What do you think about nationalism?

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I often hear a lot of negative things about nationalism on these forums - that it causes wars and such things. I'm now watching the opening of the London Olympics again and they are thoroughly British. Very nationalistic. Shakespeare, Industrial Revolution, Harry Potter, honoring the dead, NHS, Queen (Her Majesty), Queen (music), Rowan Atkinson, James Bond... And I love it. I'm not British, I'm Dutch, but this British nationalism really doesn't bother me.

Of course, chauvinism is entirely different...

Chauvinism, in its original and primary meaning, is an exaggerated, bellicose patriotism and a belief in national superiority and glory.[1]

By extension, it has come to include an extreme and unreasoning partisanship on behalf of any group to which one belongs, especially when the partisanship includes malice and hatred towards rival groups.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chauvinism

Yes, chauvinism is a bad thing. Just like a 'shortage' of nationalism is a bad thing: I was always taught that the lack of nationalism is a problem in a lot of African nations.

So, what do you think of nationalism? Is it beneficial? Is it tolerable? Is it stupid? Is it dangerous? Is it inseparable from chauvinism? Are you nationalist?

Definition Alert: People seem to think nationalism and patriotism are different things. I always thought they were roughly the same - and Wikipedia seems to agree with me.

It is a related sentiment to nationalism.[1][2][3]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patriotism

When I say nationalism, I mean roughly the same thing as patriotism, while 'chauvinism' better describes how some of you interpret nationalism.

It seem to be useful to know what everyone means with those terms :)

I'm probably not the best person to ask this question, as my opinion on the issue is fairly radical from what I have gathered, but I do not like nationalism as I find it to be excessively backwards. Having a sense of national culture, fine. Promoting national interests over world interests annoys me though, especially in extreme cases.

Nationalism is never 'good' and likewise a 'lack of nationalism' is never a bad thing. It's stupid and counterproductive to humanity's greater endeavors at best, physically dangerous at worst as it can and has indeed lead to horrific wars (chauvinism seems like the natural correlate of nationalism as you've defined it). As Nietzsche predicted, it is the product of widespread nihilism and is plainly destructive.

I was always taught that the lack of nationalism is a problem in a lot of African nations.

I weep for you and those subjected to the same education you were, wherever it came from - though I can't say mine was any better...

Apparently people use the word differently, but in the US what was on display in the opening ceremonies would not have been called "nationalism". It would have been called "patriotism". The only way I've ever heard Americans use the terms, patriotism is when you like things from your country, nationalism is when you declare your country superior to others.

Now not everyone apparently uses these terms the same way, but the distinction we use makes it very clear exactly where to draw the line.

"Nationalism" in the traditional sense sense of believing your country is inherently superior and more important than other nations is a dangerous line of thinking. It's tribal, really, and has no place in today's world. Well it has no place in any world really, but with the world becoming more global every day, now it is especially primitive and destructive. As Revnak pointed out, there is nothing wrong with knowing of and being proud of your culture. But placing yourself on a pedestal above others simply because they happen to not be from the same nation as you? That's just ignorant.

Katatori-kun:
Apparently people use the word differently, but in the US what was on display in the opening ceremonies would not have been called "nationalism". It would have been called "patriotism". The only way I've ever heard Americans use the terms, patriotism is when you like things from your country, nationalism is when you declare your country superior to others.

Now not everyone apparently uses these terms the same way, but the distinction we use makes it very clear exactly where to draw the line.

Patriotism afaik, is an older term and can be used for countries you don't come from. Like I could be a US patriot despite not being from the US (that probably dates back to the revolutionary war).

Anyhow...nationalism is fucked up. That's all I have to say...I never understood it and never will, much like I will never understand why people willingly eat oysters.

Katatori-kun:
Apparently people use the word differently, but in the US what was on display in the opening ceremonies would not have been called "nationalism". It would have been called "patriotism". The only way I've ever heard Americans use the terms, patriotism is when you like things from your country, nationalism is when you declare your country superior to others.

Now not everyone apparently uses these terms the same way, but the distinction we use makes it very clear exactly where to draw the line.

We should enforce a world-wide law via the UN that those two words should be used the way we use it to avoid confusion and since we have the better method.

weak attempt at humor intended.

TWRule:
a 'lack of nationalism' is never a bad thing.

---

I was always taught that the lack of nationalism is a problem in a lot of African nations.

I weep for you and those subjected to the same education you were, wherever it came from - though I can't say mine was any better...

