Merits and Demerits of Nationalism (Nationalism: Curse or Blessing)

Merits and Demerits of Nationalism:

Is nationalism good or bad? To answer this question, it is essential to see the good and bad points of nationalism. First of all, we shall discuss its merits and then its demerits.

Merits of Nationalism:

Nationalism has got the following points-

(1) It is pointed out that nationalism tends to promote unity among the members of the state. It is a strong feeling of personal identification with national territory i.e., homeland or the motherland or the “fatherland” these feelings cherished for one’s own home are extended to the whole nation. So all this promotes unity among the members of the state.

(2) Nationalism often offers a dynamic force for cultural and economic activity. Kohn observes that the nationalist sees nationality as the source of all creative energy and economic well-being.

(3) Thirdly, nationalism contributes to the faith of subject nations struggling to throw off alien rule. Indian struggle for independence attests to the truth of this statement.

Demerits of Nationalism:

Nationalism has got a negative side also. In the final chapter of his Essays on Nationalism entitled “Nationalism: Curse or Blessing”, Hayes asserts, nationalism has been “a curse and noting but a curse”. Rabindranath Tagore, the Indian poet and philosopher, held that nationalism was a great menace because it calls for a “strenuous effort after strength and efficiency and thereby “drains man’s energy from his higher nature, where he is self-sacrificing and creative”. Victor Gollancz wrote, “Of all the evils I hate I think I hate nationalism most”. Arnold Toynbee’s ten-volume work, “A Study of History” contains many references to crimes committed in the name of the nation-state and of nationalism during the last three or four hundred years. Professor Shafer closes his careful study of nationalism with a fervent attack on the whole concept and with a plea for the brotherhood of man, Vladimir Solovyev, Russian philosopher of the nineteenth century, wrote about nationalism: “In its extreme form, it destroys a nation, for it makes it the enemy of mankind”.

Other defects in nationalism can be discussed as under:

(1) Nationalism is responsible for the failure of attempts to organize the world for peace and human freedom, as indicated by the failure of the League of Nations.

(2) It is an obstacle in the path of forming a world government.

(3) Nationalism also comes in the way of solving major international, political, economic and social problems.

(4) Many writers regard it as the chief force behind the war. George Kenham gives the following hypothesis after a thorough study of the explanations for the U.S.A.’s acquisition of the Philippine Islands in 1898:

“When one notes the variety of arguments put up by the expansionists for the territorial acquisitions of 1898, one has the impression that none of them was the real one, that at the bottom of it all lay something deeper, something less easy to express, probably the fact that the American people of that day, or at least many of their more influential spokesmen, simply liked the smell of empire and felt an urge to range themselves among the colonial powers of the time, to see our flag flying on distant tropical isles, to feel the thrill of foreign adventure and authority, to bask in the sunshine of recognition as one of the great imperial powers of the world”.

(5) Lord Acton holds that nationalism over-rules the rights and wishes of the inhabitants, absorbing their divergent interests in a fictitious unity, sacrifices their several inclinations and duties to the higher claims of nationality, and crushes all natural rights and all established liberties for the purpose of vindicating itself.

Conclusion- To conclude our study of nationalism, we may say that in spite of various defects in nationalism, there is no doubt that it is a powerful force in the modern world. It is a relatively new development that is only now coming into its own in much of the world. Organski is right in his concluding remarks: “To believe that nationalism will vanish because it is dangerous or that nation will wither away or there are better ways of organizing mankind, is naive”.


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