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globalisation and nationalism - comparison


The emphasis on an inextricable relationship shared by Globalization and Nationalism in the 21st century has been considerable, the nature of which constitutes, more often than not, resistance and confrontation. They most certainly can be seen playing a major role in the determination of world order as a consequence of factors including, but not limited to, recent accretions in cultural deterritorialization, economic evolution along with liberalization of protectionist policies owing to a development-centric approach of the nations in a world where no nation wants to be left behind by virtue of stifled international relations.

The past few decades have witnessed a convergence where Globalization and nationalism have had a largely contemporary rift due to the magnitude to which globalization has occurred in the 21st century.  In an age characterized by the homogenizing nature of globalization, it becomes imperative to study the nature of the interaction between these two concepts where every nation is at a crossroads with regards to any policy decision, the implications of which have ceased to operate locally.

The scope of this paper, therefore, includes a study of the nature of the relationship between Globalization and Nationalism, concerning arguments where one diminishes the other, where Globalization facilitates and thus increases Nationalism and the existence of a mixed relationship between the two. The paper also discusses the nature of nationalism that has evolved to lay more emphasis on ‘superiority’ as compared to ‘unification’. The study traces the role of nationalism in the past, where nationalistic superiority fueled World wars and economic evolution led to neo-liberal economic policies responsible for shaping the world as it is. An insight into the reaction to an upsurge in cultural imperialism and the effect thereof leading to a recent rise in right-wing extremism and identity politics in countries across the globe have also been deliberated upon amongst other key contentions in this respect.

KEY WORDS: Globalization, Nationalism, Confrontation, Deterritorialization, Economic evolution, Liberalization, World Order, Crossroads, Cultural Imperialism, Identity Politics.



Globalization is not a single concept that can be defined and encompassed within a set time frame, nor is it a process that can be defined clearly with a beginning and an end. Globalization involves economic integration; the transfer of policies across borders; the transmission of knowledge; cultural stability; the reproduction, relations, and discourses of power; it is a global process, a concept, a revolution, and “an establishment of the global market free from sociopolitical control.”[1] Swedish journalist Thomas Larsson, in his book The Race to the Top: The Real Story of Globalization (2001), stated that:

         “Globalization is the process of world shrinkage, of distances getting shorter, things moving closer. It pertains to the increasing ease with which somebody on one side of the world can interact, to mutual benefit, with somebody on the other side of the world.”[2]

Undeniable is the fact that with an increased interdependence of the nations, in the recent decades, the world has witnessed an acceleration of the process of globalization by virtue of, increase in capital and labor mobility, improvement in trade and enhancement of technology among other factors. The result hence is – the world becomes deterritorialized,[3] the constraints of geography shrink and the world becomes more singular and unified.[4]

From the beginning of modern global capitalism and maritime endeavors thereby promoting international trade in the 1500s, to the development of the concept of Industrial Revolution in the late 18th Century, and subsequently instances of modern day globalization where the establishment of international organizations like UN bearing the objective of confronting common challenges and managing shared responsibility and the formulation of conventions for intercontinental co-operation can be seen to have assumed prominence.

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As a concept, Globalization has numerous facets, the aspects of which will be discussed further in the paper where the contemporary rift between and the convergence of Globalization and Nationalism has been discussed.


Nationalism, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially: a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups”. Nationalism, thus, is said to be an idea of identifying with a nation and conforming to the view that one’s nation and its culture are superior to others.

For the purpose of this paper, we have divided Nationalism into two very simple categories, the first being good nationalism and the other being bad nationalism.

Nationalism in its better forms is capable of extending its effect at an individual level, where it fulfills one basic psychological need — it provides people a sense of security and status. Instances from the past indicate how Nationalism was the driving force to ensure freedom and well-being. The administration of nationalist acts laid the foundation stones for the establishment of regimes across Africa and Asia where Nationalism began to appear after World War I. It produced such leaders as, Ibn Sad in the Arabian Peninsula, Mahatma Gandhi in India who spearheaded the major nationalist movements instrumental towards freeing India from oppressive colonialist powers, Kemal Atatürk in Turkey, Sa’d Pasha Zaghl in Egypt and Sun Yat-sen in China.[5]

The concept of human equality, Individual liberty, fraternity were the cornerstones of liberal and democratic nationalism in French Nationalism. Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s stress on general cooperation of everyone in forming the national will and popular sovereignty played a decisive role in the way French Nationalism was administered. Like the revolutionary France, in America nationalism focused on better future where freedom and equality is guaranteed instead of the authoritarian and unequal society that prevailed in the past. 


But Nationalism often takes a form proven to be detrimental to the well-being and development of nations across the world. This version is what has been termed as bad Nationalism in this paper.

