Cambridge Encyclopedia » Cambridge Encyclopedia Vol. 53

nationalism - Principles of Nationalism, Theory of nationalism, Historical evolution of nationalism, Types of nationalism

political particular secure associated

A political doctrine which views the nation as the principal unit of political organization. Underlying this is the assumption that human beings hold the characteristic of nationality, with which they identify culturally, economically, and politically. A primary aim of nationalists, therefore, is to secure the right to belong to an independent state based on a particular national grouping. Nationalism is thus associated with attempts by national groupings to secure independence from dominance by other nation-states and to maintain that position against threats to it. It is often associated with the struggle against colonialism. More broadly, nationalism can be seen as a general political stance which holds that the principal aim of political activity should be to serve the national interest as opposed to that of a particular class or grouping. In practice, the national interest is, except in extreme cases such as war, open to different interpretations, and nationalism is often no more than an attempt to give legitimacy to a particular political standpoint. Nationalism, with the exception of anti-colonial movements, is based around a conservative, and sometimes romantic political philosophy that emphasizes the nation's past.

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