HIST 1112 – Nationalism

HIST 1112 – Nationalism


Lecture 18, it’s called nationalisms. Let’s characterize this term – an identifiable
national culture that is different from all others and perhaps better – at least that’s
implied. National culture should be linked to the state. Nationalism is a modern phenomenon. Many historians talk about the emergence of
nationalism, in Europe at least, after the French Revolution. I’ve heard one historian describe nationalism
as a reaction to the Enlightenment notion that all people are essentially the same. Of course, nationalism says quite the opposite. A person’s loyalty should extend beyond
the local, beyond the regional, to the state itself. A person’s identity becomes wrapped up in
the state. In other words, if you were in Tokyo tomorrow
and somebody on the street asks you where you’re from, you would probably say the
United States as opposed to Georgia or Atlanta or Bartow County or what have you – so again,
identification with the nation state. National anthems emerge to identify the state
and point to its uniqueness and the everyday persons’ involvement ¬symbolically and
otherwise, with the state. People fancy that they have something in common
with many other people of the same nation, an imagined community of like-minded people. Resistance to nationalism – Well Marxists
will argue that society is comprised of distinct classes, and that working men – say in England
– have more in common with working men in Germany than they do with the aristocrats
of their own countries. For Marx and Marxist followers class trumped
nationalism. Aristocrats, of course, believed that they
had more in common with their fellow aristocrats from other nations than they did with the
poor and the working class of their own nations. So again, in reality it appears that nationalism
tends to trump class in opposition to the Marxist idea. Nationalism across portions of Eurasia emerges
to fight European imperialism. The Young Turks in the Ottoman Empire – again
trying to push back against Western imperialism. Japanese Nationalism – The Japanese are
quite good at adopting Western technology while at the same time rejecting Western culture. Arab nationalism in the Middle East – we’ve
seen this in our own times. The Indian National Congress and the ejection
of British rule in India. So nationalism in these colonized or peripheral
countries can become well organized and powerful enough to fight the imperial power encroaching
upon them. Uses of nationalism – Nationalism provides
loyalty to people facing change. Think of sort of ‘we’re all in this together’-type
of cliché, or a more recent cliché, “Let’s make America great again”. Governments use military service, mass education
– especially heroic and nationalistic history lesson, and patriotic literature to instill
nationalist sentiments. There are those who believe that the purpose
of history and historians is to tell these great tales of valor and heroism – to exalt
the state. Most historians themselves would tell you
this is nonsense, but people outside the profession – especially politicians – often believe
that is our role. Drama; music; museums; marches; ritual celebrations
– the Fourth of July, which we just did a few days ago – carry this nationalist
message to the unlettered. Nationalism provided alternatives to traditional
loyalties – the state or the religion. Now in the West, we have – for so long now
– had a separation of state and religion that that’s usually not a problem. You see that it is quite a big problem in
other parts of the world, especially with Islam in the Middle East. Does Middle Eastern nationalism trump or succumb
to Islam? That’s a big question, and of course, the
answer is still in front of us – down the road. Where populations are too diverse, nationalism
generally weakened the state – as with the Hapsburg Empire in Europe and the Ottoman
Empire, both in the 19th century – where great diversity resisted unity and diminished
state power. Some traditions essential to particular societies
that create and help to sustain nationalism – In Japan, for instance – reverence to
the emperor and Shintoism – essential? Well not really; it’s more of an invented
ritual in more recent times. In the United States – Thanksgiving is invented
in the 1860s but it’s sold to the American people as a tradition that stretches all the
way back to the pilgrims in the 17th century. Again, nationalism is an effective rallying
point for various peoples as they resist European imperialism. Now I’m going to give you a specific example
here, of how nationalism works. We’re going to talk about American exceptionalism
for a moment. It’s an example of nationalism that is both
familiar, and hopefully useful, to this particular student body. Let’s characterize American exceptionalism. It argues that Americans are a unique people
with a unique mission in the world. Americans are to spread their superior governing
institutions, republicanism, across the world – and again, by republicanism I’m not
talking about the Republican Party; we’re talking about the radical English ideology
brought here in the 17th century that stresses a fear of concentrated power. Let’s go on with American exceptionalism. Americans are to spread their superior market
