Clearing up Misconceptions about "Nationalism"

Discussion in 'Politics & Society' started by civfanatic, Apr 18, 2013.

  1. civfanatic

    civfanatic Retired Moderator

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    తెలంగాణ
    This is a post that I originally made in the "Between Gandhi and Hitler" thread. I figured that the topic warranted a thread of its own, especially since so many of us on DFI claim to be "nationalists" yet don't understand what "nationalism" actually is. In this thread, I will try to clear up some misconceptions about nationalism, and explain its relevance to the world from a historical POV.
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    The concept of "nationalism" and national identity is poorly understood. Nationalism does not mean political unity. You can have
    nationalism where there is no state or political unity (e.g. Polish nationalism in the 19th century, when Poland did not exist but was divided between Prussia, Russia, and Austria). Likewise, you can have a state that "unifies" a bunch of regions but has no nationalist identity (pretty much every state in existence before the 1800s).

    "Nationalism" is a completely modern phenomenon that only emerged in the 18th and 19th centuries with rising literacy rates and budding mass media, especially newspapers. You have to understand that, until relatively recently, the vast majority of people around the world were illiterate peasants who neither understood nor really cared about the state to which they were subject and paid taxes to. These pre-modern states were dominated by elites who justified the existence of the state to other influential elites through a variety of means, often by proclaiming some divine origin for themselves; the views of the masses themselves were largely ignored because they were not seen as politically important or relevant. This all changed with the rise in political consciousness among the masses, which led to them associating with other people who shared their culture (language in particular), i.e. their "nation". The basic idea of nationalism is that the state (the political entity) should exist as the political representation of the nation (a group of people with a recognized, shared heritage). Such a state is called a "nation-state".

    The fact that the nation-state derives its legitimacy from the masses rather than some ruling dynasty claiming divine origin has huge implications; it means that the state will continue to exist despite any changes in government or leadership. To illustrate with an example, the Mughal Empire could only exist as long as the ruling dynasty (the Mughals) continued to exercise political power, because the Mughal state was essentially an extension of the Mughal imperial household. If the Mughal dynasty/household was overthrown, the state would cease to exist, and new state institutions would have to be created. The Mughals treated their realm as a personal possession, as did virtually all kings and dynasties; the opinion of the masses did not matter for much. The same is true for all preceding Indian states and empires: the Mauryas, Satavahanas, Guptas, Palas, etc. etc. All of these states were simply the personal possessions of their rulers, and no sense of "nationalism" existed in any of them. On the other hand, a nation-state like France, Italy, or Germany will continue to exist in spite of any changes in government or leadership, because these states represent not some ruling elite but the French, Italian, and German people, respectively. The case of Germany offers perhaps the most illustrative example. Since its unification in 1871, Germany has experienced vastly different types of government, from a monarchy (Deutsches Kaiserreich) to a fascist dictatorship (Großdeutsches Reich) to a liberal democracy (Bundesrepublik Deutschland). However, the German nation-state remained intact despite all these drastic regime changes, because the German people remain intact.

    Now, it is indeed true that a sense of greater cultural identity existed among ancient Indians, and that they were aware that they formed a distinct civilization. This is why foreigners from outside India, but not other Indians, were called "mlecchas". But it is important to understand that such views only existed among the educated elite, and not the illiterate masses; moreover, such views did not have much bearing on political realities of the time. For the great mass of people, anyone from outside their locality was an outsider; there was no concept that all the Tamil people (for example) should be represented as a unified political entity, much less Tamils, Telugus, Biharis, Punjabis, and all the rest. The concept of an Indian nationality only developed in the late 19th and early 20th century, when railroads, telegraphs, newspapers, and other such media improved pan-Indian communication and led to people from all over the subcontinent associating with one another.

    @LurkerBaba @Iamanidiot @Known_Unknown @Energon
     
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  3. blank_quest

    blank_quest Senior Member Senior Member

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    Nationalism == Paticipation/Partner/Owner-ship (likely as in House Hold) .
    In democracy Ownership lies in Hand of the People directly or indirectly exercised so nationalism comes from a sense of partnership/participation .
    Elites in the earlier era used to run the State in form of Dictatorship/Oligarchy so they had this sense of Ownership, but not the common people. it will be wrong to justify that Nationalism depends or does not depends on State, yes but it comes through participation. I hope I contributed some useful thoughts.
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2013
  4. civfanatic

    civfanatic Retired Moderator

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    Nationalism does not imply democracy. It simply implies that the state is a representation of the nation (the masses), or at least claims to be.

    As examples, both Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy were authoritarian regimes which severely restricted the political rights of their citizens, but both were based on ultranationalism. Both Hitler and Mussolini claimed to want to acquire power and prestige for the German and Italian nations, while in the past the elites sought only to acquire power and prestige for themselves.
     
