Arguing against the notion that developing a national identity is natural

I would argue against von Herder’s statement that having a national identity is natural and rather for what he points out earlier: that man can find identity with family, and even villages. This is how people still live in many African “nations” and in Middle Eastern “states”. They would rather identify with their family and their village than a national government. In Nigeria, for example, only people who worked in a government agency during the transition period from England governing them to becoming a self-governing nation actually recognized the authority of the state. Most people aren’t concerned with national identity or politics in Nigeria. Rather, they only concern themselves with local affairs. Chinua Achebe, a social commentator on life in Nigeria, wrote a book called “No Longer at Ease” where the main character gets a job with the government in Lagos and must repay an overwhelming amount of debts to his family and his village who sent him to school in England to get an education. He begins to take bribes and ends up being caught and punished. He finds that he would rather support people who are close to him rather than abide by the laws of the nation. This example is meant to convey the point that developing a national identity is in fact not natural. This is not to say that government itself is unnatural, but rather that with a large collection of people, there are bound to be some who reject the idea of a national identity.

4 thoughts on “Arguing against the notion that developing a national identity is natural

  1. I would argue that Gottfried is correct. The example which you used, basically, small Nigerian tribes having their own cultures after their nations disaffiliation with British colonial governments is too specific not widespread enough to legitimize your claim. Nigeria only became an independent nation in 1960, and is therefore in a state of absolute infancy in comparison to countries such as France and Germany which unified linguistically over the span of hundreds of years, and with over 500 ethnic groups and hundreds of different spoken languages and still unrecognized dialects, is going to take a much longer time to become more homogenous after a century and a half of colonial interference. I would argue that Nigeria will experience regional hegemony as time goes on.

  2. I certainly agree with your point. You are probably correct more so about less developed areas where each village is self-sustaining. Once technology spreads and people become more modern, each specializes in his own field which is better from an economic perspective.

  3. I also agree that it is easier and more natural for people to find identity with their immediate family/village. The more dispersed a population is, the more opportunity there is for a divide amongst the people, making it difficult to always feel connected to a national identity.

  4. I agree, that people to an extent with what you say. I do believe that it’s not completely natural when a nation has a limited control over its population, such as in nations like Nigeria like you mentioned; however, I think there is a point in which the government and the nation’s economy surpass a certain threshold that does then result in an inevitable formation of a nation.

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