7.2.2 Contemporary typologies of nationalism

Frédérick Guillaume Dufour and Dave Poitras

Although the opposition between civic and ethnic forms of nationalism remains a useful ideal-type, sociologist Rogers Brubaker has contested its shortcomings (1998, pp. 298-301). Some, for instance, have argued that even when it appears to be inclusive and civic, nationalism is always promoting institutions and symbols that are not culturally neutral, for example: an official language, an official history, political institutions, a constitutional order or legal traditions. It is not because these institutions are not always contested that they are culturally neutral. In Canada, for instance, many institutions and traditions are part of the heritage of the British Empire and the head of the State remains the head of the British monarchy. Other scholars have stressed that the relations between states, nationalism and citizenship policies are always evolving. Germany has for a very long time been associated with ethnic nationalism and very restrictive citizenship policies. Yet, in 1999, it adopted a much more civic political culture and citizenship policies based on soil rather than blood.

Therefore, contemporary researchers of nationalism argue that it is sometimes necessary to move beyond the ethnic/civic divide in order to provide a better typology of different forms of nationalism. Civic nationalism or French Republicanism is sometimes better described as a homogenizing nationalism. The ideal-type of homogenizing nationalism refers to a fully recognized and institutionalized form of nationalism that provides the principal vector of integration to the political culture of a state. Since homogenizing nationalism is always at the core of a state’s institutions, it becomes “banal” or “normal” for many observers. Ethnic nationalism, on the other hand, has often been prominent among members of a group who seek to build their own sovereign state. In this case, it is probably better to refer to a state-seeking nationalism. When many members of a policy share a different subjective understanding of their past, culture or collective memory, they can mobilize a state-seeking nationalism in order to secede from a state that does not recognize their cultural specificities.

Homeland nationalism is another variant of nationalism that occurs in peculiar geopolitical contexts. Homeland nationalism is the type of transborder mobilization used by a state towards ethnic minorities in neighboring states that “belongs” to the dominant ethnic group of the homeland state. This type of nationalism can become a core instrument of the homeland’s state foreign policy. It can seek either the geopolitical annexation of another state’s territory, a section of the territory or the political destabilisation of a foreign state’s political regime in order to empower political forces more in line with the homeland state.

Diaspora nationalism refers to the nationalist beliefs and nationalist practices of members of a diaspora who remain attached to another state that they consider their homeland. Diasporic nationalist practices can be directed toward an imagined homeland even if the actual members of the diaspora have never set foot in the actual state that they consider “their” homeland. The existence of diasporic nationalism emphasizes the fact that the nation is an imagined community and that it can be imagined from within the existing territory of a nation-state or from outside the actual territory of a nation-state.

The term national populism is often used to refer to the core ideology of the European radical right that blends elements of nationalism, populism and authoritarianism. National-populist movements mobilize their membership along two axes: a horizontal axis where they galvanize the so-called “people” against the so-called “elites” and a vertical axis where they galvanize members of the nation against non-members, foreigners or minority groups. National-populists are also opponents of the counter-powers constitutive of a liberal democracy: an independent judiciary system, a free and diversified press, a constitutionalized division of power, and charters of rights. According to national-populists, these counter-powers have gained too much power in liberal democracies and are threatening the expression of the political will of the majority.


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Political Ideologies and Worldviews: An Introduction Copyright © 2021 by Frédérick Guillaume Dufour and Dave Poitras is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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