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The Rise Of Nationalism After The French Revolution

1485 words - 6 pages

After the end of French Revolution, as the empires slowly diminished, countries wished to become independent and develop nation-states. Possibly one of the first nationalists was Johann Gottlieb Fichte, who attempted to urge Germans to be individual from people of other nation-states. Many years later, more people became interested in nationalism, some in more positive ways than others. Ernest Renan questioned the definition of an actual nation, and what constituted a nation. However, not everyone agreed with nationalism. John Acton strongly opposed nationalism and maintained that its primary goal was not freedom. Unfortunately, the negative connotations and slight misinterpretation of the ...view middle of the document...

He continues to say, “[we must] throw away foreign contrivances,” (63). This particular notion is not only shocking, as most people were unaware of the early potential racism at the time, but it is also extremely illogical because to keep a country separate from the rest of the world is near impossible. A prime example would be trading with other countries. Each country must naturally depend on another, alliances must be formed and relationships must be made. Possibly unintentionally, it appears as though he was encouraging xenophobia, placing fear into the hearts of the public sphere.

A similar weakness of Fichte’s argument is that he unrightfully blames other countries, “It was only the deceit of foreign countries that dragged Germany into their own lawlessness and their own disputes; it was they who taught Germany the treacherous notion of the balance of power” (63). While blaming other countries, he refused to take responsibility for his own country, and additionally fortified peoples beliefs in fear of the outside and unknown as necessary for survival.

Mazzini’s primary belief in his essay “On Nationality” (1852) was that Europe needed to be reconstructed. He claimed, “Europe no longer possesses unity of faith, of mission, or of aim. Such unity is a necessity in the world,” (122). Like Fichte, Mazzini yearned for transformation. While Fichte was specific to Germany, Mazzini looked at a larger scale. Mazzini employed a call to action with this piece, as he perceived a problem and pleaded for an answer from Italy. He understood that once each individual nation was successfully created, all of Europe could be unified. However, his thoughts were similar to Fichte in the sense that he believed foreigners needed to be less involved in order for Italy to progress, “[Italians must] associate freely, without obstacles, without foreign domination, in order to elaborate and express their idea” (123). The “obstacles” that Mazzini referred were most likely people that did not express the same beliefs as other nationalists. This notion returns to the Fichte’s concept of unwanted foreign thinkers in Germany, and the preconceived perception that others will only do harm.

Mazzini’s thought of unification by altering the European map through nationalism was weak in itself. Although he was very clear in what he desired, that individual nations were created, he was unclear on how exactly he wished to change it or how he planned to go about the change. This idea is limiting and detrimental to his argument, as he does offer a suggestion but not a complete solution to the unification problem.

Each author had their own description of what true nationality was, and Renan attempted to describe the core foundations of a nation by starting off with naming what people of a nation have in common in What is a Nation? during 1882. Most importantly, he stated that all individuals in a nation have a “shared past”, whether it is glorious and heavenly or wretched and full...

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