Nationalism in Latin America

nationalism

nationalism, political or social philosophy in which the welfare of the nation-state as an entity is considered paramount. Nationalism is basically a collective state of mind or consciousness in which people believe their primary duty and loyalty is to the nation-state. Often nationalism implies national superiority and glorifies various national virtues. Thus love of nation may be overemphasized; concern with national self-interest to the exclusion of the rights of other nations may lead to international conflict.

Nationalism is a comparatively recent phenomenon, probably born with the French Revolution, but despite its short history, it has been extremely important in forming the bonds that hold modern nations together. Today it operates alongside the legal structure and supplements the formal institutions of society in providing much of the cohesiveness and order necessary for the existence of the modern nation-state.

Necessary Conditions for Its Development

For people to express nationalism it is first necessary for them to identify themselves as belonging to a nation, that is, a large group of people who have something in common. The rise of centralized monarchies, which placed people under one rule and eliminated feudalism, made this possible. The realization that they might possess a common history, religion, language, or race also aided people in forming a national identity. When both a common identity and a formal authority structure over a large territory (i.e., the state) exist, then nationalism becomes possible.

In its first powerful manifestation in the French Revolution, nationalism carried with it the notion of popular sovereignty, from which some have inferred that nationalism can occur only in democratic nations. However, this thesis is belied by the intense nationalism that characterized the German Empire and later Nazi Germany. Where nationalism arises, its specific form is the product of each particular nation's history.

History

Early Developments

Although nationalism is unique to the modern world, some of its elements can be traced throughout history. The first roots of nationalism are probably to be found in the ancient Hebrews, who conceived of themselves as both a chosen people, that is, a people as a whole superior to all other peoples, and a people with a common cultural history. The ancient Greeks also felt superior to all other peoples and moreover felt a sense of great loyalty to the political community. These feelings of cultural superiority (ethnocentrism), which are similar to nationalism, gave way to much more universal identifications under the Roman Empire and with the Christian Church through its teaching of the oneness of humanity.

As strong centralized monarchies were built from petty feudal states, as regional languages and art forms were evolved, and as local economies widened, popular identification with these developments became increasingly strong. In areas such as Italy, which were not yet single nations, recurring invasions led such thinkers as Niccolò Machiavelli to advocate national political federation. The religious wars of the Reformation set nation against nation, though the strongest loyalty continued to adhere to the sovereign. In the 16th and 17th cent. the nationalistic economic doctrine of mercantilism appeared.

The growth of the middle classes, their desire for political power, and the consequent development of democratic political theory were closely connected with the emergence of modern nationalism. The theorists of the French Revolution held that people should establish governments of equality and liberty for everyone. To them the nation was inseparable from the people, and for the first time in history a people could create a government in accordance with the nation's general will. Although their aims were universal, they glorified the nation that would establish their aims, and nationalism found its first political expression.

The Nineteenth Century

It was in the 19th cent. that nationalism became a widespread and powerful force. During this time nationalism expressed itself in many areas as a drive for national unification or independence. The spirit of nationalism took an especially strong hold in Germany, where thinkers such as Johann Gottfried von Herder and Johann Gottlieb Fichte had developed the idea of Volk. However, the nationalism that inspired the German people to rise against the empire of Napoleon I was conservative, tradition-bound, and narrow rather than liberal, progressive, and universal. And when the fragmented Germany was finally unified as the German Empire in 1871, it was a highly authoritarian and militarist state. After many years of fighting, Italy also achieved national unification and freedom from foreign domination, but certain areas inhabited by Italians (e.g., Trieste) were not included in the new state, and this gave rise to the problem of irredentism. In the United States, where nationalism had evinced itself in the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, national unity was maintained at the cost of the Civil War.

In the latter half of the 19th cent., there were strong nationalist movements among the peoples subject to the supranational Austrian and Ottoman empires, as there were in Ireland under British rule, and in Poland under Russian rule. At the same time, however, with the emergence in Europe of strong, integrated nation-states, nationalism became increasingly a sentiment of conservatives. It was turned against such international movements as socialism, and it found outlet in pursuit of glory and empire (see imperialism). Nationalist conflicts had much to do with bringing on World War I.