Bad Nationalism immediately brings up adjectives like emboldened racist extremists, white supremacist, right-wing extremism, fascist, Orwellian, Hitlerian etc. Nationalism has been credited with paving the way for the tragic World War I, which ended a century ago, and the very same concept was embraced by the “National Socialist” (Nazi) party in Germany.

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A glaring example of Nationalism being detrimental to a society is the post 9/11 resurgence of nationalism in the United States of America. Right from the election of Donald Trump as the president of The United States of America to his ‘Buy American, Hire American’ executive orders, Nationalism has cost and will continue to cost America a lot on its economic, developmental and democratic frontiers. Stringent immigration laws to protect the ‘economic interests’ of the Americans coupled with increase in xenophobia and the trend of conflating terrorism with migration goes against the democratic values the country was found on.

Even the recent United States of America’s Government shutdown where the Democratic Politicians hit an impasse over Donald Trump’s request for $5bn for the funding of US-Mexico border wall can be attributed to the hyper-nationalistic approach of the president where Trump is using the wall as a symbol of his reign and justifies its construction by stating that Mexicans take American Jobs and threaten their security. The policy of ‘America First’ isn’t a political agenda served for the first time, America First movement in the 1930s and 1940s was known mostly for members like aviator Charles Lindbergh, who supported eugenics and made frequent trips to Hitler’s Germany and the term ‘Nationalist’ had fallen out of favor because of its association with fascism.

There’s a reason the term “nationalist” is rarely used in mainstream politics and Trump can be seen directly associating himself with it. Max Boot, Foreign policy expert says “in the 20th century, nationalism has come to be associated with far-right politics, with fascism, with leaders like Mussolini, Hitler, Pinochet, Franco and others”. The conditions under a nationalist state have many downsides to it, more emphasis on which will be laid while elaborating upon ‘the relationship between Globalization and Nationalism.

Extreme Nationalism was a reason behind the butcher of millions by the Nazis. The slaughtering of Jews, Communists and the handicapped was altogether done for the sake of filtering German blood.

The bottom-line is that in the annals of history, there are no instances in which the hallmarks of nationalism — a belligerent foreign policy, fear mongering, protectionism and racial division — have produced positive long-term results for a country or its workers.[6]

Thus it becomes a matter of grave concern that for a concept with such terrifying connotations, how is it that Nationalism is still allowed to foster and is so pervasive in the present Globalized world? For the answers we might look up to the relationship they share.


If we go by the established definition of Globalization and Nationalism, they both connote an inherently opposite concept, and it therefore is no surprise that these two concepts are often at loggerheads, where the people are frequently faced with a crossroads, where they are supposedly required to choose either one of them. However, this shouldn’t and perhaps isn’t the desirable reaction to such a situation, especially in an age where the convergence of Globalization and Nationalism is at its peak. Ranging from the formulation of economic policies to drafting migration laws, from deciding the foreign policies to regulation of trade practices, the instances of confrontation between Globalization and Nationalism has now become the order of the day, which , it’ll not be incorrect to state, was inevitable.

Both these concepts have undoubtedly become indispensable. The extent to which Globalization has penetrated and its role in the determination of the world order has been significant and Nationalism, as primitive of a concept as it is, bears no less importance in the present state of affairs too.

The question thus is, if both these concepts are very well present and making their presence felt, and also that both these concepts have had a rift, more so in the contemporary age, how to manage them in accordance to a dynamic world order and such a stage is achieved where both these concepts co-exist and facilitate the ultimate goal of establishing a better global society where everyone is free from fear, hatred, and violence, and everyone can enjoy universally guaranteed human rights, including- human dignity, liberty, equality, and justice.

The relationship thus will be discussed under various heads to provide a better understanding of how both of these interact and how we, in order to achieve the above laid objectives may determine the nature of this interaction. For this purpose, the relationship between Globalization and Nationalism has been evaluated under three viewpoints: first where Globalization seems to have diminished Nationalism, second where existence of a mixed relationship between the two has been deliberated upon and third where Globalization facilitates and thus increases Nationalist

With regards to the first viewpoint, the suggestion is that with everyone following suit of a globalized, interconnected world, the importance of nationalism diminishes, as “we live in a world that is simultaneously shrinking and expanding, growing closer and further apart, national borders are increasingly irrelevant.”[7] At the outset this argument does seem plausible but a reasoned approach whilst studying recent trends indicate it is clearly not so. Some aspects to justify it include Migration and recent technological advancements.

With the development of means of modern transport and communication that transcend national borders, immigration of people has become very common. Many nations have relaxed their immigration laws thus facilitating the in and out-flow of citizens. This leads to a transfer of culture, the propagation of which is made even easier through the recent surge in the use of Social Media around the globe. As per the ‘Best Countries survey’ of more than 16,000 people from 37 countries, the following survey was taken and results recorded as a reaction to the statement  “I feel more like a citizen of the world than my country.”

