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Nationalism is... essentially sub-human and primitive in character, a deformity which no rational or civilised person would have anything to do . Discuss.

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'Nationalism is... essentially sub-human and primitive in character, a deformity which no rational or civilised person would have anything to do" (Miller p. 5) Great controversy surrounds the subject of nationalism. Nationalism has for over two hundred years helped to shape and re-shape history in all parts of the world, but have also many times been the grounds of conflict, revolution and genocide. For some, the ideology can be seen as an irrational and reactionary creed that allows politicians to pursue war in the name of the nation. Paradoxically, it can also be a progressive and liberating force, offering the prospect of national unity or independence (Heywood 2007 pp. 115). The term nationalism has its origin in the French Revolution where it was first used to denote the energy and power of the everyday people that was used to overthrow the monarchy. This essay will look at different examples of nationalism, through both theory and evidence, in order to investigate whether nationalism is deemed to be primitive or civilised, thus considering the statement in Miller's work. According to Oxford English dictionary, nationalism can be defined as a patriotic feeling, often to an excessive degree or an advocacy of political independence for a particular country. It has been contested whether nationalism is an ideology, doctrine or movement (White 2008). The ideology is based on the principle that the individual's loyalty and devotion to the nation-state outdo other personal or group interests, which can be seen when individuals go to war in order to fight for their country knowing it might be their last battle. ...read more.


If this is true, how come Miller mentions nationalism to be sub-human and primitive? Looking closer at self-determination, we can recognize several nations without a state, for instance the Kurds, who are internationally recognized as nation without a state, but are a minority within other states (Hannum 1996). It is difficult to determine whether all minorities within states have grounds for self-determination, since it is hard to know where to draw the line for what is acceptable so that a reasonable order can be kept. If all nations and cultural groups would demand a state of their own, this would cause, as Miller fears, chaos of nations claiming self-determination possibly leading to war, as seen in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. However, not all cultural groups demand a nation, or state, of their own, and it can be concluded that at any given time, not all nationalistic tendencies can be fulfilled. In order to investigate further whether the statement in Miller's work is correct, or just an explanation of a harmful branch of nationalism, we need to look into the theories concerning nationalism. One can distinguish between liberal and illiberal nationalism defined by Spencer and Wollman (1998), where they describe the liberal form as "nationalism [which] recognises the rights of other nations to exist... it sees national commitments as understandable and legitimate", which, again, follows the lines of the right to self-determination. One of the most classical authors on liberal nationalism, John.Stuart Mill, agrees with this notion claiming nationalism to be "the essential condition of ...read more.


A more recent example of this aggressive nationalism could be seen in the Rwandan Genocide in 1994 where around 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in only 100 days (BBC Rwanda: How the genocide happened 18 Dec 2008). Genocide in the name of nationalism is sub-human and irrational and goes strongly against the notion that nationalism can be civilised. We have now seen evidence that nationalism can often escalate into sub-human and irrational actions, agreeing with Miller's statement. This primitive form of nationalism still exists, which often can be seen in not only in Africa's former colonies, but also in the western world. In this respect nationalism is primitive, and in cases such as the Rwandan genocide, sub-human. However, Miller overstates the corruptness of nationalism and does not place enough significance upon virtue of self-determination that nationalism strives for. He clearly ignores the positive aspects of nationalism and only considers the end results of his selective choice of nationalism. It must be mentioned that media often places greater emphasis on bad news, than on good news; therefore the bad nature of nationalism has been more exposed than the good nature of it. We have seen evidence of both rational and irrational nationalism, where we cannot exclude one or the other, but agree that there is always a degree of nationalism in everyone, since we are all, for instance, Spanish or Swedish and have a heritage. It is therefore the form that nationalism takes in different events that determine whether it is justified or irrational, suggesting that irrational nationalism is only a branch of nationalism that sometimes shows its ugly face. ...read more.

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