Nation and State

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Can a state survive without nationalism?

This paper will respond to the argument that a state cannot survive without nationalism. For the purpose of this essay, two elements of nationalism are used. The first element states that nationalism maintains the similarity of culture as the basic social bond in the members of the nation1. The second element states that the state has legitimate rights to sovereign rule of a nation. The factors that result from the three elements of nationalism that contributes to the survival of the state are equality within people in the state in terms of the state being meritocratic and the administrative rights of the state. Nationalism results in two main factors that are essential for the state to survive, mainly, the administrative rights of the state and meritocracy. Hence, the state needs nationalism to survive. A nation, defined by Anthony Smith, is “[a] named population sharing a historic territory, common myths and historical memories [and] a mass public culture, a common economy and common legal rights,”2

For the purpose of this essay, all states will be referred to as modern states with a centralized power held by the state and a legal entity with sovereign rule over its people. This essay argues that nationalism is needed in unifying the nation with a common national identity in terms of linguistic and culture homogeneity, which is needed for the state to exercise its administrative right and practice meritocracy.

1 2

Ernest Gellner. Nationalism. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1997, p. 3

Wayne Norman, “Theorizing Nationalism (Normatively)” in Theorizing Nationalism, ed. Ronald Beiner (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999), p. 53

Language is no doubt one of the most essential aspects of nationalism because it is used by the state in administration and education. Education is a trait of modern states because it is used by modern states to teach the future generations about the culture and historical background of the nation in order to unify them. The use of this single common language then gives rise to the question of the national identity of the nation. This is because, a state is distinguished by its language and this language is often the administrative and official language of the state. This language that the state desires to educate its future generations in is essential in creating a homogeneous culture. The use of a common language can be seen as a feature of modern states as a kind of homogeneity of language3.

The first factor meritocracy is essential to the survival of the state because it treats everyone fairly and employment is based on qualifications of that person and not on race or social status. The practice of meritocracy is based on the first element of nationalism that states that nationalism maintains the similarity of culture as the basic social bond in the members of the nation4. It is usual for modern states to be multi-racial; therefore, this means that there will be a disparity in the numbers between the majority and minority race(s). Often, racism is common in multi-racial states and results in conflicts within the nation. Thus, being part of the nation, the minority race(s) are related to the state, based on the first element of nationalism, through a common history and language. This culture refers to the common language and a common historical background and it is through the use of a single common language in education, a common culture is fostered and used to unify the nation. This common culture refers to the 3

Charles Taylor, “Nationalism and Modernity” in The State of the Nation: Ernest Gellner and The Theory of Nationalism, ed. John A. Hall (United Kingdom: University Press, Cambridge), p. 193 4

Ernest Gellner. Nationalism. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1997, p. 3

common historical background that unifies the members of the community, thereby, creating a national identity. This element of nationalism allows...
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