  5. blank_quest

    blank_quest Senior Member Senior Member

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    Nationalism is not the function of Democracy or Dictatorship, I never said that,
    Who so ever feels the sense of Participation/Ownership or/and a sense of Culture ( like places attached to dead relatives being buried/cremated become a part of our thoughts and perceptions ) 'can' develop the 'sense' of nationalism given the chance to participate *politically*. Be it Dictatorship or Democracy.. Its the places where the remains of our old memories are spread. If the memories are positively strengthened with the sense of *Political* Participation Nationalism can Develop. it depends upon the sense of priority.
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2013
  6. civfanatic

    civfanatic Retired Moderator

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    Yes, the key is feeling a sense of involvement in the state. A feeling that you, as an individual, form a part of the nation-state. I believe that the development of centralized national banks, public national debt, and bond holding among the general public also contributed to the feeling of nationalism, because these led to the masses, or at least the middle-classes, feeling like they literally "owned" a piece of the nation-state.
     
  7. blank_quest

    blank_quest Senior Member Senior Member

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    In neolithic culture people had a common shared land for agriculture and living(most probably) so ownership is secondary , all I think is participation is the root cause of any sense involvement.
     
  8. civfanatic

    civfanatic Retired Moderator

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    Neolithic societies were stateless and based around decentralized kinship groups (tribes, clans, bands). Naturally, you will share land and wealth with your kin and feel associated with them. But why should they associate with people living hundreds of miles of away, whom they will never meet? There are 1.2 billion Indians and in our lifetimes we will only get to meet a very small percent of them, yet we regard all Indians as our "countrymen". The fact that we do so is the beauty of nationalism and the nation-state.
     
  9. blank_quest

    blank_quest Senior Member Senior Member

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    In Mesolithic Culture --> "Hunting" and "Herding" Sense of Participation.
    In Neolithic Culture --> "Agriculture" and "Common land" sense of participation.
    in Chalcolithic Culture--> Agriculture "Trade/Storage" and "Tools" sense of partnership at factory sites.

    In all this we don't find any "ownership" sense .. It depends on the Structure of Society what provides real sense of participation. and it keeps on changing with time. Marx is not applicable to our old societies. He can come into picture only after Statehood started in Iron age.
     
  10. blank_quest

    blank_quest Senior Member Senior Member

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    Replace Nation-State With State-People and Still we will have sense of Statesmanship given the chance to participate. Its the structure of the 'Channel' (Channel== be it Democracy,Oligarchy, Dictatorship) that makes the sense of "Empowered Participation". Societies change and so do peoples sense and understanding.
     
  11. blank_quest

    blank_quest Senior Member Senior Member

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    Look at the Chinese CCP, What are they doing ?, they are just in power because that have made "Chinese Culture" their tool to make people feel that they are doing great thing by spreading Chinese Culture via Economic channels. the sense of personal participation is compensated in terms of Cultural output they get ( may be they are fooled into believing this but its the fact)
     
  12. Iamanidiot

    Iamanidiot Elite Member Elite Member

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    @civfanatic we need to understand that Buddhism and its respective Pilgrimage site also unified India to a large extent
     
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  13. Iamanidiot

    Iamanidiot Elite Member Elite Member

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    Mahatma Gandhi unilaterally forged the Indian nation-state
     
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  14. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    In Simple words : You cannot have a perfect definition of everything, this is nothing new was before since mankind started to evolve..

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    Like we have Rifles today are no different then Rifles back in 18th century when it comes to basics, new generation comes and make new meaning..

    Unsubscribing now..
     
  15. Singh

    Singh Phat Cat Administrator

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    Little bit off topic.

    Diana Eck for example argued in her book India: A Sacred Geography that it was India's Sacred Places that helped forge the bonds of nationhood. This land contained all the places that the populace considers holy and sacred. The Records at Haridwar speak of this.

    I also have argued way back in 2009, that Caste System also helped forge the bonds of Nationhood. For eg. Kshatriyas all over India consider the Kings mentioned in epics who ruled over India as their progenitors, Brahmins consider the sages who were spread all over the Indian land mass.

    So these two perhaps helped formed a distinct cultural identity or a national identity.

    Couple this with our freedom movement, which cemented Indians into one nation. If it weren't for the freedom movement we would've been divided into hundreds of principalities.
     
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  16. GPM

    GPM Tihar Jail Banned

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    So did Hindu sites even before Buddha was born, and afterwards to this day.
     
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  17. PredictablyMalicious

    PredictablyMalicious Punjabi Senior Member

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    Believe me there is no general sense of nationhood in INdia that cuts across all communities. Since independence, basically Indians have just draggedn their feet along and accepted the boundaries of the land, so to speak, but that nationalistic feeling can not be aroused, not yet anyways. For that there has to be a huge nation building effort, which involves key component like a national language, which are not present. Diversity is a huge hindrance to nationalism. We need to reduce this diversity somehow. Need a visionary.
     
  18. afako

    afako Regular Member

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    Nationalism is useless for India.

    It is only Hinduism and its Ethos which hold India together.
     

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