Nation and Nationalism: Its Basics and Effects on the Progression of the Society

By | March 3, 2021
Nation and Nationalism: Its Basics and Effects on the Progression of the Society

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This Essay talks about the basics of what brings about a Nation, what are the basis of Nationalism, and the difference between Nationalism and Patriotism. Usually, the concept of ‘Nation’ and ‘Nationalism’ is often used simultaneously, and would sometimes be used to describe the terms in a logical manner as well. Although the concept of nationalism was developed from the idea of ‘A Unified nation’, back in the 18th century in Europe, the concept of nationalism and the development of a healthy nation is not the same but, somehow, parallel to one another.

Other than the explanation of the concepts of Nation, Nationalism, and Patriotism, this essay opulently covers the relationship between India and Nationalism, along with the age-long followed traditions which became stale Stigmas and Taboos within our society.

Introduction

Whether one believes that nationalism creates the idea of nations or that the nations develop the ideas relating to nationalism, one cannot discuss the idea of Nationalism without considering what one means by a nation.’ – by Lowell W. Barrington, Marquette University[1]

The building up of a nation and its respect in this global society comes from the people, the respect people of that land give, not only to their nation but also the people living with them in that society, along with the sense of unity which provides a foundation for a strong nation.

Before diving into the concept of Nationalism, understanding what a Nation actually is necessary.

In layman’s terms, we can define a nation as “a large piece of land occupied by people of the same descent, possessing the same history, following the same culture, and controlled by a sovereign head”.

In political terms, we can define a nation as “a large body of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular country or territory”.[2]

As rightly stated by a professor of political science, “To survive in peace and harmony, united and strong, we must have one people, one nation, one flag[3]”, A Nation, as one would view it, is a united frontier. It’s the concept where the people belonging to the same descent and culture are united as one people under one flag, represented by a sovereign head who is either elected by the people or is pre-decided as a monarch. Either way, they’re the representatives of their Nation, being the first person, the country would look to, in this global society.

Usually, the concept of ‘Nation’ and ‘Nationalism’ is often used simultaneously, and would sometimes be used to describe the terms in a logical manner as well. Although the concept of nationalism was developed from the idea of ‘A Unified nation’, back in the 18th century in Europe, the concept of nationalism and the development of a healthy nation is not the same but, somehow, parallel to one another.

According to the Oxford dictionary, Nationalism is defined as, “identification with one’s own nation and support for its interests, especially to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations”. 

So, if we are to define and explain the concept of the term ‘Nationalism’, it can be explained as the feeling of loyalty and devotion of a person towards their home country and putting the interest of the country above the interest of its people in general.

Some might not understand why the two concepts of ‘development of a nation’ and the concept of ‘Nationalism’ are parallelly opposite.  Some might even argue that to develop a healthy nation the concept of Nationalism is imperative for a country to flourish.

There is another concept that has come out of the term of Nationalism, and that term is ‘Patriotism’. Patriotism, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary means, “the feeling of love, devotion, and sense of attachment to a homeland and alliance with other citizens who share the same sentiment”.

One could say that the concepts of Patriotism and Nationalism are the two sides of the same coin.

They are different, yet the same.

The base concept of these two terms is the same, however, the sentiments portrayed by them are theoretically different.

The basic difference between these two concepts, as we can interpret them, is that one sentiment is to feel proud and adore their country in what it does, while the other sentiment makes them feel proud no matter what their country does.

People who believe in the concept of Nationalism are not flexible and cannot take political criticism regarding the workings of their country. These people feel that whatever the workings of their nation may be, regardless of their impact on certain groups in society, it is justified and non-negotiable.  They feel the interest of a nation comes before the interest of its citizens.

It was rightly said by a renowned philosopher, Sydney. J. Harris,The difference between patriotism and nationalism is that the patriot is proud of his country for what it does, and the nationalist is proud of his country no matter what it does; the first attitude creates a feeling of responsibility, but the second a feeling of blind arrogance that leads to war.”

For a nation to progress and reach a certain stage in this International community, Patriotism, i.e., Being proud of one’s country is necessary, as it is the people who build the country, and make it reach its rightful place in this global society.

Having a Nationalist ideology to a certain degree might be fine, putting the interest of a nation, as a whole, first, however, the problem begins when people believing that the interest of the nation, as a whole is above the interest of certain sects of the society or people belonging to certain undeveloped communities in the society. If one loves his country and is proud of it no matter what it does, it leaves no room for any argument for improvement.

Society is an ever-changing concept comprising of natural variables. If there is no encouragement for improvement within the country, be it regarding the decisions taken by the government for implementing laws or waging wars against another country, which prima facie would harm the people of that nation, or the steps taken by a Monarch to implement or eradicate certain laws which would harm a certain sect of the country, the nation would not have any opportunity for progressing and moving forward. The Nation would not be able to grow without criticisms, as criticisms bring about change, which is necessary for removing certain toxic constants in a society.

India and Nationalism

Since India’s independence in 1947, the debate regarding the concepts of ‘Nationalism’ and ‘Patriotism’ is in full force.

There have been Nationalist movements since the 1800s by Indians against the British rule in the Nation. At that point, the concept of putting the Nation and the interest of the nation first was prioritized, and, in hindsight, the interests of the nation were considered indistinguishable from the interests of its citizens. It was considered that the nation, as a whole, was made by the people and for the people, and whatever the nation did to protect itself and its citizens should not be criticized as whatever has been done is being done for the benefit of the citizens and the Indian society as a whole.

