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Nationalism. Nationalism Defined. Generally, “nationalism” refers to the attitude that members of a collective political unit have toward their nation, whether that nation is equated with the state or not…

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Nationalism

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Nationalism


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Nationalism Defined

  • Generally, “nationalism” refers to the attitude that members of a collective political unit have toward their nation, whether that nation is equated with the state or not…

  • and, to the pursuit of political, judicial, constitutional, economic, and usually some form of cultural sovereignty


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  • Nationalism is often defined in terms of common origin, ethnicity, or cultural ties, and is generally seen as a positive attribute of a citizen or a collective unit by others in that unit


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  • It is usually useful to distinguish nations from states -- whereas a nation often consists of an ethnic or cultural community, a state is a political, judicial, and economic unit.

  • Individual states usually have a high degree of sovereignty, and may contain various, and even competing national units


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  • In terms of Irish nationalism, there was a strong feeling of cultural commonality long before there was any recognition of statehood

  • the Free State is established in 1922, while Irish nationalism is arguably a recognizable political platform for hundreds of years prior to that


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  • Irish nationalism was expressed in various ways prior to statehood

  • Habits of dress, tastes in music and literature, styles of dance, religious affiliation, sport, etc.

  • It might seem that we couldn’t really be talking about the same thing when we use the term nationalism in this regard, but we are.


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  • Given the rising debates between Canada and the US regarding everything from softwood lumber to prescription drugs, we could even talk about environmental or medical nationalism.


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  • Nationalism underwrites a number of practices and beliefs without being exhausted within any of them

  • It is common place to talk about ethnic nationalism, civic nationalism, cultural nationalism, constitutional nationalism, judicial, economic, and even separatist nationalism.


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  • Nationalism, as Tom Nairn says in The Break-up of Britain, is “a mechanism of adjustment and compensation” or a continuous practice of definition and redefinition that structures innumerable, some might say, every aspect of a culture, especially where the values that subtend or underwrite these beliefs and practices are perceived to be threatened.


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Canadians are well position to look at U.S. nationalism, which appears almost non-existent except when it is thought to be threatened. Canadians would probably define themselves as somewhat more nationalistic than Americans, if only because many Canadians feel their values and beliefs constantly under threat from the larger neighbour to the south.


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  • So, the –ism points us to this continuous quality, this mechanism, but it also points us to the fact that nationalism is a field of scholarly research, and it is sometimes difficult to separate what is happening in this body of collective research with what is happening in the real world. In fact, at times it appears that the two are inseparable.


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  • In the case of Irish nationalism, problems in the nation are sometimes thought to emerge out of deficiencies in the scholarship. We are going to get back to this periodically in this course: how the body of knowledge sometimes tries to distance itself from the real world (Gellner, Anderson) even while this is impossible.


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Strands in the debate and nomenclature

  • Primordialists: nations are as old as time itself

  • Perrenialists: nations are very old, but developed over time and in certain historical ways


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  • Modernists: nations are entirely contemporary phenomena, developing in 19th century Europe, and any attempt to see them as emerging earlier is borne out of the misapprehension of the historian who grafts contemporary social realities onto past epochs that either did not know about them or did not care about them. Modernists like Ernest Gellner tend to stress the economic underpinnings of the historical change towards nationalism.


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  • Ethnic Nationalism, Patriotism, xenophobia

  • Part of the appeal of the modernist approach, and perhaps the reason that it is most popular today, is that it allows us to talk about the central political unit of our time without talking too much about ethnic nationalism, which is usually regarded as the ugly side of nationalism.


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Insurgent and Post-Colonial Nationalism

  • Almost invariably regarded as the positive or beneficial species of nationalism, and usually distanced from other forms of nationalism

  • It seems simply obvious to us that people will want to be ruled by some body with whom they feel some deep historical, religious, cultural, or ethnic tie.


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  • Ernest Gellner refers to this as “exosocialization” and places it at the centre of his theory of the nation.

  • Exosocialization defined

  • Problems with the idea in the Irish example


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