Nationalism as Protest and Fulfilment

The simplest theory to explain the rise of Nationalism is that which understands it as an anti-colonial struggle. Nationalism emerged, in consequence, as a form of protest amongst the intelligentsia and before long was disseminated among the masses generally. Hans Kohn, for example, may serve as one spokesman of this approach. Nationalism, he maintains, first emerged in the Puritan England of Milton and Cromwell and was deeply associated with the emphasis on individual rights and humanitarianism of the subsequent Age of Enlightenment. Prof. Elie Kedouries asserts that the birth of Nationalism can be precisely dated in 1807-8, the winter when Fichte delivered his epoch-making Addresses to the German Nation and called his compatriots to resist the Napoleonic invader, the roots of Fichte’s teaching are to be found in the philosophy of Kant.

De Grazia asserts that there are two very sharp conflicts that have deeply affected people’s lives in the western world. One is the conflict between the co-operative directives of Christianity and the competitive directives of capitalism. The other is the conflict between the quietest directives of Catholicism, with their emphasis on the superior value of the contemplative life, and the Protestant directives, which emphasize the value of work. The traditional faith, as he [de Grazia] sees it, dies. God disappears. In their consternation people look around them for a new god and find him in the Nation. The Nation is the earthly replacement for the dead god.

So Nationalism is a form of atheism…? But that fails to explain why so many nationalist leaders are profoundly religious men and how in Wales Christian leaders and the Christian Churches have long been the back bone of the nationalist struggle. To be continued…

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

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