On Nation and Nationalism

April 21, 2009

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In response to Razib Khan’s recent post, it should be noted the traditional notion of a nation is prior to the state.  As the Latin nasci suggests,  the word ‘nation’ implies link by blood.  Members of a traditional nation believe they are ancestrally related.

Discussing the traditional concept of a nation, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote some years ago:

“To be a nation, a people must believe they are a nation and that they share a common ancestry, history, and destiny.”

In recent years, however, this definition has become blurred.  People now use ‘nation’ where the word ‘state’ would be more apt.  (A state can consist of various nations.)  Adding to this confusion is the notion of nationalism.  Although a creation of the 19th century, nationalism is related to the ancient concept of the natio, but has taken on an ideological connotation.  In essence, there are two visions of nationalism:

(1) A traditional understanding of nationalism as it relates to the ancient concept of the natio -  the respect and admiration of one’s own nation, but the realization that it cannot, because it is ancestrally limited, be imposed upon others.

And its modern perversion:

(2) Ideological nationalism, the worship of the abstract state, and the drive to impose this ideology upon others.

 

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