Is nationalism overrated?
Nationalism is an individual, idealized attitude of an individual towards their nation. It is based on an uncritical acceptance of ideas about the greatness of one's own nation and, linked to this, includes the willingness to accept public, state and political authorities uncritically. At the same time, social minorities and foreign nations are said to be stereotypically inferior. Synonymous terms are pseudo-patriotism (linked to ethnocentrism, Levinson, 1950) and blind patriotism (Staub, 1997).
The central, underlying construct is that of national identity.
Anonymous term is (constructive) patriotism:
Nationalism and patriotism both include the willingness of the individual to actively contribute to the good of the community. An important difference between the two constructs, however, arises from the respective definition of the national self-concept, whose goals and categories are used for group comparison (Staub, 1997; Blank, Wittenberg & Schneider, 1999). In nationalism, the establishment of social homogeneity is a dominant goal for a large number of categories. Differences between the members of a nation are therefore rejected. Extreme examples are attempts at ethnic homogenization such as those attempted in the Third Reich through the systematic persecution of Jews (Klemperer, 1995) and, more recently, through attacks on foreigners (Lüdemann, 1995). The ethnic category used for delimitation is not based on objective characteristics but on subjective processes of perception and definition. For example, many members of the Jewish community did not identify with their own ethnic group in the period from 1933 to 1945 (see Bendix, 1985). Further signs of extreme nationalism are a hierarchical relationship between the state and the individual as well as the idealization and overvaluation of one's own nation (Levinson. 1950; Tajfel, 1969; Blank, Wittenberg & Schneider, 1999).
Blank and Schmidt (2000) formulate the assumption that nationalism and also patriotism are associated with values of loyalty (Lemberg, 1964). For example, Levinson (1950) defined ethnocentrism as an ideological worldview that reflects certain attitudes of the nation. Similarly, several general worldviews, general values, and norms of nationalism and patriotism can be identified as a specific attitude towards the people (Allport, 1979). For example, Staub (1997) identified values of prosocial behavior as predictors of patriotism. Adorno et al. (1950) cited authoritarian feature structures as the cause of nationalism. With regard to these assessments, nationalism has its origin in values such as dogmatism, social-Idarwinism and the desire for rule, in the acceptance of authoritarian structures and in the need for homogeneity by means of self-classification according to ethnic criteria (Evans, 1952; AIIport, 1979; Blank & Schmidt, 1994; Hermann & Schmidt, 1995). In contrast, patriotism is characterized by values such as freedom, equality, brotherhood, humanity and individualism. This also includes prosocial behavior, the application of civil rights and the acceptance of cultural diversity (Habermas 1990, 1993; Sternberger, 1990; Cohn-Bendit & Schmid, 1992; Staub. 1997). Another important construct in this context is that of ethnicity.
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