So you don't think it's useful if people in a nation-state accept and like their nation-state? A lot of African countries are thoroughly divided on tribal issues - wouldn't it be better if they were all proud citizens of 'African country X'?

A lot of those countries try to stimulate nationalism with football. Is that bad thing?

The world isn't ready for one world government, and 'people are organized on a national level' seems to be better than 'people are organized on a tribal level'. It seems to be useful to make people 'think and feel' at a national instead of tribal level.

Katatori-kun:
Apparently people use the word differently, but in the US what was on display in the opening ceremonies would not have been called "nationalism". It would have been called "patriotism".

Interesting.

It is a related sentiment to nationalism.[1][2][3]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patriotism

It seems they are similar things.

Katatori-kun:
The only way I've ever heard Americans use the terms, patriotism is when you like things from your country, nationalism is when you declare your country superior to others.

Isn't that chauvinism?

Nowdays it seems "patriotism" is moving towards meaning agreeing with the government of your nation, which is rather different from the original meaning.

To address the little matter of definition I think that we have to get away for hemming and hawing about the original definition of things, because let's face it, the meaning that is attached to a word changes, language evolves and if we're constantly going "oh, that's not what the word originally meant" we are allowing ourselves to get caught up in a distraction from the actual point.

There is only a little difference between Nationalism, and Patriotism, or at least in my mind there is. That little difference is the idea of greatness of power/influence and the idea of superiority. The idea that we are supposed to support a country or a specific culture simply because that's the one that we were told to support is silly, and it doesn't reflect the world we live in, but it pales in comparison to the idea of one's country or culture being superior, which to me is what Nationalism is. Of course, Chauvinism is Nationalism taken to the extreme, and is obviously even worse.

To me, Nationalism has no real place in our world, pride in your nation, striving to better it in one's own way, is what we need, not some overinflated sense of superiority that comes with Nationalism and those who espouse the virtues of it. Our world is simply too interconnected, and the spread of cultural ideas will not be halted, (the halting of outside cultural influences is one of the things that almost all Nationalistic parties/groups have in common) so to waste your energy trumpeting the superiority of your country and its culture only stands to make you look like a fool, and to create feeling of anger, alienation, and fear between other peoples.

Now, on a side note, not even in regards to Nationalism as it applies today, I want to point out that really, it's been a mixed bag. For the better part of the middle ages, almost all kingdoms were subservient to whims of Rome and the Pope, largely due to the fact that the vast majority of their workers were Catholic and if the Pope said to raise up, there was a good chance that the peasantry would over throw their king/lord/Earl or whatever the title holder was called. With the Reformation, we saw the beginning of the Nationalistic movement, where different kingdoms were realizing that they didn't have to obey the Church so long as they could convince the peasantry that the kingdom or country that they lived in was more important. Most Europeans already know what happened after the Reformation, what with the Thirty Years' War and all, but that was a major event in the history of nationalism.

Too often in our history has nationalism been used to start wars and to kill each other, that is why it is not a good thing.

Hopefully this made sense.

--

Well, I prefer a state that, for the sake of stability and a viable democracy, conform roughly to the borders of its people. I don't think one should confuse nationalism with jingoism, imperialism or fascism. I also think that a people has a certain right to decide its own destiny rather than be part of some other people's state or empire.

Nationalism is widely unpopular in Sweden, which is funny considering most people are somehow also pro an independent Kurdistan, which is about as nationalist as you get.

Danyal, I hate to say it, but you haven't defined nationalism. You've said you support something, but I have no idea what it is you support.

I feel like I should make a new thread on the specific problems with what you've called "British" nationalism (which is actually English patriotism, there's nothing British about most of the things you've mentioned) because it's something which has been getting to me lately. But since you haven't defined nationalism I will.

Nationalism is the belief that the people of a particular nation share intrinsic qualities which make them different from all other people on earth. It's the belief that there's a unique character which defines an English person and permeates his or her very being to the point that he or she is non-substitutable for any foreign person.

The issue is that this is fundamentally a self/other dichotomy. "We are like this, therefore everyone else is not", and this lends itself perfectly to a sense of superiority, be it the civilizing mission, racism or xenophobia or general internalized contempt or trampling of rights directed against those who are seen to fail to embody the traits expected of a member of a given national community, be they racial traits, behavioural traits or anything else.

