Israel Lira: The Pure Theory of Nationalism

By Israel Lira, Deputy Director of the CEC

Translated by Zero Schizo

Beginning with our neo-structuralist approach, we recognize nationalism as a complex structure, a framework of intersubjective relations which is of a particular post-formative essence, thus, we do not share the thesis of Gellner (1997) and Guaresti (2000) that identify nationalism with a particular foundational essence, that precedes y gives shape to Nations and States, meaning that – according to these authors– first there would be Nationalism, and then the Nation and then the State, to which we prefix and join to the critique of John Hall (2000), who in his book «The State of The Nation», analyzes Gellner’s theory, concluding that, effectively, not every society is a nation. Thus we conclude that first, the concepts of State and Nation (cultural and politico-juridical) emerge, and finally, that of Nationalism as an exaltation of this latter two.

Then, if nationalism doesn’t give origin to States and Nations, what does? From this point emerge the following questions: What gives origin to cultural nations? What gives origin to politico-juridical nations? Are the concepts of cultural nation and politico-juridical nation opposites? Regarding all these questions, we consider that to talk about any type of nationalism, makes us necessarily refer to the concepts of State and Nation, categories that in a formative process do not exist yet, precisely, because they are in construction. Being that the formation of cultural nations, is a socio-cultural process derived from the interaction between ethnicities that decide to come together and form a cultural nation, but this process could not be called cultural or ethnic nationalism, in so a doctrine or a system of thought cannot be formed from something which its correlate is but a proto-category, from that same vein this is applied when we talk about the formation of a politico-juridical nation; so that the processes of formation of cultural and politico-juridical nations, we will name processes of nationification or statization of societies, divided at the same time in process of cultural and politico-juridical nationification, respectively. All of it for the sake of remarking the fact that, nationalism is a post-cultural nation and post-politico-juridical nation phenomenon, which doesn’t participate in the formation of those concepts rather, it precisely emanates from these ones when they are already consolidated and formed through their respective processes, while the theory of Gellner has generated the situation in which nationalism is conceived as an entity a priori, falling into the fallacy of arguing the existence of nationalism as a motor and not as an effect of, before the emergence of the categories that give sustenance to that very same, and not as an a posteriori phenomenon (Tejada, 2014).

On the other hand, we consider that the classical dichotomy which confronts or see the concepts of cultural or ethnic nation with the one of politico-juridical nation as opposites and contradictories, and from which emerges the concepts of ethnic nationalism and politico-juridical nationalism, does not correspond to the phenomenal reality anymore, in which it is impossible to consider a politico-juridical nation without the ethnic or racial factor, just as it is impossible to consider a cultural nation without the politico-juridical factor, as perceived as self-determination of a collective will, just as is demonstrated in the case of Catalonian nationalism (Silveira, 2007). Being so, our structural concept of nationalism foresees, precisely, the full comprehension of this dichotomy and the construction of a dialectical synthesis between those categories in the verge of a structural concept.


Continuing with the approach of our proposal of a pure theory of nationalism, it is convenient to define a concept so problematic to political philosophy which is that of Nation, in being necessary for a correct comprehension of our theoretical development.

The concept of Nation, presents a dichotomous essence proper of two status of development, that do not contradict each other, instead they complement one another, one corresponds to the Cultural Nation (from here onward as Nc), understood as a historically and culturally unified community, whose members identify between themselves by the presence of common elements, whether these be language, traditions and customs and/or common race or ethnicity. Meanwhile, on the other hand, we have the Politico-Juridical Nation (from here onward as NpJ), comprehended as a community politically unified, whose members could identify between themselves through objective means.

