Nationalism In Europe: Positive And Negative Aspects

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Table of contents

  1. Historical Development of Nationalism in Europe
  2. Historical Development of Nationalism in Europe
  3. Positive Aspects of Nationalism: Unity and Economic Progress
  4. The European Union: A Manifestation of Nationalism
  5. Nationalism's Role in Political Transformation and Equality
  6. Economic and Social Tensions Arising from Nationalism
  7. Conclusion: Balancing the Positives and Negatives of Nationalism

Historical Development of Nationalism in Europe

Everyone has pride in their own nation. One's nation is where they choose to live and holds an abundance of important family history. Nationalism is the identification with one's own nation and support for its interests, especially to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations (Webster dictionaries online, 2019). It is an idea that is very relevant in Europe and impacts lives in various ways. Nationalism holds negative and positive connotations to it; in that it has implemented positive effects while also promoted negative effects. The positives to nationalism are unity of the country, equality of citizens, preservation of the traditional culture and progression with the economy.

Historical Development of Nationalism in Europe

Especially in Europe, this advocacy has been around for centuries mainly starting at the end of the 18th century, and in the beginning of the 19th century. Nationalism in Europe started in Central Europe then moved to Eastern and Southeastern Europe. Central Europe nations are Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Switzerland, Serbia, Romania, and Slovenia. Eastern Europe is made of Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, and Slovakia, as well as the republics of Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine. In the era of nationalism there was the idea that each nationality should form its own state and that these states would be exclusive to their nationalities alone. The Roman Empire actually set the standards with its ability to survive a lengthy amount of time unified; it was the most substantial and expansive political structure in western civilization. From then on, it was seen that education is possible through individual mother tongues, not of other civilizations. Especially with industrialization within communities, separate nations could use inner nation independence in forming strong unified economies.

Positive Aspects of Nationalism: Unity and Economic Progress

Nationalism and national identity have been around for a long time; They can be traced back to ages of the Spanish unification under catholic monarchs, Joan of ARC Shakespeare, and more. It is a prevalent topic that has been in European debates for a few decades and still relevant today; “National identification is a multidimensional-ethnic, legal, territorial, economic, political concept united by the nationalist ideology into a potent vision of human identity and community” (Smith, 1992). Europe as a whole has its own nationalistic image. It can be said that Europe is a family of cultures rather than a singular culture. Within all the cities and countries there is extreme cultural differences that would make it very difficult to say just one culture for the whole continent. Within this family of cultures, the lack of serious geographical barriers and the geopolitical space between the massive bodies of water are some qualities that are shared among the countries. Additionally, for the most part Europe is Christian. Eastern Europe is orthodoxy and Western Europe is catholic and protestant. That is not to say that everyone is of that religion in those regions, but the foundation religion of that region. Furthermore, Europe countries have an overlap of traditions, heritages, political democracy, Roman law, and institutions. It is basically a cultural cross fertilization with a strong foundation of history that connects them all (Smith, 1992). The unity of this continent came from a long time-span and historical past that happened within the time frame. European unity is vitally important to prevent a recurrence of wars within the continent and secure a flourishing future for the people of Europe.

The European Union: A Manifestation of Nationalism

The European Union today is a merging between 28 European countries that align in politics and economics. The union started merely to unify the economy solely. They all use the euro, which is the European currency. With time, it has developed into a joint organization dealing with environmental issues, health problems, security, migration, justice, and trade policies. For half a century, there has been peace, prosperity, and stability for the most part. The Union has allowed living standards to increase and provided lots of freedom to its citizens allowing them to study and work in any country in the union. This happened through the abolition of border controls. It is mandatory for the citizens of the EU, the European Union, to be treated equally in every EU country and given the same benefits as security, tax purposes and employment (The EU in brief). Furthermore, the European Union puts strong emphasis into implementing transparency and democracy in its governing institutions.

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Nationalism's Role in Political Transformation and Equality

Nationalistic trends affected European politics in numerous ways but specifically in the removal of dictatorships and the creation of equality. In the old ages, Europe was mainly composed of monarchs, and governments based off of authoritarianism and inequality. Individual leaders seeked power and went about gaining it with violence and injustice. France and England led the way to the changing of political power. With the Tudors in England, there was a strong pursuit for an efficient political government and with France as well, under Louis XI and Francis I (Kohn, 2019). The revision of the judicial and administrative systems began to be challenged and ultimately within the nations a rising class of professional administrators took over the power of the board of executives in the King's court. Furthermore, the French revolution was an iconic period for the effects of nationalism on the government system as it brought equality among the citizens. The people of France seized the government and destroyed the absolute control they were under. Thus, the French revolution gave life to the idea of equality, liberty and fraternity. This then spread to the other European countries later on. Their nationalism is important to the universal idea of a future of freedom and equality; versus the days of inequality and authoritarianism that was present within the political systems of Europe. Centralized bureaucracy replaced and terminated medieval ways of government.

