Nationalism in a Multicultural Society Assignment

Nationalism in a Multicultural Society Assignment Words: 1857

Nationalism is exclusionary by definition. In a well-argued essay, compare the positive and negative effects of nationalism within a multicultural or multiethnic society. In your answer, discuss the problems that a multicultural society poses to the formation of national identity and why you do or do not believe that nationalism is compatible with the liberal state’s emphasis upon individual rights and freedoms. “The Age of liberal democracy is also the Age of nationalism” (Bernard Yack, 2003) .

Throughout history, the relationship between nationalism and the emergence and proliferation of the liberal democratic state has been closely intertwined. Examples of democratic states that rose in tandem with nationalism are the French Revolution in 1789 and the Glorious Revolution of 1688 in England. There are two main types of nationalism that will be focused on in this discussion, namely cultural and political nationalism. Cultural nationalism is “the doctrine that one’s national culture and interests are superior to any other” (Dictionary. om, 2006) . Political nationalism is “the doctrine that nations should act independently, rather than collectively, to attain their goals” (Dictionary. com, 2006) , that is, being an individual deposition involving intense feelings of loyalty to a perceived sovereign political entity. Multiculturalism is the preservation of different cultures or cultural identities within a unified society, as a state or nation. Nationalism has been the subject of fierce contestation and cause of many political conflicts that have arose.

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Political leaders gradually came to understand that nationalism is necessary for cohesion to make political power legitimate. “Under their rule, institutional state power had become increasingly centralized, but further consolidation of that stare power required engagement and support from the populace” (Anthony W. Marx, 2003) . It is a paradox that the unification of large-scale states places emphasis on the need for cohesion, simultaneously making unification less likely due to the lack of national identity. This issue will be progressively elaborated throughout the course of the essay.

It is an undeniable fact that nationalism is a political doctrine. Nationalism is the belief that the world’s peoples are divided into nations. “National self determination can be defined as the idea that nationalities may rightfully determine the boundaries, membership, and political status of their own communities, including asserting a right to statehood” (Gould & Pasquino, 2001) . While people have many different identities, it is the nation that provides them with their primary form of belonging. This brings about leader manipulation- uniting and polarizing leaders.

Uniting leaders are those who agglomerate different ethnic and cultural groups to improve cohesiveness and in turn, increase the people’s willingness to work together for the good of the nation-state. Singapore’s first Prime Minister, Mr. Lee Kwan Yew, is an example of a leader who continually stresses the importance of harmony between the different ethnic and cultural groups in order for a united nation-state of Singapore to compete in the global market. Unfortunately, the sense of belonging that a nation provides can be negatively displayed. Some nations become exclusive and resent others who are not considered a part of their nation. Individuals of other ethnic groups are tempted to label members of a particular ethnic group, and then, to categorize them according to how they perceive those individuals fulfilling their categorization” (Walter Morris-Hale, 1996) . Other nations find themselves feeling culturally supreme over others and so self-absorbed with their own good that they forget about the rest of the world beyond what they define as their “nation”. This is brought about by the second type of leaders- polarizing leaders. Polarizing leaders divide and rule. They make different ethnic groups within their society realize their differences for their own benefit.

Such an example would be that of Hitler during World War Two. He carried out genocide on the German Jews in order to create the perfect Aryan race. Hitler successfully turned the Germans against each other based on anti-Semitic ideals. “From this point of view, nationalism and the politics of ethnic cleansing represent the ‘dark side of democracy'” (Bernard Yack, 2003) . National identity becomes horribly wrong, especially in multinational societies, when people sometimes rank identities hierarchically, leading to the rejection of another nation as inferior.

The modernist theories imply that until the beginning of the 19th century, almost no one had more than local loyalties. National identity and unity were originally imposed from above, by European states, because they were necessary to modernize the economy and society. In this theory, nationalist conflicts are an unintended side-effect. “For state theorists, pervasive loyalty or devotion to the polity is purposefully encouraged through the allocation of services and privileges, with the state adjudicating disputes to bolster unity” (Bernard Yack, 2003) .

Ernest Gellner, a philosopher and social anthropologist, argued that nations are a by-product of industrialization. Modernization theorists regard the printing press and capitalism as necessary conditions for nationalism. The greater the group nationalism, the greater the group homogeneity of attitudes, beliefs, language spoken and ways of behaving, the greater is the group cohesiveness. Partly as a result of increasing group homogeneity and cohesiveness, nationalism facilitates communication. This, in turn, increases production due to the people’s willingness to work together.

