10 Mayıs 2009 Pazar

Nationalism as a big group adaptation

Can we see nationalism as a form of adaptation and even a useful adaptation? It is obviously not a rare commodity. Although radical and dangerous forms of nationalisms are rare, nationalism in general is very widespread.

We introduce ourselves to others by giving the name of our ethnicity. It is a way to recognizing those who are like us. Perhaps this is the key to understanding why it is so widespread. Could it be because other forms of recognition are not used anymore? We could dress in a certain way, but there could be others out there who pick the same kind of dressing and therefore this may not be very dependable method of finding people like us.

But nationalism is a bit different from this. It is not only about recognizing, but belonging as well. It is no wonder that people are getting more nationalist nowadays. The process of globalization is pushing people away from power and control, and the process of homogenization caused by the consumerist modernization forcing people to look for ways to make themselves special, unique. It is not difficult to see how nationalism appears out of this mixture.

Perhaps the cause is not only the modernization itself, but the population growth as well. There are simply too many people on this planet. “Too many” makes social communication too difficult. I should probably qualify this “too many” by stating that this is not just a problem of “too many” on the planet, though this is a problem too, but a problem of too many in groups.

Dunbar states that the natural size of a human group is around 150 and another whose name I cannot recall right at this moment takes this number to somewhere around 300. We know that we are living in groups way bigger than these. However, this does not mean that we have groups consisting of millions. There are still many small groups, that is, each person has his or her small group, and these small groups come together to form bigger groups. There are at least two options to use in uniting these small groups. These small are actually the people we know intimately or the people with whom we have close relations. They are not really goups with concrete boundaries, rules and identities. But there are also villages and neighborhoods. If the internal movement is not much then these units will be stable and therefore they can have at least weak identities. How can we unite all of these small units?

Dialogues between them may work, but each inter-group dialogue will result in a different story. This takes time and is not error free. Some dialogues may cause conflicts. A discourse for a higher level group, independent of all inter-group dialogues, with a dialogue transcending all the small group dialogues may work better. Well, I think this is nationalism. The reason it is so widespread is simply because it is more efficient; it is simpler and works faster. Speaking the same language or having the same religion may be enough for the unification desired. It has probably been with us in different forms all this time. Tribalism comes to mind. It is basically the same idea. But it is probably better to have it for small groups and I believe this is the major difference between tribalism and nationalism.

Tribes usually do not include among them people from other tribes. A tribe is different from another tribe, although there may be some formally recognized subdivisions within it. The nations, on the other hand, are usually about individuals; the dominant form is usually individualism. It is a modern invention. The preferred mode is making everyone alike, but this is usually not achieved fully especially when the groups are big. So, there are always those who do not actually belong to the nation. Hence the need for the idea of citizenship.
Bigger complicates the job and this probably makes nationalism even more aggressive. A multi cultural big group will have hard time becoming a single homogenous nation. Using the same logic, smaller the group less aggressive its nationalism will be.

1 yorum:

  1. Group affiliations of all kinds, whether familial, tribal, regional, national, racial, religious or even for a sport team, are the result of our evolution as social animals. Our only difference from the other social animals in this respect is our complexity, but the essence is the same.

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