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Old 26th September 2010, 09:47 AM   #1
Dani
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The concept of nation in nationalism

Nation:

Quote:
A people who share common customs, origins, history, and frequently language; a nationality
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Nation

This is, more or less, the concept of nation that is used in nationalism.

Customs, origins and history are rather vague cultural traits. Language can be an objective cultural trait, but the same definition dismisses the possibility of equating language and nation. And we know they're not the same anyway. There are examples of people who share the same language but don't consider themselves from the same nation, and there are people who speak different languages and consider themselves part of the same nation.

So, with this concept of nation (the one used by the nationalists) we can't really deduce an objective correspondence with anything. It's too vague, it doesn't give us information to confine it. All we know is that a nation is a type of culture with blur borders. Language is the only trait that seems to be giving some information, but at the same time it has too many exceptions.

I read some time ago a definition that is much clearer, and I found it more informative and catchy. It was done in Spanish, so I'll translate it:

Nation:

Quote:
Culture to which its members refer to by using the word "nation".
Please, correct me if I made a grammar mistake. English is not my first language.

Even if looks like it, it's not a circular definition. The concept of nation doesn't rely on the concept of nation, but in the word "nation".

This definition, of course, makes this culture less relevant than, say, pipe smokers. And it shows the relevance nations should have in moral decisions in my opinion. It also shows that irrationality lies at the core of the concept of nation. It only serves as an irrational excuse for different types segregation.

Last edited by Dani; 26th September 2010 at 09:48 AM.
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Old 26th September 2010, 11:11 AM   #2
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Isn't it that some people finds the concept of nations very rational and rewarding, while others feels nations stops them. A member of the middle class in france and an asylum seeker from Iraq would perhaps relate to the word "nation" different.
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Old 26th September 2010, 11:16 AM   #3
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No word is "good" or "bad" in and of itself, IMHO. "Nationalism", or pride in your locale, is part of what makes people get out and pick up trash along the highway, or donate money to national parks. Here, I have no doubt, someone will charge into this thread saying that "nationalism is the root of all evil."
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Old 26th September 2010, 04:51 PM   #4
drkitten
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Originally Posted by Dani View Post
Nation:

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Nation

This is, more or less, the concept of nation that is used in nationalism.
Well, no.

Even your own rather poor source just lists it as one of six related concepts used in nationalism.

Quote:
a·tion (nshn)
n.
1.
a. A relatively large group of people organized under a single, usually independent government; a country.
b. The territory occupied by such a group of people: All across the nation, people are voting their representatives out.
2. The government of a sovereign state.
3. A people who share common customs, origins, history, and frequently language; a nationality: "Historically the Ukrainians are an ancient nation which has persisted and survived through terrible calamity" (Robert Conquest).
4.
a. A federation or tribe, especially one composed of Native Americans.
b. The territory occupied by such a federation or tribe.
By focusing only on the cultural definition of nation and ignoring the territorial one, you're only looking at half the picture. The idea behind a "nation" is that people who share a common government should share a common culture, and vice versa.

So Germany is a "nation" even though for most of history Germany was a collection of independent princelings, and the Hapsburg Empire was not a "nation" despite the fact that there was one Emperor and one government controlling it. The general model that has been followed (loosely) since 1648 and most closely since 1918 is that territorial boundaries should follow cultural ones. So, for example, the people who self-identify as "Polish" were granted a territory of their own in the aftermath of the First World War.

Obviously, these lines can never be drawn perfectly, since you can have someone who self-identifies as a "Pole" living between two people who self-identify as "Germans," and the diplomats try to take physical and military practicality into account -- for example, the Sudetenland is geographically part of Bohemia and form a natural and defensible border, even though most of the inhabitants in 1918 when the lines were drawn spoke German. Frankly, many of the Slovaks weren't too happy about being grouped in with the Czechs, either, which is why there's now two (since 1993) countries in the former Czechoslovakia.
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Old 26th September 2010, 05:40 PM   #5
Dani
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Originally Posted by drkitten View Post
Well, no.

Even your own rather poor source just lists it as one of six related concepts used in nationalism.
Poor source? It's just a definition. Feel free not to accept this definition and bring an alternative source if you want.



Quote:
By focusing only on the cultural definition of nation and ignoring the territorial one, you're only looking at half the picture. The idea behind a "nation" is that people who share a common government should share a common culture, and vice versa.
I'm ignoring the territorial one because it refers to an already existent independent government, and I don't want to talk about sovereign states or countries. They objectively exist. Whether a nation -in the sense that I gave- objectively exists as a sovereign country or not is irrelevant to define the nationalist standpoint. That's why I was avoiding the other meanings, because these other meanings share a correspondence with "country" or "state", and I'm not questioning the objective existence of sovereign states.

Quote:
So Germany is a "nation" even though for most of history Germany was a collection of independent princelings, and the Hapsburg Empire was not a "nation" despite the fact that there was one Emperor and one government controlling it. The general model that has been followed (loosely) since 1648 and most closely since 1918 is that territorial boundaries should follow cultural ones. So, for example, the people who self-identify as "Polish" were granted a territory of their own in the aftermath of the First World War.

Obviously, these lines can never be drawn perfectly, since you can have someone who self-identifies as a "Pole" living between two people who self-identify as "Germans," and the diplomats try to take physical and military practicality into account -- for example, the Sudetenland is geographically part of Bohemia and form a natural and defensible border, even though most of the inhabitants in 1918 when the lines were drawn spoke German. Frankly, many of the Slovaks weren't too happy about being grouped in with the Czechs, either, which is why there's now two (since 1993) countries in the former Czechoslovakia.
Thanks for the historical references, but the point I'm making is simpler. I'm talking about a concept and its usage among nationalists. However we agree that these lines can never be drawn perfectly. In fact, they are blur by definition.
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