Types of Nationalism

The main types of nationalism are oppression, irredentism, prestige and caution. Nationalism is a complex and multidimensional term that implies a communal identification shared with the nation. It is a sociopolitical ideology and movement, which places a nation as the only element of identity, based on the social, cultural and spatial condition of that nation.

Starting from the definition of “nation”, who’s Latin is born   means “place where one is born”, nationalism appeals to the community identity based on the culture, language, religion or belief of a common ancestor. However, it is much more complex than that.

Types of Nationalism

Types of nationalism

Nationalism is based on two fundamental principles:

First: The principle of national sovereignty, where territory takes on an outstanding value, and is defended ironically.

Second: The principle of nationality, which refers to the sense of belonging to a legal order, or to the feeling of belonging to a social group, which not only shares common characteristics, but also forms part of a State whose borders coincide with those of the nation.

Nationalism regularly describes two phenomena: First, the attitude that members of a nation have to defend their national identity. And secondly: the actions that the members of a nation take with the purpose of achieving or maintaining self-determination.

Is Nationalism a political tendency, a social tendency or a cultural tendency? This must be a broad debate, considering that Nationalism, as such, can be approached from different perspectives, depending on the social scientific paradigm from which to study.

Thus, the positivists could affirm that Nationalism is an observable, measurable social fact that is imposed on society, independently of its members. Understanding sociologists might claim that Nationalism is not unique and that there have been so many types, as unique and unrepeatable moments, that have been presented throughout history.

And the Marxists could say that the nation is nothing more than a bourgeois fraud designed to convince the proletariat to fight alongside foreign bourgeois who want to take away the market, so there is nothing to classify.

This is just to mention some of the possible interpretations that, from some visions, could arise. Obviously, the systems of classification of Nationalism, meet the criteria of the paradigms from which they are addressed.

We will mention some types of Nationalism, based on some recognized academic sources.

Types of Nationalism according to Pfr. Handman

It classifies nationalism into four divisions:

  • Oppression Nationalism: Based on the imposition of nationalism by the State.
  • Irredentism: It refers to the aspiration of a people to complete and defend their territorial unit or the acquisition of new lands subject to foreign domination.
  • Precarious Nationalism: Peoples are attached to their roots, customs, territory, being unreceptive to new national paradigms. This with intent to safeguard the nation.
  • Prestigious Nationalism: Whole nations share the fury of their countries’ victories or economies, impelling their citizens to an attachment to prestige.

Types of Nationalism according to Pfr. Wirth

Constructed from a sociological perspective, he takes as a reference the model of Professor Handman, who classified nationalisms into four types (Oppression Nationalism, Irredentism, Precavational Nationalism and Prestigious Nationalism), but builds its classification based on the manifestation of the conflicts inherent in the Groups and provides examples throughout history. Distinguish between:

  • Hegemonic nationalism : one in which one or more nations unite to gain benefits of supremacy or dominion over others, regardless of whether they have common cultural or ethnic roots. In turn it is divided into Pannationalism (which claims a territory that normally goes beyond the original boundaries, based on an exacerbated idea of ​​nation). Irredentismo (that claims a territory that according to its nationals belongs to him and that is occupied by another nation) and Imperialism (that claims its sovereignty in the name of the empire).
  • Nationalism Particularist: It is the tendency of a people, or nation, that makes him want to isolate him from other peoples and to merge into a great unity. It reinforces the demand for national autonomy. (It is worth mentioning Dr. Ortega y Gasset when he refers to this type of nationalism as “lasting dissociation.” It is driven by a feeling of living apart and coexisting with those who share his thinking.
  • Marginal Nationalism: It is a type of European nationalism. It refers to a movement characterized by the defense of borders and populations, such as the Italo-Austrian border or the Swiss border. Marginal population refers to national groups living in border areas, where two states inevitably intermingle. The nationals of each nation, regularly, defend the territoriality of their nation. However both sides share the ‘benefit of the doubt’ of land administration. There is a tendency for each nation to cling to and defend the traditions of their motherland. Religion can be a turning point or moderator among border towns. Hence Catholic Germans to the south-east of Tyrol, and Protestant Germans to the north of Schlewigs.
  • Nationalism of Minorities: Groups of people with common beliefs or interests come together, form a unity based on their principles. It can not necessarily be considered religious nationalism, since there are many other ideologies that may have the strength to unify peoples and give them territorial and sovereign legal order. Unlike particularistic nationalism, these groups are considered minorities in their environment. The difference between Europe and America in this type of nationalism comes with the relative recent immigration of minority groups to certain American areas, while Europe has generations and generations harboring different minorities in the same territory.

