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Nationalism is an ideology that seeks to identify and show solidarity with all members of a nation and to combine the latter with a sovereign state . Nationalisms are (initially) carried by national movements and are reproduced in nation states by the respective state system . Depending on the history of the origin of the respective nationalism, the identity of the nation , which is promoted by nationalism, is filled out differently. Distinguishing markers can include nationality , cultural , ethnic , religious, and / or ancestry .

The 19th century did not know the concept of nationalism at first, only that of the nation state principle ( Eric Hobsbawm ). The aim of national endeavors was to unite fragmented territories, to create large-scale trading zones, and to standardize culture, administration and the lingua franca in the interests of a national economy. The nation in the legal-philosophical sense is the " state people ". The nation does not have to include all residents of a territory; the " United States of America" ​​did not initially include black residents and Indians. In the 19th century, most of the nation-states expanded their "state people" to include excluded population groups and granted the state people more extensive rights. The concept of the nation state is therefore linked to modern statehood as a legal basis . The emancipation of Jews , free suffrage , uniform legislation, and equal rights for all citizens were implemented within the framework of the nation-state concept. Nationalism as a mass ideology gained increasing strength in the 19th century and united heterogeneous national peoples through a unifying self-image. Historically, nationalist ideas first achieved politically significant effects in the late 18th century in connection with the American War of Independence and the French Revolution . In the 19th century, European nations were formed which , compared to the French state nation, conveyed a more ethnic image of a nation, for example the German cultural nation or the Bulgarian rebirth . Outside Europe, nations emerged as a result of efforts to achieve independence from colonialism . Nationalisms have been a hegemonic ideology on a global level, at the latest since the establishment of the right of peoples to self-determination under international law in the 20th century .

Nationalism is not tied to a specific political system: If at the beginning of the success of nationalisms enlightened state models prevailed, later different nationalisms were combined with monarchist , post-colonial , real socialist and fascist systems up to National Socialism . Nationalist goals are also pursued by democracies .

Nationalisms can - as in the Yugoslav Wars - lead to the disintegration of states, or - as in the Italian Risorgimento - unite states.


Nationalism is not a unitary ideology, but different nationalisms have certain similarities. In 1971, Anthony D. Smith , in his Theories of Nationalism, identified four beliefs that unite all nationalists:

  1. Humanity is naturally divided into peoples, each people having its own national character. Only through their development can a fruitful and harmonious international community come about.
  2. In order to achieve this national self-realization , people would have to identify with their people, their nation. The resulting loyalty is above all loyalties.
  3. Nations could only develop fully in their own states with their own governments; they therefore have an inalienable right to national self-determination ( right of peoples to self-determination ).
  4. The source of all legitimate political power is therefore the nation. The state authority had to act alone to their will, otherwise they lose their legitimacy.

Nationalisms create a special form of collective identity . “If the emotional attachment to the nation and the loyalty to it is at the top of the range of attachments and loyalties,” nationalism is successful. Nations represent the primary political frame of reference, not estates as in feudalism , religion , dynasties , states , social classes or humanity in the sense of cosmopolitanism . The nation mediates living space , a part of the " meaning of life in the present and future." Alter refers to Friedrich Meinecke , who showed the process of spiritual reorientation from enlightened humanism to nation.

The definition of the sociologist Eugen Lemberg describes nationalism as a cohesive force, "which integrates national or quasi-national large groups" and exercises a demarcation from the outside. According to Lemberg, the following factors of togetherness are particularly uniform or equal aspects: language, descent, equality of character and culture as well as subordination to a common state authority.

In the sense of the strong use of the term Otto Dann understands nationalism as a designation for national egoism, an exaggeration of the interests of one's own nation and the superiority of the national community over individual rights.

Karl W. Deutsch understands nationalism to be a state of mind that can be a principle of order oriented towards national interests: on the one hand, the nation has a preferred place in social communication, and on the other, legitimizes and orientates the politics of this society according to it. A nationalist would accordingly pay particular attention to the "national news". It should be emphasized, however, that nationalism can come in many forms and therefore there are different definitions with different emphases.

Analytical concepts

Ernest Gellner , Eric Hobsbawm , Benedict Anderson , Robert Miles and others emphasize that a nation is an "imagined community". For Gellner, nationalism is “by no means the awakening of nations to self-confidence: one invents nations where they did not exist before”. Anderson understands a nation as an “ imagined communities” , but defines imagined in the sense of created , not in the sense of false (false, artificial). According to Robert Miles, nationalism assumes the existence of “natural subdivisions of the world population” and embodies a political project to seize a territory “in which the 'people' can govern themselves”.