The golden example is the relationship between German nationalism and German anti-semitism in the 19th century. Once German historians started going back to Tacitus and his account of Arminius and saying "look, this prooves we have always been a distinct people with our own history and culture and ties to this land" then the inevitable subtext is "..and the Jews are not". We all know the results, I hope.

So no, nationalism isn't harmless. You can't simply separate it from its negative effects, because those effects are what happens when you start asserting the coherence of particular groups of people throughout history.

"British nationalist" in the UK may as well be slang for neo-Nazi (largely because it implies a desire to preserve English cultural hegemony within the UK). "English nationalism" is a little more acceptable, but means something a little different.

Danyal:
I often hear a lot of negative things about nationalism on these forums - that it causes wars and such things. I'm now watching the opening of the London Olympics again and they are thoroughly British. Very nationalistic. Shakespeare, Industrial Revolution, Harry Potter, honoring the dead, NHS, Queen (Her Majesty), Queen (music), Rowan Atkinson, James Bond... And I love it. I'm not British, I'm Dutch, but this British nationalism really doesn't bother me.

Of course, chauvinism is entirely different...

Chauvinism, in its original and primary meaning, is an exaggerated, bellicose patriotism and a belief in national superiority and glory.[1]

By extension, it has come to include an extreme and unreasoning partisanship on behalf of any group to which one belongs, especially when the partisanship includes malice and hatred towards rival groups.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chauvinism

Yes, chauvinism is a bad thing. Just like a 'shortage' of nationalism is a bad thing: I was always taught that the lack of nationalism is a problem in a lot of African nations.

So, what do you think of nationalism? Is it beneficial? Is it tolerable? Is it stupid? Is it dangerous? Is it inseparable from chauvinism? Are you nationalist?

Definition Alert: People seem to think nationalism and patriotism are different things. I always thought they were roughly the same - and Wikipedia seems to agree with me.

It is a related sentiment to nationalism.[1][2][3]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patriotism

When I say nationalism, I mean roughly the same thing as patriotism, while 'chauvinism' better describes how some of you interpret nationalism.

It seem to be useful to know what everyone means with those terms :)

No. I see no need for one to think that ones country is better than any other country(which is pretty much the point of patriotism/nationalism) based on the sole achievements of the past. It always ends in a quasi-mystical belief of the "own people" fighting a "righteous battle" against "the others". Let me clarify:

There's nothing wrong with being proud of the state that you are part of, and the economic/social-economic structure that you are creating. The social policies which in turn help advance scientific-studies, culture, etc. But said socio-ecnomic structure can be put to work in ANY geographic-place in the world.
So if you want to be proud of that, sure. If that is what you mean by Nationalism. However, most seem to think that we should be proud of "our country" because "we" created Shakespeare, Democracy, or whatever. And in fact, "you" did not. Another person did, hundreds of years ago (or severla other people, in the case of Democracy, yada-yada, you get the point).

This has nothing to do with said country that you live in right now. Sure, it might influence the culture of said country up to today, but the thought that you, I, or anyone that live in said country has had anything to do with the creation of such, and should thus feel proud that once long ago, X person was born within the geographical location that is now my country, is absurd. It's folly, and it leads to "us vs them" mentality.
You want to be proud over something? Be proud over the human race.

As Katatori correctly pointed out, I think it's really important to distinguish between the chauvinistic part and the simple group identifier part of Nationalism by for instance introducing patriotism as a distinction here: for me, the whole Nationalism thing is a necessary evil as people need group identifiers to create and underpin their own sense of self.

Nationalism is in principle just that; a group identifier standing for some sets of common cultural practices and values, geographical origin and maybe language. It is therefore not an identifier that is completely arbitrary but tied to rather objective observable quantities and its introduction as a purely descriptive identifier makes sense. It becomes only problematic when this identifier is charged with values that specifically devalue other groups or inflates itself to pure chauvinism, which in this case has happened far too often for my tastes leaving me very suspicious about ritualistic manifestations of it.

EDIT: couldn't stand that big box of text here, so I formatted a bit.

You want to be proud over something? Be proud over the human race.

Why is being proud of the Human race more valid than being proud of your nation? Why can't someone be both?

Again, some of you guys are working to RADICALLY different definitions to the ones I do.

Nationalism is the more neutral term and patriotism is the more negative one as I see it and as I was taught in school and on the two nationalism courses I took a long time ago at Edinburgh university.

