Nationalism’s Evolution

In the readings, I began to notice nationalism’s incredible power in speaking to the people and uniting the people. The nationalism practiced in the 18th century consisted of countries such as France and Germany caring about one common identity and language for communication purposes. Herder states: an empire made up of a hundred peoples and a 120 provinces which have been forced together is a monstrosity, not a state-body. ((Johann Gottfried von Herder:
Materials for the Philosophy of the History of Mankind, 1784)) However, there should always be some room left for accepting other languages, cultures, and ideas because these other languages can help provide important viewpoints and perspectives that the society can use to its advantage. What Herder is saying, though, is these foreign peoples should be integrated into society only if they do not pose a hindrance to society. States should let integration happen naturally. Both authors think natural societies are the most prosperous, as Herder writes: The best culture of a people cannot be expressed through a foreign language. ((Johann Gottfried von Herder:
Materials for the Philosophy of the History of Mankind, 1784)) This perspective is much different than the common one in the world today. Many politicians and progressives believe that a country that incorporates many different identities, viewpoints, cultures, and languages will be the most diversified and as a result the most successful.

In the second reading, Fichte depicts his anti-French attitude with his heavy nationalist tone and point of view. In the early nineteenth century Germany was struggling because of its past selfishness, and as a result many Germans as well as Fichte started to become less tolerant of other cultures in hopes of achieving success. In short, both authors admire the ideals of nationalism but view it in different ways. I must ask, though: what exactly is nationalism? Herder states that it has taken on many forms – calls for cultural pride, liberal-nationalist assertions of the right to self-government, and chauvinistic claims of national superiority. ((Johann Gottfried von Herder:
Materials for the Philosophy of the History of Mankind, 1784)) Is it the assertion that one common language and identity among the people leads to the most success? Or is it the assertion that the most successful country breeds diversity with an intersection of languages, identities, and cultures? Personally, I believe that the idea of nationalism today exists in the latter, as countries have become more accepting of other people who speak different languages and have different practices. It is interesting to see how countries have developed their goals and identities over the years. These identities are certainly different than identities from over two-hundred years ago.

2 thoughts on “Nationalism’s Evolution

  1. You bring up an interesting point on which type of nationalism is most effective for a state to implement. I would have to agree with your “natural” approach of integrating foreign ideas or people into society as long as they improve the well being of the state. This is important for the transfer of ideas and products between countries, which in turn allows for both parties to benefit. For example, I learned from last semester that many famous buildings and architectural feats in Russia were actually made by Italians architects brought in during the time. This in return allowed for Russian architects to apply these Italian techniques into their own work. I personally believe that the Incorporation of nationalistic ideas into a state should not translate into xenophobia, but rather a clear distinction that each citizens realizes their homeland is the entire nation, not just their hometown.

  2. You touched on the idea that the concept of nationalism has changed with time and within different countries. In regard to nationalism in France and Germany in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries it seems to be defined as a common language and culture which binds people and gives them the sense of being part of a national state. Your second definition of nationalism, the idea that it is a result of accepting a diversity of languages and cultures, is applicable to the U.S. in many ways. We pride ourselves on being a “melting pot” of different peoples, despite the fact that in practice we still face serious problems with discriminating based on race or religion. Although this definition of nationalism might apply to the U.S. in certain instances, I would say the former concept of nationalism is still prevalent in most nations and organizations around the world.

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