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.