Theories of Nationalism


Nationalism can be defined as social, political and economic doctrine defined by supporting the interests of a particular nation, with the aim of gaining and maintaining the nation's sovereignty. Nationalism holds that every government should be self-determined to govern itself without external interferences (Carlson-Rainer, 2018).  Once a group of people who are collectively united by self-reflected force such as identity and can mobilize resources, then the nation becomes the only legitimate source of political sovereignty (Gellner, & Breuilly). Nationality also aims at building a single identity which is based on social attributes such as culture, distinctive traditions, language and also politics which are shared in a single setting.

Generally, nationality seeks to support the nation's traditions and all cultural revivals associated with its movements. It is connected to patriotism and encourages a nation to have pride in its achievements as ideology nationalism is considered modern. In the entire history people had always had an attachment to their traditions, regional groups and also their homeland but, nationalism was never recognized until in the eighteenth century. There are three ways to understand the origins and purposes of nationalism. Primordialism which suggests that since nations exists naturally then nationalism is a natural phenomenon (Ozkirimli, 2017). Ethno symbolism insists on the importance of symbols, traditions and myths in any nation’s development, it describes nationality as a dynamic evolutionary phenomenon. Modernism on the other hand suggests that, nationalism is a recent phenomenon and it needs socio-economic structures of modern society to exist. (Greenfeld, 2012) Different definitions of a nation lead to different strands of nationalism. It can either mean that citizenship in a state should be one ethnic group, cultural, religious or identity group or that multinationality in a state should mean that everyone has a right to exercise their right of national identity.

Theories in Nationalism

There are two main theories of nationalism which are primordial and constructivists. Nationalism is solely defined in reference to the two theories. Primordialism defines nationalism as an embedded national identity. It holds that nations are ancient phenomena. Philosophically, primordial can be traced to the ideas German Romanticism, particularly in the works of Johann Gottlieb Fichte and Johann Gottfried Herder. (Carlson-Rainer, 2018) Herder argues that since language was closely related with thought and that language was learnt in the community, then each community should think differently. Primordial's faced an extensive criticism after the second world war where many scholars came about to treat nations as a community that is built by technologies and modern politics (Coakley, 2017). Concerning ethnicity, it argues that the main reason why nationality and ethnic groups exist is that there is a heritage of belief and actions towards a primordial object such as biological factors and especially territorial location (Hearn, 2006). This argument lies in kinship concept whereby, members of a particular ethnic group feel that they share specific characteristics, origins and in some cases blood relation. An excellent example of primordialism would be the 1994 genocide experienced in Rwanda which was led by the rivalry between two ethnic groups known as Hutu and Tutsi.

The constructivist’s theory, on the other hand, states that national identity is established in reference to historical occurrences and whereby nationalism is a method of finding replacements as a result of cultural concepts losses (Mass, 2017). Constructivism can be equated to three significant themes which state that a state plays a major and vital role in creating a sense of identity to its citizens, and this is what makes a nation. Also, that national contribution is as a result of loads of people being educated and gaini

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