Nations and Nationalism



Nations and Nationalism 





‘A nation is a symbolic community… a national culture is a discourse’ (Hall, 1992:292)

            A nation can be defined as a community of different people governed by one political rule. The people in that community use one official language to communicate to each other. The idea of being a nation is defined by the culture of the people. The culture of the people is greatly influenced by the politicians, community leaders and other sources like the media. The culture of the people is taught in schools and through communication that is able to reach many people like the media (Reisigl, 1999). The national identity of a person can be seen through the way a person behaves. People who belong to a certain nation tend to have similar behaviors and believe that it controls the way they live their life (Bourdieu, 1994).

When a person is born, they are not able to tell their national identity, but they are taught their culture as they grow up. This is to say that a nation is a collection of different cultures living in one community. For a person to be identified with a certain nation, they have to believe in the nation’s culture which makes them have a sense of belonging. The culture of a nation gives meaning their origin by memories of their common history. Culture influences the way people in one community accommodate each other’s actions and beliefs. A nation is built based on the past historical events, symbols that reveal events that brought happiness or sorrow and are able to bring together communities. The identity of a nation is formed from historical memories and the ability of different people to live together in harmony. A person has no control of his or her national identity. History has a great influence on how a nation is formed, the people who live in that society and share the same territories and boundaries.

The identity of a nation reveals the needs of the people, what they hope for and their way of looking at life. A nation preserves its history by establishing institutions like museums and having education systems that teach children about their history. National identity enables a person to have a meaning of who they are, and this influences the way they see themselves. A nation is built up of people who share different common ideas like history territory and values. Different communities that make up a nation have a common past, and try to build their future together. People who come from the same nation share a common past and future. This makes members of a nation have a common history (McKinlay, 2011). The lives of members of a society are also built around their national identity especially the way a legal system works. The national identity of a person is traced back to time and history. The historical events that happened whether positive or negative can be used to construct a person’s national identity.

Members of the same nationality can be identified by their narrative especially in areas like the media. The stories and historical events featured in the media show common events and experiences shared by the members of a nation. A nation is founded by the importance it gives to their myth of origin to create a national culture. Their myth of origin sometimes may be non-existent.  Industrialization and modernization have not affected the idea of nationalism but instead it has given it more importance especially in politics.

Members of the same nationality have common things that they share which differentiates them from other groups of people. National identities enable people to tolerate, respect and learn from each other. For a nation to exist and flourish there has to be trust among its members that enables them to develop and grow it. Nationalism brings unity to a nation that enables the members meet their needs. What differentiates nations is the common interest members pursue and share which is seen to be different other nation’s interests. The culture of a nation consists of the members of that nation’s belief, the way they behave and the symbolic historical thoughts (Gellner, 1997). Some of the characteristics of members of a nation include common attitudes, values; they try to achieve common goals and practices. The culture of a nation can be seen through the historical experiences that are represented with symbols and members of the nation continue to preserve their culture. Members of a nation show loyalty and are patriotic towards their country. They feel proud to be associated with a certain nationality. A nation’s may be identified by the member’s assumptions, their basic needs, requirements, the longings and desires of the ordinary people (Hobsbawm, 1990).

In a capitalist nation where their common interests are different from the other nations’, members of the nation are encouraged to develop their country by using local products to build their nation. Members of a nation are bound together by their need to be able to provide for themselves economically. Nations are made up of members of different ethnicity who are seen to have a common historical identity. The history that they share can be of war, people who were involved in the war to defend their country. In some countries like France, the national identity is their language. Members who share common myths and legends about their origin also form a nation. Individual members of a nation come up with stories of their origin that enable them understand their relationships to the world and each other.

The language used in a nation’s media like for example, newspapers, bond different members of a community together who do not know each other to have a relationship. Members of a nation who know each other are very limited. Some nations were formed because of rejection of some religious beliefs (Anderson, 1991). Those who rejected the oppression from their religions left and formed a nation that had freedom of worship. Members of nations value the nation’s interests above anything else to attain political sovereignty. Individual members of nations work together towards attaining a common good, in order to take care of the welfare of its people. The pursuing of common good and awareness has made individuals come together to form a nation and laws to govern them. Nationalism occurs when members of a community share a common language, tradition and have a sense of belonging. The sense of belonging to a nation makes them care about their history, the values of their nation and their traditions.

Some people become citizens of other nations regardless of their color or ethnicity. These immigrants are not bound by the identity of that country, culture or joint history and traditions. Members of a nation hope that their nation will be great and have a bright future. These notions bring together people of different languages and territories to come together and form a nation that has its own culture. People have become conscious of their nationalities, and this has greatly influenced the way people live their life. It has brought with it negative effects like racism. Racism makes members of a certain community see themselves as superior. This has made nations come up with ways of bringing people together through racial unification.

Nationalism makes people loyal to their country. Members of that country obey what the government tells them, and this is known as a duty to the nation. Most nations have their own national symbols and traditions. Nations have symbols like national flags that are respected. Members of a nation sing special songs that reveal how good and important their nation is. Whenever the national anthem is sung, people stand still and upright. This is a way of showing loyalty to a person’s country.

Nationalism is like a religion in which people are emotionally attached to, they believe in it, and it is a way of identification (Katz, 1999). Some people change their nationalities for economic reasons. They migrate to other nations to be economically empowered (Deutsch, 1966). Nationalism is a collection of identities and the members of these nations have a common cultural heritage. This makes nationalism to be closely related to political power as may influence the way people from different cultures associate with each other (Featherstone 1990). Territorial boundaries create nation, states and political associations (Guibernau, 2001). Globalization has its effect on nations. It has changed the national systems people migrate from one nation to another. Globalization in return has made nations have no boundaries. Politicians have used nationalism to enable them retain power in a territory. Nationalism is what creates nations and a common language shapes and influences a person’s daily life.

In conclusion, a nation cannot exist without its citizens. Due to globalization, people can be identified with different nations because of migration for economic reason. This has made the world have no bounders.



Bourdieu, P. (1994). Rethinking the State: Genesis and Structure of the Bureaucratic Field, in Sociological Theory 12/1: 1-18.

Reisigl, M., Liebhart, K., Cillia, R. ., & Wodak, R. (1999). The discursive construction of national identity. Edinburgh: EdinburghUniversity Press.

McKinlay, A., & McVittie, C. (2011). Identities in context: Individuals and discourse in action. Chichester, U.K: Wiley-Blackwell.

Hobsbawm, E. J. (1990). Nations and nationalism since 1780: Programme, myth, reality. Cambridge [England: CambridgeUniversity Press.

Gellner, E. (1997). Nationalism. Washington Square, N.Y: New YorkUniversity Press.

Anderson, Benedict R. O’G. (1991). Imagined communities: reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. London: Verso. pp. 224

Katz, D. (1999) Fields of psychology. New York.

Deutsch, K. W. (1966). Nationalism and social communication. Cambridge, Mass: M.I.T. Press.

Featherstone, M. (1990). Global culture: Nationalism, globalization, and modernity: a Theory, culture & society special issue. London: Sage Publications.

Guibernau, B. M. M., & Hutchinson, J. (2001). Understanding nationalism. Cambridge: Polity.



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