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Nationalism – Lesson Summary

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Nationalism is a potent force in almost all forms of political life. Nationalism is not easily categorized as a single ideology, as it takes a range of forms, several of which share more than one characteristic. Nationalism may be better understood as a range of outlooks, rather than a specific body of theory, which may also help for the enduring character of nationalism. Nationalism has been associated with many other ideologies, from liberalism through socialism to fundamentalism.

Nationalism has emerged as other forms of political organization have declined. These forms include kingdoms, principalities, and the like. Nationalism has a conceptual relation to sovereignty. That idea arose in its modern form when many of the major rulers signed the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.
The main themes of nationalism include:
• nation
• organic community
• self-determination
• identity politics
The idea of a nation is obviously central to nationalism. However, it is actually impossible to specify what a nation is or what constitutes a nation. More often than not, a nation is claimed to be made up of a group of people who share specific things in common, namely:
• culture
• language
• religion
• history
• geographical area.

Neither of the above-mentioned specific things is, by itself, sufficient enough to define a nation. Moreover, neither community nor identity politics can be a foundational claim to nationhood.

The main forms of nationalism include:
• Liberal nationalism
• Conservative nationalism
• Reactionary nationalism
• Expansionist nationalism
• Anti-colonialist nationalism



Conservatism leaders have often regard nationalism as a dangerous and destabilizing force. Strong forms of conservative nationalism are often expressed in vehemently exclusivist and even racist terms. When member states access or join the EU, they accept that the law of the EU take precedence over domestic law in the event of a possible clash of laws.

French revolution has created the idea of the right of a man and combined that idea with that of national sovereignty. In theory, all minorities should be protected, even if they did not live in their own supposedly own nation states, but other nation-states.

Following the First World War, the system created by the League of Nations made it possible for fascist government across Europe to see their Jewish population as belonging to a Jewish nation with no defined territory. Therefore millions of Jews were sent to concentration for extermination.

Yet, the victims of extermination were, at least theoretically, possessors of the supposedly inalienable rights of a man, as enhanced by the French revolution. They were inheritors of these supposedly inalienable rights, because they were human beings, first and foremost. And, the rights involved, thus supposedly, were independent from citizenship, nationality or anything else.

The idea of state without a nation is, in theory and practice, possible. A striking and illuminating example of statehood without nationalism is provided by Scotland, a region of United Kingdom. The Scottish national party seeks statehood without any claim to, ethnic, linguistic, or religious exclusivity. Conversely, the concerns of the Alternative for Germany (AFD) include search of identity, nationalism, and authoritarian understanding of the state.