“Though born out of good intentions, nationalism has proven time and again to lead to bloodshed. The spirit of nationalism has never ceased to bend human intentions to the service of dissension and distress.”

Please tell me three arguments for and against the above quote.

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For:

  1. Nationalism, of its very nature, is exclusive. It defines not just who does belong to a nation, but who doesn't. It's little wonder, then, that it so often leads to persecution, bloodshed and conflict.
  2. The second point relates to the first. Who exactly gets to define which people do...

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For:

  1. Nationalism, of its very nature, is exclusive. It defines not just who does belong to a nation, but who doesn't. It's little wonder, then, that it so often leads to persecution, bloodshed and conflict.
  2. The second point relates to the first. Who exactly gets to define which people do or don't belong to the nation? If the nation is defined in narrow terms then exclusion and inter-ethnic conflict can easily arise. If, on the other hand, the concept's drawn too broadly, then it becomes virtually meaningless, and raises the question: what's the point of nationalism?
  3. Nationalism overlooks various other identities which are arguably more important in defining who and what we are. Gender, race and class differences tend to be more enduring and therefore more constitutive of our being. But nationalism cynically ignores these differences, advancing instead a manufactured sense of national unity which benefits those in positions of power and authority at the expense of those suppressed on the basis of gender, race or class.

Against:

  1. Everyone needs to have a home, to feel a sense of belonging. Nations are the most effective political units for providing us with this. They make us feel part of a wider community, something bigger than ourselves. Nations transcend our petty differences and allow us to live and work together to achieve common goals in a spirit of cooperation. And it is only when we are secure in our own nation that we can approach other nations in a similar spirit of friendship and good neighborliness.
  2. Nationalism should by no means automatically be associated with militarism and imperial conquest. When nationalism first arrived on the scene in Europe it was an idea devoted to liberating subject peoples from centuries of oppression at the hands of foreign rulers. The various nationalist movements captured a sense of something deep within the soul that had been suppressed for too long. People instinctively knew that they shared a common culture, a common language and heritage, and needed to construct a state, a nation state, to allow them to express their identity to the fullest possible extent.
  3. Political organizations not founded on the nation are artificial. They are essentially elite constructs that open up a huge gap between the political classes and ordinary people. This is because they have no true foundations; they are an example of politics conducted on the basis of abstract ideas rather than practical wisdom painstakingly developed over time. The nation is the true form of political organization because it is natural, an organic arrangement which grows out of the deep roots of a given territory.
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In studying world history, nationalism seems to always end in disaster. When you consider the motives for World War I, Serbian nationalism was a major factor in the start of this deadly conflict. Nationalism was also a strong determinant in the decision by European powers to colonize Africa, which was disastrous to the African people. In the United States, the jingoism that followed the terrorist attacks in 2001 led the United States down a harmful path. It ultimately led to the suspension of important civil liberties and towards involvement in two wars in the Middle East. The problem with nationalism is that it naturally leads to actions that benefit one's own country, with often detrimental effects on other people or countries. These negative aspects of nationalism support the quote.

While nationalism has its own assortment of problems, it can, in fact, act as a positive force. Nationalism has been a key factor in almost every drive for independence over a colonial power. This is true of American independence, as well as independence movements in Latin America and Africa. Nationalism is also utilized for peaceful means between countries. This is especially true in the world of science and space exploration. Countries pursuing the quest for space in the name of nationalism had a truly beneficial effect on the world at large. Patriotism in the pursuit of strong economies also can benefit the way of life of people within the realm while not necessarily doing harm to others. These are some potential arguments that can be used against the idea of nationalism leading to distress.

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