Education, General election, Politics, Teaching, Young people

Easy Politics ~ Nationalism

What is Nationalism?

Nationalism is broadly defined as the belief that the nation is the central principle of political organisation.

All forms of Nationalism contain the following key beliefs:

  • Humankind is naturally divided into distinct nations
  • The nation is the most appropriate, and perhaps only legitimate, unit of political rule
  • The nation is an organic community (this belief that nations are ancient and deep-rooted is called primordialism).

When did Nationalism originate?

The idea of Nationalism was born during the French revolution. Previous to this, countries had been thought of as “realms”, “principalities” or “kingdoms”, and the inhabitants called “subjects”. The closest they had to a political identity was their allegiance to a ruler or ruling dynasty, rather than any sense of national identity or patriotism (love for one’s country). This was changed when the revolutionaries in France rose up against Louis XVI in 1789 in the name of the people, or the ‘French nation’, rather than in the name of the Crown. Nationalism was, at this time, revolutionary and democratic.

What is a nation? Are there different types of Nationalism?

“A nation is a collection of people bound together by share values and traditions, a common language, religion and history, and usually occupying the same geographical area.” – Political Ideologies by Andrew Heywood.

Nationalism is sometimes said to he based on ethnic/racial criteria, but then what about people who move to a new country and gain citizenship? These differing beliefs mark the two main strands of Nationalism: inclusive civic nationalism aka multicultural liberalism, and exclusive ethnic nationalism aka conservative fascism.

There is also liberal nationalism, conservative nationalism, expansionist nationalism and anti-colonial and postcolonial nationalism.

Liberal Nationalism

– The oldest form of Nationalism, dating back to the French Revolution and embodying many of its values.

– Defence of popular sovereignty and the ‘general will’.

– Popular self-government + liberal principles = liberal nationalism.

– Came about because the multinational empires which nationalists fought against were autocratic and oppressive.

– The nationalist ideology was largely forged by applying liberal ideas, initially developed in relation to the individual, to the nation and to international policies.

– Liberalism was founded in defence of individual freedom, traditionally expressed in the language of rights. Nationalists believe nations to be sovereign entities (possessing supreme or ultimate power), entitled to liberty and also possessing rights, especially to the right of self-determination. Therefore, Liberal nationalism is a liberating force in the sense that:

1. It opposes all forms of foreign domination and oppression, whether by multinational empires or colonial powers.

2. It stands for the ideal of self-government, reflected in practice in a believe in representation and constitutionalism (a system in which government power is distributed and limited by a system of laws that the rulers must obey).

– Liberal nationalists believe in political democracy rather than autocracy; they believe that nations, like individuals, are equal and thus equally entitled to the right of self-determination.

– Liberals also believe that the principle of natural harmony applies to the nations of the world and not just to individuals. Widespread self-determination would establish a peaceful and stable world, which would then prevent wars as democratic nation-states would respect the sovereignty of their neighbours and have no incentive to initiate war or subjugate others. Free trade would also make the costs of war far too great. For a liberal, nationalism does not divide nations from one another; it is a force capable of promoting unity.

– The ultimate goal of liberal nationalism is the construction of a world of independent nation-states (a sovereign political association within which citizenship and nationality overlap; one nation within a single state), not just the unification or independence of a particular nation.

Conservative Nationalism e.g. Margaret Thatcher

– Believe that nationalism is a natural ally to maintain social order and defending traditional institutions like the army and the monarchy.

– Social cohesion and public order (fuelled by patriotism) are more important than self-determination.

– Believe that society is organic, therefore nations emerge naturally from humans wanting to live with other people who share their views, habits and appearance. They seek security and meaning.

– Some conservative nationalists believe that nationalism is the solution to social revolution, as the nation includes the working class.

– Believe that military victories are defining moments of a nation’s history. Traditional institutions like the monarchy are also used as symbols of national identity (e.g. national anthem is God Save the Queen).

– Conservative nationalism is particularly popular when the sense of national identity is felt to be threatened by issues such as immigration and supranationalism (national/global bodies imposing laws on countries, for example the European Union), because there is a belief that cultural diversity leads to instability and conflict – this stems from the idea that stable and successful societies must be based in shared values and a common culture.

Expansionist Nationalism 

– Expansionist nationalism is an extreme form of nationalism.

– Belief that national pride is linked to the possession of an empire.

– Nations are not equal in their right to self-determination; some are superior to others due to ethnic or cultural purity.