Therefore, and to us, the politico-juridical nation, is the cultural nation unified politically. In reference to the latter, it is considered, in clear synthesis of the postulates of Herder (1982, 1953) and Renan (1987), that it is not possible to conceive the nation without its cultural factor, so to say, that the Renanist vision of a nation emerges by the mere pact between men, is just an arista of the phenomenon of the conformation of nations, as it would be useless to share a language or culture in common if the members of a determined ethnicity or group of them, won’t feel identified with one another enough to conform a politico-cultural structure of major complexity, being so that the biunivocal correspondence between Nc and NpJ, as we will see later, is of two distinct status of development and evolution of a determined or determinable community. In general terms, it is considered that there cannot be NpJ without the existence of a Nc, but the preexistence of a Nc per se does not guarantee the posterior development of a State, whether it be for lacking of unanimity or supervening impossibility.

The problem resides in that there is no objective form to determine, where the NpJ finishes and where the State begins, in a formative process, as to when the State is automatically formed it derives with it –and on par– the formation of the NpJ1 or automatically identified the Nc, and through a process of nationification, derives per se the formation of a State.

Cases like the very same dissolution of the Soviet Union, the dismembering of Yugoslavia in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro, are clear displays of it. Thus we conclude that State and the Politico-juridical Nation, are configured as terms so narrow between one another, that it is almost impossible to distinguish and differentiate them apart, therefore they are presented as analogue, clear display of it is the great spectrum of political constitutions, that associate the State and Politico-juridical Nation2. Without detriment of it, and by effects of our thesis, the differentiation between the concepts of State and Politico-juridical Nation, will be a relation of vehicle-motor, regarding the politico-juridical Nation we could say that, it is the conjunction of citizens (motor), while the State is the instrument (vehicle) through which the citizens exert power over themselves and over everybody else.


The socio-historical development of Nationalism since 1789, shows us perhaps one of the political forces of major influence in the history of mankind, participant of great social processes, consolidation of identities and assertions of self-determination and independence of various peoples. Authors like Joaquín Fernández (2005), Sabucedo & Fernández (1998) and Francisco Contreras (2002), endorse the importance of this political phenomenon, which far from disappearing in the two last major wars, seems more alive today than ever before. Without detriment of the latter, these three authors agree with the fact that there exists an enormous tergiversation of the concept, and trying to correlate it immediately with extremist and/or chauvinist stances, it isn’t anything else than a plain unscientific reductionism and a display of total ignorance regarding the subject.

Sabucedo & Fernández, remark the fact that diverse political ideologies have been linked to nationalism, however, throughout history, nationalism has always been a pragmatic phenomenon, and there lies the explanation of its major force of convincement in front of political ideologies strictu sensu, like Marxism and Liberalism. However, we take the stance of the previously mentioned authors who affirm that nationalism is in itself a hollow in itself, so that it must be filled more than often with content proper of other political ideologies, in some cases attuned3 to them and in others not so much4.

We have opted to call concave or blastula associative nationalism (NcBa), to those nationalisms whose contents proceed from other political ideologies, but save some closeness with the idea of nation and exaltation of nationality5. At the same time, we have opted to call conclave or blastula fragmented nationalism (NcBf) to those whose contents proceed from other political ideologies contrarian to the classic basis of nationalism, whether it be for their cosmopolitan, internationalist or reactionary content6.

Interesting is the quote by Héctor Béjar (2006) regarding the nationalist phenomenon, which endorses the previous thesis of the conclave or blastula characteristic of nationalism in general, so to speak, that nationalism is a transversal phenomenon to political ideologies:

«They were nationalists, the Poles when they defended themselves from Tsarist oppression. They were converted into nationalists, the Russian communists in order to face the German invasion. They were nationalists, the Italian Fascists and the Nazis that invaded Europe reclaiming territories for the German Nation. The French and Soviet revolutions were turned into nationalists in order to face their enemies but also became as such in order to oppress or hegemonize or homogenize their members or internal militants in search for unanimity and obedience».

