Nationalism from a Marxian Perspective

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Nationalism from a Marxian Perspective

The mobilization of the masses to both support and participate in a wide variety of cultural and political endeavors is often achieved through nationalism. It can be used to get a society to push for a return to traditional ways and old-time religion, to press on for national liberation and self-determination, to support or fight vast acts of imperialism and genocide, as an excuse to severely obstruct rights and liberties for citizens, and ultimately be used as a great tool in a quest for all out war and full throttled vengeance in any case in which a country is attacked. For decades, the Nationalist tendency of America has not been as clear or strong as it has been during the current aftermath of the attacks in New York City. The response across America has been widespread and clear: people, by and large, and in full support of the state and whatever path it wishes to choose, with a majority of the population even supporting secret military trials and a strict curtailing of civil liberties in America. Nationalism is running rampant in America, much of which goes far beyond mere patriotism and concern for the state of one’s nation and rather into astonishingly high levels of First World chauvinism. But what does this mean on a larger level? How is nationalism used on a larger scale? Is it most always used to have the mass blindly follow the interest of elites? Or is nationalism more complex? To answer these questions, in this paper I will address nationalism on multiple levels and from a Marxian perspective. Nationalism will be dealt with at a structural level, with an examination of how it utilized in both the First World and the Third World.

Many basic descriptions of what nationalism is exist, and defining precisely what nationalism means is not an easy task. This is in large part because the causes and effects of nationalism greatly varies from social context to social context, as the concrete social reality determines the specific shape and character that the nationalism idea takes when it comes to hold a large part of the consciousness of a society (I say the ‘nationalism idea’ for I feel that nationalism is, primarily, in the realm of the ideological). Put more succinctly “Nationalism can be, and has been, democratic and authoritarian, forward-looking or backward-looking, socialist or reactionary” (Kamenka 1976: 3).

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