Difference between Nationalism and Patriotism

The debate about nationalism and patriotism has been hitting up in India and elsewhere due to a rising trend of right wing politics. The US presidential election, the French presidential election, Brexit by UK and even the increasing vigilantism and minority bashing in India has been some of the recent byproducts of rising right wing super nationalist arguments facilitated by increasing use of social media in an era of post truth, i.e., fabricated facts or denouncement of existing rational thinking. Man is a social animal and every society has its own identity based on culture, language, religion and values. Nationalism is a consciousness and awareness that binds people together around culture and values of a society, patriotism also does the same. But nationalism is the by- product of feeling of “rivalry” and  a sense of “superiority” of one society against the other, while patriotism is based on the feeling of affection towards one’s own society and culture without any having any feeling or sense of rivalry and superiority against the other. In modern societies, fast movement of men and material and process of settlement and resettlement has led to cultural transition and assimilation (and this process is not only contemporary, it has taken place throughout history), turning societies a cultural cauldron which gives birth to multi-coloured or rainbow societies. At the same time democracy and recognition of human rights have become the defining benchmarks of modern societies where the principle of non-discrimination is taken as a desired goal of all democratic welfare states. The idea of narrow nationalism (born of rivalry between countries in the process of evolution of modern state, especially during colonial period and inter-war years) has come under threat- a nationalism based on majoritarianism, minority-bashing, sub-feudalism and status quo in social and governance structures- is finding multiculturalism and progressive liberal democratic idea of “live and let live” as a  threat very difficult to digest. They are trying to over blow the issues of threat to security and integrity of the country to promote a type of narrow nationalism to realize their political goals at the cost of peace, prosperity and democracy of the countries. India has also seen such tendencies in recent times. It is in this context this beautiful exposition on nationalism and patriotism is reproduced from the website www.differencebetween.net here for the clarity of understanding of students in general and for the essay paper in the civil services (mains) exam in particular.    

Nationalism and patriotism both show the relationship of an individual towards his or her nation. The two are often confused and frequently believed to mean the same thing. However, there is a vast difference between nationalism and patriotism.

Nationalism means to give more importance to unity by way of a cultural background, including language and heritage. Patriotism pertains to the love for a nation, with more emphasis on values and beliefs.

When talking about nationalism and patriotism, one cannot avoid the famous quotation by George Orwell, who said that nationalism is ‘the worst enemy of peace’. According to him, nationalism is a feeling that one’s country is superior to another in all respects, while patriotism is merely a feeling of admiration for a way of life. These concepts show that patriotism is passive by nature and nationalism can be a little aggressive.

Patriotism is based on affection and nationalism is rooted in rivalry and resentment. One can say that nationalism is militant by nature and patriotism is based on peace.

Most nationalists assume that their country is better than any other, whereas patriots believe that their country is one of the best and can be improved in many ways. Patriots tend to believe in friendly relations with other countries while some nationalists don’t.

In patriotism, people all over the world are considered equal but nationalism implies that only the people belonging to one’s own country should be considered one’s equal.

A patriotic person tends to tolerate criticism and tries to learn something new from it, but a nationalist cannot tolerate any criticism and considers it an insult.

Nationalism makes one to think only of one’s country’s virtues and not its deficiencies. Nationalism can also make one contemptuous of the virtues of other nations. Patriotism, on the other hand, pertains to value responsibilities rather than just valuing loyalty towards one’s own country.

Nationalism makes one try to find justification for mistakes made in the past, while patriotism enables people to understand both the shortcomings and improvements made.