Nationalism and not patriotism is the term used for the broad academic discussion of this issue and is a neutral term for an entire range of issues (language, identity, law, borders, national literature etc) surrounding the rise of the modern nation state. There are many types of nationalism, but the two broad types are a civic nationalism (based on citizenship) and a blood nationalism (based on race). The latter is considered toxic, the former positive.

Also, in academia a lot of time is spent defining what makes a nation a "nation" which is bound up, at its very essence, with the idea of modern nationalism.

But some of the posts here - rather confusingly - seem to get it arse backwards and assume that patriotism is good/innocent and nationalism is bad. That seems messed up and I want some references on this as this is NOT what I was taught at school and university. I studied "nationalism" courses and not "patriotism" courses for very good reason.

Because as I see it patriotism is usually understood as a more vigorous, instinctual, blind, unconditional and emotional love of one's country while nationalism - as a broad concept - is far more sober, academic and rational.

I am of course a Scottish nationalist, by that I mean a civic nationalist, which means I believe that Scottishness is a matter of culture and citizenship and not of race and not of assuming that my country is superior to others.

The negative associations of nationalism are more correctly associated with blood nationalism (a rationalisation of racism) which depends, absolutely depends, on the more emotive, instinctual, unconditional and fever-pitch sentiments of patriotism.

As such, for me civic nationalism is essential, rational, sober, positive, modern and civilised. Patriotism, however, is that unconditional love of your football team, that fever-pitch attachment (beloved of the vacuous) to cheesy boybands and girlbands and reality TV stars, that inevitable family nepotism, but applied to nations and, thus, more potentially dangerous as a result.

Regards

Nightspore

p.s. ahaha, a quick google search throws up a George Orwell quote on patriotism versus nationalism that may explain it. Orwell was an international socialist- opposed to the appalling nationalisms of WW1 and WW2 - and not a contemporary scholar on nationalism studies as it has developed in the postwar years. Orwell, simply put, needs to be put in historical and political context before one blindly uses his terms and heavily politically contextualised viewpoint. Orwell is talking about the "nationalism" of fascism and imperialism and applies the term "patriotism" to a more soft, less extreme "fondness" for one's nation and culture. This is all expressed in the context the British Empire, the rise of fascism, WW1 and WW2. Using Orwell's terminology NOW imo is totally outdated, peculiar to Orwell, and totally out of context.

I suppose I am a nationalist at heart because given the choice I wouldn't live in any other country and I'd fight for this one. However I am not so much a nationalist to know eventually we'll have to leave behind countries in favor for a united humanity; that won't be for quite awhile though.

Nationalism and patrotism are indeed very similar terms and they are often used interchangeably. I don't think there is a universally accepted definition for either.

In my eyes, patriotism is simply pride in your country- an emotional identification with a certain culture. Typically these are national cultures, but i feel patriotism can be legitimately applied to other forms of identities. You can be patriotic about being a New Yorker as you can be patriotic of being from the Lake District. To be patriotic is to simply identify with a certain form of identity. You could even be patriotic about being a golfer or a teacher, because in my mind patriotism is equated with pride in a certain identity.

Nationalism i feel is more focused on subscribing to the political ideology of Nationalism- the belief that there is a national culture which has the right to define it's borders and decide upon it's own rules. I.e- that the people of a certain culture should possess territory and sovereignty.

I'm quite okay with patriotism, because being proud of an identity isn't really harmful in itself. Im more wary of Nationalism however because you are bringing politics into it, and with it the risk of violent conflict. It's also unnecessary divisive, as it relies on maintaining the belief that there is a foreign "other" who is different to "us" which can be used to legitimise all sorts of undesirable political acts.

Nickolai77:
Nationalism and patrotism are indeed very similar terms and they are often used interchangeably. I don't think there is a universally accepted definition for either.

In my eyes, patriotism is simply pride in your country- an emotional identification with a certain culture. Typically these are national cultures, but i feel patriotism can be legitimately applied to other forms of identities. You can be patriotic about being a New Yorker as you can be patriotic of being from the Lake District. To be patriotic is to simply identify with a certain form of identity. You could even be patriotic about being a golfer or a teacher, because in my mind patriotism is equated with pride in a certain identity.

Nationalism i feel is more focused on subscribing to the political ideology of Nationalism- the belief that there is a national culture which has the right to define it's borders and decide upon it's own rules. I.e- that the people of a certain culture should possess territory and sovereignty.

I'm quite okay with patriotism, because being proud of an identity isn't really harmful in itself. Im more wary of Nationalism however because you are bringing politics into it, and with it the risk of violent conflict. It's also unnecessary divisive, as it relies on maintaining the belief that there is a foreign "other" who is different to "us" which can be used to legitimise all sorts of undesirable political acts.

