Essay on Nationalism | Types, Factors & Importance of Nationalism

Nationalism refers to the belief that one’s own nation is superior, or that it has a unique mission to fulfill in the world. This means that a nationalist will typically be proud of his/her country’s achievements, and see it as a model for others to emulate. Nationalism also means that a nationalist will likely take a dim view of other countries and their achievements, seeing them as inferior.

Essay on Nationalism | Meaning, Types, Factors of Nationalism Essay for Students

Nationalism can be a perfectly healthy state of mind, providing it is kept in check by a sense of proportion. National pride often leads to national ambition: the desire to build or create a better society at home. This ambition can be a force for progress, if it is accompanied by a strong dose of realism and a sense of responsibility.

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It’s important to remember that not all countries are nationalists, and not all nationalists think alike. Nations differ in terms of the scale of their achievements, their sense of collective identity and the strength of their nationalist sentiments.

Types of Nationalism

There are three main types of nationalism, civic nationalism, ethnic nationalism and cultural nationalism. All these types have their own particular expressions of cultural identity, comprising many cultural idiosyncrasies.

Civic nationalism is the form of nationalism in which the state derives political legitimacy from the active participation of its citizenry, from the degree to which it represents the “will of the people”.

Ethnic Nationalism:  This form of nationalism emphasizes a “pure” race, an ethnicity.  The state derives political legitimacy in the ancient rootedness of its people in their territory. Ethnic nationalists support the idea that national identity is inherent to a group’s genetic make-up, and that nationality is always defined by one’s blood.

Cultural Nationalism:  This form of nationalism reflects a shared culture. National identity is defined by a shared language, culture and history.

Factors that Strengthen Nationalism

Nations are important vehicles for the organization of populations, especially when they are associated with a state. A sense of belonging to a nation is an important factor for social cohesion. Hence, it is not surprising that many nationalist movements have aimed at strengthening this sense of belonging through various kinds of cultural symbols and practices.

Nationalism draws its roots from a number of different sources, including:

  • Historical memories and the collective identity that they create.
  • National languages and literature, which help create a distinctive identity.
  • Geographical factors, in particular natural borders such as rivers, mountain ranges and coastlines.
  • State or private organizations that promote national languages and cultural symbols (such as flags, anthems and museums).
  • Political ideologies, such as socialism and liberalism.
  • Emotional components, such as national pride or desire for freedom from foreign domination.

Role & Importance of Nationalism 

Nationalism is a major political and economic force, as well as a source of inspiration for institutions such as the state and the legal system. It is also a key factor in political and social mobilization, and therefore affects the public sphere.

Nationalism forms the basis of all states: without it, as Benedict Anderson famously put it, there would be no states. Nations without states are not merely imagined but also real through-and-through, since they are defined as sovereign entities by international law.

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Nationalism in a positive sense can play a constructive role in building a nation and its people. However, it can also lead to violence and wars.

It is a double-edged sword, and the same force that can either unite or divide. So it’s important to understand what type of nationalism is at play, while keeping in mind that nationalism’s roots are found in the past. Nationalism may feel like it is about today, but it is often rooted in history and past circumstances.

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