Nationalism in Today’s Modern States
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The topic of nationalism cannot be sufficiently handled without first defining what a nation is. It is difficult to give nation a definition, but it can be explained by looking at its characteristics. These are the characteristics that are common to number of nations; therefore, the one is able to derive a notion of a nation. All nations consist of a mixture of cultural and political characteristics that are either objective or subjective. In terms of being objective, nations can be termed as cultural entities that are groups of people, who speak the same language, have the same religion and share a similar past etcetera. Defined subjectively, a nation is a psycho-political construction. The members of the particular nation regard themselves as the unity. It is characterized by having a distinctive political order. This is what differentiates a nation from an ethnic group.
Nationalism has been on the rise both in the US and the rest of the world since the turn of the century. This is rather unexpected because nationalism had been on the decline for the better part of the 20th century, driven by the emergence of international organizations, such as the UN, regional organizations, such as NATO, International NGOs and globalization. After the turn of the century, several events have occurred that have ignited nationalistic emotions. The main ones are the September 11 (9/11), and the subsequent war on terrorism, and the global economic recession. This paper is going to explore the issue of nationalism in the modern times and factors that are fuelling nationalism feelings. The paper will explore how nationalism varies from one country to another; and the role played by women in building nations.
WHAT DESCRIBES NATIONALISM IN THE MODERN USA? IN THE WORLD?
Modern nationalism in the US is characteristically different from the rest of the world. This is because while one may describe nationalism in other countries in terms of culture, ethnicity, territory or language, the same cannot be said about the USA. This is because it has a variety of all the above, though some theorists have claimed that, in fact, the USA has an Anglo-Saxon culture. This claim is debatable. The USA nationalism is defined by its influence as a superpower. It is embodied in its multinational companies, and it influences in other spheres of life as a super power. In the USA, there is an ongoing debate as to whether the behavior expressed by the US citizens is patriotism or nationalism. This is so because the term nationalismis not well received. People prefer calling themselves as patriots. However, what is referred to as patriotism in the US carries the same characteristics with what is referred to as nationalism elsewhere.
In other countries, nationalism is defined by culture, political or civic entities, ethnicity, language or terrestrial boundaries. For example, the UK nationalism is made of the English, Scottish, North Irish and Welsh cultures. Countries, like Serbia, Albania and Czech Republic, are defined by ethnicity, while many of the former colonies in Africa are defined by territorial boundaries.
WHAT HAPPENED TODAY THAT THEORIST CALL A NATION OR NATIONALISM?
According to Breuilly (137) there is virtually no agreement amongst scholars as to what nationalism is. Each scholar handling this topic begins by explaining at length what nationalism is in the context he would like to consider. Lack of consensus on the topic can partly be explained as resulting from the many avenues this same issue can be approached from. Breilly identified the following approaches to nationalism;
I. Particular histories that explain certain nationalism.
II. General histories that view nationalism as a consequence of modernity.
III. General historical perspectives that see nationalism as a political expression of the emergence of nations; therefore, relating different nationalism to different types of nations.
IV. Studies that dig deeper to discover the underlying issues that give rise to a particular nationalism. These realities could be based on class, psychology or modernization.
Goodman (13-33) provides five parameters in which nationalism can be approached from. These are;
I. Ethno-national theories, which focus on the role of ethnicity in shaping nationalism. There are countries whose nationalism is based on having monolithic ethnic group. Countries in South East Europe such as Albania, Serbia, Czech Republic and Kosovo are based on ethnicity. These nations came into being because of the ethnic composition of people inhabiting the territories, more than any other factors. Some nations, for example, Yugoslavia, broke up into several nations based on the ethnic composition of a region. The Rwanda and Burundi conflicts are also based on the ethnic nationalism.
II. Modernization theories, which put emphasis on the role played by socio-economic factors in the development of nationalism, chief among them is industrialization. This form of nationalism arises from pride of a people’s accomplishment in development. The citizens share their success in development. This theory can explain nationalism in countries, such as Malaysia, Singapore and Brazil, whose citizens may feel proud to be associated with their country for its accomplishment more than anything else.
III. State-centered theories, which associate nationalism with the state system and international relations. These are states that are nations due to territorial matters more than anything else. Simply said, boundaries were drawn based on physical features that lumped together all the people within that territory as one nation. Because of this, they established a state machinery to run the nation, which also represented them in international matters.
IV) Class centered theories, which view nationalism as having risen out of class relations and economic influences. This happens in the US where one class of people see themselves as more American than others, especially those who are highly endowed.
V) Uneven development theories, which explain nationalism that arise where a region or a part of a country has been neglecting wise development, rise up to claim its share. This may partly explain the birth of nations, such as South Sudan one. Nationalism is inflamed by marginalization.
