The Concepts of Nationalism

Updated on August 21, 2018

When it comes to defining nationalism, two concepts are involved. The first one can be viewed in terms of patriotism, and the second one in terms of national interest. These two concepts go hand-in-hand when it comes to defining what nationalism is all about.

Starting off with patriotism, it refers to a person (citizen) who obeys the rules and laws of the nation. This person is loyal. This signifies the person loves his country. Any citizen of a country who doesn’t obey the rules and laws of a country is viewed not patriotic or loyal. The laws are set out for easy interaction and providence of services; thereby it eases the lives of the nationals. Co-operation is one of the benefits derived as a result of following the laws outlined. It demonstrates the nationals care and love each other.


Secondly, a nationalist is a person who is ready to defend his own country at whatever cost. The person is ready to sacrifice his life to ensure his country is not attacked and defeated by the enemy, and peace is prevailing in the country. No nationalist will be comfortable with the idea of his country threatened by an outside enemy. Even if the soldiers are a few, and more volunteers are required, it is an indication of the love the person has for his country. This elucidates why many countries fought for independence. They didn’t want to be ruled by an outside force because they believed in themselves and their countries.

Thirdly, a nationalist is a person who ensures he participates in various national activities. One such activity is voting during the General Election Day. A person who doesn’t vote is not patriotic to his country. It is the duty of a citizen to vote for a candidate he wants to be the next president including regional leaders. If a person doesn’t vote then the person should not complain when a president is sworn in whom he didn’t want. If the president rules in a way that is not right, the person doesn’t need to complain. He didn’t carry out his duty as accorded in the constitution.


Fourthly, a nationalist is a person who is proud of his country. Whether he is living abroad or not, the person will always be proud of his country. The country may be the most corrupt country but it still remains his country. Sometimes, there are things that may make him loathe his country but there are aspects of his home country he loves.

Lastly, a nationalist is a person who triumphs when his team country wins an international competition. It shows the spirit of patriotism which is linked to a person who is proud of his country. If the country participated in rugby tournament and it won, he will feel very happy for his country to have won the international sport competition. This shows how the person is happy and proud of his country.

It is noble to be patriotic to one’s country. Nonetheless, there comes a time when loyalty trespasses its true intention. Consider a case whereby USA dropped atomic missile bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan was a threat to America. It was established if soldiers were to be sent to the enemy country, more than 50,000 would die in that nation. The easiest solution was use of atomic missile bombs. When the two regions were hit by the missiles, it led to Japan conceding. It was a victorious day in America because they defeated their enemy. The effects of dropping the uranium missile bombs left behind a disastrous outcome. While Americans were celebrating thousands of people in the two regions hit by the atomic missiles (est. 200,000) had died and many more were missing. Furthermore, acute radiation arose in these two regions which affected the health of the locals.


Looking on the other hand of the coin, when it comes to national interests it refers to citizens setting aside their individual interests and supporting the national interests.

Every person has his/her own interests. However, for the nation to fulfill its mandate, the citizens need to set aside their interests which will not be in alignment with the national ones. In some instances, some of the individual’s interests may be incorporated in the national interests. Nonetheless, not every individual’s interests will be respected. This indicates a citizen needs to sacrifice, if not all, some of his interests.

Nationalism: In Five Minutes

A partisan is a person who accepts to follow the interests of his country. This brings both the positive and negative side of national interest, for instance, first, the nation is a capitalist and second, the majority wins. Therefore, citizens have to follow the laws laid down by the parliament even if it goes against what they believe. In this case, should citizens follow laws that they feel oppresses them or isn’t right? For instance, the Members of Parliament are the law makers. Citizens will not be involved in deciding whether the laws will be in favor of or against them (unless it’s a referendum). In addition, when a controversial law is passed in the parliament if the majority of MPs vote for it, then it becomes law. It doesn’t matter if it’s not in favor of the general public of the country.

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

To sum up, despite a person’s devotion to his country and his support of national interests of his country, at times these two concepts can be carried overboard. An example was shown in terms of patriotism and the other on national interest. This paints a bad picture especially in the case of a capitalist country. If the majority wins, then it implies the minorities are neglected or ignored. It is the rich and those holding powerful positions in the government who have a say. What they say is final. As such, nationalism does not benefit the citizens of a country to a large extent. It oppresses them. The beneficiaries are those who are rich and those who hold powerful positions in the government. In itself, nationalism can be positive if the interests of the minority and every individual is taken into consideration, and people would be patriotic to what is humanly right. When it arrives at such a point then can we rightly say the people are true nationalists, and the true meaning of nationalism achieved.


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

Questions & Answers


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      • Jay C OBrien profile image

        Jay C OBrien 

        16 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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