In today’s world, however, the notion of loving and supporting their country has been conceptualized as a feeling of devotion to the country, but some people and groups of our nation sometimes cannot differentiate whether the argument of devotion is presented for the interest of the Nation or for the interest of the present sovereign authority of the country.

A healthy and progressive commonwealth is built by its people. If the people are well satisfied with the progress of the nation and their progress within the same, that society would be considered as what one would say as a perfect realm. However, since society is ever-evolving with constantly changing variables, and change is in itself an intrinsic part of evolution such a perfect realm is far from being in existence.

In the 1920s there were various nationalist movements that were being carried out all over India against the anarchical British rule. The Father of our nation, Mahatma Gandhi appeared to be the leader of such movements and came out to be a campaigner for the rights of the people and demanded their nation to be free.

It is due to these movements and certain other acts of people acting on a unified front that the concept and the feeling of nationalism strengthened, and somewhere, along the lines of gaining independence and progressing towards development where the fast-paced modernity was blending in with our traditions, we overexaggerated the very meaning of the word and lost sight of the very objective on which we stumped our beliefs of independence.

Social Stigma and Taboos

As we have understood, the concept of nationalism is the idea of the people of the country identifying with their nation-state. It’s the concept that helps people understand the need for protection of their nation from outside or, as one can dramatize it, against the dark forces even within the country. However, as it is said, excess of anything is bad, overreaching even the concept of Nationalism can turn out to be harmful.

People of certain countries belonging to certain religions, not only India in particular, believe protecting the customs of the land will protect the country, and somehow, the people of the country as well. They give this act the name of being a nationalist and hold in contempt any person who even begins to say otherwise.

To say it is a concerning thread of trend, to begin with, would be an understatement.

There have been a lot of practices that have been followed in India for a long time on the pretext of ‘Customs’. They had been developed in our society centuries back when we were still within the ancient period of our cultural civilization. Considering our history, there must be some reason for making such customs overall, however, with time, we stopped understanding those reasons and accepted the said ‘Customs’ as it is without considering its consequences and applied these said customs with brutal force without asking what and why were these practices started to even begin with.

Since all of these practices have been practiced as so-called customs in the name of traditions, without raising any concerns or clearing any doubts about them, a kind of staleness has come within them, affecting the health and growth of the people, which in turn hindered the growth of the nation as well.

Now, in this 21st century, things are being changed for the better. It’s a slow process, however, it’s heading in the right direction nonetheless. Earlier, women’s biological problems were not considered as a natural process but were considered as a disease. Since a certain practice regarding the same had been practiced in the name of ‘Traditions’, not following those practices was considered taboo. As if it was a contagious disease, women were made to sleep outside the house or in a separate part of the house, were made to eat separately, and were not allowed to touch anything within the house, as they considered the women in the house would make it “impure”.

There was also the concept of the mistreatment of the lower class who were also known as the “Shudras”. At one point, they were mistreated to such an extent, that they had to be given a certain status for their upliftment in today’s century.

There were various other practices relating to certain other customs as well, which if weren’t followed, they were considered as not only childlike and immature but were considered as people who do not respect the nation and people who want to grow out of their traditions, which was frowned upon, to say the least.

People just did not want to understand at that point and did not want to change, as they equated these brutal customs with the traditions of our country, and in hindsight, considered their violation to be a movement of being anti-national.

This psychology has been contained and changed vastly due to the progression of the society and every new generation moving forward with the idea of development, leaving behind the calamitous practices which were doing nothing but burying and injuring the actual ideologies and traditions on which our country is based on.

Evolution, as one can see, is a stepping stone that clears the pathway for a changed society into becoming a progressively modern nation.

Modernity doesn’t necessarily mean being influenced by the traditions and practices of the West, but rather, on the contrary, modernity means progressively developing our traditions with time so that they do not become stagnant and mature our society’s original traditions and practices, as our society advances towards progression with time.

Conclusion

In Conclusion, it can be rightly said that, for a country to head towards the right path, the people indeed have to show love and pride towards the working of their country however going overboard will do nothing but cause a mundane ruckus among the people and will, in turn, hinder the process of progression within the country.

Society needs to develop with time and need to discard practices that have gone stale and don’t fit within the modern world rather than fighting for worthless traditions and hanging on to them in the pretext of being “Nationalists” or “protecting the customs of the society and the country in general”. Basically, the upliftment of the people which would lead to the progression of the society would come when people follow the true concept of Patriotism and not confuse or infuse their overbearing concepts in the pretext of Nationalism.

If people would learn the difference between these two concepts, this world would be nothing but a blissful global society.


– Shiva Joshi

The author, Shiva Joshi, Amity Law School, Amity University Haryana has secured 5th Rank in the 5th National Essay Writing Competition on Nation and Nationalism 2021.


[1] Barrington, L. (1997). “Nation” and “Nationalism”: The Misuse of Key Concepts in Political Science. PS: Political Science and Politics, 30(4), 712-716. doi:10.2307/420397

[2] Oxford dictionary

[3] Pauline Hanson


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Author: Shiva Joshi

Student, Amity Law School, Amity University Haryana

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