WHY DO MODERN THEORISTS CLAIM NATIONALISM TO EXIST IN THE USA? IN THE WORLD?
Theorists claim nationalism to exist in the USA and other countries in the world, because the USA, like the rest of the world, manifests characteristics of nationalism as they are espoused by the theorist. Nationalism in the USA like in the rest of the world had been on a decline in the 20th century. This can be attributed to the changes that occurred in the century, such as the rise of supra-nationalist institutions, such as the UN; and due to the effect of globalization, where people were now encouraged to think and act globally. However, everything changed after 9/11. Post 9/11 nationalism has risen to high levels, sometimes high enough to cause concern. This is not unexpected though. When a country is under threat, the citizens respond through increased patriotism and nationalism. While patriotism, the expression of love towards one’s country, is positive all through, nationalism, when taken to extreme, is dangerous. It may breed intolerance, xenophobic reactions, racial discrimination and animosity among fellow countrymen, where one party feels more patriotic than the other and, in fact, accuses the other of being traitors.
Looking at the verbal attacks by conservative Republicans on Democrats, one cannot help but come to conclusion that post 9/11 the USA is expressing nationalism to levels that should raise concern. The finger-pointing habit, accusations and counter accusations on who is truly Americans, have been flying in the media. Such phrases as ‘country first’ are meant to awaken the nationalism fires. Not that nationalism is worthless, but when it is stretched too far, it ends up causing disunity among the citizens instead of creating unity that moderate nationalism should bear.
Post 9/11 nationalism brought to the fore both the best of American nationalism embodied in respect for human rights and a republican government, and what is not likeable, such as religious, anti-elitist, and racially inclined populism. This manifestation on nationalism isolated America both from some of its traditional allies and its foes. America has lost a part of respect and goodwill it used to enjoy internationally, because it was taken as manifesting arrogance and insubordination.
The modern American nationalism has sought connections to the nation’s past. Indeed, such movements, like the Tea Party, keep on referring to the ancestors and calling for a return to the principles of their Founding Fathers. It expresses nostalgia for a return to the old days, when America respected God and was respected by the rest of the world. The measure of a true America is conformity to the principles held by the Founding Fathers.
Modern nationalism in the USA has also been tainted by a show of religious and racial intolerance. This is so, especially, against the Muslims and the Blacks. While this is not connected to the government, one finds it among the ultraconservatives, who act as if it is wrong to be a Muslim or to be a person of another race. A lot is said about President Obama; he is accused of being a Muslim and a Black person, as if it is wrong to be either.
Nationalism has further been fuelled by the recent economic recession. Phrases like ‘buy America, build America’ were coined in response to the increasing tread of importing Chinese-made merchandise and in part due to relocation of the America’s manufacturing businesses to China, where production cost is low. This reliance on the foreign made products, and shifting jobs overseas became an issue after the economic recession due to increasing levels of unemployment. Anti-Chinese rhetoric increased, and the feeling is that the USA should be more assertive in its dealing with China.
One cannot conclude discussing America’s nationalism without mentioning Israel. America now, just like in the past, has stood with Israel in thick and thin. Indeed this has become one of the America’s identifications. Whenever a question concerning Israel comes, America takes Israel defense. Two events in the near past clearly manifested this; when Palestinians decided to seek a seat in the UN, the USA said it will use its veto power to block it. When UNESCO voted to have Palestine as a member of the body, the USA withdrew all its contribution to the organization. A pro-Israel policy has, therefore, been one of the defining characteristics of the USA nationalism.
Nationalism has, therefore, been on the rise in the USA since the 9/11 events. It has been taken to greater heights by ultra-conservatives, such as the Tea Party movement. The downside of it is that it has divided the American publicity and created a negative image to the other nations who interpret it as arrogance.
NATIONALISM IN THE REST OF THE WORLD
Virtually in any nation on the face of the globe, nationalism has been on the increase. Russia, after a lull following the collapse of the USSR, has become increasingly assertive in the global scene; its citizens have gained back the self confidence they had lost following the devastating economic meltdown, after the collapse of the USSR. It has become more assertive in dealing with Europe and the USA, and in some cases acted as a protector to nations such as Iran and Zimbabwe. With an improved economy and better prospects, Russians are again proud of themselves, and are looking to set and play a bigger role on the global scene (Carens).
In Israel nationalism cannot be divorced with religion. The country emphasizes its Jewish roots and that alone forms the main basis of determining citizenship. There are Jews of African origin, European origin and Eastern origin, but, all of them are identified as one nation, because they share a common religion. Nationalism has been on the rise inside Israel. This is manifested by the government Israel chooses; one lead by an ultranationalist. It is also manifested by the continued building of houses in the disputed West Bank and East Jerusalem and by laying a claim to the whole of Jerusalem as belonging to the Jews. It is noteworthy that the Israelites have even been bold enough to disagree openly with the USA, its main ally.
