Re-conceptualizing a New Benevolent Nationalism

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Zeljko Zidaric - June 18, 2012
Civic Innovation Incubator - Croatia
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As I cheer for Croatia in the Euro Football Championship I see that Josipovic and Milanovic just like Karamako and Tomasic are also cheering for Croatia. Even the priest said a short prayer for the Croatian team during mass. We are all united in our hope that Croatia plays impressively, wins and makes us all proud. Maybe Kajin and Pusic do not care as much as I do - who knows. During the Euro Championship, being proud of our team and our nation is a good thing. We are all proud 'nationalists' together.

The "Reds" in Croatia tell us that nationalism is "bad" and those of us that want to defend Croatian identity are "fascists" - this is wrong. In this article I put forth the idea that we need to redefine the concept of nationalism for the new and more enlightened times what we live in. This is 2012 and not 1912. While the old nationalism was belligerent and chauvinistic, with a focus on taking from others, the new nationalism is progressive and focused on building and defending what is ours. The new nationalism is required if we, as individual peoples, want to protect our identities and way of life from the globalist agenda of cultural homogenization. In the old ideology, for someone to win, someone else must lose. In the new framework of a benevolent nationalism we have a win-win mindset.

I wonder why, outside of international sporting events, some politicians say that patriotism and nationalism are bad things. If we look at the Germans, British, French and Americans - everyone, be they left or right politically, they are all proud, patriotic and protective of their nation and identity. Only in Croatia, according to the left, is being proud of our nation a bad thing.

Nationalism is a fuzzy concept and even nationalists cannot agree on exactly what constitutes nationalism. My definitions:

Nationalism: Caring about the identity and culture of the people and nation. The drive for national self-determination leads to desires of statehood, which provides the requisite legitimate political authority over internal and external affairs.

Patriotism: Based on Latin word 'patriota,' which means "countryman", is a loyalty, devotion or pride in one's nation/state and willingness to defend it and sacrifice for it. Patriotism is an instinct almost as natural as the love of kith and kin (friends and family).

While patriotism is about love for ones country, nationalism focuses more on what shape that country should take. I see nationalism and patriotism as intertwined concepts. I do not understand how someone can be patriotic but not a nationalist. We should all agree that nationalism is a shared desire for the success of the nation, for autonomy, political representation and self-preservation.

Postmodernists and globalists tell us that nationalism is bad. I don't understand how desire to determine the form of a sovereign nation can be a bad thing. Every person is different and has the right to be unique - to be what they want to be. A collection of people, a nation, also has uniqueness. Taking away a nations right to determine its form and identity diminishes its sovereignty and denies people their rights to uniqueness. One of the most celebrated and influential rabbis of the 20th century, Abraham Isaac Kook believed that each nation is a unique integral part in the family of nations that make up the human race. Every nation has its particular innovation to announce to the world. Rabbi Nachman Krochmal explained that, in the Hegelian worldview, each nation in turn climbs onto the world stage, takes the pulpit and preaches its particular truth to the world. There is a certain amount of tension between the concepts of nationalism and national identity on the one hand, and universalism, or belonging to the human race as a whole, on the other. Rabbi Kook believed that the world will reach a stage when all nations have imparted their unique contribution, and then the nations will be disbanded.

Nationalism is not a philosophy confined to just the political right. Left-wing nationalism, has its origins in the Jacobinism of the French Revolution, describes a form of nationalism based upon collective identity, equality, popular sovereignty, and national self-determination and typically espouses anti-imperialism and as a bulwark in the socialist struggle against capitalism. Marx and Engels saw this struggle for independence from feudalism and Imperialism as a proletarian "Progressive Nationalism". On the Left, the struggles for “national liberation” in Third World countries were viewed as progressive and a beneficial step in social development. Even Tito, the hero of the Left, was an ardent nationalist. Progressive nationalists simply don't believe in suppressing people's natural instinct towards cultural identity, preservation and self-determination. Mikhail Bakunin had this to say about nationalism:

