Essay on Kedourie's Nationalism

602 Words Oct 22nd, 2007 3 Pages
In his book Nationalism (1960), Elie Kedourie describes nationalism as "a doctrine invented in Europe at the beginning of the nineteenth century," emphasizing the artificial character of this ideology that combines the political idea of self-government with anthropological notions of shared national characteristics. To understand the development of nationalism, Kedourie looks back into some events and ideas that form the history and set the background for the creation of the ideology.
Kedourie traces the beginning of nationalism to the historical event of the French Revolution and the philosophy connected with Kant's categorical imperative. The French Revolution (1789) introduced the concept that sovereignty rested on the authority of
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The new doctrine changed the balance of power and resulted in a "radical subversion of the European state system" that was spread around the world. As Kedourie states, it "created new conflicts, exacerbated tensions, and brought catastrophe". The author paints a negative portrait of nationalism since despite its attempts to achieve greater peace and stability, it has more often been the cause of new conflicts. He gives some examples of situations where nationalism has undermined the position of minorities. In regions of mixed population, for instance, the ideology of self-determination seems to fail and, moreover, "tends to disrupt whatever equilibrium had been reached between different groups". Determining frontiers by a linguistic criterion in such areas goes against minorities that are seen as foreigners in their own country, leading to tensions that in many cases end up in wars. The history of Europe after 1919 speaks for itself and shows "the disastrous possibilities inherent in nationalism," in Kedouries' words. Kedourie argues that nationalism was an invention. However, I'm still attached to the idea of shared characteristics between a group of people –such as language, territory, culture- to understand the concept of nation. Nationalism raised these feelings of togetherness to the political ground, creating the basis of what sometimes has been a racist doctrine that excludes

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