– Expansionist nationalism is the aggressive form of nationalism which was taken on by the “white” people of Europe and America in the late 19th Century (in the conquest of Africa) and by Germany in the early 20th Century.

– Individuals and independent groups are less important than the all powerful nation.

– Feeds from the portrayal of another nation or race as a threat or an enemy, as the nation draws together and experiences an intensified sense of its own identity and importance.

– Belief that developed countries have a duty to less developed countries to bring aspects of civilisation to them.

– Military glory and conquest are the ultimate evidence of national greatness; the civilian population is militarised, absolutely loyal and dedicated and willing to sacrifice theirself for their nation – this makes this type of Nationalism emotional rather than rational, as all sense of Self is lost. When the honour or integrity of the nation is in question, the lives of ordinary citizens become unimportant.

– International anarchy

Anti-Colonial and Post-Colonial Nationalism

– The experience of colonial rule helped the citizens of Asia and Africa to forge a sense of nationhood and a desire for national liberation.

– Many of the leaders of the nationalist movements in Africa and Asia were inspired by the governing powers in Europe and the ideas of liberal nationalism. They became aware that they were less economically advanced and were attracted to socialism as they sought both economic and political liberation.

– Socialism embodies the ideals of cooperation and community which already existed in African and Asian countries. It also provided insight on inequality and exploitation which they could relate to, as they saw colonialism as equivalent to the class struggle spoken about by those such as Karl Marx.

– Socialism became an appeal to a unifying national interest. African socialism was based not on Soviet style state socialism but on traditional communitarian values and the desire to lessen tribal rivalry in lieu of economic progress.

What do other ideologies think about the nation?

Socialists regard the nation as an artificial division of humans, used to disguise social injustice and solidify the established order. Socialism should be international and inclusive.

Anarchists do not accept the state or the nation as a concept, as it is another system of oppression designed to promote obedience and subjugation in the interests of the ruling elite. (Find out more by keeping an eye out for my upcoming post on Anarchism 😋)

Liberals places much emphasis on political allegiance as on cultural unity. Nations are moral entities in the sense that they are endowed with rights, notably an equal right to self-determination (define).

Conservatives regard the nation as an “oeganic’ entity, bound together by a common ethnic identity and shared history. As the source of social cohesion and collective identity, the nation us perhaps the most politically significant of social groups.

Fascists view the nation as an organically unified social whole, often designed by race, which gives purpose and meaning to individual existence. However, nations are pitted against each other in a struggle for survival.

Fundamentalists regard nations as, in essence, religious entities: communities of ‘believers’.


Let’s be honest though, the only way you can be truly British is by loving tea and Doctor Who, and believing that Emma Watson is a national treasure.

Education, General election, Politics, Uncategorized, Young people

Easy Politics ~ Conservatism

Hey guys! Welcome to the second installment of my new series, “Easy Politics”. As you can tell from the title, this one is all about Conservatism as an ideology. I hope you enjoy, and learn something new. And don’t forget to check out my post on Liberalism if you haven’t already!

What is Conservatism?

The core values of Conservatism are the following:

  • Tradition and preservation (Tradition reflects the accumulated wisdom of the past, also creates social cohesion and a feeling of rootedness by linking people to the past and providing them with a sense of identity. Change is uncertain and to be feared, whereas established customs are familiar and reassuring).
  • Human nature (Conservatives have a negative view of human nature; they believe we are psychologically limited and dependent creatures and we should sacrifice liberty to ensure social order; our only incentive to abide by the law is to have strict laws in place).
  • Order (without order, we would have an unpleasantly short life. Control is crucial and there is a necessity for order to maintain institutions. We wouldn’t have hierarchy and structure of government without order – there would be revolution otherwise).
  • Hierarchy (society is naturally hierarchical, characterised by fixed social classes. Social equality is undesirable and unachievable – talent and leadership qualities are unequally distributed and cannot be acquired through self-advancement).
  • Pragmatism aka practicality (any change should be sensible and gradual.)
  • Individualism (Clear distinction between private and public spheres. Best environment for individualism is state of control – a nomocratic (ruled by law) society. Humans are security-seeking creatures. Individual cannot be separated from society, but is part of the social groups that nurture him or her – negative freedom results in the individual suffering from anomie (weakening of values and normative rules – associated with feelings of isolation)
  • Property (Provides security – ownership gives people a sense of confidence and assurance. Those who possess property are also more likely to respect other peoples’ property, thus maintaining law and order. They also believe that property can be an extension of an individual’s personality. Why burglary is so frowned upon – individuals feel personally violated – home is personal and intimate).