In contrast to modernist theorists, a number of other nationalism researchers (e.g. Anthony D. Smith or Clifford Geertz ) allow ethnic nations, which are defined by language, religion, family networks, cultural peculiarities or quasi-racial similarities, a life of their own without nationalism. For these theorists, nationalism is at least partly a manifestation of a primordial (primordial) sense of togetherness. Karl Raimund Popper argued similarly as early as 1945 in the second volume of his work The Open Society and Its Enemies . He sees nationalism as a relic of a primal instinctive sense of tribal belonging, dominated by passion and prejudice. In addition, for Popper, nationalism means a nostalgic desire to replace individual with collective responsibility. For Popper, the nation-state in itself is only a myth that cannot be justified by anything, but merely represents an irrational and romantic utopia ; he was "a dream of naturalism and collectivist tribal membership."


In contrast to patriotism and national awareness , nationalism is characterized by an excessive conviction of the value and importance of one's own nation. He glorifies his own history and often demeans other nations. In social psychology and history , however, this possibility of differentiation is disputed on an empirical basis.

The counter-movement and ideology to nationalism are internationalism or cosmopolitanism . Supranationalism is associated with a softening of national orientations and corresponding reactions, for example observed in the area of ​​the European Union .


Nationalisms can be typologized in different ways.

Citizen vs. ethnic nationalism

Two main forms of nationalism are distinguished (e.g. Hans Kohn , John Plamenatz ): Civic nationalism is often ascribed to the West (e.g. France , USA ): It defines nations primarily politically and as an exclusion criterion merely the limits of the territory. While the civic nationalism members of a nation to enter into a voluntary connection, the ethnic nation in ethnic nationalism a common destiny. the ethnic nationalism, the nation concept descent, belonging by birth, blood, or even ethnicity based , is prevalent in Central and Eastern Europe (e.g. Germany , Hungary ) to the present day . Civic nationalism is commonly associated with liberalism and ethnic nationalism with anti-liberalism that leans towards the authoritarian regime. The sociologist Sammy Smooha coined the term "in this context Ethnic democracy " ( ethnic democracy ).

Inclusive vs. exclusive nationalism

Inclusive nationalisms aim to integrate all subgroups of a society, regardless of their political orientation and cultural identity . They stand up for the values ​​and symbols of their own nation and allow other nations to do the same. Inclusive nationalisms refer to different characteristics of the nation in a positive way: to the republican tradition, the democratic constitution ( constitutional patriotism ), welfare state, economic success or international reputation.

As exclusive nationalism or chauvinism an exaggerated esteem is called, which aims to partially aggressive distinguish it from other nations. The exaggeration of one's own nation with the aim of the greatest possible unity of people and space is often accompanied by marginalization and discrimination , in the extreme up to the expulsion or annihilation of ethnic and other minorities who are viewed as alien or harmful to the imagined national body . Examples of exclusive nationalisms are Italian fascism , German National Socialism and the ethnic cleansing after the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Exclusive nationalism raises a " monopoly of loyalty and interpretation": the individual should no longer regard his religion , his home region or the ruling dynasty as the focus of thinking and action that creates identity, but rather the nation alone. In an integral nationalism, this claim can lead to the relativization or even devaluation of the individual: "You are nothing, your people are everything". Therefore this nationalism is classified under the political religions . Since the 1970s, the term has been used almost exclusively in the sense of chauvinism.

More recent socio-psychological studies have shown that exclusive and inclusive nationalism cannot always be clearly demarcated from one another empirically - on living people, so to speak - and therefore rarely appear in their purest form. A particularly visible example is “football nationalism”. In order to avoid the pejorative aftertaste that the term nationalism always has today, according to Peter Alter, it is sometimes referred to as “ love of fatherland ”.


Nationalism is a modern phenomenon . In the 19th century in particular, nationalistic myths were created in order to anchor the newly created nations as supposed or actual traditional communities. In Europe, nationalism received a significant boost from the ideas of the French Revolution . As a result, the idea of popular sovereignty , which has both a democratic and a national approach, became popular. For example, Johann Gottfried Herder and Johann Gottlieb Fichte in Germany and Giuseppe Mazzini in Italy were the forerunners of these myths .

The Wars of Liberation against Napoleon are generally considered to be the "hour of birth of German nationalism" ( Friedrich Meinecke ) . The historian Ute Planert , on the other hand, takes the view that since the time of the Seven Years' War 1756–1763 the fatherland (as what was then still Prussia or another territorial state) had been constructed as an “exclusive and homogeneous community ” that lay claim to was able to be of higher rank than other communities such as religion or family and which was henceforth the highest authority of legitimation .

