This is the second stage in the development of the nation-State. Hans Kohn, accordingly, maintained that the French Revolution inherited and continued the centralising tendencies of the kings, but at the same time it filled the central organisation with a new spirit and gave it a power of cohesion unknown before.
Nationalism was unthinkable before the emergence of the modem State in the period from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century. “Nationalism accepted the form, but changed it animating it with a new feeling of life and with a new religious fervour”. Kings gave way to the people and their aspirations.
Thenceforward nationalism became a dogma and dominated the human mind over a large part of the globe. Enthused with this new spirit and attitude of mind and a pattern of attention and desires, poets, historians, journalists and politicians roused the sentiments of nationalism in Central Europe and in the Balkans.
Elsewhere in the Near East and far away in India, China and Japan “it began to cast a spell by promising relief from actual or threatened domination.” Meanwhile, the Industrial Revolution was made a means to promote national purposes and interests rather than to gain benefits for all communities and States.
The Revolution had national content and national purposes as its home was a national State and it spread chiefly to national States imbued with the traditions of mercantilism.
“Even the enormous transit of ideas and news”, Hayes says, “Which the Industrial Revolution made possible, assumed for linguistic reasons, a complexion predominantly national.” The free trade movement was restricted to a few regions and derived its force mere chiefly from its temporary coincidence with national interests.
Nationalism came into its own in the early nineteenth century. Since then it has gradually spread throughout the world. Within the last six decades it flared up to new heights of militancy in Nazi Germany. It transformed an international movement in Soviet Russia into a strongly nationalistic movement.
It even changed the complexion of the movement in China. It stirred passions to fever pitch in the Middle East, leading nations to take actions contrary to their economic interests, as in the case of Iran and probably Egypt, and it sparked powerful desire for self-government in majority of the colonial areas of the world.
Once these colonies attained independence, it was attuned to the extreme type of nationalism in order to retain their newly won independence, placed as they were in the midst of power-hungry nations, and, at the same time, to accelerate the pace of economic growth to usher an era of just and happy life for the people hitherto trodden under the heels of the alien rulers.
Rightly understood, says Asirvatham, “nationalism stands for the historical process by which nationalities are transferred into political units and for the legitimate right of a people who form a distinct and vigorous nation or nationality to a place in the sun.”
To put it straight, when a national group either aspires to become self-governing or when having achieved self-government, this fact becomes part of the complex of national sentiment, we speak of nationalism.
Nationalism is almost one idea for which masses of men live and die. It combines love of country and suspiciousness of foreigners. Love of country comes from shared values, and suspiciousness of foreigners comes from the belief that foreigners do not share such values in the same strength.
“The first shared value is the love of familiar places—the neighbourhood, the land, the homes, the valleys, and the mountains, all of the surroundings that one loves because they have been a part of oneself from infancy.”
This is the logical corollary of the eternal truth of man’s nature that he is a social animal and his instinct of living together and cooperating with others among whom he lives creates perpetual bonds of affinity and goodwill and a love for the land—home country which provides them with the wherewithal of life.
But nationalism, as it emerged with the nation-State, assumed the form of ancient group principle pride in one’s group and resentment of injury to a member of one’s group as it was an attack on the solidarity and the honour of the whole.
Pride in one’s group usually led to an imaginative abasement of all others. “Pain economy,” says Beni Prasad, “set a high value on group solidarity and encouraged an exclusiveness which in spite of some contrary influences of a political and ethical character, sanctified group prejudices.”
With the enlargement of human groups and their frequent contact, prejudice has crystallised round race and nation.
A Nationalist wants his people and his country to command all the respect and deference from others, his people to have all the power, all the wealth, and all the well- being. He tends to claim all the rectitude and virtue for it, as well as all enlightenment and skill; and he gives it a monopoly of his affection.
In sum, he totally identifies himself with his nation. Devotion to the nation transcends all his loyalties, like the family, the village, the caste, religion and other associational loyalties.
Hans Kohn defines nationalism in this context and says, it “is a state of mind permeating the large majority of the people and claiming to permeate all its members; it recognises the nation-State as the ideal form of political organization and the nationality as the source of all creative cultural energy and economic well-being.
The supreme loyalty of man is therefore due to his nationality, as his own life is supposedly rooted in and made possible by its welfare.”
Nationalism has shown the vital quality of elasticity and stood for some regions the attainment of political unification; elsewhere for winning independence from alien rulers; with some States for the cultural assimilation of dissident groups; and with others for economic aggrandisement. In the last two cases it develops into cultural or economic imperialism.