economy – capitalism – across the world. American freedom is both organic and portable
– by organic, I mean American freedom expands and contracts; it does not stay the same. It’s a dynamic, organic thing – almost
a living thing. You see some people are afforded American
freedoms and other people are not – people sort of banging at the door wanting
their piece of American freedom – the women’s rights movement, a hundred years ago women
could not vote; African-American citizens, the laws changed in the mid-1960s fundamentally
changed their status in this country and afforded them full, or first-class, citizenship. I said American freedom is portable, that
is – we can take it other places, or at least we try to – and we’ve had success
in the 20th century. Think about Japan after World War II; think
about Germany after the Second World War – and then we’ve had disasters in Vietnam and
in the Middle East – Iraq; Afghanistan. Certain cultures reject these notions of American
freedom and other cultures are more congenial to it. American exceptionalism says that the American
people were destined to dominate North America, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It argues that lesser peoples, whether they’re
Indians or Mexicans, are at least less productive people, may be moved aside as Americans fulfill
their manifest destiny to dominate this continent. American freedom says, of course, that the
United States does not lose wars. That obviously has been turned on its head. Americans don’t fight wars for material
gain, rather for the good of all. We see this repeatedly – especially in the
20th century, World War I and II. Americans place a historically unique emphasis
on – and these are sort of the items that Alexis de Tocqueville talked about when he
visited the United States in the 19th century, and he wrote a book called Democracy in America,
and in this book he make the argument that we perceive ourselves as unique and indeed
may be in our differences with Europeans. De Tocqueville says that Americans place a
great deal of emphasis on personal autonomy, individual freedom, egalitarianism – a fancy
word for equality, populism – the power of public opinion, and of course – laissez-faire,
the notion that the government has no business in the economic affairs of the American people. American exceptionalism is now used by politicians
with which to beat their opponents. An insidious way to call into question your
opponents’ love of country – remember that Samuel Johnson said that quote, “Patriotism
is the last refuge of scoundrels”. An effective use of nationalism by Abraham
Lincoln – this is in his first inaugural address, and this does a nice job. Let me get my glasses on here so I can read
this to you. This of course, is just as the Civil War is
beginning. Lincoln says, quote, “I am loathe to close;
we are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it, it must
not break our bonds of affection. The mystic cords of memory, stretching from
every battlefield and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this
broad land, will yet swell with the chorus of the Union when again touched – as surely
they will be by the better angels of our nature.” Very nice use of nationalist sentiment to
try to create unity instead of division. I’m going to read another quote to you. This is Ernest Renan’s famous essay, What
Is A Nation – quote, “A nation is a soul – a spiritual principle, two things which
in truth are but one constitute this soul or spiritual principle. One lies in the past; one in the present. One is the possession in common of a rich
legacy of memories; the other is present-day consent, the desire to live together, the
will to perpetuate the value of the heritage that one has received in an undivided form. The nation, like the individual, is the culmination
of a long past of endeavors, sacrifices, and devotion, an heroic past, great men, glory
– this is the social capital upon which one bases a national idea. To have common glories in the past and to
have a common will in the present, to have performed great deeds together, to wish to
perform still more – these are the essential conditions of being a people. One loves in proportion to the sacrifices
one has – to which one has consented, and in proportion to the ills that one has suffered. One loves the house that one has built and
that one has been handed down to us. The Spartan song quote, “We are what you
are; we will be what you are” is in its simplicity, the abridged hymn of every nation. So let’s draw some conclusions here. first, nationalism is merely another way of
organizing and maintaining societies. Empires held sway for millennia. Religion was a great factor in unifying and
organizing people for centuries. An imagined community=in the famous words
of Benedict Anderson=is another way of organization, nationalism. The nation state is a particularly dangerous
way to do so as minorities, or any group designated as the historical ‘other’ may be eliminated,
as they’re deemed not proper members of the nation. Thank you for you attention.

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