The nationally and democratically-minded movements of the revolutions of 1848/1849 proved to be popular with the people and opposed to the conservative forces of the Restoration . Beginning with the French February Revolution , the spark jumped over almost all of Europe, including the principalities of the German Confederation , including the monarchies of Prussia and Austria as its most powerful states ( March Revolution ).

Towards the end of the 19th century, inclusive nationalism, which was otherwise prevalent almost everywhere, radicalized in some countries. The French publicist Charles Maurras coined the term “integral nationalism”, which wanted to raise the nation to the exclusive value of the individual. The nation was ascribed a historical mission with which it was supposed to redeem other territories as well. Nationalism understood in this way became the legitimation of imperialism - the rule over foreign peoples.

At the same time, doubts and criticism of the nation were condemned as treason and fought against. Conclusion: Integral nationalism was thus also an instrument of internal repression.

In reality, however, at the center of most group affiliations were other, mostly personal or regional ties (e.g. to the feudal lord ) - before the emergence of modern nations. In fact, quasi-national institutions are also a basic requirement for the emergence of a national identity that goes beyond the association of persons.

In nationalism the formerly personal loyalty, as in royalty, for example, is generalized on an abstract supra-personal level. A personal interaction with one another, as before in a village community and everyday at the Fürstenhof, is now also transferred to people who could not be in direct contact with one another. A national community was established with reference to actual and sometimes supposed similarities in history, language and culture.

In many cases, these did not arise until the nation was being formed. For example, through the standardization of the German language in the second half of the 19th century . This community reproduces itself, for example through national institutions such as authorities and schools.

The national antagonisms which, after the rapid technical progress of the 19th and 20th centuries, led to the devastating results of modern warfare - with millions of dead - have come to the fore in the historical foreground. But the disintegration of power structures also leads to the breakout of nationalist aspirations, for example when the colonial empires collapse in the wake of the Second World War .

Some of the former colonial peoples striving for independence achieved independence in bloody wars of liberation. In order to delegitimize colonialism, they resorted to the already known principles of nationalism and used its emancipatory element, combined with a political promise of equality towards all people belonging to the nation. This shows that inclusion and exclusion are apparently elementary components of nationalism.

While on the one hand the political equality of the group united in a nation is emphasized, on the other hand there is the exclusion of groups classified as not belonging. This can range from a communicative emphasis on the alleged otherness of these excluded people to their physical exclusion ( deportation ) and, in extreme cases, to their physical destruction ( ethnic cleansing / genocide )

Mobilization strategies

There are special problems of differentiation in nationalism in football, especially in national team games. Differentiation can be seen, for example, in Great Britain , where the four home countries England , Scotland , Wales and Northern Ireland compete with their own teams in football, while at the Olympic Games they compete as the United Kingdom and one team. While in the past the English fans competed with the Union Jack of Great Britain, they have had the George Cross of England as their flag since the 2002 World Cup . Angela Daalmann showed in her dissertation at the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen that the mass media use nationalism as a way of customer loyalty because they allude to nationalistic behavioral patterns. There are similar trends in many countries.


