What Is Nationalism? Nationalism Defined

(Last Updated On: February 11, 2019)
What Is Nationalism? Nationalism Defined

Many people have a deep love and pride for where they come from. It’s part of what makes us who we are. We throw around the terms nationalism and patriotism almost interchangeably, but these words have a vastly different meanings connected by one thing – a nation. So what is nationalism? What is patriotism? And how can you tell them apart?

What Is Nationalism?

In its simplest form, nationalism can be defined as “loyalty and devotion to a nation.” But this definition really only scratches the surface. Nationalism is a political, social, and economic ideology. At the core of nationalism is a desire to protect and promote the interests of a particular nation.

Nationalism comes in many forms, and among the tenets are a belief that a nation should have sovereignty over their homeland and that each nation should govern itself and have a right to self-determination. More recently, a large component of nationalism has been an aim to build a single national identity, one which is based on a shared culture, language, religion, and politics.

Today, a large part of nationalism is a desire to preserve a nation’s traditional culture, and as such, nationalism often is lumped in with other ideologies, like conservatism or socialism.

What Is Patriotism?

Patriotism is defined as “devotion to and vigorous support for one’s country.” It can be seen as loyalty to one’s nation, and it encompasses the values, laws, and order used to govern a body of people.

Patriotism, in and of itself, is less about a political movement and more closely aligned with being a representative and advocate for the well-being, security, and prosperity of the nation-state as a whole.

It isn’t about any one culture or identity. Patriotism calls for all citizens of a country to have national pride. It is the feeling of love and devotion to a country, and an alliance with those who feel the same way.

What Is the Difference between Nationalism and Patriotism?

The word patriotism is older than nationalism. It starts showing up in the English language during the late 17th century. Patriot comes from the French word, patriote, which is translated as “one’s father.” Nationalism is a more modern word. It doesn’t appear until the late 19th century.

There is no doubt that these two words have many similarities. In fact, for a while both were used more or less interchangeably. But over time, nationalism came to be used to describe events and movements, giving it a more radical sentiment. And ultimately, therein lies the real difference between the two words.  Both describe a love of country, but nationalism comes with an idea that one nation is above all others. It puts a greater emphasis on the promotion of national culture, identity, and interests. It is this exclusionary aspect that really sets nationalism apart from patriotism.

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