The Rise of Nationalism – A Global Trend
Nationalism is a socially constructed set of ideas, rooted in border making, identity, trust and pride. It can be a source of conflict, but also a powerful tool in promoting national identity and values.
Historically, nationalism can be divided into civic and ethnic variants. These are based on differences in citizenship and cultural norms.
The origins of the rise of nationalism are a complex mix of factors. Some argue that it is a response to the uneven development and spread of capitalism, which provides resources and power to some elites while leaving poorer peripheries vulnerable.
Others argue that nationalism is a product of a basic human desire to categorize and distinguish the self from others. This basic tendency leads people to identify with a specific, higher collectivity, which in turn inspires loyalty and pride in the nationality.
A third view argues that it is a reaction to the emergence of modernity, which has created new social and political institutions. It has allowed people to express their identity through a variety of rituals and ceremonies.
It has also encouraged people to fight for their own independence. Across the world, nationalism has been a major driver in revolutions and civil wars. In Europe and the Americas, many of these movements were tied to Enlightenment ideals.
A global trend of nativist politics can be identified in some countries, expressed by the rise of new parties or the electoral success of nationalist candidates. It also reflects a shift in public discourse, as established parties try to accommodate the nationalist agenda.
Nationalism is a political ideology that is widely associated with some narrow political positions and attitudes, such as anti-establishment, cultural separatism, opposition to free trade, immigration, protectionionism, Euroscepticism, and xenophobia (Mudde 2000; Mudde 2007).
It has become increasingly prominent in recent years, edging out left-wing populism as a source of legitimacy for governments around the world. It is a political tool that can be used to exacerbate existing social and pollical cleavages, or generate fresh ones in the aftermath of a crisis or other exogenous shock.
In Europe, a novel global public health crisis, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, has triggered renewed nationalist responses in various forms. Among them, vaccine nationalism, which highlights the distinction between self and others, has emerged as a powerful tool to mobilize nationalist political actors.
The rise of nationalism is a global trend, originating in Europe, spreading to Asia and Africa. It has become one of the most dominant political forces in modern history.
The causes of the rise of nationalism are varied and complex. However, some of the most common factors include a lack of social cohesion and a desire for isolation.
These attitudes can be triggered by a variety of external shocks, such as natural disasters, epidemics, cultural change or other crises. These shocks might involve a sudden loss of security, the breakdown of traditional values, social or economic disintegration, political instability or a new world order.
These external shocks are more likely to amplify nationalism than other causes, such as the presence of immigrants or a weak economy. The latter may result in a situation where nationalists advocate policies to protect their own population, such as limiting immigration or turning away from international organizations. Ultimately, this can lead to a virulent exclusionary form of nationalism that dominates political discourse and elections in an area.
Nationalism has been a long-standing feature of human lives and a major factor in our social development. But how can we explain its resonant presence?
For one, nationalism is a response to another modern phenomenon: capitalism. The unequal spread of capitalism, which primarily benefits wealthy and powerful centers, distributes resources and power unequally (Nairn, 1977).
The poorer peripheries need a new strategy to mobilize their people and counter the richer elites. They need a powerful sense of identity that draws on popular beliefs and practices to create a strong interclass community.
However, the emergence of nationalism is not an inevitable and uniform trend; rather it is a dynamic that is influenced by a variety of exogenous shocks. Political and economic crises can push nationals to pin blame on outsiders, take self-protectionist actions, adopt nativist narratives, and resort to anti-establishment movements, which provide fertile ground for growing neo-nationalism in the short term.