Nationalism vs. Patriotism

Brigitte Macron, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump attend a commemoration ceremony for Armistice Day, 100 years after the end of the First World War at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, November 11, 2018. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/Pool

By Dr Mukhtar Ahmad

World leaders gathered in Paris on November 11 to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One.when Germany signed an armistice with the Allied forces, that claimed the lives of approximately 10 million soldiers.  President  Emmanuel Macron  while welcoming the guests delivered a forceful speech against rising nationalism, calling it a “betrayal of patriotism” . He  issued a warning to the guests  that by putting our own interests first, with no regard for others, we erase the very thing that a nation holds dearest, and the thing that keeps it alive: its moral values,”  Since there is  growing rhetoric in countries like India and USA  about Nationalism it is worth understanding how Nationalism is not the same as patriotism.


The Oxford dictionary defines Nationalism as  “identification with one’s own nation and support for its interests, especially to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations” In Webster  it  is “exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups”

Whereas Patriotism is defined as  love for or devotion to one’s country by Webster and “the quality of being patriotic; devotion to and vigorous support for one’s country. by Oxford. The thin line difference  between Nationalism and patriotism is very significant.  Patriotism means loving your country without considering other nations  as inferior. First thing  that must be understood is that a nation can be said to be a group of people who share a common identity. This may involve shared experience, blood ties, the same language, a religion, eating habits and various traditions but the nations do not necessarily correspond to countries. Nationalism, , is only sometimes on behalf of a nation, at least in the sense that many scholars think of nations. Anderson’s book Imagined Communities is a highly sophisticated treatment of the origins and spread of nationalism. He identifies another type of nationalism, sponsored by governments that want to prevent challenges from below. John Breuilly presents a useful perspective in his book Nationalism and the State. Basically, he sees nationalism as a form of politics, in other words as a way of exercising power, most commonly to take control of the state. This is quite visible in many countries where dictators used it as weapon. However , presently the rhetoric in democratic countries like India and USA  about nationalism has alarmed many sincere people. The link between loyalty to and identification with a country and loyalty to and identification with the government are propagated  by the government supporters. These are certainly not the same. Probably that was the message Macron was trying to present in his speech of November 11. The leaders try to present as if nationalism is same thing as patriotism. But Macron asserted that patriotism is exact opposite of nationalism. According to him nationalism is putting our nation first without caring about others. It means that the by asserting our interests first we are neglecting the importance of moral values.

A patriot is a person who supports their own country, and patriotism is the commitment itself by contrast, nationalism is patriotism transformed into a sentiment of superiority and aggression toward other countries. Nationalism is the poisonous idea that one’s country is superior to any other country

Macron emphasized that a global order based on liberal values is worth defending against those who have sought to disrupt that system.


The author  is a former professor of electrical engineering Aligarh Muslim University Aligarh



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