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Nation and nationalism

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-S039-2
Version: v2,  Published online: 2017
Retrieved June 13, 2024, from

Article Summary

No one observing political events in the world today could deny the continuing potency of nationalism. Many of the most intractable conflicts arise when one national community tries to break away from another, or when two such communities lay claim to the same piece of territory. Yet to outsiders the basis for such conflicts often seems mysterious. People are prepared to fight and die for their nation, yet what exactly is this entity that commands such loyalty? Why should it matter so much that a person is governed by leaders drawn from one community rather than from another?

Philosophers are often inclined to dismiss nationalism as having no rational basis, but as resting merely on tribal instincts and brute emotions. Such a response overlooks the different forms that nationalism has taken: in particular, the contrast between authoritarian nationalism, which allows national cultures to be imposed by force and which may justify acts of aggression against neighbouring peoples, and liberal nationalism, which upholds the rights of individuals to form political communities with those with whom they feel identified and to protect their common culture. We need to examine carefully the arguments that have been advanced by nationalist thinkers in order to decide which form of nationalism, if any, is rationally defensible.

Citing this article:
Miller, David. Nation and nationalism, 2017, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-S039-2. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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