A common assignment onNationalism is as follows:
Is nationalism a constructive or a destructive force? The research paper will have the usual essential elements of an introductory paragraph, body, concluding paragraph, and a list of references. The two aspects of this paper which you must pay particular attention to are that the details or facts which you use to develop your arguments that deal with Nationalism (absolutism and enlightenment, the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Era).
This essay attempts to assess the value of nationalism. The question asked, "Is nationalism a dark force or does it promote social capital?" can be answered with a "both," but such an answer tells only part of the story. The real question respecting nationalism is whether or not the gains produced by its creation of "social capital," are outweighed by the fact that nationalism has historically been a source of xenophobia, narrow exclusivity of outlook, wars, and genocide.
Benn (1967) has noted that five versions of the term are in common use:
- Nationalism as a feeling of loyalty to the nation;
- Nationalism as a tendency to consider the interests of one's own nation as transcendent over the interests of all other nations;
- Nationalism as an attitude that attaches particular importance to the distinctive culture of a nation;
- Nationalism which, as a result of , places great importance on the preservation of national culture; and
- Nationalism as a theory of anthropology that holds that human populations naturally divide into nations.
Taken in the aggregate all of these indicate that the term is a complex one and recognition of this complexity is important in any attempt to evaluate whether nationalism is a benign or a dark force in human affairs. If we ignore any of these senses, our evaluation will be skewed. For example, if we restrict ourselves to the first two senses, we are apt to equate nationalism with chauvinism and deny the many positive things that flow out of the third and fourth senses of the word. And, if we are to discard the fifth sense of the term from consideration, we are apt to render anything we say moot. For, if nationalism is indeed organic to human behavior, then arguments that it is a dark force are exercises in futility because nationalism will always be with us. Keeping these things in mind, let us see what nationalism's "historical record" looks like from a utilitarian point of view.