The Twentieth Century

The early 20th cent., with the breakup of Austria-Hungary and of the Ottoman Empire, saw the establishment of many independent nations, especially through the peace treaties ending World War I. The Paris Peace Conference established the principle of national self-determination, upheld by the League of Nations and later by the United Nations. While self-determination is a nationalist principle, it also recognizes the basic equality of all nations, large or small, and therefore transcends a narrow nationalism that claims superiority for itself.

It was exactly this latter type of nationalism, however, that arose in Nazi Germany, preaching the superiority of the so-called Aryan race and the need for the extermination of the Jews and the enslavement of Slavic peoples in their "living space" (see National Socialism). Italian fascism was in a similar manner based on extreme nationalist sentiments. At the same time, Asian and African colonial territories, seeking to cast off imperial bonds, were developing nationalist movements. Perhaps the most famous of these was the Indian National Congress, which struggled for Indian independence for over 60 years. After World War II nationalism in Asia and Africa spread at such a fast pace that dozens of new "nations" were created from former colonial territorial holdings.

Although interdependence and global communications interconnected all nations by the 1990s, nationalism appears to have grown more extreme with the breakup of the Soviet empire, the growth of Muslim fundamentalism, and the collapse of Yugoslavia. Xenophobic, separatist movements are not necessarily confined to newly independent states; they appear in many European nations and Canada, as well as India, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and many others. International organizations, such as the United Nations, the European Union, the Organization of American States, and the Organization for African Unity, represent attempts to curb extreme nationalism, stressing cooperation among nations.

Bibliography

See H. Kohn, The Idea of Nationalism (1944, repr. 1967) and Nationalism: Its Meaning and History (rev. ed. 1965); E. H. Carr, Nationalism and After (1945); L. L. Snyder, The Meaning of Nationalism (1954, repr. 1968); A. Smith, Theories of Nationalism (1971); A. D. Smith, Nationalism in the Twentieth Century (1979); B. Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism (1983); E. A. Tiryakian and R. Rogowski, ed., New Nationalisms of the Developed West (1985); J. Breuilly, Nationalism and the State (1985); L. L. Snyder, Encyclopedia of Nationalism (1990).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Nationalism in the New World
Don H. Doyle; Marco Antonio Pamplona.
University of Georgia Press, 2006
Race and Nation in Modern Latin America
Nancy P. Appelbaum; Anne S. Macpherson; Karin Alejandra Rosemblatt.
University of North Carolina Press, 2003
The Myth of José Martí: Conflicting Nationalisms in Early Twentieth-Century Cuba
Lillian Guerra.
University of North Carolina Press, 2005
Latin America in Crisis
John W. Sherman.
Westview Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Nationalism and the Military Response"
Resource Nationalism: Beyond Ideology
Weitzman, Hal.
Americas Quarterly, Vol. 7, No. 1, Winter 2013
Recent Developments in Brazil's Oil & Gas Industry: Brazil Appears to Be Stemming the Tide of Resource Nationalism
Otillar, Steven P.; McQuaid, Kristina A.
Houston Journal of International Law, Vol. 30, No. 2, Spring 2008
Race and Nation: Ethnic Systems in the Modern World
Paul Spickard.
Routledge, 2005
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "White into Black: Race and National Identity in Contemporary Brazil"
From Populism to Participation: Transformative Nationalism and Democratic Mobilisation in Latin America
Jefferies, Louise.
Renewal, Vol. 16, No. 1, Spring 2008
The Time of the Generals: Latin American Professional Militarism in World Perspective
Frederick M. Nunn.
University of Nebraska Press, 1992
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Six "Faith, Wisdom, and Nationalism: Confusing Each with Professionalism"
Ideologues and Ideologies in Latin America
Will Fowler.
Greenwood Press, 1997
Nation-States and Indians in Latin America
Greg Urban; Joel Sherzer.
University of Texas Press, 1991
Latin America, Its Problems and Its Promise: A Multidisciplinary Introduction
Jan Knippers Black.
Westview Press, 1998 (3rd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 8 "Nationalism and Modern Latin American Art"
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