Then why isn't the academic discipline called "patriotism studies" as opposed to "nationalism studies"? Do a google search on "patriotism studies" and you will simply find varying definitions for patriotism, while "nationalism studies" will throw up countless BA and MSc courses and various university schools on the subject. Why is that? I think that since the 1990s (arguably long before that) those two terms - academically - are not interchangeble. Nationalism is the more neutral, broad and rational term these days, at least academically. I think some of you chaps need to update your terminology.

To elaborate. I am a Scottish civic nationalist which means my love of Scotland is "conditional" on it being a nice country in clear, civic terms (democracy, human rights, respect for difference, anti-racist etc). If Scotland should become a nasty fascist state I would of course hate what Scotland had become. The point being that "Scotland" is not fixed, it is defined and redefined at any one moment and I think that that modern understanding of civic nationalism captures that.

Patriotism however is pure unconditional love. I love my brother, for example. It is fixed. If he murders someone, I am disappointed but I still love him because he is my brother and nothing can change that essential nepotistic and irrational familial bond. No matter what. Same for patriotism. Which is why I would NEVER call myself a "patriot" because it is too emotive, blind and unconditional for me.

I think this is why the discipline is called "nationalism studies" and not "patriotism studies".

Regards

Nightspore

I agree with the following sentiment-
"Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest."---Diderot
captcha that's enough

Nightspore:

Nickolai77:
Nationalism and patrotism are indeed very similar terms and they are often used interchangeably. I don't think there is a universally accepted definition for either.

In my eyes, patriotism is simply pride in your country- an emotional identification with a certain culture. Typically these are national cultures, but i feel patriotism can be legitimately applied to other forms of identities. You can be patriotic about being a New Yorker as you can be patriotic of being from the Lake District. To be patriotic is to simply identify with a certain form of identity. You could even be patriotic about being a golfer or a teacher, because in my mind patriotism is equated with pride in a certain identity.

Nationalism i feel is more focused on subscribing to the political ideology of Nationalism- the belief that there is a national culture which has the right to define it's borders and decide upon it's own rules. I.e- that the people of a certain culture should possess territory and sovereignty.

I'm quite okay with patriotism, because being proud of an identity isn't really harmful in itself. Im more wary of Nationalism however because you are bringing politics into it, and with it the risk of violent conflict. It's also unnecessary divisive, as it relies on maintaining the belief that there is a foreign "other" who is different to "us" which can be used to legitimise all sorts of undesirable political acts.

Then why isn't the academic discipline called "patriotism studies" as opposed to "nationalism studies"? Do a google search on "patriotism studies" and you will simply find varying definitions for patriotism, while "nationalism studies" will throw up countless BA and MSc courses and various university schools on the subject. Why is that? I think that since the 1990s (arguably long before that) those two terms - academically - are not interchangeble. Nationalism is the more neutral, broad and rational term these days, at least academically. I think some of you chaps need to update your terminology.

To elaborate. I am a Scottish civic nationalist which means my love of Scotland is "conditional" on it being a nice country in clear, civic terms (democracy, human rights, respect for difference, anti-racist etc). If Scotland should become a nasty fascist state I would of course hate what Scotland had become. The point being that "Scotland" is not fixed, it is defined and redefined at any one moment and I think that that modern understanding of civic nationalism captures that.

Patriotism however is pure unconditional love. I love my brother, for example. It is fixed. If he murders someone, I am disappointed but I still love him because he is my brother and nothing can change that essential nepotistic and irrational familial bond. No matter what. Same for patriotism. Which is why I would NEVER call myself a "patriot" because it is too emotive, blind and unconditional for me.

I think this is why the discipline is called "nationalism studies" and not "patriotism studies".

Regards

Nightspore

I think the actual content of those university courses on Nationalism looks at Nationalism as a political idea and how it manifests itself in practise, and not all about seeking to explain why people "feel" proud about their country, that would fall under psychology.

I don't think you can compare family love to love of an abstract entity such as a nation state, the psychological motives for that are different. And besides, even if it is unconditional love of a nation that doesn't automatically entail one has to unconditionally love the state it's run by. I might love Britain, but i certainly don't love the Tories who are in charge of it.

Danyal:
So you don't think it's useful if people in a nation-state accept and like their nation-state? A lot of African countries are thoroughly divided on tribal issues - wouldn't it be better if they were all proud citizens of 'African country X'?

