- Date: 1844
- 1 : loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially : a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups
- 2 : a nationalist movement or government
Nationalism involves a strong identification of society and the state. Often, it is the belief that an ethnic group has a right to statehood, or that citizenship in a state should be limited to one ethnic group. It can also include the belief that the state is of primary importance, or the belief that one state is naturally superior to all other states. It is also used to describe a movement to establish or protect a homeland (usually an autonomous state) for an ethnic group. In some cases the identification of a national culture is combined with a negative view of other races or cultures. Nationalism is sometimes reactionary, calling for a return to a national past, and sometimes for the expulsion of foreigners. Other forms of nationalism are revolutionary, calling for the establishment of an independent state as a homeland for an ethnic underclass.
Nationalism emphasizes collective identity - a 'people' must be autonomous, united, and express a single national culture. However, some nationalists stress individualism as an important part of their own national identity.
National flags, national anthems, and other symbols of national identity are often considered sacred, as if they were religious rather than political symbols. Deep emotions are aroused. Gellner and Breuilly, in Nations and Nationalism, contrast nationalism and patriotism. "If the nobler word 'patriotism' then replaced 'civic/Western nationalism', nationalism as a phenomenon had ceased to exist."
Before the development of nationalism, people were generally loyal to a city or to a particular leader rather than to their nation. Encyclopedia Britannica identifies the movement's genesis with the late-18th century American Revolution and French Revolution; other historians point specifically to the ultra-nationalist party in France during the French Revolution.
The term nationalism was coined by Johann Gottfried Herder (nationalismus) during the late 1770s. Precisely where and when nationalism emerged is difficult to determine, but its development is closely related to that of the modern state and the push for popular sovereignty that came to a head with the French Revolution and the American Revolution in the late 18th century. Since that time, nationalism has become one of the most significant political and social forces in history, perhaps most notably as a major influence or postulate of World War I and especially World War II. Fascism, is a form of authoritarian civic nationalism which stresses absolute loyalty and obedience to the state, whose purpose is to serve the interests of its nation alone.