Are there good or bad nationalisms?
Nationalism can be progressive or retrogressive depending on the ideology advanced by the state and society. The modern state that emerged in the 17th century mainly focuses on humans, physical territory and the dominant rules of cultural interactions. As such, the boundaries created by the modern state tend to represent institutional constraints which to extent benefit certain groups at the expense of other people. Further, nationalism denotes authority over a set of objects, for instance, politics, and focuses on drawing the physical, human and cultural boundaries that defines the state. As such, states are understood to be a repository of cultural interest; however, the extent at which cultural interests are embedded in states tends to vary since there is no state that is entirely culturally neutral. Consequently, nationalism establishes a political agenda that can either be good or bad for the state and society.
There is good nationalism particularly where states emphasize the importance of patriotism in advocating for a common agenda. For instance, governments change from time to time due to elections; however, where there is patriotism, incidents of protests or demonstrations are minimal because the nation becomes important than a person or political group. On the same note, nationalism can be good when it supports democratic transitions of governments and inclusivity regardless of ethnic, race, political or cultural background. Where nationalism embraces inclusivity, the creation of factions within a state is minimal since every citizen and the political class speaks in one voice. In essence, nationalism is a good force that can help citizens of a country to establish a common goal through a united front. Through nationalism, nations can prevent cultural exclusivity and ethnic profiling, for instance. When a community feels marginalized, they look for alternative ways of protecting their interest. In some cases, a marginalized group can to move to other countries where their interests will be protected. For instance, the lack of inclusivity in Latvia is contributing to the mass exodus of citizens who are now migrating to Germany and Great Britain.
However, a focus on nationalism where inclusivity is emphasized can help to bring dialogue and resolve the issues affecting marginalized groups. On another note, nationalism can also play an important role in promoting the economic development of a country. For example, nationalism played an important role in German’s economic recovery after the WWII. Further, nationalism also brings about a shared national identity in terms of generosity and cooperation. For example, shared national identity has been promoted in Scotland by the Scottish Nationalist Party.
According to Brown, nationalism is
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impacted negatively depending on whether the group articulating nationalism is marginalized, whether society is focused on resentment or developing a self-generated identity. As further stated by Brown, nationalism can sometimes emerge in the form of propagating intolerance and violence. However, it can also emerge in a liberal form in terms of advocating for equality for all citizens of a given state. In Europe, nationalism as a bad force is evident through the reawakening of European nationalisms. For instance, in the East, the communist integration has collapsed thus leaving former Soviet states in ruins because of conflicts created by different political ideologist. Conversely, the West has failed to embrace rationalism and modernity because different nation-states are not willing to give up their sovereignty.
According to Spencer and Wollman, “almost every country in the world, both men and women are reaffirming their political, ethnic and religious identity”. As a result of the affirmation of particular identities there is often the temptation to seek a common denominators and this has led to violent conflicts such as the Serb, Croat and Muslim communities in Bosnia or between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. In essence, where nationalism is not advocating for a common goal or agenda, then, it is counterproductive for a nation-state. It can be divisive depending on how the state serves the interests of citizens with different ethnic, political and cultural backgrounds. On the other hand, the elite in the society can use the notion of nationalism to serve their own interest. For instance, nationalism is used to wage war with other neighboring countries as a way of annexing more territory, for instance. This has been the case in the former Soviet bloc where Russian Federation is attempting to claim former territories as evident in Ukraine, for example.
Nationalism can be good or bad depending on the ideology that it advances, and as such, a progressive nationalism requires inclusivity. In essence, inclusivity enhances patriotisms since citizens with different political, cultural and ethnic background share a common goal. However, nationalism can also be used to promote personal interest at the expense of other people within a nation-state. This is particularly evident among the political elite who use nationalism to influence decisions of citizens to favor their political agenda.
Brown, D. Are there Good and Bad Nationalisms: A critique of dualism. Nations and
Nationalism, Vol. 5, no. 2, 1999, pp. 281-301.
Beissinger, M.R. The Reawakening of European Nationalisms. Social Research, Vol. 63, no.1,
1996, p. 97-146.
Rupnik, J. Are there Good or Bad Nationalisms. Social Research, Vol. 63, no. 2, 1996, pp. 41-75
Spencer, P. & Wollman, H. How Nationalisms Spread: Eastern Europe Adrift the Tides and
Cycles of Nationalist Contention. Journal of Political Ideologies, Vol. 3, no. 3, 1998, p. 255.
 MR Beissinger. The Reawakening of European Nationalisms. Social Research, Vol. 63, no.1, 1996, p. 99.
 J Rupnik. Are there Good or Bad Nationalisms. Social Research, Vol. 63, no. 2, 1996, p. 45.
 Ibid., 61.
 D Brown. Are the Good and Bad Nationalisms: A critique of dualism. Nations and Nationalism, Vol. 5, no. 2,
1999, p. 283.
 Ibid., 289.
 P Spencer. & H Wollman. How Nationalisms Spread: Eastern Europe Adrift the Tides and Cycles of Nationalist
Contention. Journal of Political Ideologies, Vol. 3, no. 3, 1998, p. 255.
 Ibid., 255.
 M.R. Beissinger. The Reawakening of European Nationalisms. Social Research, Vol. 63, no.1, 1996, p. 121.