No, I don't think it's useful (in the long run), and as someone pointed out above, all that would do for those African countries would be to exacerbate and/or expand the reach of their tribalism. That's at best a stop-gap measure that doesn't address the real underlying problems. People need genuine community, which is what arbitrary unification under some political banner or other does not provide - that is only collectivist/tribal mentality.

A lot of those countries try to stimulate nationalism with football. Is that bad thing?

Yes, it is, because it mindless and leads us nowhere. If it's effective, all it does is provide some illusory galvanization to each nation while simultaneously making them more hostile to others, and coveting 'national values' as if they provided purpose in their lives.

The world isn't ready for one world government, and 'people are organized on a national level' seems to be better than 'people are organized on a tribal level'. It seems to be useful to make people 'think and feel' at a national instead of tribal level.

Who said anything about a world government? If we are only talking about how to keep the mindless rabble 'organized' then by all means, nationalism is a temporarily effective solution. However, a group of persons capable of critical independent thought doesn't need to be 'organized' by some outside power to exist or thrive, nor are they likely to buy into nefarious attempts to convince them they should identify strongly with the randomly-thrown-together rabble around them (i.e. nationalism).

Dajosch:
for me, the whole Nationalism thing is a necessary evil as people need group identifiers to create and underpin their own sense of self.

I strongly disagree. That may apply to the lowest common denominator representative of the masses, but such labels won't be (and shouldn't be) satisfactory for any self-reflective individual. He/she should always sense something of themselves beyond the myriad social labels they have been assigned or choose to assign themselves. Nationalism can't speak to that 'something beyond', and it never will be able to. But it's just that 'something beyond' that we need to try to grasp and identify with. If people stop trying to apply superficial and trivial social labels to themselves in vain attempts to define their entire being(s) with them, then perhaps we can address the deeper problem.

Danyal:
Definition Alert: People seem to think nationalism and patriotism are different things. I always thought they were roughly the same - and Wikipedia seems to agree with me.

Dictionary.com sees it both ways:

na·tion·al·ism   [nash-uh-nl-iz-uhm]
noun
1.
national spirit or aspirations.
2.
devotion and loyalty to one's own nation; patriotism.
3.
excessive patriotism; chauvinism.
4.
the desire for national advancement or independence.
5.
the policy or doctrine of asserting the interests of one's own nation, viewed as separate from the interests of other nations or the common interests of all nations.

So...yeah. Nobody is really wrong.

I don't think the Olympics opening ceremony was about nationalism, it was about showing off the various accomplishments of people from across These Sceptred Isles.

I think that it is stupid to be proud of something that you have nothing to do with and was achieved by someone who just happened to live within the same borders that were drawn out by warmongering kings hundreds of years ago as you.

"Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind."
-Albert Fuckin' Einstein!

image

this is a copy paste of an old post.

i started writing out much the same stuff again and then remembered i had said it better before when i was in a better state and made a better job of it so here it is :

"nationalism" suffers from a limit of language problem in that most of terms and associations used to discuss it and even the term itself can carry negative associations.

imo being emotionally attached to the familiar people, culture and even geography of the place you come from and the place you call "home" is in all probability an entirely natural human trait.

it's encourages you to care for your immediate environment and the people and society that surrounds you all of which supports your own well-being either directly or indirectly.

look at this way: you how if you move into a new place to live it takes a while before it truly becomes "home" ? what is that feeling ? what is that process ? now take that thing, whatever it is, and extend that to your cultural group & area ie your country and over your whole life. that is perhaps one kind of "nationalism" but, i think, we do not actually have to words to actually describe what the hell that is.

there are limits on language (even in such a diverse language as English) and that those limits can funnel and dead end certain lines of thought in discussion because there are not the words to actually use to describe accurately the strand of thought that you are actually trying to encapsulate (this is actually recognised in Chinese philosophy where limits on thought due to limits on words are often discussed and where, because of the nature of their language, the ability to form new compound words can be used to at least partly address it).

best i can come up with is familiarity+comfort+feeling of security+appreciation+affection

now if i was Chinese its possible i could write a word that would encapsulate all five but as i'm not the creation of compound words as a means to convey the jist of a thought or feeling are somewhat limited and awkward.

discussions about "nationalism" often bounce off this problem imo.

