For brevity, I shall reduce each line of thought to a briefargument; the actual debate is more involved than one canrepresent in a sketch. I shall indicate, in brackets, some prominentlines of criticism that have been put forward in the debate. (Theseare discussed in greater detail in Miscevic 2001.) The main argumentsin favor of nationalism purporting to establish its fundamentalclaims about state and culture will be divided into two sets. Thefirst set of arguments defends the claim that national communitieshave a high value, often seen as non-instrumental and independent ofthe wishes and choices of their individual members, and argues thatthey should therefore be protected by means of state and officialstatist policies. The second set is less deeply‘philosophical’ (or ‘comprehensive’), andencompasses arguments from the requirements of justice,independent from substantial assumptions about culture and culturalvalues.
Between these two sets of endangered values, the autonomy-centeredand creativity-centered ones, fall values that seem to arise fromordinary needs of people living under ordinary circumstances (Barry2001). In many modern states, citizens of different ethnic backgroundlive together and very often value this kind of life. The very fact ofcohabitation seems to be a good that should be upheld. Nationalismdoes not tend to foster this kind of multiculturalism and pluralism,judging from both theory (especially the classical nationalist one)and experience. But the problems get worse. In practice, it does notseem accidental that the invidious particularistic form ofnationalism, claiming rights for one's own people and denying them toothers, is so widespread. The source of the problem is the competitionfor scarce resources: as Ernst Gellner (1983) famously pointed out,there is too little territory for all candidate ethnic groups to havea state, and the same goes for other goods demanded by nationalistsfor the exclusive use of their co-nationals. According to some authors(McCabe 1997), the invidious variant is more coherent than any otherform of nationalism: if one values one's own ethnic group highly thesimplest way is to value it tout court. If one definitelyprefers one's own culture in all respects to any foreign one, it is awaste of time and attention to bother about others. The universalist,non-invidious variant introduces enormous psychological and politicalcomplications. These arise from a tension between spontaneousattachment to one's own community and the demand to regard allcommunities with an equal eye. This tension might make the humane,non-invidious position psychologically unstable, difficult to upholdin situations of conflict and crisis, and politically lessefficient.
Consider first the classical nationalist answer to (2a). Politicalsovereignty requires a state “rightfully owned” by theethno-nation (Oldenquist 1997, who credits the expression to thewriter Czeslaw Milosz). Developments of this line of thought oftenstate or imply specific answers to (2b), and (2c), i.e., that in anational independence struggle the use of force against thethreatening central power is almost always a legitimate means forbringing about sovereignty. However, classical nationalism is not onlyconcerned with the creation of a state but also with its maintenanceand strengthening. Nationalism is sometimes used to promote claimsfor the expansion of a state (even at the cost of wars) and forisolationist policies. Expansion is often justified by appeal to theunfinished business of bringing literally all members of thenation under one state and sometimes by territorial and resourceinterests. As for maintenance of sovereignty by peaceful and merelyideological means, political nationalism is closely tied to culturalnationalism. The latter insists upon the preservation and transmissionof a given culture, or more accurately, of recognizably ethno-nationaltraits of the culture in its pure form, dedicating artistic creation,education and research to this goal. Of course, the ethno-nationaltraits to be preserved can be actual or invented, partly or fullyso. Again, in the classical variant the relevant norm claims that onehas both a right and an obligation (“a sacred duty”) topromote such a tradition. Its force trumps other interests and evenother rights (a trump which is often needed in order to carry out thenational independence struggle). In consequence, classical nationalismhas something to say about the ranking of attitudes as well: inresponse to (1e), caring for one's nation is given the status of afundamental duty for each of its members, and in answer to (1f), thescope is taken as unlimited. In summary, for future reference:
Classical nationalists are usually vigilant about the kind ofculture they protect and promote and about the kind of attitude peoplehave to their nation-state. This watchful attitude carries somepotential dangers: many elements of a given culture that areuniversalist or simply not recognizably national may fall prey to suchnationalist enthusiasms. Classical nationalism in everyday life putsvarious additional demands on individuals, from buying more expensivehome-produced goods in preference to cheaper imported ones toprocreating as many future members of the nation as one canmanage. (See Yuval-Davies 1997, and Yack 2012.)
