Suppose that you were asked if you are a nationalist or a patriot, what would you say? Would you even know the difference? Perhaps you will say that they are both one and the same thing that got twisted by the intellectuals to serve their ‘ulterior’ motives. You will be partly correct in your assessment, yes, the difference was made by intellectuals, but it was because the intellectuals are the ones who make all the difference in this world. Others just reap. Coming back to the point, the difference between nationalism and patriotism is as much as the difference between a nation and a country. But, you do not know if a country and a nation are different, do you? Well, let’s see what we can do about that.
A country is defined as a political entity that must have its own territory with internationally recognized borders, permanent residents and most importantly sovereignty which means that the country must have a centralized govt. that rules over its territory, and hence a foreign country has no power within its territory. State(usually with an uppercase S) and country are synonyms.
On the other hand, nation is defined by a group of people who are greater in size than a single community and share a homogenous culture. This homogenous culture might include a same language, race, religion or any combination of the aforementioned things. One other strong factor for a homogenous culture is a shared historical narrative of a nation. The great liberal thinker Jon Stuart Mill had defined this as ‘…an identity of political antecedents, the possession of a national narrative and a consequent community of recollections, collective pride and humiliation, pride and regret, connected by similar incidents in the past”; i.e. a heritage or a shared way of how we feel about our country’s history.
When a nation has a country of its own, it is called a nation-state. Germany, France and Japan are fine example of a nation state. Some countries don’t have homogenous cultures throughout their land but are still nation-states, like U.S. that has its ‘American’ culture and India that is bound by ‘Indian’ culture of unity in diversity. Similarly, Kashmir on a whole is a nation, but is divided in 2 parts which come under the territories of two countries, India and Pakistan.
If we extend this thought, and consider that if a country and nation are not the same, then do ‘patriotism’ and ‘nationalism’ have the same meanings?
Well, for what it is worth, the answer is no.
Patriotism is one’s love for his country and an admiration toward its way of life while Nationalism is one’s love for the cultural background and the heritage shared by the nation. Patriotism does not assume any superiority over other countries or their people, rather it just recognizes one’s country as one’s own and that sense of belonging is the key inspiration of patriotism in people. On the other hand Nationalism assumes that one’s own national heritage is superior than that of any other nation and hence it thrives on the pride that comes from it.
One of the key aspects that makes differentiate between patriotism and nationalism is how both thought processes take criticism. While patriotism is open to criticism as making a country better than it is currently is a part of patriotic principles, nationalism is bound to take criticism as an insult as it will smear the name of a nation that is so obviously the best in the world and hence any mistakes of the nation in the past are either overlooked in the larger scheme or are tried to be justified
As a conclusion, we can say that patriotism is a personal phenomenon and is concerned with how an individual identifies with the country while nationalism involves the image that the nation has of itself being projected on the mind of an individual.
So while “What makes India the greatest country in the world?”, is a nationalist question, “The first step towards solving any problem is recognizing that there is one. India is not the greatest country in the world anymore” is a patriotic answer.
Lest we forget –
“Nationalism is the worst enemy of peace”.