Sleekit:
it's encourages you to care for your immediate environment and the people and society that surrounds you all of which supports your own well-being either directly or indirectly.

look at this way: you how if you move into a new place to live it takes a while before it truly becomes "home" ? what is that feeling ? what is that process ? now take that thing, whatever it is, and extend that to your cultural group & area ie your country and over your whole life. that is perhaps one kind of "nationalism" but, i think, we do not actually have to words to actually describe what the hell that is.

What you're describing here is exactly the fallacy from which nationalism (in the conception I'm now providing of it to let you know what I'm talking about so as to minimize language obstacles) is born: that is, a failure to distinguish between 'familiar environment', 'community', and 'state'.

Firstly, someone who lives in a certain place for a certain amount of time will tend to build a sense of familiarity with it, but nationalism extends that out to the arbitrarily pre-drawn boarders of the nation that person happens to be in (all the ground and people of which that person is unlikely to actually be familiar with, especially in a larger nation like, say, the U.S.). Secondly, someone's livelihood relies immediately on a local segment of a socio-economic system, and might confuse the sum of that sort of interdependence and their previously mentioned familiarity with a communal relation (when, in fact, they are merely acting as an interchangable unit in that system and the people they interact with regularly don't necessarily care about them in a non-superficial way at all). Finally, someone might make the grievous mistake of identifying that often illusory sense of community with the state and everything/everyone that falls within those arbitrarily drawn political borders. There, you have nationalism (though it doesn't necessarily have to come about in this or any other particular temporal order).

In other words, one might describe nationalism as a particular sort of misguided attempt to address the problem of a profound sense of 'homelessness' that permeates modern human life. It is not the only evil arising from a misunderstanding of this concern, but that is beyond the scope of this discussion.

Nationalism, in its original sense, was a belief that each "nation" (a group with a common ethnic and cultural heritage) should be represented by its own state, which really developed in the late 18-19th centuries. This could be manifested two ways - firstly movements for national independence (e.g. Poland) and unification (e.g. Germany). Secondly, states instilling a sense of national character on what was once a more diverse population within its territory (e.g. the replacement of local languages such as Occitan, Breton, etc. with French in France).

I would hold this to generally be fairly neutral.

The more common understanding of nationalism nowadays, as a sort of generalised belief and desire for success of the existing nation / nation-state, I also hold to be generally fairly neutral. On the other hand, I think that neutrality is a fairly thin track, and it has a lot of potential toxic side-effects when it slips off.

Most obviously, toxicity in the aspect of national superiority that can lead to ill-feeling and hostility towards other nations. Internally, in attempts to define and force conformity to excessively rigid concepts of national identity that lead to hostility towards difference.

TWRule:

Dajosch:
for me, the whole Nationalism thing is a necessary evil as people need group identifiers to create and underpin their own sense of self.

I strongly disagree. That may apply to the lowest common denominator representative of the masses, but such labels won't be (and shouldn't be) satisfactory for any self-reflective individual. He/she should always sense something of themselves beyond the myriad social labels they have been assigned or choose to assign themselves. Nationalism can't speak to that 'something beyond', and it never will be able to. But it's just that 'something beyond' that we need to try to grasp and identify with. If people stop trying to apply superficial and trivial social labels to themselves in vain attempts to define their entire being(s) with them, then perhaps we can address the deeper problem.

We are on the same page here - exaggerated dependence on some social label is a dangerous thing and people should go beyond merely defining themselves over a few of these labels to a ridiculous degree. However, we all define ourselves by using these kinds of labels, say as someone who likes to certain kinds of music, likes watching certain genres, their origin or what-have you. It is therefore more a question of scale instead of absolutes. What you describe as "something beyond" is from where I'm standing more an emergent property or in other words, a mixture of all these definers, personal achievements and experiences that make up the sense of self.

As for the case of "national identity", as I pointed out, it is at least to some degree a descriptive identifier that does not necessarily have to devolve into chauvinism. That people use it like that is the reason I called it a necessary evil because many people need it as a descriptor but a lot of them also take that too far making it a mixed bag.

You might also find this thread by Katatori highly interesting; Inside we tried to get at this question of why people increasingly seem to rely far too much on these kinds of identifiers, with a focus on the question of video gaming.

Dajosch:

What you describe as "something beyond" is from where I'm standing more an emergent property or in other words, a mixture of all these definers, personal achievements and experiences that make up the sense of self.

I disagree with that model, but in the interest of not derailing this thread I'll focus only on how this translates to the problem of nationalism...

