German Nationalism: The Tragedy of a People: Extremism Contra Liberalism in Modern German History

German Nationalism: The Tragedy of a People: Extremism Contra Liberalism in Modern German History

German Nationalism: The Tragedy of a People: Extremism Contra Liberalism in Modern German History

German Nationalism: The Tragedy of a People: Extremism Contra Liberalism in Modern German History

Excerpt

IN 1848, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels asserted in the Communist Manifesto that "national differences, and antagonisms between peoples, are daily more and more vanishing." The next year, in 1849, John Stuart Mill took an opposite point of view by recognizing the increasing potency of a movement that "made men indifferent to the rights and interests of any portion of the human species, save that which is called by the same name and speaks the same language as themselves." In the twentieth century, political nationalism advanced to a point where, according to Sir Norman Angell, "it has become, for the European of our age, the most important thing in the world, more important than civilization, humanity, decency, kindness, pity; more important than life itself." This pervasive and universal sentiment is not the product of natural law, but rather the historic outcome of political, economic, social, cultural, and psychological conditions. An artificial concept, it was designed to meet the needs of the modern expanded community, in which the sovereign state is the unit of political organization. Marx and Engels to the contrary, the history of the last century and a half has seen a steady intensification of this vital force.

The term "nationalism" has acquired several shades of meaning. First, it may connote the historical process of establishing nationalities as political units, or the construction of modern national states. Secondly, it may indicate the theory, principle, or ideal implicit in the historical process. Thirdly, it may refer to the activities of a particular political party, such as the Conservative Party in England. Fourthly, it may be used to express a condition of mind among the members of a nationality, an attitude in which loyalty and devotion to one's nationality are considered to be of prime importance. As used here, in a general sense, nationalism may be defined as a condition of mind, feeling, or sentiment of a group of people living in a well-defined geographical area, speaking a common language, possessing a literature in which the aspirations of the nation have been expressed, attached to common traditions, possessing traditional heroes, and, in some cases, having a common religion.

Vague symptoms of nationalism may be found in the early modern period from 1500 to 1789. The process by which the . . .

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