Eugène Delacroix - La liberté guidant le peuple
Liberty Leading the People (Eugène Delacroix, 1830) is a well known example of nationalist art.

Nationalism is a way of thinking that says that every ethnic group of humans should be free to rule itself. Nationalists think that the best way to make this happen is for every ethnic group to have its own nation or society that they can rule without being controlled or oppressed by anybody else. Many nationalists think that nationalism is the best way to save small and not powerful groups, which are threatened by the mixing of ethnic groups. Nationalists think that the world is better with lots of cultural diversity. They also think that diversity is threatened by worldwide influences and mixing.

Nationalism in left-right politics

Many early socialists were also nationalists. The earliest forms of nationalism had lots of socialist features. In this period, political thinkers who thought that ethnic groups should not be oppressed by other ethnic groups thought also that 'normal folk', the backbone of society, like workers and peasants, should not be oppressed by higher social classes like rich people. They thought that it is wrong for somebody to live in great welfare that is made of the hard work of others, or the oppression of others. All the social classes should work together and have a common goal that aims for the good of everyone. These goals can be called "national interest". National interest is ideal and not always easy to find. There are different ways to reach national interest, for example politics.

Nationalists started to support and admire normal people

Socialism and nationalism grew together, but they have also been placed in opposition in some theories. The most known opposition between these ideologies was with the Soviet Union. The Soviet propaganda made nationalism an insult word that was linked with opposed ideologies like capitalism, liberalism, imperialism or fascism. Still, even in the Soviet Union and other communist or socialist countries, there was nationalism in great measure (even if it was not called with that name)

Today nationalism does not have a common stand on those fields of politics that are outside of its basic goals, like left-right politics. However nationalism can be a part of bigger political ideology or agenda that can be leftist or rightist or something outside that classification.

Nationalism is still usually connected to goals that resist strong hierarchy between social classes inside society. Nationalist people are usually more or less against the strongest forms of capitalism, which they think gives too much power to rich people and big companies.

Nationalism and imperialism

Nationalism had an important role in ending the colonial rule. Nationalism spread to colonies and made their people desire independence. Nationalism also made the people in metropolitan states (countries that colonized others) accept more the desire of other people to rule themselves. However nationalists think that the end of colonialization of Africa was not done well. They think that there would not be so many conflicts in Africa if African nations had built in a nationalist way (so that every ethnic group is its own nation). After the imperialists left their African colonies, the new nations were built with borders that were not the same as the ethnic borders. New nations became nations with many ethnic groups, which do not want to or cannot live peacefully in the same society with the others.

Related pages


Nationalism for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.