Nationalism is an ideology that stresses allegiance to one's nation as a major political virtue and national preservation and self-determination as prime political imperatives. In its varied forms, nationalism has proved an immensely powerful force for popular mobilization over two centuries in almost every part of the world. Yet as a political-theoretical concept it remains deeply problematical. Who, after all, are the great nationalist theorists of today? Many people theorize about nationalism but few are nationalist theorists in the manner of liberal, Marxist, conservative or feminist theorists. Even recent defenses of liberal or civic nationalism have been by liberals or social democrats trying to come to terms with the nationalist phenomenon. In this essay I approach nationalism by first examining the contributions of those early modern thinkers who foreshadowed what we now call a nationalist outlook. I will then look briefly at the historical trajectory of what proved to be a resilient and protean concept capable of multifarious transformations in different political contexts. Finally, I will outline the central puzzles and debates that this often troubling history has provoked among commentators, concluding with some remarks on what the nationalist phenomenon indicates about modern political theory.
The Encyclopedia of Political Thought
Political Theory and Political Philosophy