Nationalism in the modern world: a positive or negative force

Nationalism is the ideology and policies, the basic principle of which is the thesis of the value of the nation as the highest form of social unity and its primacy in the state-process. It has a rich variety of sects, some of which contradict each other. As a political movement, nationalism tends to protect the interests of national unity in relations with state power (Smith, 2001).

From the perspective of modernism, nation and nationalism are historical phenomena that emerged at the dawn of the industrial age and are associated with a stronger state and the development of capitalism. According to this theory, while the direct rule of the state was increasing, culture and daily life became increasingly dependent on the country of residence.

Development of communication technologies and economic markets has contributed to the social relations between people, who had never directly communicated with each other before. As a result, life became more homogeneous within each separate country, but contrasts between countries were growing. Supporters of this theory do not deny that ethnicity plays a significant role in the origin of nationalism, and culture – in the final stage of nation-building, but in general, they consider the connection between nationalism and ethnicity as a coincidence. National identity is defined by a modern state, exercising control over a single clearly defined territory, while the existing ethnic relations are revised in order to coincide with the boundaries of a state or vice versa, so that in the struggle for power, they could form the basis for the formation of new states (Holtug, 2009).

Due to the fact that many modern radical movements emphasize their nationalistic features, nationalism is often associated with ethnic, cultural and religious intolerance (Eriksen, 2002; Pavel, 2009; Holtug, 2009). Such intolerance is condemned by supporters of the moderate sects of nationalism.

At its core, nationalism advocates loyalty and dedication to the nation, political independence and work for the benefit of the compatriots, uniting of national identity for the practical protection of the nation’s living conditions and its territory, economic resources and cultural values. It is based on the national feeling, which is close to patriotism. This ideology seeks to unite the various layers of society, regardless of the opposing class interests. It has proved to be able to mobilize the population for the sake of common policy objectives in the period of transition to capitalist economy.

National projects can be implemented only in one’s own state. Nation has the right to form its own state including all members of the nation. For each integral territorial-administrative unit the political boundaries should coincide with the cultural and ethnic ones. Thus, the nation has supreme authority over a clearly bounded territory, within which a sufficiently homogeneous population resides.

Nation is the source of all political power. The only legitimate type of government is national self-government. Each nation member has the right to participate directly in the political process. Thus, nationalism is symbolically equates the people to the elite (Kunovich, 2009).

Nationalism considers necessary common language and culture for the entire population within a single administrative unit. People identify themselves with the nation for the sake of freedom and self-realization. On the other hand, the nation guarantees membership and identity even for those who do not feel as a part of any group (Leerssen, 2006).

Uniformity is achieved by uniting people on the basis of love and brotherhood, rather than by imposing a certain culture. It is important for members of the nation to feel the ties of solidarity and act in unison, to scale their efforts with the aspirations of others.

Person’s devotion to the national state is above individual or other group interests. Citizens’ task is to support the legitimacy of the state.

Strengthening the national state is the main condition for the universal freedom and harmony. People constituting a nation, should also have access to education, necessary for participation in the life of modern society (Leerssen, 2006).

Nationalism underlines the differences, peculiarity and individuality of nations. These characteristics are of cultural and ethnic nature.

National consciousness helps to identify existing foreign inclusions in the culture and to rationally analyze the prospects for further borrowing from other cultures for the benefit of the nation.

Moreover, nationalism considers the nation as the equivalent of an individual, as a sociological organism. People’s equality before the law regardless of their social status or origin is similar to the equality of nations, regardless of their size or strength from the standpoint of international law. According to nationalists nations may possess talents or feel victimized. The nation also unites the present generation with the past and future ones, which motivates people to work hard to the extent that they can to sacrifice their lives for its sake (Kunovich, 2009).

The notions of “national values”, “national interests”, “national security”, “national independence”, “national identity”, etc. are associated with this concept.

Nationalism creates the conditions for the existence of rules forming the mechanism of democracy. And in this sense we can say unequivocally that without nationalism, democracy is dysfunctional and inadequate. But nationalism without democracy is failing because if a nation is a daily referendum, without democratic procedures the mechanism of this referendum works only in the reproduction of everyday culture, there is no feedback and the will of a nation begins to defile (Ipperciel, 2007). To put it simple, nationalism is quite natural for any man love for his people and his country, organized as a love for his family, that is, as a distinct advantage of his family before non-relatives, as well as the advantage of his people and his country before foreign nations and foreign countries.

In this sense, nationalism is a phenomenon of the era in human history, when the nation and state are in a state of a tiff competition.

Perhaps when there is peace between nations, nationalism will gain milder forms, and will protect first and foremost cultural identity, which is characteristic of the integral diversity.

In this sense, nationalism is the form of a minimal solidarity, which allows to constitute the rules by which competition is reduced to a balance of interests and the negotiating process, not to the balance of power when the strong can do anything they want (Ipperciel, 2007; Holtug, 2009).

And in this sense from political nationalism naturally leads to the economic one, that is, a desire for the level and quality of life of people to be maximal, and for socio-economic and socio-cultural inequalities to minimize to a level acceptable in the given culture.

Naturally, the question of nationalism involves the question of the nation. There is an ongoing debate about the nation among the three conceptions: civic nationalism, ethnic nationalism, and biological nationalism, which is also described as “soft fascism” (Eriksen, 2002).