Although the United States of America is the most culturally diverse country in the world, there exists a common identity amongst the people as citizens of the US. This national identity motivates them to strive for the betterment of the nation-state. However, social unity in a multicultural society is not simply dependent on shared beliefs or shard principles of justice. What matters most is a shared identity derived from commonality of history, language and perhaps, religion. These qualities are precisely the identities that are not shared in a multination state. What binds us into national communities are our images of a shared heritage that is passed, and altered, from one generation to another” (Bernard Yack, 2003) . The separation of Bangladesh and Pakistan is an example- although they were initially a state formed on the same Muslim beliefs, they had different national identities because of the difference in language. This was the main cause for conflict and led to their eventual separation. Jean Jacques Rousseau, sometimes seen as the father of modern nationalism, impressed upon the idea of the General Will i. e. the common good of society.

He emphasized the need to set aside cultural nationalism and form state nationalism. Rousseau states that “sovereignty ‘since it is nothing but the exercise of the general will, can never be alienated'” (Christopher Bertram, 2004) . However, different cultural or ethnic groups often have differing ideas of a General Will because of a lack of shared identity. This leads to possible conflicts and the interests of the dominant group will, more often than not, precede those of the minority groups. In Sri Lanka, the Sinhalese are the dominant group while the Tamils are the minority.

Problems caused by the Language Act stating that “Sinhala language shall be the one official Language of Ceylon” and other policies that ignored the rights of the Tamils made them feel undermined. Hence, they created the terrorist group called Tamil Tigers in a bid to overcome oppression. A liberal society is one that “should be as free as possible while ensuring that no one is excluded from the benefits that a free society can bring- that is, it is to be just and fair without privileging any one individual over another and without obstacles to prevent some from ascending social and economical hierarchies” (Alexander Moseley, 2007) .

However, this theory is not entirely accordant in a multicultural society whereby different ethnic or cultural groups represent different claims to individual rights. “Experience declares that man is the only animal which devours his own kind; for I can apply no milder term… to the general prey of the rich upon the poor” (Thomas Jefferson, 1787) . Certain multinational societies such as Thailand and Indonesia require the assimilation of Chinese national minorities by changing their names to “the local surnames in the country where they live in”.

In the United States, Muslim women are arrested for wearing veils under laws intended to prevent the Ku Klux Klan from appearing publicly. More often than not, consenting to a particular group’s claim to individual rights would undermine that of another group, leading to the prevention of “some from ascending social and economical hierarchies”. Nationalism sometimes produces isolation between groups to the extent that isolation enhances the difference between groups. “Multiculturalism claims to celebrate diversity and tolerance.

Perhaps, instead and ironically, it necessitates statutory controls that contradict the general drift of social development over the past several centuries” (Bernard Yack, 2003) . These differences then evolve into conflicts. When conflicts arise, however, ideological attacks upon the identity and legitimacy of the ‘enemy’ nationalism may become the focus. In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for instance, both parties claimed the other was not a ‘real’ nation, and therefore has no right to self-determination.

Jingoism and political chauvinism make exaggerated claims about the superiority of one nation over another. However, ethnicity depends not merely upon categorization and stereotypes by others, but on self-identification. William Blum, an American author and critic of United States foreign policy was quoted saying “If love is blind, patriotism has lost all five senses. ” This kind of negative nationalism, directed at other nations, is certainly a nationalist phenomenon, but not a sufficient basis for a general theory of nationalism. References

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In: Cultural identity and the nation-state. pg. 4. USA: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, inc. How to Bring Peaceful Coexistence Back to the Middle East. 2004. The Tech: Online Edition. Cambridge: The Tech. < http://www-tech. mit. edu/V124/N5/aimeesmith. 5c. html> (accessed 18 October, 2007) Jefferson, Thomas. 1787. Letter to Colonel Edward Carrington. January 16, 1787, ibid Marx, Anthony W.. 2003. Founding Exclusion. In: Faith in Nation. pg. 73. New York: Oxford University Press Marx, Anthony W.. 2003. Angel of History and Patron Saint of Nationalism. In: Faith in Nation. g. 192. New York: Oxford University Press. Morris-Hale, Walter. 1996. Introduction. In: conflict and harmony in multi-ethnic societies: an international perspective. pg 5. New York: Peter Lang Publishing Inc. Moseley, Alexander. 2007. Liberalism. In: An Introduction to Political Philosophy. pg 104. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group Nationalism. Dictionary. com. WordNet?? 3. 0. Princeton University. <http://dictionary. reference. com/browse/nationalism> (accessed October 18, 2007). Nationalism. Dictionary. com. WordNet?? 3. 0. Princeton University. lt;http://dictionary. reference. com/browse/nationalism> (accessed October 18, 2007). Tamil National Foundation. 1998/2007. Official Language Act, 1956. <http://www. tamilnation. org/srilankalaws/56sinhala. htm> Yack, Bernard. 2003. Nationalism, Popular Sovereignty, and the Liberal Democratic State. In: The Nation-state in Question. pg. 29, 30, 36. New Jersey: Princeton University Press Yack, Bernard. 2003. The Return of the Coercive State: Behavioral Control in Multicultural Society. In: The Nation-state in Question. pg. 110. New Jersey: Princeton University Press

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