Essay About Nationalism

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Essay on Nationalism

Essay Contents:
  1. Essay on the Meaning of Nationalism
  2. Essay on Imperialism as an Aggressive Form of Nationalism
  3. Essay on the Merits of Nationalism
  4. Essay on the Demerits of Nationalism

Essay # 1. Meaning of Nationalism:

The exclusive right of the people of a country to form an independent and separate political existence is called nationalism. It is based on the tribal instinct of a man to lead a gregarious life. It is at the same time a psychological expression of kinship. Those people who claim a common peculiar social heritage and a common culture in art and literature have a tendency to nurture a feeling of nationalism. It is rooted in a common past.

According to A. E. Zimmer – “Nationalism is a sentiment to share the glories of the past, to have done great deeds together, to have a common will in the present and a desire to do more in the future.”

The concept of nationalism is of recent growth. It was unknown in the ancient or medieval period. “That India without the Indians is no India and that there were Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians all over the country, lacking, however the feelings of nationalism” was the observation of Russi Modi.

In the feudal period of the medieval age, the state was considered a personal property of the King, and the people had nothing to do with the state. In the seventeenth century the Commercial Revolution took place in Europe and it could not brook the feudal barriers. The industrialists who emerged as a new effective class in the wake of the Commercial Revolution clamoured for one state for one nationality.

It was the Tudors under whose wings a strong centralised state was established in England. This system travelled to France with the French Revolution, which threw to the wind the feudal barriers. Nationalism was the great ideal of the nineteenth century Europe. The idea that a nation has “natural rights” was first formulated as a proposition with universal validity during the French Revolution.

Napoleon’s army helped to spread the novel ideas of the French Revolution far afield Europe, where the creation of the nation-state gradually became the accepted goal. The national awakening of the Germans occurred after the Prussian disaster at Jena in 1806. The Congress of Vienna of 1815 denied the new legitimacy of the nation.

A century later, the Austrian empire was to die as a result of this refusal. In the mid-nineteenth century central Europe was rocked by the slogan of one state one nationality. In Asia it culminated in the Quit India campaign of Mahatma Gandhi in 1942.

Geographical unity, common history and common culture are other factors that are woven into the texture of nationalism.

Essay # 2. Imperialism as an Aggressive Form of Nationalism:

Internationalism is a perverted form of nationalism. This arises out of egoistic concept of one’s own nationalism that the laws and civilisation of one’s own country are superior to those of other nations. This pampers the racial feelings and degenerates into chauvinism or bellicose nationalism.

Thus the so-called superior nations in a bid to parade their superiority grabbed more and more territories belonging to weaker nations. Gradually they extended their cultural roof over the occupied areas and finally ruled over those occupied territories. In this way comes in imperialism which is a virtual machinery of exploitation.

Imperialism stands for a creed which believes in a common system of law and government over people of different stages of culture. Thus the essence of imperialism is “unification and assimilation” of less advanced and weaker people by the more advanced ones. A classic example of imperialism is the British Raj over India from the middle of the eighteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century.

The Industrial Revolution and the naval supremacy of England made England a big power and she began to grab the backward areas of Asia and Africa. England would drain away all important raw materials like cotton and jute from India and would make fine clothes out of these materials and sell these commodities in India at a very high price.

Imperialist England became fat and rich by the gains from her colonies in India. Thus colonialism is an accompanying trait of imperialism.

Essay # 3. Merits of Nationalism:

The following are the major merits of nationalism:

In the first place, nationalism creates the birth right of every set of people to aspire for an independent political life.

According to C.D. Burns:

“There is some special quality in every group which must be preserved in the interests of whole humanity. This quality can only be preserved if each group of people has an opportunity for characteristic development of its own laws and institutions.”

Thus nationalism has offered an opportunity to every set of people to contribute their distinctive share to the world civilisation and literature.

In the second place, nationalism gave rise to a healthy spirit of national rivalry and thereby-added to the enrichment of culture and improved standard of living. This is responsible for the advancement of every nation politically by the intercourse of contact, competition and antagonism.