As for the case of "national identity", as I pointed out, it is at least to some degree a descriptive identifier that does not necessarily have to devolve into chauvinism. That people use it like that is the reason I called it a necessary evil because many people need it as a descriptor but a lot of them also take that too far making it a mixed bag.

I'm a bit confused by the vagueness here: How can one "need" this particular social (national) identifier without relying too much on it? It seems to me that if one feels that they "need" any such particular social label, they are already using it as a crutch and thus relying too heavily on it for the purpose of defining themselves.

Even if I take your claim to be weaker than it seems and you are just saying that people need some-or-other social label(s), but not particular ones - if we assume that to be true for the sake of argument, why, in your view, can the plebs not settle for such identifiers as 'parent', 'sibling', 'Christian', 'Humanist', etc., and thus avoid the problem of nationalism and its destructive consequences?

I really don't like nationalism and see very little point to it. To put it bluntly, nationalism is being proud of the achievements and characteristics of other people and assuming you are similar to that person just because you were born in the same general geographical area.

The only reasons im glad to be British is the relative economic comfort, political freedom and access to a wide variety of media in origianl language I enjoy because of it. I see no point in being proud of anyone else who happened to be British did.

Taking pride in what other people did who just happen to be born between the same imaginary lines as you were.

I know it's a stupid concept and it gets even sillier with pride in one's home town, or neighbourhood.

But still, I can't help but point out that Van Halen is Dutch and I live in the same town he was born in.

Dajosch:
As Katatori correctly pointed out, I think it's really important to distinguish between the chauvinistic part and the simple group identifier part of Nationalism by for instance introducing patriotism as a distinction here: for me, the whole Nationalism thing is a necessary evil as people need group identifiers to create and underpin their own sense of self. Nationalism is in principle just that; a group identifier standing for some sets of common cultural practices and values, geographical origin and maybe language. It is therefore not an identifier that is completely arbitrary but tied to rather objective observable quantities and its introduction as a purely descriptive identifier makes sense. It becomes only problematic when this identifier is charged with values that specifically devalue other groups or inflates itself to pure chauvinism, which in this case has happened far too often for my tastes leaving me very suspicious about ritualistic manifestations of it.

I disagree, it is not important to distinguish the two, and I find it odd to see such a sentiment coming from Kat-"everyone who disagrees with me is a victim of a tribal mentality"-atori.

There is no more evident and widespread example of the tribal mentality than nationalism, regardless of whether that takes the form of strong assertions of racial and/or cultural superiority, or the kind of vacant "flags and fireworks" patriotism that's generally considered harmless. Indulging the latter inevitably leads to a certain percentage of the population adopting the former, and since the latter is not necessary in any rational sense, I see no reason to tolerate either strain.

What on earth is the point of scientists researching our minds and our thought patterns if we don't use the results to inform our behaviour? When I see an anthropological or neuroscientific study discussing the propensity in human beings to form irrational tribal associations by fetishising national identity, I don't throw up my hands and give in to such sentiments, I study it carefully in an attempt to discern the mental traps which lead to such thinking, and I try to avoid falling into them.

Magichead:

What on earth is the point of scientists researching our minds and our thought patterns if we don't use the results to inform our behaviour? When I see an anthropological or neuroscientific study discussing the propensity in human beings to form irrational tribal associations by fetishising national identity, I don't throw up my hands and give in to such sentiments, I study it carefully in an attempt to discern the mental traps which lead to such thinking, and I try to avoid falling into them.

That scientists research our minds and our thought patterns does not mean they can make any significant difference to our behaviour. I don't think we can realistically erase the tendency of humans to form such associations and identifications; the best we can probably do is try to encourage people to more benign attitudes to others.

Ranorak:
Taking pride in what other people did who just happen to be born between the same imaginary lines as you were.

I know it's a stupid concept and it gets even sillier with pride in one's home town, or neighbourhood.

But still, I can't help but point out that Van Halen is Dutch and I live in the same town he was born in.

It's not that silly. People are proud of achievements of others whole the time. Just look at sports, aren't people proud to say their local/national hockey/soccer/basketball/etc. team won? I mean the supporters didn't actually play themselves.

More on topic, i think that nationalism as defined in the OP is a good thing. People are more willing to make sacrifices for their country and while that could be abused it can also help a lot. As a random example, the Belgian state has been very successful selling state bonds to our own people allowing the state to bypass the financial market and while there sure were other elements at play than just "patriotism" i feel it played a small role.

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