In Turkey, amid an economic boom that has propelled the country to the G20 economic club, nationalism has been on the rise. The country has mainly managed to contain the Kurdish rebels that were a menace to the government, and to enjoy tranquility. This economic boom and stability has made Turkey a shining star in the region and raised the country’s profile globally. Its regional influence has been manifested through an increased role in the Palestinian conflict and in supporting progressive movements during the Arab Spring Revolutions.
Over in Africa, where anti-colonialism nationalism rules large, the story is mixed. There are the countries, whose welfare has improved leading to an increased sense of pride. For example in Kenya after the post-election chaos in 2008, a new constitution was adopted and improved governance has increased people’s confidence in themselves. The country is currently engaged in war in the neighboring Somalia fighting the Al-Shabab group, the AL-Qaida linked terrorist group. As would be expected, the nationalism among citizens is at its peak in showing solidarity with their government.
Nationalism is most complex in Somalia; a country that is made up of one ethnic group speaking one language, but where due to the clan wars, the country has never had a stable government for the last twenty years. In Burundi, war continues along ethnic lines, a testimony of a nation was brought together by colonial boundaries more than anything else.
WHERE DO MODERN NATIONS HAPPEN OR BEGIN AS THE RESULT OF HISTORICAL HAPPENINGS?
The modern nations began in France during the French Revolution. The idea thereafter spread to the rest of Europe, and with time to the whole world. Nations were formed through peace, when people living in a territory organized a common government, or when a ruler conquered a territory by force, and imposed his will on the people. The Dutch Republic and the USA are examples of nations that were formed by agreement of people living in the same territory. On the other hand, the former colonies belonging to European powers and the Eastern Europe countries are examples of nations that were formed by force. Of the nations that were brought together by force, some has disintegrated later into different nations after armed struggles and after gaining recognition from the United Nations (Bell).
WHAT ROLE DO WOMEN PLAY IN THE MODERN NATIONS AS POLITICAL ATTRIBUTES
In modern democracy, the representation of women in politics is significant, hence, has allowed democracy to prevail all over the modern states. Women presentation in parliament has encouraged female participation in politics in general. Just as men, women have a right to be elected without discrimination; hold key positions in leading public and civic offices, and even attend various public functions legalized by the laywomen’s participation in politics; provide them with a well ground of their position in the society, as they play a vital role not only in the family, but also in the country as MPs. Secondly, women act as role models and opinion leaders. Thirdly, they provide legal corresponding with the various institutions in the society. These not only allows women’s interests to be met, but also helps in decision making where justice and compliance is met according to the democratic standards. If women did not participate in politics, the ideas of equality, development, peace and democracy would not be achieved since they reflect the social structure. Article 7 of the Convection on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women explains that women and men are equal; they should be awarded equal participation in all public ceremonies, vote in all elections and be equally elected in public offices, participate in implementing government policies and formulating them. They, also, should participate in associations that are concerned with the country’s social and political affairs, including the non-governmental organizations operations. The presence of women, however, in public associations brings a revised endeavor between public space, immorality and feminism, despite the fact that male candidates compete among themselves. They base their defeat on internal hierarchies such as the race, availability of capital, thus creating a double competition for most women working hard to win among themselves, and yet again among the men. Women possess distinctive values more than men; hence, they become potential assets in the political field. Such attributes, as the willingness of women to take responsibilities from the grassroots, are much more desired by the public. Women’s efforts can, however, be frustrated by the men candidates to provide well designed policies, hence they end up losing.
As compared to the traditional system of governance where women were viewed as inferior hence they had no speech in any political ground hence lacked power the modern world has once women brought into existent women with power, with strong ideologies that fit their best interest. Since politics has always been regarded a male activity and women out of politics, it is a challenge in that key public policies are based on the old ideas of division of labor, hence related to issues of the family that is why different roles are assigned to various people in the government institutions.
Women participating in politics are regarded as liberal radicals or even socialists according to the existing philosophies of governance to construct their own personal ideas. Women have been seen to have democratic ideas that undermine dictatorship by all means hence creating fear among men in the political field. In the modern world, women have been able to acquire key position in most states one as presidents of nations, members of parliament hence serving the contemporary society. This ideology has proved women to be strong individuals, thereby disapproving that they are weak individuals, and that they should submit to men always. These women in the political field define themselves as citizens with achievement within the government central offices, the judiciary and even the military. However, the role of women and men in the political field should not be disregarded in providing peaceful coexistence in the country and the neighboring countries, as far as democracy and equality are concerned.
