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Contemporary Wales
Contemporary Wales

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6.3.1 Varieties of nationalism

Although nationalism arose at a particular time and place in response to a specific set of historic circumstances, it has proven to be highly adaptable and effective as the basis for popular political mobilisation in many different contexts. Gellner’s ideas are better at explaining the origin of nationalism than they are at accounting for the impetus behind the many varieties of nationalism that have since emerged. Thus, his portrayal of national cultures as artificial inventions is contradicted by the perpetuation of a distinctive Welsh identity, which became the basis for a nationalist political movement, centuries after Wales’s incorporation into a British state that was hostile to Welsh culture.

Although the many varieties of nationalist movements that have arisen appeal to the same ideology, there are large differences between them, reflecting the different contexts in which these movements developed.

Activity 18

Read the following extract by James Kellas about different forms of nationalism. Notice where he places Welsh nationalism in his typology. As you read about the characteristics of different nationalist movements, make a list of them and of the ways in which these movements differ from one another.

Extract 6 Classical European nationalism

[T]he ideology of nationalism seems to have originated in Europe. ... But this nationalism, even within Europe, was divided into a ‘western’ and an ‘eastern’ form. The ‘western’ nationalism was ethnically ‘inclusive’ in that it was based on a ‘social nation’ which could encompass more than one ethnic group. It was essentially about the cultural homogeneity of the state, and the common citizenship of those sharing that culture. ‘Eastern’ European nationalism, on the other hand, was ethnically ‘exclusive’ and was focused on the nation as a community of common descent, language, and religion. ...

The forms taken by nationalist movements in Europe set the pattern for nationalisms throughout the world. The inclusive nationalisms were more liberal and democratic, and did not engage in genocide, transfers of population, etc. The exclusive nationalisms were intolerant and often led to authoritarianism. ...

Unification movements

The unification of the German nation and of the Italian nation in the late nineteenth century was accomplished through war and conquest of existing states. ... This type of nationalism is also called

‘Risorgimento’ (rebirth) nationalism ... and it combined the aim of national unification with liberal ideals of democracy and freedom from oppression ...

National secession movements

In most cases, nationalism led to the break-up of existing states, not their joining together in one large ‘nation-state’. So nationalist movements in Ireland, Greece, Poland, Serbia, and Norway, for example, achieved independence for their nations by breaking away from Britain, the Ottoman Empire, the Russian Empire, the Austrian Empire, and Sweden, respectively, Today, national secession movements are still active in Europe: in Scotland, Wales, the Basque country, Corsica ...

Integral nationalism

Integral nationalism differs from ‘risorgimento’ nationalism in its belief that one’s nation is superior to all others, and may even be the result of biological natural selection. ...

Integral nationalism is an absolutist ideology (the absolute loyalty to the nation is demanded), and in politics is clearly linked to totalitarian, Fascist, and Nazi forms of government.

Colonial nationalism

In the European colonial empires ..., a nationalism developed among the European settlers, which led to the independence of the colonies from the mother country. ...

Anti-colonial nationalism

... The emergence of indigenous ‘national liberation’ and anti-colonial movements in the British Empire corresponded with the spread of nationalist ideology from Europe ...

Given the existing colonial state structure at independence, the nationalists of the new ‘nation-states’ had to preserve boundaries which reflected the boundaries of colonial power rather than cultural or national divisions. Thus ‘nation-building’, irredentisms [nationalisms that make claims on the territory of other states], and secessions were permanently on the agenda of nearly all these new states. Now nationalism did not usually mean anti-colonialism ... Instead it meant interethnic disputes, communalism, and sometimes genocide.

Kellas, 1991, pp. 73–7