"Nationality. . . is a historic, local fact which, like all real and harmless facts, has the right to claim general acceptance. . . Every people, like every person, is involuntarily that which it is and therefore has a right to be itself. . . Nationality is not a principle; it is a legitimate fact, just as individuality is. Every nationality, great or small, has the incontestable right to be itself, to live according to its own nature. This right is simply the corollary of the general principle of freedom."
- Maksimov, Grigoriĭ Petrovich.
The Political Philosophy of Bakunin: Scientific Anarchism, p. 325

Today, when nations have been liberated, the objective of the new benevolent values-based nationalism is to stay liberated from the globalist forces which now seek a new form of economic feudalism and capital-imperialist exploitation. The Left and the Right are opposed to the exclusionary nature of the old chauvinistic and belligerent nationalism – which was based on the worst social illnesses of statism, xenophobia, “ethnic” blood- baths, not to speak of elitism and militarism with a goal of conquest.

The old nationalism was based on the lower level physiological and safety needs. Science and technology have helped solve most of the base needs required for survival. Today economic value does not come from raw resources but from intellectual capability and innovation which transforms raw materials into useful objects. Japan has few natural resources and is relatively small in geographic size but it is the second largest developed economy in the world! The new nationalism is based on the higher level needs for esteem and self-actualization (lifestyle) of a people.

A more benevolent, enlightened values-based and abstract definition of nationalism is the concept of an identity and common value system of a group of people with a shared history and vision for a better future coupled with the sacrifices the people are willing to make to bring that vision to life. Positive nationalism is about a way of life. I believe in a "positive natural nationalism", one which derives from the human dignity of the individual and the natural needs and desires of that individual for the realization of its God-given talents in its own right, family and nation that one belongs to and espouses love for it, be it on the battlefield or sport arena. In essence, nationalism is about building, defending and promoting ones nation. I see my nation as an extended tribe of people that are similar to me, using the soccer metaphor 'my team', working towards a common goal. The value system is what unites us in our way of life. The way of life is what we protect from those that work to corrupt our value system.

Few of us think about the value system that defines of our society. The concept is vague yet complex. Every society has values that are important to it and that set it apart from others. Social values determine how attractive a place is to live and raise a family. Your values are the beliefs, personal codes or guidelines that you believe are worthwhile or desirable in the way you live and work. Types of values include ethical/moral values, religious, political values as well as social and aesthetic values. Values reflect a person’s sense of right and wrong or what 'ought to be'. Values are the foundation of what is meaningful or valuable in life - "meaning of life / summum bonum". Values determine your priorities, and they're probably the measures you use to tell if your life is turning out the way you want it to. Values determine the soul of our nation by determining the balance between interest in personal well-being and interest in the welfare of others. Values are important because they tend to influence attitudes and behavior which create the norms of a culture. Norms are rules for behavior in society. Flying the national flag on a holiday is a norm, but it reflects the value of patriotism.

From an economic perspective, a nation is a group of people that benefit from collective cooperation that results in gaining from economies of both scope and scale. Working together we develop a form of collective security. Together the people, the nation, can accomplish what we, as individuals, can't. We share a land that connects us, provides us a place to live, feeds us and provides us with raw resources. My definition of benevolent nationalism is based on the realization that we are free only because we have our land and therefore together we protect our home. The land, the people and the values are therefore one. My nationalism does not include taking from others what is not mine.

The world, like the Euro Championship in soccer, is in constant competition. While in the soccer competition winning is defined by who scores more goals in life nations and their people "win" by improving their standard of living. Standard of living is based on social and political freedom coupled with a healthy economy that enables people to live comfortably and pursue their dreams. Unlike in soccer where only one team wins, competition of national values and models raises everyone's standard of living. Only if there are different nations with competing value systems do we have a competition of ideas and subsequent evolution. As one nation starts to move ahead of others, the others will adopt some of the best practices found in the value system of the successful nation. A rising tide lifts all boats. Healthy competition provides Win-Win opportunities.

Different nations and peoples have different value systems; consider Germany and Greece as examples. Ancient Greece during the time of Plato and Aristotle was a great civilization while the Germanic tribes were hardly civilized. Today Greece is in economic ruin while Germany is the economic heart of Europe. The United States of America, which is less than 300 years old, is a global superpower. Race does not provide competitive advantage and success. The old nationalism based on genetics and race (the physical) does not make a nation truly great nor does it improve the quality of life of the common man. Nationalism is therefore not a competition of genetics and race but of value systems.

