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Nation and Nationalism

According to Max Weber nation is a community of sentiments. A nation is not a territorial or purely political concept but associated with sentiments, aspirations and consciousness rooted in a common identity based upon a common ideology, common culture and history etc. Today most of the states are nation states but the main distinction between nation and state is that the basis of a nation is psychological and cultural unity while that of a state is physical and political unity. There can be nations without states and vice-versa. Anderson views nationalism as a metaphysical concept that lies in our collective imagination. He rejects the proposition that nationalism will decline. He attributes three core features to the concept of nationalism

  • It is an imagined community as members of this meta-community never come face to face and despite the prevailing inequalities amongst themselves, they have a feeing of cohesion.
  • It is limited and exclusionary as no nation in the world is global in its nature and includes some people and excludes the rest of the world.
  • The concept also presupposes sovereignty as all nations strive to preserve their independence and self-governance.
  • He differentiates nationalism from the concept of race as race is based on classifying the groups on the basis of fixed biological characteristics and hence it is a closed group. Races always try to preserve themselves while nations may seek to expand themselves.

Nation as a concept is also differentiated from other community based concepts such as race and ethnicity. Thomas Eriksen has differentiated the concept from ethnicity in his book Ethnicity and Nationalism, 2010. He draws similarity between the two concepts as both the concepts have underlying belief that the groups are based on common beliefs and cultural symbols. The two concepts diverge when a nation has multiple ethnic identities in it. Nationalism can be defined as a set of symbols and beliefs providing the sense of being part of a single political community. It is an ideology based on the belief that a community of people with common characteristics such as language, religion or ethnicity constitutes a separate and distinctive political community. Nationalism only made appearance with the development of the modern state. According to Gellner in his Nation and Nationalism, 1983 nation, nationalism and nation state are all modern concepts starting from the late 18thcentury. Anthony Smith in his Ethnic origin of Nations, 1986 argues that nationalism is not necessarily a modern phenomenon and many modern nations emerged from erstwhile ethnic communities. Unification of Germany and Italy are such examples. Hans Kohn in his book The Idea of Nationalism, 1945 has distinguished Western Nationalism that emerged in France and other European countries 1600- 1800 from Eastern Nationalism. Western nationalism emerged as a justification for already united political structures. In Eastern countries on the other hand nationalism aimed at justifying the creation of new nation states and newly adopted political systems. Thus he claims western nationalism also helped in the growth of imperialism and colonialism. Both liberalists and the Marxists have contended that nationalism is likely to lose its existence. Marxists view classes playing a dominant role in future and class dynamics will eclipse the national identities. Liberalists on the other hand attribute the fall of nationalism to the rise of globalization and weakening of national borders.