DIFFERENCES IN GENDER BETWEEN NATIONS AS NATIONALISM ARE CONCERNED
Gender is a range of characteristics that differentiate males from females; while nationalism is the political ideology to belong to a particular country hence being patriotic to it. George Santayana explains that nationalism is like the relationship that men have with women, in that a nations needs are identified by the struggle of men and what they tend to aspire. Gender differences between men and women define entirely the national difference limits between power men and women have. As for women, their membership in collectivities and structures dominating can only affect their power and status amongst themselves. Women play key roles as socializers of a nation’s youth, and in passing on the nation’s values and culture. In most nations women and men create mobilization in times of war. While men are willing to sacrifice themselves for their nation, the act of nationalism hence is a patriotic act to a given nation. As nation and states seek to modernize, they have gone to the society creating distinctive roles to women as wives and mothers.
Contemporary nationalism has focused on men and masculinity to handle nation state issues; however, women are coming up strongly, hence, taking up high positions from men. The national elites ignored the colonial gender order; since they were the one taking up leadership roles and resources that were regarded valuable, excluding the women. Through nationalism, however, feminist’s movements have emerged; hence, complex relations with the state affecting key developments with the state. Gender class, ethnicity and generations do not identify themselves with national formations in the same way. Women are allowed, in some nations, to participate actively in opposition, politics, movements, and decision making in institutions and review processes.
Legal investigations assert that nations and states are gender based; due to the fact that those roles are written by men while women act on them. Hence, Enloe argues what is the relationship between manhood and masculinity to that effect. The United States of America and Europe, however, relate the manly virtues and the needs of a contemporary nation. The virtue of independence, a country requires that stability to function with its own people, strength, willpower and the liberty fraternity and equality that reflect country as well as a man that why most states are associated with masculinity.
These various stereotypes, however, argue why nations are to be related to women and men. Since women gender equality there are various virtues women, who fail to possess so as to be associated to country as being feministic. Nationalism, however, entails good governance whether by women or men. In the country, women reproduce, while men guard the state. That is a notion. A nation’s imagery of a mother portrays women as symbolic, whose offspring belong to that nation. Feminine nations are vulnerable to attacks, and they are nurtured, thus, the territory should be guarded by the male soldiers. Men’s domination provides a better understanding of recent global and national politics. Cynthia Enloe (94) observes that nationalism has emerged from masculinized memory, masculinized humiliation and hope. It is evident in the apartheid regime, in South Africa where nationalism was a sign of hope till 1994, when it gained independence, men are persistent hence are symbolic to have undergone the nations shed of blood.
WHEN NATIONALISM AROSE IN THE MODERN WORLD
Nationalism emerged during the middle ages of 400 A.D.; the developed countries by that time were nation states. By the end of the 1700’s, these include Spain, France, and England. Nationalism was a notion that united the people and set their belonging to a certain country because of a common goal, common religion, history, the same language and culture. By the 1800, nationalism had become a powerful ideology, in that the powerful states wanted to own and conquer other countries. Due to hard work, determination and persistence, some of the European nations gained full independence. For instance, Greece gained its independence from Turkey in1829. Nationalism was a source of patriotism, though other leaders, like Adolf Hitler of Germany, misused the ideology. Hitler was an absolute leader, and his thoughts and behavior resulted in killing his enemies mercilessly during his times.
Though Adolf Hitler nationalism was viewed as a chauvinistic idea, it was an aggressive ideology. During the early times, European nations began to take an interest in economic and political opportunities that arose. They somehow gained American wealth and resources by increasing their intervention worldwide. The modern world intensified long distance trade among nations; hence, leading to cross cultural interaction creating a more diversified world that sharpened the global economy, and a consolidation of centralized states. Richard, however, explains that a modern coherent state has religious freedom, global economy that is diversified, world population increasing, powerful technologies and the intensification of land use.
The modern world began to develop in the 1500-1800 on the basis of the global era. Nationalism is viewed as a recent phenomenon in different nations worldwide. Nationalism will continue to emerge through secondary roles where issues of complexity would need to be addressed while they still remain old as the mankind. It had emerged and flourished strongly during the Second World War, where nations fought for superiority over other nation. In addition, the fall of the USSR and the decolonization of Africa led to collapsing of nationalism hence paving way for democracy. Nation and nationalism are social constructions designed for revolutions and mass mobilization, creating change in the contemporary society.
Nationalism had emerged and become important and dominant during the agrarian epoch of the human history. It uses prehistorically cultures and cultural wealth to transform the nations radically. It is an ideology that would not have existed, if not for the European nations. Nationalism can lose its meaning since most nations will become dependent on themselves politically and economically, making nationalism a historical ideology.
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