Conservatives tend to want less state interference – low taxes etc. They like the status quo to be maintained rather than any radical change. They usually want to maintain tradition and institutions like the monarchy; they look to the past as a guide. They want the individual to flourish in terms of pursuing goals and achieving fulfillment (much like classic liberals). Conservatives also want good social order and security even if that is at the expense of freedom, rights and equality.


When did Conservatism originate?

Conservatism began more as a response to other ideologies than as an ideology itself. Before the late 1700s, and the Enlightenment period, there weren’t really any true ideological movements for Conservatism to react against, thus this could be considered the dawn of Conservatism. People were challenging long-held beliefs affecting religion, ethics, politics, the physical sciences, mathematics, the arts and architecture. In the 19th and early 20th century,  Conservatism was associated with class interest aka as the Industrial Revolution gathered pace and the economics power of the new capitalist middle glasses grew, the “landed classes” (those whose wealth was inherited) found themselves threatened and wanted to ‘conserve’ the interests of their class.

Does being a conservative mean you have to support the Conservative party?

No. For a traditional Conservative, the Conservative Party’s values may seem too left wing (welfare state etc) and for One-Nation Conservatives, their left wing policies may not go far enough. Similarly, nationalists may agree with the Conservative Party’s policies on leaving the EU etc (follow my blog so you can read my post on Nationalism and find out if you are a nationalist!), and some classic Liberals may vote Conservative for their want for less control over the individual and lower taxes.

Are there different types of Conservatism?

Yes.  The main types are Traditional, Liberal New Right (Neoliberalism), Conservative New Right (Neoconservatism) and One Nation Conservatism. Here are some of their core beliefs and values.

Traditional Conservatism:

– Change is natural and inevitable (the French revolution being an example) and should not be resisted: “change in order to conserve”

– Change should be cautious, modest and pragmatic, drawn from a suspicion of fixed principles whether revolutionary or reactionary.

– Pragmatic conservatives support neither the state nor individual, but are prepared to support either, or both…depending on ‘what works’.

– There should be tough laws in place to discourage criminal behaviour

– They believe in an organic society – people cannot exist outside of society; they need to be nurtured and protected.

– Institutions such as the monarchy, the House of Lords and the Church should be protected (strong respect for tradition)

– Individuals should be left to make their own mistakes – they are anti welfare state for fear that it would weaken people’s values

Liberal New Right Conservatism/Neoliberalism:

– Radical change is better than gradual reform

– Stand for independence of mind and thought free from obligation to any authority

– Tax = legalised theft

– The fact that something exists and has done for a long time is no ground for respecting/keeping it (disrespect for institutions and tradition)

– Free market economics because government intervention causes economic problems

– Universal human rights (commitment to individual liberty and freedom)

– Anti welfare state (cut public spending) because it leads to a culture of dependency

– Privatisation increases quality.  Nationalised industries are inefficient

– Support a liberal view of property

New Right Conservatism/Neoconservatism:

– Increase social discipline, authority and leadership

– Anti globalisation and anti immigration

– Belief in a natural hierarchy in society

– Belief in the patriarchy and traditional family values (the man is the leader of the household)

– Let people have freedom of action – anti welfare

– Classic liberal economics + traditional social theory (defence of order, authority and discipline)

– New Right attempts to fuse economic libertarianism with state and social authoritarianism.

One Nation Conservatism:

– We need to reform or there will be revolution: revolution ensures stability. The purpose of one-nationism is simply to consolidate hierarchy, and its wish to improve the conditions of the less well-off is limited to the desire to ensure that the poor no longer pose a threat to the established order

– Progress must be pragmatic, careful, respectful of past practices

Feudal principle: the rich have a duty of care to the poor; on Nation Conservatives are pro welfare because of the organic conservative belief that society is held together by an acceptance of duty and obligations. Society is naturally hierarchical, but also inequalities of wealth and social privilege give rise to an inequality of responsibilities. Wealthy and powerful people must shoulder the burden of social responsibility – this is the price of privilege.

Keynsian economics: we need full employment and enlarged welfare provision

– One Nation Conservatism is a middle way between classic Liberalism and socialism; “planned capitalism” – a mixed system which combines state ownership, regulation of certain aspects of economic activity with the drive and initiative of private enterprise.


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