Nationalism is the belief in your country’s inherent greatness. Nationalists believe their nation sits at the top of a hierarchy of power and greatness.
A nationalist doesn’t just love their country. They see the world as a power struggle between nations and believe their nation should win that power struggle.
It’s generally believed that nationalism is a bad thing because it leads to discrimination and prejudice, whereas patriotism is positive because it represents love of nation without the sense of superiority that nationalists have.
Examples of nationalism include xenophonia, intolerance, isolationism, expansionist military crusades, and enacting anti-immigrant policies.
1. Believing in your own culture’s superiority
The first sign of nationalism is the belief in national superiority. This is, in fact, the definition of nationalism.
We notice this in politicians who give speeches about their own nation’s greatness. Famously, many fascist leaders during World War II would talk about the innate greatness of their country and use this as justification for discrimination and prejudice against people of other nationalities.
Often, to achieve this contortion of logic, such strongman politicians frame their nation as an idea based on a single cultural group, such as framing a country as a ‘white nation’ or, in the case of WWII, an ‘Aryan’ nation.
By contrast, patriotic leaders will explain their love for their country without trying to construct a dualism between their own culture and other ostensibly inferior cultures across foreign shores.
2. Jingoism (Aggressive Foreign Policy)
Jingoism is a form of ultranationalism whereby a nation embraces an aggressive or warlike foreign policy.
The term originated during a period of heated nationalist rhetoric and competition in the late 1800s between Britain and Russia. “Jingoism” comes from a song of that period, “By Jingo!”, whose chorus included the lines:
We don’t want to fight, but, by jingo, if we do,
We’ve got the ships, we’ve got the men, and got the money, too!
In recent years, jingoism has been used to describe excessively nationalist foreign policies in any country. For example, after 9/11, some commentators accused U.S. President George W. Bush of jingoism for his rhetoric about a “global war on terror.”
3. Xenophobia (Fear of Foreigners)
Xenophobia is the fear or hatred of foreigners, people from different cultures, or anything that is perceived as being foreign.
Xenophobia can manifest itself in many ways, ranging from mild discomfort or suspicion of people from other cultures to full-blown bigotry and violence.
In its most extreme form, xenophobia can lead to genocide, as was the case with the Holocaust. Today, xenophobia is a major problem in many parts of the world, where it often leads to discrimination and violence against immigrants and minorities.
4. Anti-immigrant policies
A hyper-nationalist nation will typically implement anti-immigrant policies.
Similarly, nationalist political candidates often stoke fear of migration and promise to resolve this fear through the implementation of tough policies.
Examples of anti-immigrant policies include making the process for receiving citizenship harder, placing caps on immigration, and pausing migration from certain nations.
At its most extreme, anti-immigration sentiment can lead to migrants being kicked out of a country after they have moved and settled. Such policies are seen as violations of human rights.
The policy of assimilation is an attempt by a dominant culture to absorb a minority culture into its own. This often occurs when ethnonationalism is the official policy of a government.
This can be done through force, coercion, or persuasion. The goal is to eliminate the differences between the two cultures and create a homogeneous society.
There are many examples of this throughout history. The most famous is probably the Roman Empire, which absorbed the cultures of the countries it conquered. More recently, the Spanish dictator General Franco attempted to assimilate Catalonians by outlawing their language and forcing them to speak Spanish.
6. Economic nationalism
Another way nationalism manifests itself is in economic nationalist policies. These are policies implemented by both left-wing and right-wing populists designed to disadvantage foreign companies.
At its core, economic nationalism is the belief that a country’s economy should be protected from foreign competition. This can take many different forms, such as tariffs, quotas, and currency manipulation, in order to give your country an advantage over others.
Critics of economic nationalism argue that it leads to trade wars and ultimately harms consumers by raising prices. They also argue that it stifles innovation and growth by protecting inefficient industries.
Nationalism can manifest itself in sectarianism. This is the practice of dividing people into groups based on their religious, ethnic, or political beliefs.
In ultranationalist societies, this is done to oppress and marginalize the minority culture within a nation-state. By physically moving them to the outskirts of society, the minority groups are excluded from the mainstream ideal of what the nation-state should be.
Sectarianism is often seen in countries where there is a history of conflict between different groups, such as Ireland, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. In recent years, there has been an increase in sectarian tensions in many parts of the world, including the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia.
Fascism is a political ideology that emphasizes national unity and strength, as well as the power of the state. Fascists believe in a strong central government that controls all aspects of society, including the economy and the media. The above image shows status in North Korea, an example of a fascist nation.
Individual rights are subordinate to the needs of the state, and dissent is not tolerated.
Fascism first emerged in Europe in the early twentieth century, and it quickly spread to other parts of the world. In the United States, fascism saw an uptick during the Great Depression, when many people were attracted to its promises of economic stability and national unity.
Ethnocentrism is the belief that one’s own culture is the natural and most correct culture, and all others do things incorrectly.
This often manifests as a belief that other cultures are primitive or backward, and that they should adopt the customs and values of the dominant group.
Ethnocentrism can lead to prejudice, discrimination, and even violence. It is often based on a lack of understanding or knowledge about other cultures.
Examples of ethnocentrism include believing Asians are inferior for using chopsticks, expecting others to speak English when you travel abroad, and denying immigrants the right to practice their own personal culture.
Chauvinism is a form of nationalism characterized by an exaggerated or belligerent belief in your own side. The term has its origins in Napoleon Bonaparte’s army, where a soldier named Nicolas Chauvin was known for his excessive patriotism and hero-worship of Napoleon.
Chauvinism can manifest itself in a number of ways, including racism, xenophobia, and religious intolerance.
Chauvinism is typically exhibited through negative attitudes towards other countries or cultures. For example, someone who is chauvinistic may view foreigners as dirty and inferior to their own countrymen.
Read Next: 14 Types of Nationalism
Nationalism has unfortunately been the source of much conflict and bloodshed throughout history. When patriotic feelings are combined with a sense of superiority over other nations, they can lead to aggression and even war. Nationalism can also be used to justify the mistreatment of minority groups within a country.
By contrast, patriotism is often thought of as a positive quality. Patriots are typically proud of their country and are willing to defend it. This can lead to increased feelings of national pride, which can be beneficial in times of crisis. Unlike nationalists, patriots are often more tolerant of different cultures and beliefs than nationalists.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.