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Nationalism - Essay Example

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Nationalism has been a contentious issue over time as analysts cannot agree on its definition and its role in society. Most analysts, however, contend that nationalism is a specifically modern phenomenon, which became salient in the eighteenth1 or nineteenth century.2 Ernest Gellner3 was able to convincingly demonstrate that nationalism marked a profound break in human history instead of corresponding to a universal and ancient human need…
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Download file to see previous pages This can only be successful if conducted in the local vernacular of the country. This thus raised a need for cultural homogenisation and its offshoot- the political doctrine of nationalism, 'which holds that the political and the national unit should be congruent'.4 Nationalism can be characterised as 'the organisation of human groups into large, centrally educated, culturally homogenous units'.5 Gellner put it thus: modernisation brings about nationalism and nationalism establishes nations, and not vice versa.
Nationalism may manifest itself as part of state ideology or as a non-state movement and may be expressed along civic, ethnic, cultural, religious or ideological lines. These self-definitions of the nation have been used to classify types of nationalism. These categories are not mutually exclusive and many nationalist movements combine some or all of these elements to varying degrees. Nationalist movements have also beeen classified by other criteria, such as scale and location.
With all the disagreements about the true nature of nationalism, most analysts today view it as a hindrance to the development of a liberal democracy.6 Some like Beiner, Habermas and Hobsbawm say that this hindrance has to be superseded altogether; others like Dahrendorf, Kymlicka and Tamir see how democracy and nationalism can be reconciled.
Civic and Ethnic Nationalism
The liberal defenders of nationalism owe mostly, the original Enlightenment ideal of the nation as an agency of democratic power that was able to challenge the old suppressive order of the 'ancien rgime' (Rousseau). This made French and American nationalisms to be traditionally regarded as the epitome of civic nationalism. They were based on the political ideas of revolutionaries who fought for the 'sovereignty of the people'. The membership of the community was thus defined primarily in political terms; civic virtues were more important for the new republic than ethnicity, common culture, or even common language. This voluntaristic notion of national identity is usually contrasted with ethnic nationalism, which is exclusionary, since the belonging to a nation is in this case defined by birth, blood and ethnicity. While the former conception of a nation is ideally conceived of as a voluntary association, the latter is seen as a community of fate.7 Ethnic nationalism emerged in the late nineteenth century and is said to be pertinent to the people of Central and Eastern Europe ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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