From Nationalism to Revolutionary Islam by Said Amir Arjomand

By Said Amir Arjomand

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I define nationalism, like ideology, in terms of perception and of value. Nationalism occurs when a large number of people perceive they belong to a community that is entitled to and capable of maintaining independent statehood and who grant that community a primary and the primary terminal loyalty. The phrase 'the primary terminal loyalty' is meant to convey the meaning that a nationalist as defined can hold a primary attachment to only one community for which he desires independent statehood.

Is nationalism an ideology? Few questions are more unnecessarily perplexing. The answer of course depends on the operating definitions, and most of the confusion on the point reflects a previous failure to define. I see ideology as incorporating a politically relevant world view and an associated set of politically relevant values, together suggesting a general course of action in the political realm. As such, nationalism, as defined here, when present is an aspect of ideology and a major determinant of action; but it is clearly not itself an ideology.

But to treat nationalism in the Third World as an import from Europe is to trivialise it. Those doing so regard nationalistic behaviour as essentially imitative rather than as behavioural patterns that appear naturally and universally when certain specifiable preconditions have been realised. As I see it, 'nationalistic' behaviour consists of a set of behavioural patterns associated with an intense identification with a community that has achieved or seeks independent statehood. These patterns are likely to appear regardless of whether the individual members of the community think of that community as a nation.

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