We pointed out at the very beginning of the entry thatnationalism focuses upon (1) the attitude that the members of a nationhave when they care about their national identity, and (2) the actionsthat the members of a nation take when seeking to achieve (or sustain)some form of political sovereignty. The politically central point is(2): the actions enjoined by the nationalist. To these we now turn,beginning with sovereignty and territory, the usual foci of a nationalstruggle for independence. They raise an important issue:
In its general form the issue of nationalism concerns the mappingbetween the ethno-cultural domain (featuring ethno-cultural groups or“nations”) and the domain of political organization. Inbreaking down the issue, we have mentioned theimportance of the attitude that the members of a nation have when theycare about their national identity. This point raises two sorts ofquestions. First, the descriptive ones:
Despite these definitional worries, there is a fair amount ofagreement about the historically paradigmatic form of nationalism. Ittypically features the supremacy of the nation's claims over otherclaims to individual allegiance and full sovereignty as the persistentaim of its political program. Territorial sovereignty hastraditionally been seen as a defining element of state power andessential for nationhood. It was extolled in classic modern works byHobbes, Locke, and Rousseau and is returning to center stage in thedebate, though philosophers are now more skeptical (see below). Issuessurrounding the control of the movement of money and people (inparticular immigration) and the resource rights implied in territorialsovereignty make the topic politically center in the age ofglobalization and philosophically interesting for nationalists andanti-nationalists alike.
(2) raises questions about whether sovereignty requires theacquisition of full statehood with complete authority over domestic andinternational affairs, or whether something less than statehoodsuffices. Although sovereignty is often taken to mean full statehood(Gellner 1983, ch. 1; for discussion of Gellner's views see Meadwell2012, 2014, and papers in Malesevic and Hugarard 2007), possibleexceptions have been recognized (Miller 1992 (87), and Miller2000). Some authors even defend an anarchist version ofpatriotism-moderate nationalism foreshadowed by Bakunin (see RobertSparrow, “For the Union Makes Us Strong: Anarchism andPatriotism”, in Primoratz and Pavkovic 2007).
Indeed, older authors — from great thinkers like Herder andOtto Bauer to the propagandists who followed their footsteps —took great pains to ground normative claims upon firmontological realism about nations: nations are real, bonafide entities. However, the contemporary moral debate has triedto diminish the importance of the imagined/real divide. Prominentcontemporary philosophers have claimed that normative-evaluativenationalist claims are compatible with the “imagined”nature of a nation. (See, for instance, MacCormick 1982; Miller 1992,2000; Tamir 1993, Gans 2003, Moore 2009, 2010, Dagger 2009 and, for aninteresting discussion, Frost 2006.) They point out that commonimaginings can tie people together, and that actual interactionresulting from togetherness can engender important moralobligations.
Neither multiculturalists nor cosmopolitans lose much sleep over the fate of the nation-state or are overly concerned about preserving a strong American national identity.
Although the term “nationalism” has a variety ofmeanings, it centrally encompasses the two phenomena noted at theoutset: (1) the attitude that the members of a nation have when theycare about their identity as members of that nation and (2) theactions that the members of a nation take in seeking to achieve (orsustain) some form of political sovereignty (see for example, Nielsen1998–9, 9). Each of these aspects requires elaboration. (1)raises questions about the concept of a nation or national identity,about what it is to belong to a nation, and about how much one oughtto care about one's nation. Nations and national identity may bedefined in terms of common origin, ethnicity, or cultural ties, andwhile an individual's membership in the nation is often regarded asinvoluntary, it is sometimes regarded as voluntary. The degree of carefor one's nation that nationalists require is often, but notalways, taken to be very high: according to such views, the claims ofone's nation take precedence over rival contenders for authority andloyalty (see Berlin 1979, Smith 1991, Levy 2000, and the discussion inGans 2003; for a more extreme characterization see the opening pagesof Crosby 2005, and for a recent rich and interesting discussions ofnationalist attitudes see Yack 2012).