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Nationalism Notes | Class 11 Political Science

This chapter introduces students to the idea of nationalism and the effects of nationalism. It also examines the concept of national self-determination and common political identity. We also highlight the merits and demerits of nationalism and the distinction between a nation and a state.


What is Nationalism?

It is widely assumed that a nation is made up of people who share certain characteristics such as ancestry, language, religion, or ethnicity. However, there is no universal set of characteristics shared by all nations.

The nation is an imagined community that is held together by the common beliefs, aspirations, and imaginations of its members. it is based on assumptions that people make on which they are identified these common assumptions are:

● Shared beliefs

● History

● Territory

● Shared political ideals

● Common political identity

Shared Beliefs

A nation is not mountains, hills, territory, infrastructure and natural resources etc. but a nation is made by its people. It exists only when people believe that they belong together.

It is to refer to the collective identity and vision for the future of a group that aspires to have an independent political existence. They have a belief that they are one entity and together as one team, they have to work towards the progress of their country.


A nation also embodies a sense of continuing historical identity. That is, nations perceive themselves as stretching back into the past as well as reaching into the future.

India shares the history of its ancient and long civilisation. India shares her legends, historical memories, historical records. This civilizational continuity and unity is the basis of the Indian nation.

We also share our freedom movement, this sense of history binds us as one entity.

- Book by JL Nehru - Discovery of India


Sharing a common past and living together on a particular territory over a long period of time gives people a sense of collective identity. It helps them to imagine themselves as one community.

People who see themselves as a nation speak of homeland, fatherland, or holy land for example Jewish people say Palestine is their homeland.

The aspiration for a homeland has been a major cause of conflict in the world.

Shared Political Ideals

A shared vision of the future and the collective aspiration to have an independent political existence that distinguishes groups from nations.

India shares its political ideals like democracy, liberty, secularism, socialism, and equality.

These ideals keep Indian people united. Indians have accepted these ideas as benefitting every section of the community and are willing to live together. We are also bound by obligations and these obligations(duty) towards our country has kept us united.

A nation is strengthened when its people acknowledge and accept their obligations to their fellow members. We might even say that recognition of this framework of obligations is the strongest test of loyalty to the nation.

Common Political Identity

Why Political Identity?

Even though participating in the same festivals, seeking the same holidays, and holding the same symbols in high regard can bring people together, it can also pose a threat to the democratic values we hold dear. This is due to the fact that all of the world's major religions are internally diverse, and most societies are culturally diverse.

For these two reasons, when imagining the nation, it is preferable to think of it in terms of politics rather than culture. Imposing a single religious or linguistic identity as a condition of belonging to a state would inevitably exclude some groups. It has the potential to restrict the excluded group's religious liberty as well as disadvantage those who do not speak the country's native language.

India as a whole lacks a unified religious or linguistic identity. This is true because India is home to many different religions. Within each of those religions, there are various sects. India has never adopted a state religion because of its desire to respect all religions, and as a result, it is considered a secular country.

We are recognised as a single political entity because we uphold the values enshrined in our constitution. We have accepted secularism, freedom, and rights, among other things, as core values in our constitution.

All major religions in the world are diverse in terms of internal diversity, and most societies are diverse in terms of culture.

What Are The Effects of Nationalism?

Nationalism has risen to prominence as one of history's most compelling political ideologies, and it has had a significant impact on events. It has elicited both strong feelings of loyalty and strong feelings of hatred. It has brought people together as well as divided them, assisting in their liberation from oppressive rule while also serving as a catalyst for conflict, bitterness, and even war.

It has played a role in the disintegration of empires and states throughout history. Nationalist struggles have influenced the drawing and redrawing of borders between states and empires throughout history.

The process of redrawing borders is still ongoing, and it is having an impact on the current global order in the Middle East and Europe.

Nationalism Helped In Unification as well as In Splitting of Empires

It resulted in the unification of a number of small kingdoms into larger nation-states in nineteenth-century Europe. The current German and Italian states were formed as a result of this unification and consolidation process. In Latin America, a large number of new states were also established.

The people of the new states developed a new political identity based on their nation-state membership. In the last century or so, we have witnessed a similar consolidation process in our own country.

Nationalism contributed to the breakup of large empires such as the Austro-Hungarian and Russian

Empires in the early twentieth century in Europe as well as the break-up of the British, French, Dutch and Portuguese empires in Asia and Africa.

Redrawing of State Boundaries - Separatism

The process of redrawing state boundaries continues to take place. Since 1960, even apparently stable nation-states have been confronted by nationalist demands put forward by groups or regions and these may include demands for separate statehood.

National Self-Determination

Nations, unlike other social groups, want to be able to govern themselves and control their own destiny. They want the right to self-determination, in other words.

The right to self-government is included in the concept of self-determination. Every country wishes to govern itself. It's because they're recognised and accepted as a single nation all over the world. To protect its traditions and beliefs, as well as the people it represents, a nation declares sovereign rule.

For a long time, the people of India fought for their right to self-determination. Self-governance provides dignity and the assurance that they are not being ruled by any external superior power.

Today, separatist movements for self-determination and a separate state exist. Namibians, Canadians, and Sri Lankan Tamils all live in their respective countries.

On the other hand, both the expansion of the nation-state and the formation of new countries increase violence, mass migration, and riots. Non-members of a cultural group who gain the right to govern themselves and form their own state are frequently discriminated against and marginalised.

As a result, they relocate to other areas where they believe their rights will be respected and they will be safe. Other groups retaliate with violence and retaliation when different cultures and minorities declare their right to self-determination.

Global citizenship can help to resolve the paradox of national self-determination. Increased global democracy and inclusion is one possible solution. We must accept that the world is a global village, with people moving for a variety of reasons.

As a result, the definition of a nation forbids us from proceeding in this direction. For countries to embrace democracy and inclusion, the time has come. The constitution should protect minority groups. People have the right to have someone speak for them in legislative bodies.

Merits & Demerits of Nationalism


● Nationalism inculcates patriotic spirit. A man is prepared to make any sacrifice for the glory and safety of his/her country.

● Nationalism is a unifying factor. It creates religious and cultural unity.


Nationalism is a threat to world peace. Nationalism often becomes the cause of many wars. People belonging to a minority or other nation feel marginalised which becomes a cause of conflict and violence.

● A nation upholding the values of nationalism regards its nations as superior to others and thereby creates hatred for other nations. For example Hitler regarded the Jewish race as inferior to the Aryan race. and hence he carried out mass massacres of Jewish in order to exterminate them.

Difference Between State and Nation

● State has four essential elements, but elements of the nation are not fixed.

● The elements of a nation may change and they go on changing, but the elements of the state are permanent and remain the same.

● Idea of oneness is essential for the nation but not for the state.

● Definite territory is essential for the state but not for the Nation.

● Sovereignty is essential for the state and not for the Nation.

Tagore on Nationalism

Tagore was against the concept of nationalism:

● He believed in internationalism rather than nationalism.

● He believed that humanity cannot be divided on the basis of nations or borders.

● Equal rights and dignity need to be provided to everyone irrespective of the fact whether he/she is an Indian, American or Arabic


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