What is the good and bad of nationalism? How can nationalism focus people's identity and avoid larger issues of real political representation? (Joseph-Ernest Renan, Benedict Anderson, H.D. Thoreau, Theodore Herzl, Herbert Spencer, Rudyard Kipling)
Some class notes to help you develop your own response using your own notes
The French Revolution as the stimulus for 19th century national identities in Europe and Latin America.
Napoleon's threat to monarchies throughout Europe and in the colonies (England takes Egypt and South Africa from France and Holland)
Ernest Renan's observation that nationalism had become a new form of spiritualism.
Henry David Thoreau's warning that nationalism, or extreme patriotism, could be like a "maggot on the brain" (Walden, conclusion)
. . . some can be patriotic who have no self-respect, and sacrifice the greater to the less. They love the soil which makes their graves, but have no sympathy with the spirit which may still animate their clay. Patriotism is a maggot in their heads.
Read the whole conclusion to Walden here:
The good of nationalism, then, can be associated with the political aspirations of the French Enlightenment, especially Jean Jaques Rousseau, that the people have a right to a government that represents their General Will. Nationalism, then, can be the identity that bonds peoples political willpower. On the other hand, it can be the wedges that divide people and justify wars as well. When it combined with the twisted version of Darwin's theory of evolution by Jonathan Spence ("Social Darwinism"), viscious rivalry between European nations were used to justify their often ruthless campains of colonizing Africa and Asia. Social Darwinism masqueraded as science through the second world war and its still the theory that racial supremacy groups use to justify their "ethnic/racial cleansing" philosophies.
White Man's Burden, Rudyard Kipling's classic British empirialist poem, asserted, perhaps sarcastically, that the British had a responsibility or destiny (compare with America's Manifest Destiny), to bring civilization to the world.
As is the case with many groups who fought under the banner of new national identities and didn't get fair representation after the wars for independence, a significant number of Jews in France decided that the only way to achieve political representation was to return to the land of ancient Israel, then the Ottoman territory of Palestine. These Zionists, prompted by Theodore Hertzl's outrage over the Richard Dreyfus trial led to the movement that continues to cause war in the Middle East. In this case of Jewish nationalism, the nation state of Israel would be founded on the religious identity of Judaism rather than the secular identity of all citizens living there.