Nation or Nationalism: Which Came First?

Culture, History, Politics

By Farah K. Yachoui

April 25, 2016

Pause for a moment and try to answer this question. Which do you think came first? Does a nation give birth to nationalism or the other way around? One of the reasons why Iza Fakkarna is born is to encourage you to question things and not take them as they are at the surface layer. Things rarely are what they seem to be. Dig deeper, and discuss your ideas.

It is said that it is the elites who define nationalism; thus, allowing them to build nationalistic communities where they guarantee the continuity and survival of their influence and power on the masses and subsequently on the nation! Others say that it is the nation, as an entity, that leads to the birth of nationalism. It can be quite tricky to decide which comes first. Their existence depends on one another just like the chicken and egg complex! Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Let’s go back to the basic definition of a nation. It is a significantly large population that has common ancestry, culture, language and history concentrated within a vaguely defined geographical boundary. Seldom does a nation make it through history and maintains its existence without nationalism. The latter is a feeling of devotion and vigorous support for one’s nation. Now, it is easy to say that nationalism cannot exist without its prerequisite, the nation.

However, let us examine the broader sense of a nation. What is a nation? How did it come to exist? The concern for the security and survival of oneself is the root of this dilemma. Very early on in history, we realized that living within a group guaranteed higher chances of survival. This dates all the way back to the Old Stone Age. Later on, a shift from hunter-gatherer societies to agricultural societies, allowed for the rise of elite groups who believed that the survival of the whole depended on their task of storing the surplus of the agricultural supply.

At the time, natural disasters risked destroying years of crop supply leading to famine and possibly extinction. These groups gradually became more powerful over the masses as they developed a system of writing to keep record of the goods they managed. They developed taxation, took on divine roles and influenced the beliefs of the masses. Soon after, obligatory military conscription was required to protect the vicinity from outside threats like other nomadic tribes. Thus, the first civilizations or nations were born!

How is it any different in the modern world? Why do we assume that the nation is the prerequisite to nationalism? In the modern world, nationalism is achieved by implementing a mass common schooling on national content, obligatory military conscription and tax duty. We simply modernized the ways of the ancients, nationalism is the precursor of the nation!

Thank you for reading guys. Don’t forget to leave a comment!

 

 

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