If all groups of people would live together and were controlled by a common government, this would destroy their special character and rather degenerate them into so many uniform commodities.

In the third place, the states founded on national sentiment are more lasting and the laws therein are better obeyed than those states which are conglomerations of various nationalities artificially subjected to a common authority.

In the fourth place, nationalistic states are more democratic. It is seen that the people readily obey the authorities of the national states than that of a state having several nationalities. So J. W. Burgess rightly observed- “The national state solves the problem of the relation of sovereignty to liberty so that while it is the most powerful political organisation that the world has ever produced, it is still the freest”

Lastly, the spirit of nationalism stimulates an inherent desire in the people to make themselves free and independent from the foreign rule. India and many other countries of the third world got their freedom because they felt that they constituted a separate identity. But for such a feeling India could not attain her independence from the yoke of England.

Essay # 4. Demerits of Nationalism:

The following are the main drawbacks of nationalism:

In the first place, the extreme form of nationalism degenerates into jingoism. Breaking away of Ireland from Britain might be welcome, but if Scotland too wants to have an independent state it will not only weaken Britain but will make herself a very weak state.

It is to meet the lust for the small states to have independence that led to the outbreak of the two World Wars. In the name of nationalism, crores of rupees were wasted to the benefit of none. So nationalism is not always desirable.

In the second place, nationalism breeds pride and self-interest.

Thomas Hare rightly observed:

“Nationalism is a proud and boastful habit of mind about one’s nation accompanied by a hostile attitude towards other nations. It admits that individual citizens of one’s nationality are always right whereas others are always wrong. It is prejudiced and inhuman. It is a mania and an exaggerated egoism.”

According to Rabindranath Tagore:

“Nationalism is an organised self-interest of the whole people and the organisation of politics and commerce for selfish ends and an organised power for exploitation.”

In the third place, nationalism may go to disturb the world peace. If there is no end of nationalism, international peace and order will be a far cry. Although nationalism has been a potent force in the making of the World War, it has produced aggressive patriotism and has caused the disintegration of several empires and inspired many struggle for freedom from foreign yoke.

But nationalism in the hands of the industrially progressive countries degenerated into imperialism, which holds the country above humanity aiming in the weakness of other nations and opportunity for political domination and economic exploitation. One nation seizes its neighbour’s throat and keeps him quiet. But peace cannot come from suppression of the neighbours.

It can come only in having confidence and trust in each other, from goodwill and tolerance between nations. Unfortunately, the spirit of militant nationalism gave rise to two global conflagrations, which cause enormous loss of life and property. In protest against the ugly consequences of aggressive nationalism, the public opinion of the world is shifting in favour of establishing a brotherhood among mankind.

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Nationalism, the sense of belonging to a particular state, has nowadays become an extremely effective and pervasive a force in the political life of mankind.

Nationalism has not only influenced the formation of nation-states but I.js also determined, to a large extent, the mutual relation between different states.

Nationalism did not exist in the past, at least in the form in which we find it today. It was during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that nationalism came to be a distinctive force to reckon with.

Nationalism is usually defined as a sentiment of a group of people, united together by powerful ties and bonds—such as, common race, living in contiguous and well-defined territory, having the same faith, common language, and common economy, a common pattern of life, a common history and a common ideal for the future.

A group of people, when united together by- such ties, seeks expression and development of its group of collective personality through independent political organisation of its own. Nationalism is defined as the sentiment of nationhood, in reality it is more than a mere sentiment.

Originating in the gregarious (group forming) instinct of man and nourished by the rational desire for self-sufficiency, nationalism has in the present century, come to be a very dynamically active force in practical politics. As Lord Morley remarks, nationalism -" "from instinct became idea; from idea, abstract principles; then fervid prepossession; ending where it is today in a dogma."

The essence of nationalism is a unifying, integrating, all-pervasive fueling among the people or peoples of a country who owe their first and last duty to the nation. In the past, empires comprising many nations ultimately disintegrated because of the lack of national feeling that helps and hastens fusion of the component nations into a homogeneous unit.

