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A Nation United

A Nation United

Exploring Nationalism, Social Cohesion, and their Extremes 

By Jessi Vietz 

In this article we will explore ideologies of national identity, social cohesion and the limits of both, in a healthy society.  

It is no mystery that national identity plays a vital role in the development of many nations throughout history. However, “when channeled in the form of an exclusive and intolerant ethnonationalism, it can drive acts of persecution and aggression.” [1] Political associations, as well as shared life experiences, can play a large role in the formation of national identities. When taken to extremes, national identity can become isolated and toxic, but it is not all bad. [2] 

According to The Journal of Democracy, “National identity not only enhances physical security, but also inspires good governance; facilitates economic development; fosters trust among citizens; engenders support for strong social safety nets; and ultimately makes possible liberal democracy itself.” [3] 

Yi Wang, from the Harbin Engineering University in China, stated that globalization plays a vital role in enhancing a cultural identity in what she calls “a fruitful interaction.” The introduction of new sciences and technologies to our societies have brought people closer together. [4] 

“The multi-national companies have made the world one global market,” Wang said, “Jet airplanes, cheap telephone service, email, computers, huge oceangoing vessels, instant capital flows, all these have made the world more interdependent than ever.” This deep longing to find one’s cultural roots leads to a nationalistic view as people find commonality in each other. [5] 

Anti-globalization advocates are concerned that as the world becomes more globalized, citizens who are now more connected than ever to the rest of the world will lose a sense of national pride and identity. However, Wang made the point that people have free will and although they may be influenced, they are still able to choose their own national beliefs. [6] 

Culture is a well-known unifying factor; it brings people together and gives them a reason to stay together when things get hard. Wang categorized culture into three dimensions; how humans relate to nature and life, symbols and rituals, and “the quest for ultimate meaning that offers goals and motivations.” She stated that religions and ideologies provide the answers to these quests. [7] 

Having trust and respect towards each other is a way to reduce divisions and political extremism. Stock photo of American Flag by Karlina Grabowska, accessed 4/24/22.

Globalization and culture are not the only things that lead to a cohesive society. According to the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, there are three requirements needed for a society to form cohesively. [8] 

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The first of these is trust and respect. “We need genuine bonds between people, and the need to see others as humans rather than tools to be utilized.” The second is the acceptance and unity found in diversity, which allows for bonds to be built and resistance formed against the threat of violence. The third is resilience in one’s own identity and the identity of others. [9] 

However, some potholes can interfere with social cohesion. “During people’s lives, many events can occur which throw them into the paths to extremism, radicalization, and militancy”. This is a pattern we can see throughout history with the formation of the Nazi’s and other radical and exclusive groups. “This can be a sense of inequality, alienation from social and political processes, a lack of connection with parents, or wealth and privilege which isolates us from others”. [10] 

Nationalism is what brings people together, helps to keep a country bonded in times of war, and is also what tears us apart when brought to levels of extremity. Social cohesion and national identity get their power from the people, making an educated society based on free will, crucial for a healthy nation.  

References 

  1. Why national identity matters. (n.d.). Journal of Democracy.  https://www.journalofdemocracy.org/articles/why-national-identity-matters/  
  1. Ibid.  
  1. Globalization enhances cultural identity. (n.d.). web.uri.edu.  https://web.uri.edu/iaics/files/09-Yi-Wang.pdf  
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. The International Conference on Cohesive Societies – How to build cohesive societies. (n.d.). Think Tank and Graduate School. https://www.rsis.edu.sg/rsis-publication/rsis/the-international-conference-on-cohesive-societies-how-to-build-cohesive-societies/  
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 

Photo 

  1. Having a national identity gives cohesion to the people and the government of a nation. Stock photo of flags by Mike on Pexels, accessed 4/22/22. 
  1. Having trust and respect towards each other is a way to reduce divisions and political extremism. Stock photo of American Flag by Karlina Grabowska, accessed 4/24/22. 
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