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Nationalism refers to a social or political ideology in which a group or community of people identify themselves as a nation. A nation is a group of people who have common ethnicity, culture, history or language. A nation may also refer to a community of people who have different cultures or ethnic backgrounds but are bound together by common territory and government (Smith, 2010; Harris, 2009). Nationalism refers to a policy of national independence. A more comprehensive definition, which was put forward by Sauers and Weber (2010), describes nationalism as an aggregate of persons who are closely associated with each other by common descent, language or history that form a separate group or unit of people who occupy a definite territory. Nationalism is usually characterized by strong beliefs in symbols of national identity such as national flags and national anthems. In my opinion, nationalism is the principle by which people believe and uphold that they belong to a particular community, nation or any area defined by geographical territories and boundaries. Nationalism began in the early 1730s when people stared becoming increasing loyal to particular leaders in their communities. In mid 1770s, Johann Gottfried Herder used the term â€˜nationalismâ€™ to refer to a certain type of political loyalty in the communities. Later, various symbols were developed and used to show national identity and belonging to the communities.
The political idea of nationalism has drawn fierce debates and arguments on whether nationalism has been more constructive or destructive in the post-1945 era. The proponents of nationalism argue that it has been constructive and beneficial, whereas the opponents argue that it has been highly divisive and destructive.
I would assert that nationalism has been more constructive and beneficial than being destructive in the post-1945 era because of the following reasons. First and foremost, nationalism has helped in the promotion of peace among different communities in various parts of the world. Nationalism has facilitated the existence of peace in many nations because of the unifying symbols of national identity such as national anthem and national flags which bring people together. According to Hobsbawm (2011), such symbols of national identity have helped in the promotion of peace among nations. For instance, the Americans would associate themselves with American flag hence would no fight fellow Americans. People usually get aroused emotionally and feel at home whenever they see the symbols of national identity. Farnen (2009) also asserts that cases of wars within nations have been rarely reported in most countries that practice nationalism in the post-1945 era. This is because of the emotional attachment that people derive from the symbols of national identity developed through nationalism. The important role of nationalism in the development of national unity is also evident by the decline in internal conflicts within most nations in the post-1945 era.
Secondly, nationalism has been highly constructive in the post-1945 era because it has helped in the enhancement of teamwork among members of the communities that form nation. According to Kohn (2009), nationalism emphasizes on collective identity hence facilitates teamwork among members of different communities that form nation. People of different socio-economic and political backgrounds that associate themselves with a particular nation are bound to work together for their own benefit as well as for the benefit of their nation. Sauers and Weber (2010) also emphasize that the political ideology of nationalism requires that all members of a nation must work together as a single unit irrespective of their racial, ethnic or religious differences. For example, people with different ethnic backgrounds such as African Americans and Hispanic Americans would work together for national unity in the United States of America because of nationalism irrespective of their ethnic backgrounds. Similarly, people with divergent political views are usually brought together through nationalism. For instance, in the United States of America, the Republicans and Democrats, who have opposing political views, may be brought together by issues of nationalism and pursue a common goal that is beneficial for the entire nation. In addition, nationalism facilitates teamwork among members of a nation through setting of social hierarchies that support cooperation and mutual aid among the people. Thus, nationalism encourages people to work hard together towards the attainment of national goals and objectives such as national security and social equality.
Thirdly, nationalism encourages the sharing of ideas and information among members of communities within nation. People who uphold nationalism usually have similar or common interests to pursue. This further encourages peaceful coexistence among the people as well as teamwork. According to Mungiu and Krastev (2011), nationalism creates a sense of belonging and value among the people. This boosts their motivation for creating a better society that would support their socio-economic and political needs. In my view, nationalism resembles family ties in the society in which all members are bound together and would work together for the benefit of the entire family. Similarly, nationalism encourages people to work together for the benefit of the entire nation.
Nationalism also permits self-determination. Self-determination refers to the process by which a community of people determines how to achieve important social goals through proper acquisition and utilization of economic resources. Nationalism also encourages autonomy and self-rule.
Although most opponents of nationalism argue that nationalism has led to racial profiling and division of people based on national identities and that this division of people has been a major factor that fuels wars between nations, I would argue that wars between nations often result from search for national superiority.
For my part, I would conclude by asserting that nationalism has been more constructive than destructive in the post-1945 era because of the above-stated benefits one of which is a creation of strong sense of common identity.