Figure 1: National Values Map by World Value Survey

How are nations different in their value systems? A global research project called The World Values Survey explores people’s values and beliefs, how they change over time and what social and political impact they have. Figure 1 is a map of country values, the surveys completed in 2000, shows how we compare to other nations. In the 2000 survey we were the most value-neutral country, closest to the center. We were neither traditional nor secular and only slightly self-expressive. Is this the best way to be? The Left wants us to move towards the "Red Croatia" position with a more secular-rational value system while the Right wants a "Blue Croatia" society with more traditional values. Moving away from the survival values is a given. We, the people, should determine who we want to be, whether more secular rational or traditional. That is part of the nation-building imperative.

Figure 2: Croatian movement towards traditional values

We Croatians, for the most part, still develop our values (or morals) at home; in church or at school unlike in the West where it seems that more and more youth are developing their values "on the street". Over the last two decades the evolution of Croatian society appears to be moving in the direction of traditionalism, as shown in figure 2, and the left is working hard against this natural trend. Over the last five years we have noticed an increasing attack on our values and social norms as social engineers try to corrupt and change the natural Croatian evolution of values and way of life. An attack on our nationalism is not just an attack on the collective but also an attack on the individual. If they do not want us to define ourselves through our nation, then through what do they want us to define ourselves?

A healthy national identity and vibrant nationalism is not an endeavor to be criticized, but a necessary endeavor that we must support if we want to defend our way of life and defend what God has given our people and we have struggled to preserve for more than 1100 years. We all need a home. The nation state is our home. Our benevolent nationalism is a safe harbor, which protects our laws, our values and our sovereignty in an ever increasingly complex international world. A man who cares about the form and health of his nation should never be attacked as a fascist but should congratulated for being a good civic citizen. I question whether today, a day when plutocrats and global corporations, which are inherently sociopathic in nature, grow in power at an unprecedented rate is the day when we start disbanding the national defense mechanisms that protect the people? I don't think our political-economic elites have attained the requisite enlightenment or benevolence for the just and fair functioning of a "universal nation".

The objective of Croatian nationalism should not be that our neighbors fear us, but that they are envious of our values-based, prosperous society and high standard of living. A positive and benevolent nationalism is a threat only to those who strive to take from us what is not theirs. Our benevolent nationalism, our self-actualization as a nation and a people, defines our purpose in life and creates the national character of which we can be proud. Today we are mired in an economic mess that prevents us from moving into the self-actualization (lifestyle) phase of our development as indicated in figure 3. I wonder if some force is purposefully holding back our economic development in order to prevent out lifestyle development.

Figure 3: Phases of growth and drivers of national value

The beauty of the cultural world and new ideas comes from this diversity, which we should foster for another few generations. We all must support a positive benevolent nationalism, which will protect our very existence as a people and help in our evolution into an even better society for our children and grandchildren.

No matter what we do we must never forget the Golden Rule, the guidance of our Lord as it is communicated in Matthew 7:12;

"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you,
for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."

Updated 11th-July-2012 at 08:15 PM by Željko Zidarić

Željko Zidarić


  1. Željko Zidarić avatar
    Note to readers

    I wish I had found this earlier
    - there already exist concepts of Civic and Cultural forms of Nationalism
    My reconceptualization of nationalism for Croatia comes closest to Cultural Nationalism


    “Ethnic” nationalism sees ancestry, typically expressed in racial terms, as the key social boundary defining the national “we.”

    Ethnic = Race + Ancestry
    Promote dominant ethnic group’s culture
    Restrictive immigration and it does not encourage assimilation

    "Cultural" nationalism is defined by a shared (inherited) culture, as opposed to, for instance, its ethnicity or its institutions. Cultural nationalism has been described as a variety of nationalism that is neither purely civic nor purely ethnic.

    Cultural = Religion + Language + Traditions
    Promote dominant ethnic group’s culture
    Conditional immigration and encourages assimilation

    “Civic” or ideological nationalism requires only respect for a country’s institutions and laws for belonging. This perspective is more global, and is a view open to minorities or immigrants, at least in principle. Found mainly in multicultural nations.