 Here are the top 10 countries that agree with the statement:[8]                     

Country Agree Agree Strongly Best Countries Rank
India 73.5% 19.2% 22
UAE 67.1% 17.9% N/A
Turkey 64.9% 21.5% 30
Vietnam 62.3% 13.8% 32
Italy 62.2% 12.6% 13
Thailand 61.9% 11.1% 21
Egypt 59.3% 22.1% 39
China 59.2% 9.2% 17
Saudi Arabia 58.8% 24.1% 29
Mexico 58.7% 17.6% 27

This survey is a proof of the growing globalist sentiments of people around the world.

This reaction seems appropriate for the reason that Globalization has had many positives attached to it, one of which is that without globalization, the govt. in a nation finds it convenient to wield nationalistic oppression on its citizens. Globalization creates a system of checks and balances, forms international Organizations like the United Nations, Conventions like Vienna convention is entered into which makes policy decisions of countries subject to scrutinization and review by an international community which disincentives any nation from undertaking any step detrimental to international well-being.

This is effectively how international peace is maintained in the modern age. The extent of oppression and human rights violations that the citizens of states like Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have to face on a daily basis, where all connections to the external world are prohibited is an example of the conditions that will prevail in a world devoid of Globalization. Effectively, Globalization may stop the establishment of an Orwellian state.

However, it will be extremely shortsighted on our part to look at globalization as an anti-thesis of Nationalism simply because Globalization and Nationalism are so inextricably intertwined that an exclusive existence of any one of them where one diminishes other isn’t logically possible.

This brings us to the second viewpoint where the idea of their existing a mixed relationship between the two is advocated. According to Natalie, “Their coexistence is not a battle in which only one is destined to emerge as the winner and the other as losers; it is rather a mutually beneficial coexistence of two compatible tendencies”.[9] A profound definition is proposed by Robertson (1995) who notes that in opposition to widespread tendency, the local should not be seen as a counterpoint to the global. Instead it should be regarded, subject to some qualifications, as an ‘aspect’ of globalization which is very true.

It would not be wrong to state that the existence of globalization is due to the presence of Nationalism where every nation has contributed its bit to constitute the globe with what it contains. The conductance of trade in earlier days to the exchange of modern machinery and revolutionary ideas are all connected to this argument. From a cultural perspective there has been a transfer of cultures between the nations, a confluence of Globalization and Nationalism has been created which has in turn led to the propagation of a homogenized culture rather than exclusive national cultures.

Influence of western culture over the rest of the world has been significant as a major market share in technological and apparel market worldwide is dominated by them, this illustrates the cultural dominance of the West over the rest of the world. Cultural imperialism is one of the dominant faces of the west. As technology and science developed in the west, other regions of the world started borrowing this technology and thus the ideas and values that originated in the west became the standards of the whole world.[10] In the words of Peter Evans, “Products and ideas developed in rich countries shape the value and ideas of citizens of poor countries”.[11]

This paves the way for the next aspect where Globalization is considered to enhance Nationalist sentiments The increase in Nationalism due to Globalization is majorly a reaction to the current trends of ‘cultural imperialism’ and the establishment of a homogenous society where individualistic Nationalist sentiments are not given prominence. This increase can be exhibited in various forms.

Increased contact between people due to the integration of world societies is often associated with more stereotyping and hatred of others, and increased conflict. As more people of different nationalities come together and interact, more disputes will be generated.[12] Thus Globalization is said to generate Nationalistic responses which take the shape of religious fundamentalism or right wing radicalism which reacts to those aspects of Globalization that tend to diminish their Nationalism, for example the policies regarding immigration and changes in the economic affairs.

Nationalism worldwide has been associated to the ideologies of the majority, dominant group, the concept of “white nationalism” in the United States of America or the “Hindu nationalism” happening in India are glaring examples of this form of Nationalism. The rise of right wing parties and their ideologies in developed countries worldwide stand as a proof to this effect.

The rise of Donald Trump and America’s protectionist policies to ensure welfare of their people and the trend of differentiating ‘us’ from ‘them’ has been seen which is more or less the outcome of Globalization of which, Migration and Terrorist activities from Islamic countries are the major constituents. Immigrants are seen as culturally pernicious and unable to assimilate and thus liberalized immigration policies are looked at with a negative outlook and the ‘outsiders’ with hatred. A form of extreme Nationalism is Terrorism.

The ideology of global Islam promulgated mainly by Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, the very idea of such extremists being to establish an Islamic Nation and unite around a similar culture. Such Nationalism which incites its followers to commit the act of killing millions has been a matter of grave concern and an international menace throughout the century as a result of which other nations administer stringent immigration laws, thus giving rise to a whole new set of issues since such policies have outreaching repercussions which transcend national boundaries.

