Nationalism Is a Recipe for Peace and International Order

Last Updated: 22 Mar 2021
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Nationalism is primarily the belief in bringing the borders of the state in line with the boundaries of the nation, yet within it exist many strands which disagree as to how this ought to be done. Liberal Nationalism champions the idea that nations are sovereign entities, entitled to liberty, and also possessing rights, most importantly the right of self-determination. Therefore Liberalism does not condone forms of foreign dominion, and hence condemns expansionism through violence, and so may be described as maintaining peace.

Furthermore, Liberal Nationalists believe that the ideal world would be constructed of independent, sovereign nation-states. They also believe that these nation-states are equal, like the individuals within them, and that each will be entitled to self-determinism and as all these nation-states are equal and no chauvinism exists, it cannot be stated that Liberal Nationalists would advocate expansionism due to a global hierarchy, as Expansionist Nationalism does. Liberal Nationalists believe that the establishment of a world of nation-states with equal self-determination is a means of establishing international peace and order.

Past wars were merely a result of the ‘old order’ which was dominated by autocratic and militaristic empires which sought to obtain the dominions of other nations through violence in order for economic reasons or ideological ones. Democratic nation states would respect the national sovereignty of their neighbors and have no incentive to wage war or subjugate others. Liberal Nationalists believe that Nationalism is a force that is capable of promoting both unity within each nation and brotherhood amongst all nations on the basis of mutual respect for national rights and characteristics.

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Liberal Nationalists would argue that it would be almost impossible to achieve both peace and international order in a world which is not formulated from nation-states, as these states would not be able to correctly legislate and satisfy the desires of the individuals which compose the nation and so stimulating internal aggravation, which if existent in every non-nation-state would lead to global conflict. However though promoting peace, there seems to be an internal contradiction within Liberal Nationalism.

Though it preserves self-government and forbids foreign control, it also creates a world of sovereign nation-states in which each nation has the freedom to pursue its own interests, possibly at the expense of other nations. Though this may be made less of a possibility in recent times, with mechanisms such as democracy and constitutionalism in place, unlike in societies where liberals would state a ‘Social contract’ exists which prevent peoples freedom being infringed upon through others exercising their own freedoms, on an international scale this does not exist.

This suggests that when sovereign nations operate within conditions of ‘international anarchy’, self-restraint alone may not be sufficient to ensure what Kant called ‘Perpetual peace’. Liberal Nationalists have two means of ensuring that this perpetual peace exists in the modern world. The first of these is free trade. This serves as a deterrent to war as economic interdependence means that the material costs of international conflict are so great that warfare would prove extremely detrimental to the economic state and social welfare of all those involved.

Secondly, the existence and creation of international organizations capable of bringing order to an otherwise lawless international scene would serve to promote and retain peace as international disputes may be settled by these organizations acting as neutral arbiters. This is exemplified by the League of Nations envisaged by Woodrow Wilson or more currently the United Nations. However, the belief that Nationalism may be a force for peace and international order is brought into doubt upon examination of the Expansionist Nationalism strand of Nationalism.

Whilst Liberal Nationalism focuses on the establishment of a world of nation-states through self-determinism, Expansionist Nationalism focuses on territorial expansion justified through chauvinism and the existence of a racial hierarchy. This commitment to aggression and militarism held by Expansionist Nationalists may be described as the opposite of a principled belief in national self-determinism held by Liberal Nationalists. One justification for expansionism was its importance to society.

Most prominent during the colonial era, war was advocated as a means of achieving national prestige. This imperialism resulted in jingoism in the successful country and was seen as promoting the image of that particular nation and so war was not so much portrayed as a negative if the conquerors emerged victorious. However, another justification would be that it is almost a moral obligation for those more advanced in the racial hierarchy to conquer the lands and civilize those who reside within them who are further down the hierarchy.

Through this expansionism those exercising it would be making the world a better and essentially more peaceful place, as if this was exercised to the extreme of world domination the whole world would then conform to the views and beliefs on this original one nation and so also establishing world order. Yet the existence of chauvinism as a force within ideology does nothing to promote peace directly, as chauvinism is primarily an exaggerated, bellicose patriotism and a belligerent belief in national superiority and glory which would not fail to create conflict between nations as each struggle to survive or conquer.

In conclusion, though the strands vary widely on their beliefs I believe that Nationalism is a recipe for international order and peace. This is due to the fact that though Expansionist Nationalism exists, it was mainly prominent in the Colonial Era and to be exercised in the current political climate would incur serious repercussions from international organizations such as the United Nations and so it is clear that Liberal Nationalism is the more widely followed strand. It is merely the chauvinism involved in Expansionist Nationalism which would serve to break down international order and peace as a pose to building it.

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Nationalism Is a Recipe for Peace and International Order. (2017, Apr 08). Retrieved from

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