Rise and Decline of Nationalism Research Paper

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Rise and Decline of Nationalism in the West and East

The use of nationalism as a source of political, economic, and societal engagement has had and maintains a prevalent role in recent and past history. The origins of World War I and the continuities that led to World War II can be interpreted in many ways as functions of nationalistic tendencies. The force of these tendencies became greatly accentuated through their own decline as Post-War stability wrought a new set of ideals to the West. The nation in its most virulent sense was sacrificed in the better interest of unity and interdependence within Western Europe and in the U.S.

While one part of the world became more entwined, another became more fractured. Post-War stability meant a great deal to those who it brought stability to, but for others, it was a justification to demand the same. The Post-Colonial era left a number of nations or nation/states unadulterated access to their long repressed demands of independence in the absence of guaranteed fears of imperial interference. These demands were especially salient in the Middle-East as the creation of Israel engendered a fierce Arab nationalism which sought to establish a resistance against what was, and still is, by many, considered Western imperialism.

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This paper will explore the rise and decline of nationalism in both the West and East. The paper will explain the causes for the emergences and ruptures and will delineate the reasons for the ascendancy or marginalization of nationalistic movements. The aim of the study will be to demonstrate the West's notions of nationalism as to have mainly effloresced from ideas of imperialism and superiority and to have wilted with economic and geopolitical security, and evince the East's nationalist movements to have grown from economic and political instability and to have only dissipated with the assumption of a settled identity and the assurance of security.

II. The West

Research Paper on Rise and Decline of Nationalism in the Assignment

The idea of nationalism, in its most pronounced form, had its origins with the emergence of trade and the Revolutions of the 18th Century. (Brinkman 2004, p. 426) It can be basely described as a notion premised on imagined communities, collectives that share a common heritage in culture, language, religion, and/or history, and which strive toward a purpose that can either be beneficial or baneful. Though emergent in 18th Century, nationalist movements in the West reached their apex at the end of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th. Only with the end of World War II and its inherent horrors does a decline in these movements become prominent.

A common theme in nationalist movements is that of blame; the identification of an "other" that is used to rationalize a nation's self-perceived lack of greatness. The idea of a nation almost inherently engenders a belief in superiority, or of somehow being wronged. The most evident instance of this was in Weimar Germany, where the punishments of Versailles led the Germans to not only rediscover and articulate ideas of their superiority in the most zealous fashion, but to blame the West and the "other," Jews, as the cause of their plight.

German nationalism grew intensely with the military successes of the latter 19th Century. The Fichtean notion of an ideal nation denied its rightful destiny became ever more common. This thought was amplified as Germany lacked the colonial dynasty of its neighbors. A resentment and envy of France became especially prevalent. The most minor slights from the French could be interpreted as the most serious provocation. (Tuchman 1966, 107) This grudge, along with a perceived military, intellectual and cultural superiority, made World War I seem almost inevitable. Germany perceived itself as encircled, surrounded by hostile and inferior neighbors that did not give the nation the prestige that it deserved. Feelings of insecurity are a common theme in nationalist movements. Hence, the events of 1914 gave Germany the pretense it needed to exert the greatness imagined within the nation.

As well as through blame, nationalist movements are often compelled through a sense of being aggrieved. Like the Germans who felt such great bitterness from the conditions of Versailles, the French held similar animosity over the Versailles Treaty of 1871 that granted Germany possession of Lorraine and part of Alsace. Territory, when embedded within the terms of a common people and hence nation, often plays a vital role in nationalist sentiment. While militarily inferior to their German counterparts, the French felt some assurance in the ensuing outbreak of World War I with the alliances they struck with Britain and Russia. The return of the often disputed territory would simply bring cohesion to the notion of the French nation. The war, and they way in which it was settled, obviously brought very different consequences.

The decline of these nationalistic tendencies can be attributed to a number of factors. The toll of not one, but two devastating continental engagements certainly quelled most impulses toward singular greatness. Also, as often appears to be the case, nationalist movements seem to wane with the presence of stability. In the Post-War era, Western Europe, while precariously situated against the Soviet threat, was given this stability in the terms of American support and increasing economic interdependence. The creation of the European Union, as well as international monetary organizations like the WTO and IMF, only served to advance this feeling of security, as sovereignty and ideals of national supremacy gave way to goals of prosperity and enduring peace. Hence, the decline of nationalism in Western Europe can be understood as a function of no longer needing to express the often base impulses behind it. Stable governance and material wealth, as well as increased individualism, rendered nationalism as a more trivial concern.

III. The Middle East

While nationalism in the West declined with the presence of political stability and economic interdependence, it flourished in the Middle East with the dissolution of foreign influence and the creation of Israel. Relatively unshackled from European dominion, a form of Arab nationalism developed from a resentment of Western imperialism and an aspiration toward self-dependence. Israel alone stood as a remarkable testament to nationalistic impulses, and gave additional reason for the Arab world to discover their own. This section will focus on Arab Nationalism, particularly characterized by Nasser in Egypt, as well as, examples of nationalism in Iran, the Palestinian Occupied Territories, and the general Islamist movement represented by Osama Bin Laden.

The reasons for Arab nationalism are quite different from those of Western Europe, yet the sentiment is closely aligned. Colonial rule necessarily imposed a sense of unjustified subjugation and feelings of oppression. The creation of a Jewish state on perceived Arab territory only galvanized these sentiments. Post-War realities ushered in an era of uncertainty and lack of stability where these injustices could be remedied. The 1952 coup in Egypt represented an explicit refutation of imperial influence. Under the helm of Gamal Abdul Nasser Egypt became the hub from which Arab desires were expressed.

With Nasser and his influence, which was enhanced by a pan-Arab radio station on which he gave passionate speeches, Jordan and Syria became further engulfed with Arab nationalism. (Scott-Baumann, 2000, 45-46) The Baghdad Pact of 1955, an ostensible anti-Soviet alliance engineered by Britain, was only signed by Turkey and Iraq as anti-imperialist rage simmered. The grievances of the past and Arab potency were further evinced with the claiming of the Suez Canal, and all its imperial implications, by Egypt later in that year. While the 1956 Sinai War likely would have ended in unmitigated disaster without American intervention, Nasser was heralded as a hero in the Arab world as events were construed as an assertion of the people's worth and power in the face of imperialistic aggression. The devastation of the Six Day War, Nasser's death, and increasing reliance on American aid effectively dampened the pan-Arab nationalism emanating from Egypt. Again, like in Western Europe, security and relative prosperity trumped nationalistic tendencies.

As Egyptian influence diminished, new strains of nationalism broke out across the Middle East. Like in Egypt, Iran had long been under the dominion of the West through the rule of the Shah, yet unlike in Egypt, Iranian nationalism demonstrated not only an anti-imperialistic sentiment, but a more manifestly religious one. Islam was at the core of the 1979 Revolution. While many Islamists would "condemn nationalism as a Western strategy designed to divide and weaken Muslims," it was heartily embraced in Iran, and when infused with religion became a source of security and pride that the nation otherwise lacked. (Munson 2003, p. 42-43) Again, nationalism is often a tool implemented as a mechanism to redress feelings of repression or instability.

A more clarion example of insecurity breeding nationalist sentiment is that of the rise of Hamas. The creation of Israel, and its continuing expansion, displaced large numbers of Palestinians and enveloped their lives in disorder and uncertainty. Hamas offered a kind of refuge from this chaos, an organization in which nationalistic pride could be channeled. Like in Iran, Hamas depends on… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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