the territorial integrity of the indigenous societies. However, these nation-states are not limited to physical borders. There exists a kind of international protectionism which calls for the protection of the internal boundaries of a country from external threats, but without the implied endorsement of an external state or alliance.
What is nationalism, then, ends up being a kind of cultural and intellectual patriotism. Such patriotism can be identified in various nationalistic statements by various leaders of the past and present. One such famous declaration by Germany’s Nazi leader, Adolphus von Moltke, is can be quoted as saying, “Nationality is nothing but a state of mind. Nationality is the basis for all our political ideals.”
Such notions as what is nationalism are at odds with open market economies where markets are driven by competition. The basic concept of what is nationalism is based on the view that in a competitive economy, a country’s overall welfare depends on its ability to produce goods at a cost which enables it to offer good value for money to its consumers. Those who promote open market economies argue that without protection to the domestic producers, an economy can become bankrupt due to overproduction and excessive demand from consumers. A similar argument is propounded by free marketeers who believe that a competitive economy ensures an optimal level of public welfare. So national pride in terms of promoting economic growth is not what is nationalism.
It would be more accurate to define nationalistic sentiments as loyalty to a particular nationality or race. Nationalism has been defined as the love of a nation by a group of people. There are various theories as to how such loyalty develops. The most popular one is that which suggests that genetic predisposition helps people to identify with a group and that they develop this feeling of nationalism when they are young and start to feel that their blood is not pure.
Another theory propounded by those who support the idea that what is nationalism is about cultural identity. This definition of what is national is often found in the works of historians. According to this school of thought, national cultures emerged in the Middle East after the collapse of the seven-state empires. According to this view, some of the states collapsed because of insistent, religious demands from the population. The result was a set of values and beliefs which were alien to the individual citizens of these states and that they began to call their own – ultimately, what is often referred to as a cultural nationalism.
The main argument of cultural nationalism is that it is a product of the rise of the industrial revolution and the massive influx of workers from the southern parts of the US to the north. According to this school, what is nationalism is not ethically based but rather a sense of belonging to a group. This feeling of being part of a group dates back to the emergence of the first nations. It is argued that the early Americans did not have a sense of nationality until the arrival of the white man, and that this led to the creation of what is known as American exceptionalism – the belief that America is a unique and special place. What is nationalism is also a cause of anxiety among the citizens of many countries because of the memory of previous ethnic cleansing and mass displacement.