Civic concept of the nation comes from the fact that national solidarity is inherent to all citizens of a country. This concept is controversial because it involves a very strong homogeneity in terms of the ethnic population of a country; supposes that the state in this sense is national or that the state-forming ethnos has such a strong assimilating capacity that ethnic minorities are assimilated or easily enter in a family of nations created by the state-building people. In other terms, the civil concept of the nation and civic nationalism are quite counterproductive, as they hide ethnic conflicts and often quite harmful internationalist policies for the state-building peoples (Ipperciel, 2007).

The opposite to the civic nationalism is the biological nationalism, which from the fair assumption that every ethnic group has racial genetic identity, makes a conclusion that this identity is not only forms the core of the ethnic group, but constitutes this ethos throughout its history. That is biological nationalism virtually prohibits the assimilation and thus whether calls for very strict methods of solving ethnic conflicts or leads to the country’s split by ethnicity, by the prohibition of assimilation causing the opposition of the ethnic minorities which in conditions of reasonable ethnic politics would easily assimilate (Eriksen, 2002).

Personally I support a so-called ethno-nationalism, i.e. the concept that, recognizing the biogenetic core of any ethnic group, however, recognizes that the core grows its periphery on the basis of cultural and linguistic unity, the unity of the national ethnic identity, expands biological nationalism through processes of assimilation and acculturation. And this, in my opinion, is enough to give a description to nationalism.

Naturally, this understanding of nationalism implies quite rigid migration policies, because it is possible to assimilate, or even simply cohabit, only with ethnic groups culturally and behaviorally consistent with the state-building people, and who are ready for assimilation or, at least for the dominance of the state-building culture nation in the national state. The very possibility of politics involves national solidarity, and the transition from politics to democracy implies that solidarity in an even stronger sense. It again proves that if nationalism and democracy are understood in this way, they are almost identical.

Recently, the number of countries and nations that are building their own concept of national security on the basis of nationalist doctrine has markedly increased. The trend of the formation of foreign policy priorities in correspondence to the traditional national interests in regional policy and social consciousness is developing. The world’s economic life is ruled by new actors, which are now becoming the main trendsetter in international relations together with the traditional ones.

Obviously, the basic law of international relations is the dominance of the state as the main and top-priority international actor; the dependence of foreign policy on national interests; the decisive role of balance of power as a means of maintaining international stability; the benefits of strength as the main instrument to achieve political goals (Pavel, 2009).

Both the principle of national self-identification and the principle of territorial integrity form the foundation of international law. At first glance, their coexistence is strange: the realization of the principle of national self- identification inevitably leads to the division of territory, which creates a new nation-state; and the steady unequivocal adherence to the principle of territorial integrity of states leads to the impossibility of formation of a new state, since the latter in any case is a violation of someone’s territorial integrity (Kunovich, 2009).

The situation is complicated by the fact that there is actually no single universally acknowledged interpretation of these principles in the world practice. More precisely, it does generally exist, but is not always taken into account in the political practice, because it does not satisfy states, holding in the field of their sovereignty nations fighting for their freedom. Since these states are real, generally acknowledged subjects of law (which cannot be said about these nations), the first ones have more opportunities for imposing their point of view to the subordinate nations.

The subjects of the right to self-identification are ethnic groups defending their inalienable and enduring right to freely determine their own destiny, including political and legal status of their territory. The principle of self-identification regulates the relationship not between states, but between the ethnic group, which is the ultimate bearer of the territorial rights, and the state, which guarantees people’s rights (Kunovich, 2009; Pavel, 2009).

This formula logically comes from the priority of society over the state, growing of a state from a society and the appointment of the state as an institution designed to protect and form a society using the powers assigned to it by that same society. In particular, a state owns and manages the territory on behalf of the society and in its interests.

Since the nation is a social organism, and territory is not just ethnic area, but one of the most important factors of ethnogenesis, it is clear why the right to the territory of a nation is primary in relation to the rights to the territory of a state. The principle of national self-identification in a legal science is the supreme legal basis of territory ownership and use (Eriksen, 2002).

As national self-identification consists in changing the political status of the people, at least assumes an opportunity, naturalness and legitimacy of such changes, the logical conclusion is that the principle of national self- identification has priority over the principle of territorial integrity. Thus, the definition of normative content of the principle of territorial integrity is only possible within the principle of self- identification.

In this situation it becomes necessary to correct the understanding of the concept of “territorial integrity”. In particular, it is necessary to identify the concept of “territorial integrity of a state” and “integrity of national territory.” The latter precisely stipulates the right of a nation to a state, which covers the entire area of ethnic territory. Certainly, the integrity of national territory is also a priority in relation to integrity of a state.

In the modern world, nationalism continues to play an active role on the international arena and has many manifestations. Extreme nationalism is officially condemned and faced with legal restrictions. At the same time, the ideas about the national state became the fundamental component of the mentality of people in the liberal-democratic countries. In most countries, nationalism has become part of the structure of modern society. Population perceives it as a normal phenomenon and does not even react to nationalist rhetoric, as long as it does not threaten public order or is not connected with any objective crisis. People have developed a number of habits of ideological type which provide a continuous reproduction of the nation.

Leave a Reply