Common Origin, Common Power, or Common Life: The Changing Landscape of Nationalisms


Socio-territorial psychic constructs, such as national identities, are perhaps the most important psychic phenomena for political science, with their strength so consequential for wars and inter-ethnic conflicts. The construction of the EU has faced scholars and practitioners with two identity-related problems: (i) whether the socio-territorial identities can be conceptualized as being multi-layered (nested, hyphenated, with non-conflictual relationships among the components), and (ii) whether the higher levels of these identity constructs can be confined to civic aspects (e.g. to a Habermasian constitutional patriotism), as opposed to traditional nationalisms relying on assumptions of common origin, and shared culture. The most entrenched classification of nationalisms relies on an obvious difference between the kinds of nationalisms endorsed by the Irish and Germans, on one hand, and the French and white immigrant countries like the US, on the other hand. These versions are generally labeled “ethnocultural,” involving the consciousness of a shared ancestry and history, and “civic”, relying on the idea of belonging to the same state. My argument is that a schism within the “civic” approach to nationalism can theoretically be expected and empirically supported on the basis of the ISSP 2003, Eurobarometer 57.2 and 73.3 surveys. These datasets confirm the existence of three principal components of nationalism, which can be labeled “ethnocultural”, “great-power-civic” and “welfare-civic”. While the great-power-civic approach is concerned with and takes pride in the country’s military strength, international influence, sovereignty, and national character, the welfare-civic approach takes a more civilian stance and it is concerned with common rights, fair treatment of groups, social security, and welfare within the country. In addition, support has been found for the assumption that people tend to construct their supra-national identity layer according to the molds for their national identity.

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Koos, A. (2012) Common Origin, Common Power, or Common Life: The Changing Landscape of Nationalisms. Open Journal of Political Science, 2, 45-58. doi: 10.4236/ojps.2012.23006.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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