National consciousness

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A national consciousness is a shared sense of national identity;[1] a shared understanding that a people group shares a common ethnic/linguistic/cultural background. Historically, a rise in national consciousness has been the first step towards the creation of a nation. National consciousness, at a glance, is one's level of awareness, of the collective, and one's understanding that without "them" there is no "us". It is the mere awareness of the many shared attitudes and beliefs towards things like family, customs, societal and gender roles, etc. This awareness allows one to have a "collective identity" which allows them to be knowledgeable of not only where they are, but how those places and people around them are so significant in that they ultimately make the collective, a nation. In short, national consciousness can be defined as a specific core of attitudes that provide habitual modes for regarding life's phenomena.[2]

National identities in Europe and the Americas developed along with the idea of political sovereignty invested in the people of the state. In Eastern Europe, it was also often linked to ethnicity and culture.[1] Nationalism requires first a national consciousness, the awareness of national communality of a group of people, or nation.[3] An awakening of national consciousness is frequently ascribed to national heroes and is associated with national symbols, and was part of the dissolution of Yugoslavia,[4] Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union.


Benedict Anderson[edit]

Nations, to Benedict Anderson, are imagined.The idea of the "imagined community" is that a nation is socially constructed, and the nation is made up of individuals who see themselves as part of a particular group. Anderson referred to nations as "imagined communities". He thought nations, or imagined communities, were delimited because of its boundaries as far as who is in and who is out. Anderson believed that the nation operates through exclusion. Though, nations do not only exclude those who are outside of it, but they exclude their members who are not immediately considered in the collective idea of their national identity.[5] Not only did Anderson think nations were delimited, he thought they were:

Limited: Because of the mental boundaries, or concepts, we set pertaining to others are by culture, ethnicity, etc. We do not imagine everyone in one society or under one nationalism, we mentally separate.[6]

Sovereign: Nations were sovereign because sovereignty is a symbol of freedom from traditional religious practices. Sovereignty provides the organization needed for a nation while keeping the nation free of traditional religious pressures.[6]

Ernest Gellner[edit]

Unlike Benedict Anderson, Gellner didn't think nations were "imagined communities". In his book, Ernest Gellner explains how he thinks nations originated. In his eyes, nations are entirely modern constructs and products of nationalism. Gellner believed nations were a result of the Industrial Revolution.[7] Since large numbers of people from different backgrounds were coming together in cities, it was necessary to make a common identity among them. The spread of capitalism bought the demand for constant retraining and Gellner thought that as a result, this demand was met by creating a common past, common culture, and language, which lead to the birth of nations.[7]

Gellner thought that nations were contingencies and not universal necessities. He said that our idea of the nation was as such:

Two men were only of the same only if they were from the same culture. In this case, culture is "a system of ideas, signs, associations, and ways of communicating.[8]

Two men are of the same nation only if they recognize each other as being a part of the same nation.

It was men's recognition of each other as people of the same kind that made them a nation and not their common attributes.[9]

Paul Gilbert[edit]

In "The Philosophy of Nationalism", Paul Gibert breaks down what he thinks a nation is and his ideas contrast those of both Anderson and Gellner. In the book, Gilbert acknowledges that nations are many things. Gilbert says nations are:

Nominalist: Whatever a group of people who consider themselves a nation say a nation is [10]

Voluntarist: "Group of people bound by a commonly-willed nation" [10]

Territorial: Group of people located in the same proximity, or territory [10]

Linguistic: People who share the same language.[10]

Axiological: Group of people who have the same distinctive values[10]

Destinarian: Group of people who have a common history, and a common mission [10]

National Identity & National Consciousness[edit]

National identity and national consciousness are closely related and can often be mistaken for each other. There is, in fact, a thin line between the definitions of the two, however, national identity can be defined as the feelings someone shares with a group of people about a nation. National consciousness is a specific core of attitudes that provide the minutia of the day-to-day phenomena of life in one's country. National identity, like national consciousness, is a feeling of recognition of "we" and "they".[6]

One important distinction between the pair is that the national identity spectrum embodies Patriotism and Chauvinism.

National identity is more tangible than mental in comparison to national consciousness. The elements of national identity include the nation's symbols, traditions, and memories. National consciousness is more sensual and personal; it's different for each single person. It can't necessarily be seen since it is more mental than national identity.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b PDF
  2. ^ "National Consciousness". Peace Review.
  3. ^ The National Question in Yugoslavia: Origins, History, Politics Ivo Banac Google Books
  4. ^ As formal end nears some lament passing of the Yugoslavia they knew 1992/01/15
  5. ^ Anderson, Benedict (1983). Imagined Communities. London: Verso.
  6. ^ a b c d "Imagined Communities and Nationalism". Postcolonial Studies at Emory.
  7. ^ a b "The Nationalism Project". Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  8. ^ Gellner, Ernest (1983). Nations and Nationalism. Ithaca, New York: The Cornell University Press. pp. 6–7. a system of ideas and signs and associations and ways of behaving and communicating
  9. ^ Gellner, Ernest (1983). Nations and Nationalism. Ithaca, New York: The Cornell University Press. pp. 6–7.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Gilbert, Paul. "The Nationalism Project". The Westview Press. Retrieved November 29, 2016.