Nationalism is inherently expansionist and destructive - discuss

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“Nationalism is inherently expansionist and destructive” – discuss

Nationalism has often been perceived as an expansionist and destructive ideology due to its somewhat self-centred nature. Unlike Socialism or Liberalism, which focus on what’s best for people generally (be it collectivism and co-operation or equality of opportunity and freedom), nationalism takes a more self-focused approach. The emphasis is on the situation of the nation itself as opposed to all of humankind. However the idea that this is expansionist and destructive is perception, the question of whether this is so in reality can only be judged by considering the forms of nationalism that have been evident in history. Whether in actuality nationalism is a force that encourages nations to behave in an expansionist and destructive manner (both towards other nations and to minorities within the nation itself) is largely dependent on the form of nationalism in question. The central themes of nationalism – belief in the nation, organic community, self-determination and identity – do not in themselves give a presentation of an expansionist and destructive ideology, merely one concerned with pride and preservation. However nationalism is an ideology that can be adapted to fit with various ways of thinking, from liberal to fascist. Within some varieties of nationalism, such as expansionist nationalism, the extreme interpretations of these core ideas can result in a dominating and destructive nationalistic feeling. However this is not representative of nationalism as a whole as most types of nationalism do not take such an aggressive approach.

Within Liberal nationalism there is little evidence of destructive and expansionist feelings. In contrast the focus of nineteenth century liberal nationalists on the concept of self-determination (freedom for nation-states) was liberating as it allowed individual nations to be seen not as the property of another nation but as having their own rights and freedoms. For example the liberal nationalist view allowed for the Italian states to remove the oppressive Austrian regime that controlled them and instead achieve desired unity. It can clearly be seen that liberal nationalism is in no way expansionist or destructive – there is no urge to claim or destroy another nation in order to assert ones own superiority. Liberal nationalism supports the idea of freedom for all nations, if a nation is free the individuals within it will be free also. This is evidently a positive concept rather than a destructive one. Furthermore liberals value toleration, meaning they accept each nation’s right to govern itself and therefore do not regard it as acceptable for one nation to infringe on another’s freedom. It could be argued that liberal nationalism, though not inherently expansionist or destructive, is largely irrelevant because it is most notably associated with the Enlightenment as opposed to more recent times and it is therefore unrepresentative of nationalism as a whole. However this is not the case as liberal nationalism has clearly been evident within the twentieth century. This can be seen in the growth of support for self-determination in Scotland in the latter half of the century, ultimately resulting in devolution of power. In addition the formation of the independent, liberal, democratic Czech Republic during the collapse of the Soviet Union shows indisputable strong liberal nationalist feelings. Liberal nationalism therefore remains a significant strand of nationalism and is neither expansionist nor destructive by nature, but instead respects and regards each individual nation.

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Cultural nationalism is another common form of nationalism that does not express expansionist destructive tendencies, indeed it even lacks the strength of self-determination evident in liberal nationalism. Instead it retains a clear sense of pride for the cultural factors that bind the nation together, for example language, art and history. This is apparent in Wales where there is a desire to preserve Welsh language, literature and history within social and educational contexts, yet maintain the political link with England. This type of nationalism is obviously not inherently expansionist and destructive as nations in which it is evident do not display ...

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