The Concepts of Nationalism

Updated on June 27, 2018

Nationalism is the desire of a nation to govern itself without international influence which dictates how it should behave. This explains why nations fought for independence for they believed they could govern themselves. Additionally, people believe their nations is superior to other nations or they’re a way off better than the rest of nations. It arouses feelings of pride, not the pride of one’s love for his country; but one whereby they believe they’re better off than other nations. Nonetheless, there is no standard definition of nationalism because people disagree what constitutes nationalism. Thus, this article aims to look at nationalism in terms of patriotism and national interest. These two components are important in defining nationalism and measuring the importance and excesses of nationalism.


Starting off, patriotism refers to a person’s love for his/her own country. The person shows his loyalty to his country in diverse ways. Every nation consists of a government which is a central body that ensures the country lives in an orderly manner and provides services to ensure continuity of the nation. One of its mandated tasks is to lay down rules and regulations which the people need to follow. These laws are created in good spirit, to some extent. In essence, the laws are set out for easy interaction and providence of services’ thereby they aid in easing the lives of the nationals. Cooperation is one of the benefits derived as a result of nationals obeying the laws that have been outlined by the government. A person who is faithful to his country shows his/her loyalty through obeying the laws, and it demonstrates the nationals care and love each other.


Secondly, a national is a person who is ready to defend his country at whatever cost when his country is threatened by a foreign nation. The person is ready to sacrifice his life to safeguard the continuity of the country and to certify that the nation is not ruled or governed by a foreign entity. If a country is limited in the size of the army, people will volunteer to join the army in defending their nation. The nationals don’t want to be ruled by an outside force because they believe in themselves and their countries.

Thirdly, patriotism involves an individual participating in various national activities. One such important national activity is partaking in General Elections. Choosing leaders or politicians who will work for the common good of the nation is an important activity no person who has reached the age of voting should dismiss. If the people want their country to be governed properly, for the country to develop in different aspects and to ensure peace prevails in the nation; the people need to exercise their right of voting. It is a system put in place to ensure people who deserve to lead the nation are put at the forefront.


Fourthly, a nationalist is a person who identifies with his own country. He is not ashamed of his country even if his country is painted in a bad picture. His country may be one of the most corrupt nations in the world but he identifies with it. He doesn’t pretend he doesn’t originate from his country.

Lastly, a nationalist is a person who is proud of his country. This statement aligns with the third one because a person who identifies with his country is a person who is proud of his country. Whether his national team wins or is defeated in international sports competitions, the person will be proud of his national team. He may have reserves for his national team if it has been defeated in international contests but overall it’s his national team which he needs to be proud of.

Nationalism: In Five Minutes

It is noble to be patriotic to one’s country. Nevertheless, a person can be patriotic to his country in a negative aspect. As individuals, we need to differentiate between what is truly patriotic and what constitutes ‘negative’ patriotism. An instance in mind is the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan was a threat to North America. The government needed to send its soldiers to the nation of Japan to reduce or quiet the threat. It was established if soldiers were to be sent to Japan, more than 50,000 of them will be killed by Japan’s army. The easiest solution was to drop atomic missile bombs in the heart of Japan. When the above two regions were hit by two missiles, the government of Japan conceded. It was a victorious celebration for the people of North America. While the Americans were celebrating, Japan was grappling with how to deal with the disastrous effects the missiles had left behind. It is estimated over 200,000 people were killed with many more missing. Furthermore, acute radiation arose in those two regions which negatively affected the health of the locals.

Flying Bomb- V1 Bomb Damage in London, England, UK, 1944
Flying Bomb- V1 Bomb Damage in London, England, UK, 1944 | Source

Looking on the other hand of the coin, national interests refers to nationals putting aside their individual interests and supporting the national interests.

Every individual has his/her own interests. Each national wants his/her interests to be considered in addition to supporting national interest. However, for a nation to fulfill its mandate, the citizens need to set aside their interests which don’t align with the national interests. In some instances, some of the individual’s interests may be incorporated with the national interests. Sadly, not every individual interest will be respected for a number of reasons of which some of the reasons are not justified. This indicates a citizens need to sacrifice some of his interests, if not all of them.


A partisan is a person who accepts to follow the interests of his country. When the government wants to invade another country and rule it, as was the case during the colonial era, the individual supports the decision thus bringing the other negative side of nationalism. A nationalistic nation is a democratic country. Democracy is an important element in any nation. However, in a nation where the majority of the votes always win is disadvantageous. For instance, if the majority of Members of Parliament votes for a bill to be passed however controversial it is, it will go against the individuals’ interest. If a nation wants to invade and colonize another nation and the motion is passed in the parliament but a few number of MPs and individuals are against the idea; can we truly say nationalism is positive even if it is not in favor of the general public?

Nationalism Redefined

To sum up, despite a person’s devotion to his country and his support of the national interests of his country; at times these two concepts can be carried overboard. In a capitalist and democratic country, it is the majority who win and the powerful and rich people who rule the country, or play a vital role in determining the state of the nation. To this end, nationalism does not benefit citizens wholly. Instead, it oppresses them. The beneficiaries are the wealthy and powerful individuals who hold a position in the government. In itself, nationalism can be positive if individual interests and the interests of the minority and disadvantaged are taken into consideration, and people will be patriotic to what is humanly right. When it arrives at such a point then we can rightly say the people are true nationals, and the true meaning of nationalism is achieved.


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    • Jay C OBrien profile image

      Jay C OBrien 

      9 months ago from Houston, TX USA

      Society has moved from family groups to tribalism to city states to nationalism. Now it is time to move to internationalism. We are all citizens of the Human Race and borders are simply for convenience, not destruction. Place God over country and do not fight at all. See:


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