Nationalism is the most important feature of global politics as a source of both conflict and stability. The meaning of nationalism is elusive, as nationalism exists as an ideology and a movement, pervades domestic and international issues, and acts both on and through political actors on every level. Nationalism has guided the development of our species from ensuring the survival of our ancestors to determining the overlying global structure of the contemporary political world; the nation-state system. An understanding of nationalism is essential to understanding the underlying characteristics of our political world for Liberals, Realists and Marxists.
Nationalism is defined in many ways, ranging from a “belief that nations will benefit from acting independently rather than collectively” to the “devotion to the interests… of one's nation” 1 or as “Aspirations for national independence in a country under foreign domination” 1. Looking at these definitions, two truisms immediately become evident; the first is that nationalism needs to be understood in several contexts and the second is that a definition of the nation itself is required to make sense of nationalism. The nation can be defined in several ways, but it is best defined as “a people who share common customs, origins, history, and frequently language; a nationality” as to distinguish a nation from a nation-state or country and to draw attention to the importance of a shared history and language. “…Language bespeaks both the solidarity and continuity of a people” because it is the means by which a nation can perpetuate itself through passing on its history from one generation to the next and through lending a nation cohesion and distinction by making interactions between people of the same nation easy and of different nations difficult.
It is necessary to understand nationalism in several contexts, as it is a driving force in the actions of individuals and groups, and it can...