Wednesday, 8 August 2018

What's the Difference between Nationalism and Patriotism?

What's the difference between nationalism and patriotism? This has been in the news recently with the serpentine Peter Mandelson commenting on the motives of people who voted to leave the EU. He clearly belongs to the ranks of those who claim to love their country but are happy to see it disappear.  Surely if you really love something, you want to preserve it? Growth and organic change are fine but you don't want to radically overhaul it. Would you say to your wife, "I love you darling but I just need you to look completely different and get a new personality"? Would you appreciate it if she said that to you?

Nationalism and patriotism are often (deliberately?) confused by people who style themselves progressive and who prefer the abstract to the particular. (Note: the abstract doesn't actually exist). However it's very easy to define the difference between the two. The patriot respects, or even admires, patriots of other countries but the nationalist does not. The patriot loves his country. The nationalist does not really love his country, at least not in his mode of nationalist. He merely identifies with it personally and from that he dislikes others who do not share in his identification. And then the nationalist is more likely to see his country as his while the patriot reverses this distinction seeing himself as part of the country. It's rather similar to the difference between the individual and the ego, and the two should never be confused since the latter is actually a perversion of the former.

The person who does not love his country is probably incapable of loving anything to any degree. Far from being the last refuge of the scoundrel (Dr Johnson was actually referring to false patriotism not the genuine article), patriotism is the mark of a healthy human being. Your country is like your family. Unless it has become radically corrupted, it is right and natural to love it which does not mean you dislike other countries any more than you would expect their natives to dislike yours.

This was all illustrated by CS Lewis in one of the key works for this blog, That Hideous Strength, when he wrote that just as there is a Logres (or Albion in the context of this blog) behind Britain so most countries have a hidden ideal counterpart behind their mundane outer self. As far as I remember, he specified France and China but you could add India, Russia, America, Greece, Italy, Egypt, Japan and many others. But not, dare I say it, all others. I don't think that all countries are divinely inspired but some clearly are, and they are the ones that leave an evolutionary mark on the world. However one can be a patriot of any country because all countries have their land and their national character, and this is what one loves, real things, actual qualities, not theories or nebulous abstractions. And this is what distinguishes the patriot from the nationalist on the one hand and the internationalist on the other. He loves.


Chiu ChunLing said...

Nationalism is a species of collectivism, it judges people by their nationality.

Patriotism is a species of individualism, it judges people by their contribution to their country.

At the same time, there is value in nationalism, for as long as nations still exist. The simple fact is that even a patriot knows that some nations are better than other nations and to hold to a national identity at some times and places becomes just cause for judgment of an individual.

And whatever the difference between genuine patriotism and the last refuge of the scoundrel, if it were all that obvious then the latter wouldn't be much of a refuge.

For all that you supposedly shouldn't compare apple and oranges, sometimes you've got to choose between bad apples and good oranges. It's true that you shouldn't judge either by whether it is the other, but you can still judge each on its own terms, and that may be enough for a determination between them.

The reason I make this point is because I'm a Chinese patriot, but a (sometime) American nationalist. My native love for China leads me to admire many attributes of the U.S. that I believe China can and should emulate. I originally cast aspersions against the Chinese nation, not because it wasn't the American nation, but because it was the enemy of the Chinese people and country. My American nationalism grew out of my hatred for the Chinese government, not the other way round.

It may be something of a tradition, to be one who adopts another nation as an ally against the nation which oppresses the country they love. At least, I hardly claim to be the first, most notable, or best person ever to have done so.

Bradley Matthews said...

Really excellent post. Thank you.

William Wildblood said...

CCL, regarding nationalism, it all depends on how you define the word. I was taking it in the negative sense as intended by Mandelson who, incidentally, was probably one of the main architects behind encouraging mass immigration into Britain. He uses it like most leftists to mean people who are not much better than Nazis unless they're nationalists of some minor third world country, of course.

You can certainly love other countries and many people do. I do. You have a special connection to your own as with family but you can (and should) love and admire others for their virtues and qualities, and for personal reasons too. And, of course, some countries definitely are better than others, even much better. That's all part of the basic inequality of the world, an idea which is anathema to the left

BM, thanks.