Economic and Social Tensions Arising from Nationalism

Stability within communities is essential to a strong nation. Through nationalism, the goal is to unify, endow distinctive individuality and allow for freedom and autonomy. This is caused by strengthening the economy of the nation which can be done in multiple ways. Current day, there are countless international companies and new ways to communicate globally. Rapid growth of transnational companies with budgets, technologies, communication networks and skill levels far outstripping those of all but the largest and most powerful of contemporary national states (Smith, 1992). Additionally, rise and fall of large power blocs based on one or other military superpower and forming military political network of client states in an increasingly interdependent international system of states. More so, vast increase in the scale, efficiency, density and power of the means of communication, from transport to the mass media, from telecommunications to computerized information and transmission. With the accelerated process of globalization and technology use, countries can use marketing to their advantage to promote their nations uniqueness and establish the distinct culture they appear to have. It additionally aids in countries having power to change perceptions of nations identity. A specific example of this is France and Germany changing perceptions of each other through symbols, exchange programs, and subsidizing academic studies of common history. The media for changing their image is through popular music, videos, attire, and food. A significant affecter on a nation’s economy is tourism. Tourism brings in a lot of money with tourist sites, iconic locations, and souvenirs. People want to see countries that have strong nationalism. The countries with a strong sense of unity entice foreigners to visit and see the hype of the nation that is so highly talked about. When it comes to societies that in some measure share similar backgrounds and have long been neighbors, there is something in it. Economic and cultural convergence jointly diminish ethnic hostilities: late industrial man, like his immediate predecessor, early industrial man, still finds his identity in a literate culture rather than anything else, but his literate culture no longer differs quite so much from that of his ethnic neighbor (Gellner, n.d.). Due to nationalism and unity, there seems to be less aggression between nations which is a positive effect. Lastly with the economy, the industrialization in Europe allows for a transformation in the government economic system that is good for the countries itself, but not for the surrounding countries. It provides tension and competition amongst the neighboring nations.

Additionally, nationalism in Europe brought about social tensions. With it being a lot more prominent after the fall of communism, post-communism led to liberal democracy and nationalism in Europe. Communism led to the nationalist feelings; ethnic groups felt strong loyalty to their regions and taking extra interest in what's best for their nation. Within communist programs urbanization, mass education, increased literacy, industrialization and more were supported, and these led to national awareness which a major component in nationalism. Nationalism gave everyone an official ethnicity and unity that did not support individualism. People were not able to choose their nationality and were descents of whatever their family history was. After the fall of communism, people wanted unity, stability, and ‘familiar norms in an attempt to maximize predictability in an uncertain world’ (Mole, 2016). In social aspects, heterosexuality was very normal, and the norms people conformed to. This really affected the LGBTQ community, especially in Latvia and Serbia. Since the beginning, human beings had roles they were expected to fulfill in society. Communities were patriarchal and men were expected to rule and marry women to produce heirs for their community. Homosexuality goes against that structure; it was not the norm, so it promoted individualism, which is not conforming with the way of the nation. Additionally, a homosexual would not produce heirs which is very important to the society. A view taken to extremes by former Polish President Lech Kaczynski, who argued that ‘widespread homosexuality would lead to the disappearance of the human race’ (Mole, n.d.). This is definitely an extreme, but people have strong feelings towards different minded people. Homosexuals are also affected negatively in that they are believed to be very selfish and threatening to the nation as a whole due to their inability to help produce heirs and homosexual sex is only for pleasure rather than conceiving so it is un-national and selfish (Mole, 2016). This dramatically affects the social scene in Europe, and negatively affects those whose sexual orientations are different. They are seen in a negative light and does not support unity of everyone. No one should have to feel ashamed for their being and their choice of companion. Nationalism really affected the LGBTQ community negatively and made them feel ostracized from their own ethnic group. They were of the same language, region, background and still felt like an outsider just for who they are attracted to.

A big part of nationalism is the unity of a religion. Every nationality has their own religious views, with who their God is, how they do it and incorporating it into their daily lives. In Central and Eastern Europe, it is definitely very important to have religious views and theirs contradicts with the LGBTQ community stances. In general, social science research confirms that strength of religious belief is the strongest predictor of negative attitudes to homosexuality. The more subjects go to church, the more opposed and close-minded they are towards homosexuality and the community of LGBTQ (Smith, 1992). Religion is still used to prevent gay pride events like marches and awareness days. Christian Churches in Central and Eastern Europe are highly vocal in their condemnation of non-heteronormative sexuality. Only recently have churches started to allow for gay marriage ceremonies to occur. It is common knowledge that churches, and peoples view on the bible believe that homosexuality is a sin and should be ostracized. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, homosexual acts thus ‘close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.’ (Mole, 2016). Furthermore, this concludes the religious challenges faced with nationalism being prevalent in Europe. Homosexuality and nationality in some parts of Central and Eastern Europe are seen as not just conflicting but mutually exclusive altogether which serves to be problematic for the future of the nations. Nations believe they are united by shared biology, culture, history, norms and values, stretching back centuries if not millennia and marching forward towards a common future (Mole, 2016). One could see the reasoning behind nations fear of the individual. On the other hand, individualism is very important, as individualism sparks the drive to invent more, develop personal skills, and the freedom of being different. If everyone was exactly the same, the world would be boring and not nearly as industrialized. It is definitely essential to have diverse types of people to allow complete equality for all. In a different aspect, the ties between the church and government weakened after the growth of nationalism and also fostered the growth of nations containing vernacular languages. With the authority of the new ideas of the sovereignty of the citizens and their individual rights, the replacement of the king, who has religious power, as the center of the nation occurred. Popes and kings had lots of power over the nations in Europe’s past. Nationalism caused the state to become the people’s state and civilization became identified with national civilization (Kohn, 2019).

Conclusion: Balancing the Positives and Negatives of Nationalism

All in all, nationalism indeed has positive effects although the word itself has negative connotations that come with it. The positives to nationalism are unity of the country, national strength, preservation of the traditional culture and progression with the economy. National pride means caring what is yours and when there is a strong sense of nationalism, then there are programs in place to care for public stuff for the people, like the great public transportation in Europe and unity of the economy. Some would say it negatively affects all aspects of Europe as it is a leading cause of the world wars, but there is a different perspective to look at. Most controversial things are seen as either good or bad and the opinion is in the eye of the beholder. Seeing the positive of nationalism allows for good things to happen this then aids in promoting national growth, unity and freedom.

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Nationalism In Europe: Positive And Negative Aspects. (2021, August 20). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 15, 2024, from
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