further reading

Web links

Wiktionary: Nationalism  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ↑ In purely constitutional law, black men were declared citizens of the USA in 1870, the Indians in 1924. Women's suffrage was introduced in 1920. On the history of skin color racism in the American Revolution, see in particular Gerald Horne: The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America . 2014, ISBN 978-1-4798-9340-9 .
  2. Eric Hobsbawm: The heyday of capital: A cultural history of the years 1848–1875 (The long 19th century, vol. 1), Darmstadt 2017, p. 105ff.
  3. Peter Alter : Nationalism. Frankfurt am Main 1985, p. 14.
  4. ^ Eugen Lemberg: Nationalism. Reinbek 1964, p. 52.
  5. Otto Dann: Nation and Nationalism in Germany 1770–1990. Munich 1993, p. 12 ff.
  6. ^ Ernest Gellner: Thought and Change. 1964, p. 169.
  7. Benedict Anderson: The Invention of the Nation. Frankfurt a. M./New York 2005 (1983), p. 15.
  8. Benedict Anderson: Imagined Communities. Reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. Verso, London 1983, ISBN 0-86091-059-8 .
  9. English original text in the second edition: With a certain ferocity Gellner makes a comparable point when he rules that 'Nationalism is not die awakening of nations to self-consciousness: it invents nations where they do not exist. 11 The drawback to this formulation , however, is that Gellner is so anxious to show that nationalism masquerades under false pretences that he assimilates 'invention' to 'fabrication' and 'falsity', rather than to 'imagining' and 'creation'. In this way he implies that 'true' communities exist which can advantageously be juxtaposed to nations. In fact, all communities larger than primordial villages of face-to-face contact (and perhaps even these) are imagined. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities, Introduction, p. 49
  10. Robert Miles: Racism. Hamburg 1991, p. 118 f. Cf. Robert Miles: The connection between racism and nationalism. In: Roland Leiprecht (Hrsg.): Among others: Racism and youth work. Duisburg 1992, pp. 20-43.
  11. ^ Karl Raimund Popper: The Open Society and Its Enemies. Vol. 2: The High Tide of Prophecy: Hegel and Marx, and the Aftermath. Princeton (5) 1966, pp. 49-51.
  12. Nikolaus Westerhoff: The fairy tale of the good patriot . In: Süddeutsche Zeitung , 14./15. July 2007; Adam Rutland et al .: Development of the positive-negative asymmetry effect: in-group exclusion norm as a mediator of children's evaluations on negative attributes . In: European Journal of Social Psychology , 37 1, 2006, pp. 171–190; Dieter Langewiesche : Nationalism in the 19th and 20th centuries. Between participation and aggression; Lecture to the discussion group on the history of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Bonn on January 24, 1994 . Bonn 1994, p. 16 ( online , accessed on February 22, 2019); Christian Jansen with Henning Borggräfe: Nation - Nationality - Nationalism. Campus, Frankfurt am Main 2007, pp. 18 and 34 f.
  13. ^ Sabine Witt: Nationalist intellectuals in Slovakia 1918–1945. Cultural practice between sacralization and secularization . Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / Munich / Boston 2015, ISBN 978-3-11-035930-5 , p. 20 ff.
  14. ^ A b Gisela Riescher : Nationalism. In: Dieter Nohlen and Rainer-Olaf Schultze (eds.): Lexicon of Political Science , Vol. 2: N – Z. Theory, methods, terms . Beck, Munich 2005, p. 599.
  15. Hans-Ulrich Wehler : German history of society, first volume: From Feudalism of the Old Reich to Defensive Modernization 1700-1815. Beck, Munich 1987, p. 508.
  16. Volker Kronenberg: Patriotism in Germany. Perspectives for a cosmopolitan nation. VS Verlag, Wiesbaden 2006, p. 155.
  17. ^ Hans-Ulrich Wehler : German history of society. Fourth volume: From the beginning of the First World War to the founding of the two German states 1914–1949. Munich 2003, p. 22.
  18. Nationalism. In: Federal Center for Political Education (Ed.): Political Lexicon.
  19. ^ Adam Rutland: Development of the positive-negative asymmetry effect: in-group exclusion norm as a mediator of children's evaluations on negative attributes. In: European Journal of Social Psychology. 137, pp. 171-190; Nikolas Westerhoff: The fairy tale of the good patriot. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung , No. 160 from 14./15. July 2007.
  20. Peter Alter: Introduction. In: the same (ed.): Nationalism. Documents on the past and present of a phenomenon. Piper, Munich 1994, p. 18.
  21. ^ Friedrich Meinecke: The age of the German uprising, 1795-1815 . Velhagen & Klasing, 1906, quoted from Karen Hagemann : Contested memory: The anti-Napoleonic wars in German memory . Schöningh, Paderborn 2019, p. 21.
  22. Ute Planert: When does “modern” German nationalism begin? Plea for a national saddle time . In: Jörg Echternkamp and Oliver Müller: (Ed.): The politics of the nation. German nationalism in war and crises 1760 to 1960 . Oldenbourg, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-486-56652-0 , pp. 25–60, the quotation p. 51 (accessed via De Gruyter Online)
  23. ^ Dorothea Weidinger: Nation - Nationalism - National Identity. Bonn 1998, p. 25 f.
  24. Konstantin Langmaier: The land of Ere and Nucz, Frid and Gemach: The land as a community of honor, utility and peace: A contribution to the discussion about common utility. ' In: Quarterly for social and economic history . tape 103 , 2016, p. 178-200 .
  25. ^ Hywel Bishop: We Beat 'em': Nationalism and the Hegemony of Homogeneity in the British Press Reportage of Germany versus England during Euro 2000. In: Discourse & Society 14 (2003) 3, pp. 243-271.
  26. Angela Daalmann: Football and Nationalism. Manifestations in press and television reports in the Federal Republic of Germany and the United States of America using the example of the 1994 soccer World Cup . Carpenter, Berlin 1999.
  27. Alan Tomlinson, Christopher Young (Ed.): National Identity and Global Sports Events: Culture, Politics, and Spectacle . State University of New York Press, Albany, NY 2006, ISBN 0-7914-6615-9 ( online ).