Romantic nationalism

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Romantic nationalism (also national romanticism, organic nationalism, identity nationalism) is the form of nationalism in which the state derives its political legitimacy as an organic consequence of the unity of those it governs. This includes, depending on the particular manner of practice, the language, race, culture, religion and customs of the "nation" in its primal sense of those who were "born" within its culture. This form of nationalism arose in reaction to dynastic or imperial hegemony, which assessed the legitimacy of the state from the "top down", emanating from a monarch or other authority, which justified its existence. Such downward-radiating power might ultimately derive from a god or gods (see the divine right of kings and the Mandate of Heaven).

Among the key themes of Romanticism, and its most enduring legacy, the cultural assertions of romantic nationalism have also been central in post-Enlightenment art and political philosophy. From its earliest stirrings, with their focus on the development of national languages and folklore, and the spiritual value of local customs and traditions, to the movements that would redraw the map of Europe and lead to calls for "self-determination" of nationalities, nationalism was one of the key issues in Romanticism, determining its roles, expressions and meanings.

Contents

Brief history

Early Romantic nationalism in Europe was strongly inspired by Rousseau, and by the ideas of Johann Gottfried von Herder, who in 1784 argued that geography formed the natural economy of a people, and that their customs and society would develop along the lines that their basic environment favored.

From its beginnings in the late 18th century, romantic nationalism has relied upon the existence of a historical ethnic culture which meets the romantic ideal; folklore developed as a romantic nationalist concept. The Brothers Grimm were inspired by Herder's writings to create an idealized collection of tales, which they labeled as authentically German. The concept of an inherited cultural patrimony from a common origin rapidly became central to a divisive question within romantic nationalism: specifically, is a nation unified because it comes from the same genetic source, that is because of race, or is the participation in the organic nature of the "folk" culture self-fulfilling? This issue lies at the heart of disagreements which rage to this day.

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