This is seen in the decline and disintegration of the Moghul Empire in less than two hundred years and, to some extent, of the great Roman Empire. The development of the ideal of nationalism took place in Europe in the seventeenth century. Of the factors contributing to the growth of the sentiment, special, mention must be made of the writings of Machiavelli, the great Italian politician of the l6th century who influenced the nationalist movements in many countries.

The Napoleonic conquest contributed, in no small measure, to the growth of this sentiment uniting the conquered people against French domination.

The French Revolution also, with its clarion call of 'Liberty, Equality and Fraternity', made people' conscious of their inherent rights. India had been united politically under the imperial domination of the British, but national fusion was prevented partly by the conflict between the different traditions of India and Islam. But resistance to the British brought out to the surface an identity of mental attitude and economic interests among the different peoples and developed a powerful feeling of nationality throughout the country, leading to the attainment of independence, though after the partition. Netaji and his INA were the supreme exponent of this flambuoyant nationalism.

Nationalism naturally seeks the right of self-determination enunciated by President Wodrow Wilson at the Versailles Conference. This right has had the effect of encouraging and fostering the freedom movement in many countries. As a result, new nation-states have emerged all over the world. According to the Marxists, nationalism in its present form came in the wake of Bourgeoisie Democratic Revolutions in different countries.

Fascism was the last attempt made to stem this tide of nationalism through extreme anti-sematicism and state-controlled capitalism manifested in dictatorship.

Nationalism is essentially a democratic ideal and as such, it is opposed to all those forces, which impede the growth of the group personality of a people. If individual liberty is recognised as an indispensable condition for the fullest development of all that is good in the individual the liberty of a nation is equally so. If each nation gets the opportunity of perfecting its own system of law, its civilization and economic life, each will be in a position to contribute its best to enrich the common stock. The world, as a whole, will be benefited by such mutual give-and-take.

Thus, nationalism is a great liberalising force which unifies and elevates and seeks to preserve and promote all that is best in a nation It inspires a spirit of self-confidence in a nation.

Nationalism is, no doubt, a magnetic force which attracts like groups. But within the nation, it sometimes expresses itself in the form of parochial patriotism which accentuates the differences between intra-national groups. The effect of this is that many minor groups may begin to call themselves nationalities. The possibility of such fissiparous (separatist) tendencies emerging has to be guarded against.

The most serious evil, to which nationalism is a prey, has arisen out of modern capitalism, though it is the Bourgeoisie Democratic Revolutions that gave birth to nationalism spirit. For the nation has been defined as state plus nationality.

Nationalism— developed in the age aiming at the self-sufficiency of states, finds it difficult to maintain its position when the nation is not self-sufficient;—when it cannot consume all that it produces. The growth of mammoth industries for the production of capital goods, consumer goods and war materials has made it necessary for every state to find out a market where raw materials can be bought and surplus finished goods may be disposed of for a profit. This economic motive reinforces the desire for more political power and leads to policy of colonising the under-developed countries for exploitation.

The present day tendency is to form multi-national concerns in developing countries. This is how the whole of Asia and Africa fell under the greed of nationalism of the West and, later on, of Japan. Thus nationalism, organised as the Nation-State, produces what is known as chauvinism or militant or ultra-nationalism. The evil effect of this perverted form of nationalism is that it creates hostilities between groups, supports militarism, and retards progress. It produces a feeling that the laws and civilization of one's own country are superior to those of others, and may therefore be rightly imposed upon a politically weak and incapable people. It leads in the end to what is called imperialism that sows the seeds of war. So Rabindranath warned Eurpoe against the dangers of ultra-nationalism, leading to warfare.

True nationalism is based on the ideal of 'Live and let live'. It recognises the freedom of all nations to preserve their distinct identity of languages, culture. Self-love is not bad so long it does not lead to selfishness. It is only true nationalism which can pave the way for internationalism, the edifice of which can be built only on the basis of mutual trust, goodwill and co-operation among nations.


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