The Anatomy of Nationalism

There is no doubt that many people when they use the word ‘Nationalism’ think of it as a purely emotional state. On the other hand, Professor Elie Kedourie opens his book, Nationalism, with the words. “Nationalism is a doctrine…” Kedourie tends to make Nationalism a purely intellectual movement while on the other hand Boyd C Shafer stressed feelings far more than ideas.

Pluralism is closely connected with individuality. It stems from the conviction that every nation has something special to give to the world community. In nationalist philosophy, therefore, the world is seen as a community of nations, each having its own specific value. From this element in the ideology comes the concept of the ‘family of nations’. But there is another kind of nationalism, it is usually referred to as ‘imperialism’. The nationalistic element of imperialism is a strong one, but it is mono-centric nationalism in the sense that it believes that the fountain of wisdom and value is to be found in one nation.’ The end line of this type of nationalism was seen in such movements as Natzism. Life’s secret, Natzies held, lies in divining the laws which govern history, blood and landscape. Throughout the period of Natzi ascendancy in Germany the racialist philosophy was gaining ground and eventually displaced Nationalism. But our Christian nationalism in wales is a many-centered nationalism and it is diametrically opposed to Natzism.

Nationalism, then, is to be understood as a teaching, or a system of convictions which is dedicated to the preservation and exaltation of a nation’s life. Nationalism is concerned with the nation’s integrity. The characteristics of the nation are respected and not willfully destroyed. They are seen as badges of individuality. And they, too, enable a nation to “make its contribution” to international life. This strain in nationalist ideology makes for a more equitable democratic way of life in politics. The vision of the whole people participating in the forging of the nation’s future, unhampered by continuous alien surveillance, is a valuable one.

It is important to realize that for the nationalist the main object of his loyalty is the nation and not the State. For him the State is an instrument to serve the national community. A nationalist in a state-less nation is being subjected to the power of the State and that State cannot be brought into subservience to his nation. The nation on the consequence, is to erect a new sovereign State that will be the servant and not the destroyer of his nation. For Nationalism within nations who have no state concepts such as ‘deliverance’, ‘salvation’. ‘promised land’ and ‘future destiny’ are extremely important. The nationalist is concerned with the quality of the nation’s life. There is a profound spiritual dimension to his commitment to it.

[An adapted summary of the third Chapter of R. Tudur Jones’s The Desire of Nations, 1974]

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