Home >> Political System >> Nation Community

Nation Community

There are different terms to define 'nation'. Some writers simply equate it with statehood and opine that the people of a state are a nation. Other more prominent writers who see nation as a distinct historical phenomenon are Hans Kohn,Fedreick Hertz,F L Schuman ,Karl Marx,Lenin.

According to these thinkers and writers nation is an historical and sociological phenomenon and the nation evolved out of the amalgam of various racial and kinship groups after the break-up of the slavery and feudal societies. Nation is a territorial community as distinct from a racial, tribal or religious group of people.

Factors responsible for emergence of nation:
The important factors responsible are community of language, geographical contiguity, common economic ties and common history and traditions.Prof Maclver has pointed out that there are scarcely any two nations which find their positive support in the same factors.

Race and Kinship:
While it may be readily conceded that a belief in the unity of race and kinship helps in cementing people together to argue that such unity is an indispensable objective factor is another matter. Frederick L Schuman points if pure races ever existed they have long since disappeared as a result of migration, wars, conquests, travels, intermarriages on the grandest scale over thousands of years. All modern nations have been formed out of people of diverse racial and tribal groups.

Community of religion:
While unity of religion has been and can be a great cementing force and has played a significant role in the past in consolidating nations it cannot be regarded as an indispensable objective factor. A modern nation is a territorial community and it includes and embraces all persons of ethnic and religious faith residing on a permanent basis on the same territory and therefore also participants in the history and traditions of the land.

Community of language:
The existence of a common language is considered by many writers and thinkers to be indispensable for the existence of a nation.Federick Schuman points out how language is the best index of an individual's cultural environment and significantly adds that most of the nations of the earth are nations not because they are politically independent and socially unified but because their people use a common speech which differs from that of other nations. Those who disagree with this view often cite the examples of UK and Switzerland and assert that despite the existence of several languages the people of these nations are united.

In spite of a common language the people speaking a common language may not constitute a nation. A nation is formed as a result of a fairly lengthy and systematic intercourse for generations which would not be possible without the possession of a common territory.

Geographical contiguity:
Contiguous geographical area has been assumed to be indispensable for the rise and existence of nation. Living together on the same geographically contiguous area conversing in the same language having same historical experiences people are apt to develop common sentiments and outlook as well as strong attachment to the common soil.

Community of economic ties:
This factor was emphasized by Karl Marx. Since then its existence has been realized. When it was conceded that the nation was a historical and sociological phenomenon attention began to be paid to conditions under which nations arise. The nation arises out of the fusion of clans, tribes and ethnic groups. According to Lenin it is the growth of exchange between regions and the creation of a home market which leads to the creation of nationalities. People do not become fully consolidated into a nation so long they are not united by common economic ties which the developing capitalist mode of production creates.

Common history or traditions:
The possession of a common language, geographical contiguity and common economic ties are bonds which make the people living together share same experiences and develop a certain amount of common outlook and also have common aspirations. They are people who have lived together suffered together, worked together and this creates among them what may be called a common psychological make-up or character. The character of people is a reflection of the conditions of life they have lived and led together. Therefore it may be and usually is modified in course of time as the conditions of life undergo change. Secondly the reference to national character does not negate the existence of individual variations. It underlines a tendency among a certain people.

Nationality is in fact a psychological or sentiment.A.E Zimmern writes nationality like religion is subjective; psychological a condition of mind a spiritual possession a way of feeling, thinking and living. Nationality is an instinct.Renon and Mill write there must be a consciousness of a heroic past, true glory experiences and sacrifices, feelings of pride and shame, joy and grief connected with the past.Maclver defines nationality as a type of community sentiment created by historical circumstances and supported by common psychological factors to such an extent and so strong that those who feel it desire to have a common government peculiarly or exclusively their own.

Nation and State:
Nationality is a group of people who feel their uniqueness and oneness which they are keen to maintain; if this group of people happens to organize themselves on a particular territory and desire independence or are independent they form a nation state. The members of a state may belong to different nationalities. Nationality is subjective and statehood is objective. Nationality is psychological statehood is political. Nationality is a condition of mind whereas statehood is a condition in law. Nationality is a spiritual possession, statehood is an enforceable obligation. Sovereignty is an essential element of state but not of nation. Nation signifies consciousness of unity prompted by psychological and spiritual feelings which may or may not be sovereign. The physical element of sovereignty is not as important as the psychological element of the feeling of oneness.

The Growth of Nation State:
The nation state was born of competition and conflict. The Hundred Years War gave rise to two rival groups across the English Channel each feeling a consciousness of kind the English and the French. The War of Roses gave rise to a united English nation under the Tudor dictatorship. Rivalry in discovery and piracy on the high seas cemented national solidarity among the participants-the English and the French, the Portuguese, the spanish. The American nation was born out of long civil wars. The kingdom of Prussia was one of the important products of Napoleonic Wars. The German Nation was born of conflict of war with France (1870-71).The Italian Nation under Mazzini and Garibaldi came into being as a resurgent movement in protest against Austrian domination (1859-70).Either competition or conflict or possibly a combination of both has given rise to political nationalism. The idea of democratic nation state is of recent growth. The unification of all authority in the hands of powerful centralized independent monarchies took the place of ineffective and petty feudal authorities. After innumerable conflicts the principle of state absolutism became supreme in Europe. All the great reformers of Protestant Reformation enjoined on their followers passive obedience to the state and taught that the powers that be are ordained of God. They held that the rulers to whom obedience was due ruled by divine right. In England their teaching paved the way for Tudor and Stuart despotism. In France Louis XIV said 'I am the State'. The general tendency of Reformation was to strengthen despotism in the political sovereign. It was both a nationalistic and a religious movement.

Such despotism did not remain unchallenged. People with the growth of enlightenment and realization of their power obtained certain rights from the ruler. They realized the fact that government existed not for its own sake but for the good of the governed. Royal absolutism at one time necessary to wield people together and to bring order and unity out of feudal disorder was no longer necessary once that object was fulfilled. Political parties grew stronger and developed into open organizations representing liberal attitudes on various questions of interest to the constitutional group. In some countries the monarchs willingly yielded to the popular will and were content to remain as figureheads under a democratic government. The sovereignty of the people became recognized and the democratic nation s state came to be established.

Patriotism is love for one's country. It is an altruistic devotion to the country a deep communal feeling capable of inspiring and uniting people together for common cause. But sometimes patriotism unwittingly contributes to national egotism. Sometimes it denies the full obligation of the nation to other nations. Sometimes it creates chauvinism, hate against other nations.

It is a state of mind that seeks to make the nation an effective unity and the object of man's supreme loyalty. It has developed in the western world and is today growing all over again. It has prepared the way for modern democratic national states. It has extended the area of national liberty and individual freedom. Nationalism no doubts serves as a source of integration within the state but it is dangerous when it denies the common interest that binds nation to nation. Then it becomes ethnocentrism or chauvinism which is intolerance or imperialism seeking territorial expansion and political domination. When nationalism divides people from others it impedes the development of harmonious inter group or international relations and sows the seeds of international rivalry and wars. In its pure form nationalism may be an ideal but it can cause serious division between man and man. In the words of Hayes,' Nationalism when it becomes synonymous with the purest patriotism will prove a unique blessing to humanity and to the world.' Internationalism and chauvinism are mutually contradictory sentiments but healthy nationalism and internationalism are mutually complementary.

Current Affairs Magazine