What is Nationalism?

All speculations concerning about the practical arts of government constituted merely subjectively, that the moral agent of spontaneous causations and theoretical causalities conceive the inevitably appearance of various distinct forms. The democracy in America, as declared by Alex de Tocqueville, is “the principle of the sovereignty of the people is not either barren or concealed, as it is with some other nations; it is recognized by the customs and proclaimed by the laws……it spreads freely, and arrives without impediment at its most remote consequences……” The inquiry of a civil government was primarily concerned about the nature of sovereignty, which was recognized by the spread of nationalism. Some ends of the political life were activities, while others produced ends outside of the works, for which a civil government concerned, the work itself ought to be seen as a mere mean of humanity; However, if the products were aimed at good, or politikai, including all multitudes of happiness. Therefore, all arts were aimed at the ultimate goal of happiness, which constituted the components of nationalism. For the pursuit of universalized goods, it requires a prevailing spiritual idea—nationalism, it stated people of similar ethnic groups and cultures ought to be united together to form a nation.

The revolutions of 1848 created incentives for the birth of modernized nationalism, although many nations tried lone before 1848; However, the unification of Italy and German Empire gave the two unique examples of how one state, with strong military force and skillful diplomatic maneuvers, could play such a leading role in uniting the country.

Just like Italy and Germany, the United States also became united after its civil war, although with the greatest mortality ever in history. United States, it could be expressed in two connotations—a complex with different ethnicities, or a symbol of “American Dreams”. On the one hand, the harsh environment and famines during the age of Industrialization brought many immigrants from Europe into the United States, or many traders and merchants whose seeking for new commercial profits and opportunities came to U.S. The United States has its own unique interpretation of nationalism, which could be roughly described as “a nation with similar ideas with different ethnic groups.”

Since most nations adopted similar ideas of life nowadays, however, this is the result of many years of experiments and reforms. For instance, the Germany nowadays, we can hardly describe it as a militaristic state; However, case was different before the reunification of West and East Germany, Prussia formed the core part of the German Empire, as the leading role of uniting a German state, and a militaristic state with intense sense of conscriptions. However, after two world-wide wars, Germany was pulled apart—the “birth place” of Germany, East Prussia, was now belong to Poland. Furthermore, after the brutal intelligence agency, Stasi, East Germany experienced terrible terrors of spies. Therefore, Germany nowadays became the first power in Europe when comes with banking and finances, such financial centers, like Frankfurt, served as an important in leading German’ national economy; However, the militaristic environment of Germans, almost disappeared.

In fact, nation mostly expressed its desires, or standards of living, on a set of laws, or codes. Such cases were, the Salic Code by the Clovis, the founder of Merovingian Dynasty; the Napoleonic Code by Napoleon I; Shang Yang under the reign of the Duke Xiao. Those legal codes consisted partly, or mostly the ideas of restricting behaviors of a specific ethnic group.

Under the considerations of a civil government, which confirms the existence of written laws with equality before the laws, and parliamentary supremacy. However, this mechanical art of government was only imagined, as institutional differences inevitably occurred in the emergence of separation of governmental bureaucracy. Such as satrapies of the Persian Achaemenid Dynasty, or the political ideas of liberty existed in forms of parliamentary separations of political legitimacy, which states in Montesquieu’s book—The Spirit of Laws.

Therefore, the “spiritual family” and “imagined community” essentially represent the similar idea of a national state, for which the ethnic superiority appeared in the forms of legal codes, however, was fairly restricted by the idealistic pursuits of several unified ideas. To illustrate, Roman Empire emerged as a small city-state in central Italy, however, it conquers the close cities. From the slow and gradual process of transforming a Roman Republic to a Roman Empire, the Romans have no desires of assimilating its conquered area like the Chinese Empire does, it, in contrast, preferred to grant the non-Romans with citizenships, for which allowed their personal faiths and living habits, but served in a common purpose throughout the empire. Cicero, the prominent Roman statesman, states that the republic form existed even the Augustus came to the throne, as he respected the old Senate, and the plebeians. As a result, different ethnic group eventually formed the similar language of Latin, and evolved into a common value or moral code of the state—Christianity. For the most important part, is the emergence of a state within the common idealistic purposes—make a strong Roman Empire.

Consequently, the “spiritual family” and “imagined community” represents the similar conceptions but in different ways of phrasing.

© 2017~2020 Christopher Wang 

International Educational Philosophy Seminar

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