Cohen’s ‘Personal Nationalism’ and its Strengths and Weaknesses Essay

Cohen’s ‘Personal Nationalism’ and its Strengths and Weaknesses Essay

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Nationhood is a concept that has throughout the years been notoriously difficult to define. Ideas on this have varied along lines of culture and politics. Cohen, in his article titled Personal Nationalisms: a Scottish view on some Rites, Rights and Wrongs has presented a concept of ‘personal nationalism’, that nationhood cannot completely construct individual identity; it is the individuals themselves that construct the meanings of what the nation is on a personal scale. This essay will argue that the strength of Cohen’s approach to nationhood is in his distinction between cultural and political nationalism that previous work in this field have glossed over and in his leaving room for interpretations of nationalism on a personal scale allowing modern notions of multiculturalism to flourish. Despite these strengths, however, his viewpoint does have some weaknesses; mainly, that his ideas on locality are outdated and overly simplistic in their accounts of globalization, that national sentiments are felt by diasporas and sub-nations within larger nations despite being away from the home nation, that he fails to account for the creation of a national person embodying and internalizing national values and culture as expressions of self-identity, and on his overly Western leaning discourse on individualism and rights.
Cohen's approach to nationhood is one in which he states that individuals, through their own agency, construct their views on nationalism and membership to a nation as one of the resources used, whether consciously or unconsciously, to create a coherent sense of self-identity. By inscribing and intertwining the sense of individual agency and nationalism, along with his ideas of the ‘rights’ of persons to construct their o...

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