Nationalism (n.) - Untangling  A Twisted Definition - with special guest Justin Trouble

Nationalism (n.) - Untangling A Twisted Definition - with special guest Justin Trouble

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Left Definition

The idea that one's nation is superior to all others and deserves to hold power over those inferior to them.

Right Definition

Pride in one's country, culture and fellow countryman, and the belief that it’s important to take care of one's own before aiding others.

History & Etymology

Let’s start by taking a look at the word nation and its origin.

Nation can be traced back to the reconstructed PIE word gene- to “give birth, or beget.” The same origin as our word genetics and generation. In Latin the G sound dropped off of the front of the word and it developed in to nationem, this word meant “birth, origin, breed, stock, kind, species, race of people or tribe.” In French it became nacioun which meant “a race of people, a large group of people with common ancestry and language.” It wasn’t till it was borrowed into english that the specificly racial or genetic aspect slowly started to fall away. It still hasn’t entirely lost that part of its definition for some.

The OED has the earliest English Definition of nation as “I. A people or group of peoples; a political state,” first attested in 1330.

Early forms of nationalism, even though they may not have been called that at the time were usually based on ethnicity or religion. Like the Jewish revolts against Rome in the first and second centuries, when the Jews attempted to kick out the unwanted Romans who had come into their land.

And before World War 1 there was break down in nationalism. Nations began creating bigger and bigger binding treaties between nations creating an atmosphere of internationalism. With these treaties in place when one nation would attack another all nations involved in a treaty would be required to defend their allies. This simply escalated the numbers of people involved in the conflict until it enveloped the entire western world. Had we not had this atmosphere of “international cooperation” World War 1 may have just been a small regional conflict over an assassinated aristocrat. This is one of the reasons as someone on the right my definition of nationalism is a more positive one

During the build up to WWII both Italy and Germany began exploring a different kind of nationalism from the traditional one with a focus caring for one's own people and defense from invaders but focusing instead on expansion and a top down economic model best imposed during while on a war footing. This is where todays left get their definition of nationalist, and this is why they fear it.


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