All 14 Types of Nationalism

nationalism definition examples types

Nationalism is a belief in the superiority of your nation over all other nations. At its most extreme, is a view that can lead to discrimination and prejudice.

For some, nationalism is seen as a positive force, leading to increased pride in one’s country and a desire to protect its sovereignty and culture. However, nationalism can also lead to exclusivity and xenophobia.

At its best, nationalism could be seen as enthusiastic patriotism (love of your nation and hoping for its success). At its most extreme, it has been used as an excuse for wars and genocide.

Types of Nationalism

1. Civic nationalism

Civic nationalism is a relatively liberal form of nationalism in which the nation is defined by its shared values and commitment to civic democracy rather than its bloodlines or ethnicity.

This type of nationalism arose in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries as a response to the rise of ethnic nationalism, which argued that nations should be defined by their racial or ethnic identity.

Civic nationalists instead argued that all citizens, regardless of their ancestry, could belong to the nation if they shared its values and traditions.

This inclusive idea of nationality was instrumental in the development of modern democracy, as it ensured that all citizens would be treated equally under the law.

Today, civic nationalism is prominent in the United States, where there is a belief that the USA is objectively the ‘best nation’ not because of its culture or ethnicities but because of its founding myth and constitution.

Related Article: Nationalism vs Patriotism

2. Cultural nationalism

Cultural nationalism is a form of nationalism in which the nation is defined by a shared culture rather than by ethnic heritage. Typically, cultural nationalists seek to promote and preserve the culture of their nation, often through the promotion of traditional values and the arts.

In some cases, cultural nationalists also seek to promote a sense of national identity by fostering pride in the nation’s history and achievements.

One criticism of cultural nationalism is that it promotes assimilation rather than multiculturalism. It encourages immigrants to disregard the culture of their heritage and embrace the traditional culture of their new country.

3. Economic Nationalism

Economic nationalism is a school of thought that favors the protection of a nation’s economy over globalization.

Proponents of economic nationalism believe that a country should focus on producing the goods and services that it needs domestically, rather than importing them from other countries. This can help the country to be more self-sufficient during wartimes or other times of disruption. It is a defensive form of nationalism designed to protect the nation-state rather than a belief in your own country’s superiority per se.

Economic nationalism is evident in both left-wing and right-wing populist movements.

This approach often includes policies such as tariffs and quotas, which can make foreign goods more expensive and difficult to obtain. Economic nationalists also tend to support government intervention in the economy, including subsidies and industry regulations.

While economic nationalism can help to protect domestic industries, it can also lead to trade wars and higher prices for consumers.

4. Ethnic nationalism

Ethnic nationalism is the most overtly racist of all forms of nationalism. It is the belief that a nation should be ethnically homologous.

The underlying belief in ethnic nationalism is that a single ethnicity is superior to other ethnicities, that ethnic groups cannot live together peacefully, and that a nation will be at its greatest when it is composed of just one ethnic group.

This type of nationalism often leads to conflict between different ethnic groups. For example, in the former Yugoslavia, tensions between the Serbs and Croats led to bloody ethnic cleansing and devastating civil war.

In Sri Lanka, Tamil nationalists have been engaged in a violent struggle for an independent state for decades. And in Rwanda, Hutu extremists perpetrated a genocide against the Tutsi minority in 1994.

5. Expansionist nationalism

Expansionist nationalism holds that a nation should expand its territory by force. It advocates for annexing neighboring countries and settling its people on that land through the process of colonization.

The most notable advocate of expansionist nationalism was 19th-century German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, who used it as a means to unify the German-speaking states.

In the 20th century, expansionist nationalism led to World War I, as Austria-Hungary and Russia competed for control of the Balkans. After the war, it was a key component of Japanese militarism, which led to the country’s invasion of China in 1937.

In the 21st century, expansionist nationalist sentiment has been growing in several countries, including China and Russia. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a quintessential example of expansionist nationalism due to Putin’s belief that Ukraine ‘belongs’ to Russia.

6. Linguistic nationalism

Linguistic nationalism is the idea that a nation should be defined by a common language. This is in contrast to other forms of nationalism, which may place more emphasis on a shared culture or ethnicity.

Language nationalists often argue that a shared language is necessary for social cohesion and communication and that it is an important part of a nation’s identity.

However, critics argue that language nationalism can lead to linguistic discrimination and oppression. They also point out that many nations are already multilingual, and that forced assimilation into a single language would be impractical and potentially harmful.

An example of linguistic nationalism was the suppression of the Catalan language during the reign of General Franco in Spain. The idea was if Catalonians lost their language, they would more likely assimilate into the federalist Spanish culture.

Quebec, a province of Canada, also has an undercurrent of linguistic nationalism. The province, which calls itself a nation despite lack of federal or international recognition, has enacted a range of policies designed to force people to speak French in educational, business, and political spaces.

7. Left-wing nationalism

Left-wing nationalism tends to hold that left-wing and socialist ideals are necessary in order to preserve a nation’s unique identity from the imperialist and capitalist ambitions of other nations.

Left-wing nationalists also typically argue that the working class must lead the way in this struggle. In many cases, left-wing nationalists have been allied with Marxist parties and movements.