However, a point to be kept in mind is Nationalism is not always bad. A correlation between Nationalism and the type of society can be drawn. Usually the more a society is open and democratic, the more likely it is that Nationalism will be progressive and beneficial for the society with a forward-looking aspect. Whereas an authoritarian state with an oppressive government which discourages transfer of culture and prohibit free trade practices will have the sort of Nationalism built on religious and other emotionally appealing factors like culture which has little to no benefit.

The nature of this discussion is largely dependent on the method of perceiving these two terms. Colonization by Britishers was also Globalization; transfer of technology, culture and inter-nation infrastructural development programs is also Globalization. Churning up valuable resources from a poor country and exporting it to other rich countries thereby subduing the poor through oppressive capitalism is also Globalization; the undertaking of Corporate Social Responsibility, major aspects of which include philanthropy coupled with volunteer efforts to operate welfare programs for the under-privileged is also Globalization.

Similarly, the anti-colonial struggles in Latin America, Asia, The Indian National struggle in particular and progressive nationalistic struggle in Africa to guarantee the citizens basic human rights constituted nationalism, and over 100 million deaths in the regime of Hitler, Mao, Mussolini and Stalin on ethnic, religious and cultural grounds was also Nationalism.

All these arguments reflect the intensity of one of the most fundamental questions of all times, Nationalism or Globalism – what is the best path forward? This question impacts everything we care about, our cultural identity, our prosperity, our political systems, and the health of our planet amongst other important considerations.

It’ll be grossly undermining the extensive positive effects that globalization has had if we look at it as something which is rapidly deconstructing what are ancestors took decades to build. The danger posed by Globalization in the post-modernist era included opening the doors to foreign invasions, but the scenario has changed drastically today where such concerns are futile. In fact globalization plays a decisive role in reinforcing a global governance which is perhaps the only way to tackle big super national problems like nuclear proliferation, the Global Refugee crisis, climate change or terrorism or even the consequences of Superhuman AI.

It’s pertinent to realize that being a globalist doesn’t mean betraying your country, it just means that you have enough social empathy and you project some of it outside your national borders. The most obvious Nationalist feelings that comes up and stands against the globalized world is national identity. How are we going to preserve what makes us special, what makes us different, brings us together? It shouldn’t actually be a matter of concern simply because when we look at it, a lot of the key ingredients of our national identity actually comes from outside our national borders.

The language we speak, the food we eat, the architecture defining our skylines have all been derived from ‘foreign’ civilizations.  China, which seems like a self-contained Civilization protected behind its great wall has its official ideology, Marxism made in Germany. One of China’s biggest religions, Buddhism has been imported from India. India’s favorite pastime, cricket is termed as an Indian game accidentally discovered by the British. So this is a good reminder that a lot of what we love in our National traditions actually come from previous waves of globalization and beyond individual symbols there are full National traditions that could not have existed without globalization. 

The need thus is to realize that the age we are living in is characterized by the contribution of millions of people, explorers, traders, revolutionaries and influential national movements and in many ways globalization is a chance for our national traditions to be questioned, regenerated, reinterpreted, to attract new converts to stay vibrant and relevant overtime. In its essence, most of us Nationalists the world are globalists and most of us Globalists in the world are nationalists.

A lot of what we like in our National traditions come from outside and National borders, and the reason we went outside our National borders is to discover these other national traditions. So the real question should not be to choose between nationalism and globalism. The real question is how can we do both better? It’s a complex question for a complex world that calls for creative, non-binary solutions.

[1] Cited in G. Gaburro & E. O’Boyle, “Norms for Evaluating Economic Globalization”, International Journal of Social Economics,( Vol. 30, No. 1/2, 2003,  95-118, 115). 

[2] T. Larsson, The Race to the Top: The Real Story of Globalization (U.S.: Cato Institute, 2001), 9. 

[3] https://www.e-ir.info/14 Nov 2013/does-globalization-diminish-the-importance-of-nationalism.

[4] Ibid.

[5] https://www.britannica.com/topic/nationalism.

[6] https://www.heraldmailmedia.com/news/usa today/donald trump’s America first nationalism betrays American values/article_63d4fa1b-2388-5deb-8270-db21fbf11de7.html.

[7] https://www.e-ir.info/14 Nov 2013 does-globalization-diminish-the-importance-of-nationalism.

[8] https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/15 Aug 2016/can-globalization-overcome-nationalism.

[9] Mentan & Tatah, The Elusiveness of Peace in a Suspect Global System.

[10]https://www.researchgate.net/publication/ Cultural globalization and the dominance of the American film industry cultural policies national film industries and transnational film.


[12] https://www.e-ir.info/14 Nov 2013 does-globalization-diminish-the-importance-of-nationalism.

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