Before the development of Nationalism, people were generally loyal to a city or a particular leader rather than to their nation. Encyclopedia Britannica (vol.no.viii.2009) identifies that the movement has genesis with the late 18th century’s American and French revolutions. Other historians point specifically to the rise of ultra-nationalist party in France during French revolution. The term was coined by Johann Gottfried Herder during the late 1770s. (Smith)
The emergence of the notion of Nationalism is often connected with the French revolution of 1789, when the first “nation-state”(p 98) is said to have been created. Although states where the boundaries of the state and the nation coincide have existed earlier, before 1789 states had not used the situation to their advantage to the extent that France was able to. It was here that nationalism entered as such a powerful idea. Since then, Nationalism has become one of the most significant, political and social forces in history, perhaps most notably as a major postulate of World War 1 and specially World War II. (Blanning)
Philosopher A.C.Gralying describes nation as an artificial construct, “their boundaries drawn in the blood of past wars.”(78) He argues that there is no country of the world which is not home to more than one different culturally co-existing culture (Grayling).
Nationalism has been defined by its critics as a divisive, incoherent,unstable and incoherently weak discourse. In the first instance the very notion of nationalism is considered to be oppressive as an individual loses his distinctive individual identity within the folds of wider national identity. This in turn provides the political elite with potential opportunities to control and manipulate the masses. Bhabha, in his essay “Dissemination: Time, Narrative and Margins”, has defined discourse of nationalism as highly unstable and inherently weak for the reason that it is unable to produce the unity it promises. He is of the view that it contains breakdowns and cannot be termed as a ‘unified discourse’ because it, too, has marginalized groupsthat are suppressed by the discourse as they are found on the margins which undermines the coherence of the discourse.
In the light of Bhabha’s comments it is important to identify that who the marginalized groups are?
Partha Chatterjee in his book “Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World” talks about the anguish of westernized elite of the third world. Chatterjee presents the very dilemma of the Nationalism before his readers. The discourse of nationalism on one hand celebrates and sings the glory of national culture, but on the other hand it is anguished by its perceived backwardness. Hence the westernized elite bring forth a project of modernity to alleviate that sense of backwardness and to come to term with the standards of modernity set by the European world. Chatterjee highlights an important point in the midst of this dichotomy found in the discourse of nationalism. That the elite with their concerns for modernizing their backward national culture assume the role of their bygone colonial masters while the general masses with their perceived backwardness are placed again in the position of the colonized subjects, who are considered to be incapable of any rational thinking. This again places the masses in a marginalized position.
Franz Fanon in his book “Wretched of the Earth” shows that how nationalism is complicit in undemocratic form of government. He too like Chatterjee talks about the illiberal dilemma at the heart of the discourse of nationalism, that how the political elite is unaware of the problems and issues of the general masses, who are merely tools in the struggle between the ruling and the opposition forces in the newly independent countries. Fanon talks about the injustices prevalent in the newly independent countries, where only a small section of influential political elite is able to avail the political and...
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