Emergence of Nationalism

The present day congruence of nation and state (emergence of nation-state) is a product of specific development in human history. Arrival  of the industrial era increased this division of labour manifold, thereby ensuring a long life for the state. State, under conditions of industrial economy, was no longer an option; it became a necessity.

According to Ernest Gellner: ‘nationalism is political principle that holds that national and political units should be congruent.’ For this coming to state and nation, there are clearly three preconditions-there should be a state; there should be a nation; and finally, they should be nationalism to tell the other two that they are meant for each other and cannot live without  each  other.

The citizens of the agrarian world lived in laterally insulated cultural groupings. It was an agglomeration of communities of common people. They lived in stable cultural formations, not particularly informed about the presence of other groups. Written word was rarely available to them. They lived their culture without ever articulating it. They could not write and to understand what was written, they relied upon the  clergy  or  the  Ulema  or Brahmin.

Compared to agrarian society an industrial society was a society based on perpetual growth- both  economic  and  cognitive.  The  industrial


society showed a tremendous commitment to continuous change and growth. It was a literate society. Literacy in the agrarian world was confined to the exclusive high-culture, in other words to the king, priest and the scholar. However, the reality was that universal suffrage did not come to West Europe till 1870  and  in East Europe till 1919. Thus it was mainly the educated, urbane middle class who pursued the ideology of nationalism and liberalism and built movements  around them.

The role of social status does not completely diminish in the industrial society, but it loses the eminence that it enjoyed in the agrarian world.   A marriage of culture and polity is the only precondition to man’s dignified survival in such  a world of dissolving   identities.

His national identity becomes important to him and only a state representative of his nation can ensure the preservation of this identity. This is nationalism. And this is why modern man is     a nationalist. Modern state needs not only trained men but also committed and loyal men. They must follow the instructions of the state in which they live, and of no other subdivision within the territory.  Only  nationalism  can  ensure this.


Different Routes taken by  Nationalism

Anthony Smith has attempted a division of a world into different types of routes that nationalism takes in its journey towards creation of nation-states. The creation of nation-states has taken two routes; Gradualist and nationalist. The gradualist route is generally conflict free and contest free and is one where the initiative was taken by the state to create conditions for the spread  of nationalism.

Nation-states were thus formed either by direct state sponsored patriotism or were the result of colonization (Australia and Canada: they did not have to fight for independence) or provincialism where cultures / states just ceded from the imperial power, were granted independence and were on their way towards becoming nation-states. One feature of the gradualist route is that it was marked by the absence of conflict, violence, contesting claims over national hood or any national movement. The other, nationalist route is characterized by rupture,  conflict,  violence  and earth-moving.

Smith divides this rupture-ridden route into two sub-routes those of ethnic nationalism and territorial nationalism. The ethnic sub-route is divided into two lanes-based on renewal and secession. Renewal is based on  the  renewal  or the revival of a declining ethnic identity like Persia in the 1890s. The secessionist lane could be further divided into three by-lanes of breakaway, Diaspora and irredentist nationalism. The breakaway group sought to sever a bond through cessation. Bangladesh that broke away from Pakistan in 1991 could also come in the same category. The Diaspora nationalism is best represented by the Jews. The irredentist nationalism normally followed a successful national movement. If the new state did not include all the members of the ethnic group, these will demand the nation. Territorial nationalism occurred when a heterogeneous population was coercively  united  by  a  colonial power.

Nationalism is a territorial ideology which is internally unifying and externally divisive. Authorities as Max Weber and Lenin have argued that nations and nationalism have to be seen “primarily in political terms in relation to statehood”. Nationalism is an ideology which links culturally and historically defined territorial communities called nations, to political statehood.

Three ways in which nationalism has shaped the modern state have been identified. In the older states like England and France the rise of nationalism was linked to the development of more democratic relationships between the state and civil society. Secondly, nationalism furthers the internal unification of culturally and economically diverse regions into a more homogenous state territory. Finally, nationalism divides one political community or nation from another and even determines the geographical boundaries  of  the  nation  in  many cases.

Nationalism can support both movements of unification and separation. In Italy and Germany, nationalism and the state created a new nation state. In Scandinavia, nationalism produced the separation  of  Norway  from Sweden.

As a result of the growth of industrialization, of the rise of the working class  and  socialism, and of inter-imperialist rivalries, nationalism became associated with conservative and right wing ideologies not just with the republican ideas of  the  French Revolution.


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