Types of Nationalisms according to Stanford University’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy

It classifies nationalism into two large groups:

  • Classical Nationalisms: Classical nationalisms are ethnic, civic and cultural. It refers to the pillars for understanding this deep subject, based on the essence of its meaning, and how it translates into actions.
  • Broad Nationalisms: The broad nationalisms are the interpretations and ‘subdivisions’, if you will, of the classic nationalisms, where new nuances and deep, or extended, thinking of the classics are found. For example, religious, liberal nationalism, among others. New concepts incorporated into classic nationalisms, to give them a detailed application and that may involve some non fundamental differences, with respect to classical nationalisms.

Ethnic Nationalism: It is a type of nationalism in which the nation is determined in terms of an ethnicity. This foundation includes a culture shared between members of a group with their ancestors. Whole ethnic groups are segmented and self-determining. Such self-determination gives them an autonomous character, separating them within the same society. They claim a common homeland based on their ethnicity and defend their autonomy. Ethnic nationalism defends the position of ethnic groups appeal to their legitimacy based on the “motherland” of that group.

Romantic nationalism: Some authors consider it a division of ethnic nationalism. It is also known as organic nationalism or identity. In this type of nationalism, it is the State that derives its political legitimacy as an organic expression and expression of the nation or race. This type of nationalism was the result of the reaction to the imperial dynasty, which evaluated the legitimacy of the state from the highest to the lowest levels, an authority that emerges from a chief executive or monarch or other legitimate authority.

Civic Nationalism: it is a type of nationalism based on a reality built by a group of human beings who share a birthplace. The legitimacy of this type of nationalism is given by the state. The individual represents the popular or popular will. Unlike ethnic nationalism, civic nationalism proposes that adherence to it is voluntary on the part of individuals, who adhere to their civic – national ideals. It is regularly associated with state nationalism, the term of which is often used to refer to conflicts between nationalisms. Combining this concept with ethnic nationalism, the raison d’être of individuals, is to support state nationalism.

Cultural Nationalism: Culture is the basic factor that unites the nation. The incorporation to this type of nationalism is not totally voluntary, if it is considered that acquiring a culture is part of having been born and raised in a certain culture. In cultural nationalism the parents do not inherit their offspring, children, automatically this kind of nationalism. In fact, a child of a national, raised in another culture, can be considered “foreigner”. It cannot be considered as an ethnic or civic nationalism, particularly because it entails the individual’s adherence to a particular culture, not tacitly given being born in a given territory or imposed by the State. There are some sources quoting authors, political philosophers, such as Ernest Renant and John Stuard Mill,

Religious nationalism: Considered by some thinkers as individualism, religious nationalism applies the nationalist ideal to a religion, in particular, dogmas or affiliation. This kind of nationalism can be seen from two perspectives; first we see shared religion as a unifying entity in national unity. Second, one can see the politicization of religion in a given nation, accentuating the influence of religion on politics. Religious nationalism does not necessarily imply the tendency to fight against other religions. It can be seen as a response to secular, non-religious nationalism. It is dangerous when the state bases its entire political legitimacy on religious doctrines,

Liberal nationalism: Modernity has brought with it new social concepts, such as liberal nationalism, which reconciles nationalism with the liberal values ​​of freedom, equality, tolerance and rights of individuals. Some authors include liberal nationalism as synonymous with civic. Liberal nationalists attach great importance to the State or Institutionality as the highest referent of nationality. In its enlarged version we speak of legal or institutional nationalism.

Economic Nationalism: It bases its ideology on mechanisms of economic dependence. It maintains the position that the production sectors and the basic enterprises of the economy, are in the hands of national, sometimes state capitals, when the private sector is not in capacity or conditions to supply the nation. It is a type of nationalism that emerged in the twentieth century, when some countries created state enterprises in order to exploit strategic resources. For example, the creation of the YPF, an Argentine company that was dedicated to the exploitation, distillation, distribution and sale of oil and its subsidiary products, found in that country in 1922. Other outstanding examples: the nationalization of oil in Iran, in 1951, the nationalization of copper in Chile, in 1971.


Given all of the above, we can conclude, unequivocally, that nationalism is a deep, dense subject, depending on the perspective in which it is analyzed, sociological, political or historical, will have an interpretation and application. Not surprisingly, nationalism has been the subject of much conjecture and debate throughout history, and will continue to be.

A globalized world follows and most likely will continue to have and defend different types of nationalism, due to the inherent human need for belonging and distinction. Some will defend it, others will fight with it. Whatever the posture of nations, human beings continue to share the planet as our home.

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