The Psychology of Nationalism
Nationalists often promote economic policies which favour the nation’s economy, such as protectionism and opposition to free trade agreements. They may also promote cultural conservatism and, in extreme cases, xenophobia.
Most nationalists accept the existence of nations as a given, and believe that their movement represents an authentic nation. They usually assume that their nation has a centuries-long history.
The Origins of Nationalism
The term nationalism has become a buzzword in political circles in the past few years. But what is nationalism exactly? It is a doctrine that defines the state as a sovereign entity, based on a nation’s national homeland. It also defines a nation as an inclusive category that encompasses a group’s culture, language and history. This type of ideology promotes ideas of supremacy, as well as chauvinism and xenophobia.
While some theorists define different types of nationalism, others argue that these definitions are simply a way for academics to bend the fairly simple concept of nationalism to fit their own agendas. Some of these theories are rooted in religion while others are based on ethnicity. A notable early theorist who wrote about this idea was Mazzini, who believed that God had divided the world into nations. In his view, people could only be free if they created their own nation-states. He promoted this ideology by emphasizing the spiritual connection between people and nationhood.
The Evolution of Nationalism
The development of nationalism in the 1800s coincided with the rise of industrialization, capitalism and the steam-powered printing press. This created a climate for nationalist sentiments that encouraged patriotism, prejudice against non-nationals and xenophobia.
Despite its negative effects, nationalism also brought people together through a shared sense of identity based on history, tradition, language and culture. This mentality can lead to a sense of superiority over other nations and encourage a desire for war.
More recent theorists emphasise that nations are a socially constructed phenomenon. Benedict Anderson and Ernest Gellner, for example, described them as “imagined communities”.
These theorists argue that the notion of a nation is a cultural construction that can change over time. Various factors contribute to the evolution of nationalism, including the existence of a state, a common mythology and the formation of national institutions. These elements can create a powerful feeling of pride in one’s country, and a shared disappointment when the national team loses.
The Development of Nationalism in Europe
Before nationalism emerged, people were loyal to local, regional or religious groups. The idea of a national state – which included the definition of territory, political institutions, a nationalist ideology and international recognition – gave people a centralized place to attach their loyalty. This led to a desire for greatness as well as fear and hatred of outside groups that might thwart the nation’s goals.
This prejudice can be dangerous when it is combined with a sense of superiority, which can lead to military aggression and even the destruction of other nations. It can also lead to the cult of personality and incitement to violence. For example, psychologists have found that some politicians stimulate narcissistic behavior in their followers by encouraging them to identify with the nation’s interests as their own. It is this narcissism that can fuel the kind of nationalism that leads to genocide. Nationalism first emerged in the late eighteenth century during the French Revolution, when hereditary monarchy was rejected and the idea of loyalty to a ruler was replaced with loyalty to the nation.
The Development of Nationalism in the United States
In many theories of nationalism, nations are assumed to exist as entities with a long history. Nationalist movements see themselves as representing these nations, and the nation-state is seen as a political unit that corresponds to them. Some also see the nation-state as above the people. This is reflected in monarchies, where the Queen is the ultimate sovereign over Parliament and the people of England.
Nevertheless, other theories of nationalism argue that it is not necessary to start with a pre-existing nation in order to create nationalistic sentiment. Instead, the nation is simply imagined. Then, nationalists create political communities with the same characteristics.
While this is not the only way to describe nationalism, it illustrates how it can create a sense of community that unites individuals with their national state. This is why it can be so appealing for governments, since it provides a justification for greater power both domestically and internationally. In addition, psychologists have also observed that nationalism can stimulate narcissistic behaviors in people. This is something that Donald Trump exemplifies.