    Civic = Territory + Citizenship + Will and Consent + Ideology + Institutions and Rights
    Promote no ethnic cultures or promote minority ethnic cultures
    Open Immigration and does not encourage assimilation

    Michael Ignatieff (1993) says - "... civic nationalism maintains that the nation should be composed of all those -- regardless of race, color, creed, gender, language, or ethnicity -- who subscribe to the nation' political creed. This nationalism is called civic because it envisages the nation as a community of equal, rights-bearing citizens, united in patriotic attachment to a shared set of political practices and values. This nationalism is necessarily democrtatic, since it vest sovereignty in all the people"

    Types of nationalism
    Cultural nationalism defines the nation by shared culture. It is based on being an integrated member of a common, national culture. Membership in the nation is neither voluntary (you cannot instantly acquire a culture), nor hereditary (children of members may be considered foreigners if they grew up in another culture).

    Challenging the Civc/Ethnic and West/East Dichotomies in the Study of Nationalism
    Cultural Nationalism: Neither Ethnic nor Civic

    In the Name of the Nation: Reflections on Nationalism and Patriotism

    Toward Enlightened Nationalism (2003) by Joe Biden
    Updated 11th-July-2012 at 08:18 PM by Željko Zidarić
  2. Željko Zidarić avatar
    Modelling leadership—Implicit leadership theories in Sweden
    Ingalill Holmberg, Staffan Akerblom
    Centre for Advanced Studies in Leadership, Stockholm School of Economics, P.O. Box 6501, 113 83, Sweden Received 17 February 2006; accepted 6 October 2006

    An important issue for our study is whether expanding globalization of businesses leads to a cross-national convergence of management practices, values and beliefs (Boyacigiller, Kleinberg, Phillips, & Sackmann, 2003) thus increasingly eliminating cultural differences. Proponents of the convergence hypothesis are claiming that the increased globalization of business and the increased interdependencies of nations will strongly support the expansion of common values with regard to economic activity and work-related behaviour. Typically, it is the economic ideology in terms of Western capitalism, rationalism, management techniques and behaviour, and business logic that is claimed to comprise the main forces for this change (Ralston, Holt, Terpstra, & Kai-Cheng, 1997), and globalization is quite frequently taken to be a mere synonym for homogenization (Hannerz, 1994). According to this stream of research, there is a growing conviction that nationality and national culture have ceased to play a role in international business.

    Based on data presented in this study, we will challenge the simplified version of global convergence, by claiming that the notion of a Swedish leadership style is still meaningful and valid as a device for better understanding of cross cultural interaction in general and leadership efforts in particular. We will also argue that fundamental aspects of nationality, expressed as culturally endorsed leadership ideals, do not change as quickly or dramatically as the proponents of a changing world order would seem to suggest.

    Within this stream of research culture is seen as relatively stable, homogenous, internally consistent system of values and norms transmitted by socialization to the next generation. Although several studies recognize the importance of objective artefacts, most definitions focus on subjective elements; ‘‘the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes members of one human group from another’’ (Hofstede, 1984, p. 21), ‘‘the frame of reference which a culture provides to individuals’’ (Ronen, 1986, p. 18), or ‘‘mental frameworks which groups, organizations and nations develop’’ (Harris & Moran, 1987, p. 102).

    When changes occur, it is more likely that they take place in small steps, as a process of adaptation with only partial impact on scripts and maps, rather than radical changes covering more substantial parts. Since leadership prototypes are simplified images (stereotypes) about a specific category of individuals (Lord & Foti, 1986), we will be able to draw on recent studies on culturally endorsed stereotypes (e.g. Barinaga, 2002; Vaara, Risberg et al., 2003) showing that fundamental aspects of nationality, expressed as leadership styles, are unlikely to change radically. This is explained by the particular strengths of stereotypes and their apparent ‘‘truth value’’, which can be traced back to the histories of nations (Vaara, Risberg et al., 2003).

    We also offer arguments supporting the idea that fundamental aspects of nationality, expressed in terms of culturally endorsed leadership, do not change as quickly or dramatically as the propo- nents of a changing world order would seem to suggest. Thus, we are challenging the simplified version of global convergence with respect to leadership ideals and management ideology.