What is Nationalism?
Posted by Matt Walker on May 30, 2011
In some ways I like to think of nationalism as a bit of a Frankenstein ideology. Just as Frankenstein’s monster is made up of body parts from a number of people, nationalism is a fragmented body of ideas encompassing a broad range of ideas.
Getting a handle on this is straightforward, once you establish that nationalism is based upon the centrality of the nation as a political unit. It is the nation which is a natural community because it possesses a common interest – the national interest. This means, as suggested by Rousseau, that the only legitimate form of government is the nation-state, which can act in the interests of the nation.
The fragmented nature of nationalism is due largely to the difficulty of defining what a nation actually is. Should we define a nation in ethnic, geographic, cultural, or political terms, or a combination of these? Is the nation a means of unity, liberation, defence, cultural revival, or racial superiority?
The fact that nations can be constructed and defined in a number of ways means that nationalism as a political programme can travel in a variety of directions. Hence liberals, conservatives, socialists, fascists, and even feminists have used nationalism in a variety of ways in accordance with their own political bias.