Prominent examples of left-wing nationalist movements include the Irish Republican Army, the Basque Fatherland and Liberty party, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation in Mexico, and of course, the Communist Party of Cuba.

8. Liberal nationalism

Liberal nationalism holds that a nation-state should preserve Western values including liberalism and democracy within its borders, often by enacting illiberal policies to achieve this goal.

Liberal nationalists in the francophone world, for example, have enacted laws that restrict people’s rights to wear religious outfits in public spaces. The principle here is that religions are illiberal and, therefore, should not be tolerated in a liberal society.

This is a form of liberalism that is so aggressive that it has contorted itself and become illiberal.

Liberal nationalists also tend to support a limited role for government in the economy, believing that the free market is the best way to promote economic growth and development.

9. Liberation nationalism

Liberation nationalism is a political ideology that emerged in the mid-20th century in response to the decolonization process. Liberation nationalists argue that each nation has the right to self-determination and should be free from the control of foreign powers.

The goal of liberation nationalists is to achieve independence for their country and to create a sovereign state. In many cases, liberation nationalists have also sought to promote independent economic and social development within their countries.

It is similar to left-wing nationalism in its anti-imperialist ambitions. However, it does not embrace Marxism or communism to achieve these goals.

In recent years, liberation nationalist movements have been very active in Africa and Latin America.

10. National conservatism

National conservatism believes in preserving traditional values and institutions such as the family, religion, and the nation-state. They also tend to support a strong military and an aggressive foreign policy.

This type of nationalism is highly skeptical of change and wants to preserve the traditional culture of a society.

It may manifest itself in anti-immigrant sentiment with the idea that migration accelerates change and imports difference. It’s also skeptical of globalism because a globalized world leads to importing of different cultural ideals.

However, advocates of national conservatism argue that its emphasis on the preservation of traditional values can help protect traditional values that may protect their families and children.

11. National Socialism

National socialism, often shortened to Nazism, is a political ideology that rose to prominence in Germany during the early twentieth century.

At its core, national socialism is an extreme form of nationalism that holds the belief that the Aryan race is superior to all other races and that the Aryan people are destined to rule the world. National socialists also have a strong commitment to racial purity and, in Germany, sought to create a purely Aryan society through policies such as eugenics and anti-Semitism.

While it has the term ‘socialism’ in its name, national socialism tends not to embrace socialist policies. It is anti-trade unionism and pro-corporatism. However, it does tend to embrace the nationalization of key industries so that they may support the nation’s military efforts.

Today, there are small pockets of national socialist groups in many Western nations, but they usually only number in the low thousands.

12. Pan-nationalism

Pan-nationalism is a type of nationalism that transcends national boundaries to envision nations based on ethnic background. It aims to undermine and re-draw the boundaries of nations.

This type of nationalism is particularly popular in colonized nations where superimposed boundaries were drawn against the will of local ethnic groups. For example, pan-Arabism envisions an Arab state that spans northern Africa and the Arabian peninsula. It has also been envisioned in Bolivarian areas of South America (e.g. Venezuela and Colombia) and across the continent of Africa (pan-Africanism).

Pan-nationalism tends to manifest itself as a form of left-wing socialism due to its opposition to colonialism and imperialism. It attempts to destabilize the hegemony of Western capitalism and envision a new decolonized world. It is related to transnationalism but not the same.

13. Religious nationalism

Religious nationalism is the idea that a nation should be defined and unified by a shared religion.

For example, you may hear people arguing that the United States should exclusively endorse Christian values and marginalize all other value sets.

Religious nationalists may promote government policies that actively support the dominant religion and promote the conversion of members of other religions (or ask them to leave the country).

They also often see their country as being under attack by people of other religions, and they view religious diversity immigration as threats to their way of life.

There are examples of religious nationalism among groups from just about every religion. In the middle ages, there were attempts in Europe to create a pan-Christan state called Christendom. Similarly, Buddhist nationalism has been popular in places like Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Thailand.

14. Romantic nationalism

Romantic nationalism advocated the return of a nation to an imagined past when the nation was supposedly more idealistic than it is today. It also often takes the form of an emotional attachment to iconic symbols, such as historic buildings or traditional dress.

Romantic nationalists often seek to promote their own culture, language, and values, while downplaying the importance of other cultures. In some cases, this can lead to xenophobic or racist attitudes towards members of other groups.

Nationalism vs Supranationalism

Supranationalism is a related term, but it is actually anti-nationalistic. Supranationalism refers to the idea of multiple nations coming together to form a higher authority, such as a supranational organization or government. Nationalism, as we have seen, prioritizes the opposite: nationalism is against ceding sovereignty. While nationalists emphasize national culture, identity, and independence, spranationalists emphasize cooperation, interdependence, and a shared cross-border identity.


Nationalism is a belief, creed or political ideology that involves an individual believing in the superiority of your own nation over others. Nationalism is often combined with other ideologies such as conservatism or socialism to embrace both a belief in national superiority and belief in an ideal ideology to govern the nation.

For some, nationalism is seen as a positive force, leading to increased pride in one’s country and a desire to protect its sovereignty and culture. However, nationalism can also lead to exclusivity and xenophobia.

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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. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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