Is for this very reason that Contreras (2002) quoting Anderson (1991) affirms that, «behind a historical-political force of such magnitude one would expect to find a powerful doctrine, full of meaning, complex. And, however, one of the main characteristics of nationalism is the paradoxical disproportion between its enormous politico-practical might and its feeble theoretical consistency: as it has noted B. Anderson, the nationalist thought has not ever produced nothing remotely comparable to a Hobbes, a Tocqueville or a Marx».

Seeing the latter, we begin from the fact that all pragmatic experiences of the nationalist phenomenon, we have identified the main consubstantial characteristic of nationalism as praxis, in so, its concave or blastula essence, manifesting itself in a NcBa or in a NcBf, both, we consider, are of transcendental importance for a full comprehension of the nationalist phenomenon in its entirety and for the construction of a philosophical-political theory of an authentic or quintessential nationalism7, as manifestations of that pragmatic nationalism, however, we must delimit regarding NcBf, that it is not less true that its cosmopolite or internationalist components, makes it harder for us in a certain way, to reconstruct (or at least in a more precise way) the axiological and teleological substance of an essential nationalism, given its corrections by trying to save the original contradictions between the minimum categories of nationalism (Nation and Fatherland) and its base categories (Individual for Liberalism, Class for Marxism)8. Despite that, we consider that its objective value for the analysis and the recovery of the minimum nationalist principiology is very high and has been more than proved9, thus, the ontopraxiological level of nationalism would be found in a dialectic stage and not a logical one, being so that not being able to avoid the contradiction, surpassing it is what’s being seeked, taking fully into consideration the associative nationalisms as the fragmented ones, in order to find then the transversal principles and that all of the political ideologies have shared in which nationalism has manifested itself10.


Throughout several deliveries, we exposed briefly our statements surrounding this pure theory of nationalism. Beginning with a critique of Gellner’s theory (1997), denying that nationalism is a phenomenon a priori that gives form to Nations and States, when it is precisely the opposite and that it is due to –not to nationalism instead– a process of nationification, after that, we thought of an approximation to the concept of Nation, advocating for a stance that synthesizes the theses of Herder and Renan regarding the concepts of cultural Nation and politico-juridical Nation, to disembogue in the blastula characteristic of pragmatic nationalism, in its associative and fragmented variants, concluding that nationalism is an universal phenomenon, transversal to political ideologies. Derived from all of those approximations, it is now the turn to see (before finishing with a next delivery surrounding that minimum principiology of a pure nationalism), regarding nationalism per se, its elements and its definition, from our neo-structuralist vision.

The elements in every nationalist phenomenon are six, which could be summarized in two trichotomies, the first one conformed by the categories of Individual (I), Society (S) and Cultural Nation (Nc), of vertical hierarchy, and the second one by Politico-juridical Nation (Npj), Fatherland (P) and State (E), of horizontal hierarchy.

There is an immanent relationship between all those categories, which precisely give origin to every nationalist political phenomenon. The base trichotomy or infrastructure (Tbase) of every nationalist political phenomenon is found in the relationship between categories I, S and Nc, at the same time, there is a main trichotomy or superstructure (Tpal) which derives from the base and that means the development to a more complex phase, which is when the cultural nation turns into a politico-juridical nation (Npj) or a State (E), thus with a fatherland (P). This process of development that gives form to nations and to States, which we have opted to call process of nationification or statization of societies, in reference to a clear Oszlakian terminology11.

Graphic 1

Structural Model of the phenomenon of nationification or statization of societies

The subjacent structure based in the relationships between I and S, which gives origin to the phenomenon of cultural nations (Tbase), determines and molds the subsequent structure of the juridical, political and ideological system which gives sustenance to formal institutions,  in so, to E, to NpJ and to P (territory demarcated by E). Only the superstructure that is generated as a consequence of the intrinsic relationships of the base trichotomy, corresponds to the basic structures of every concept of nationalism. Thus the structural definition of nationalism is as it follows: Nationalism (N) is an epiphenomenon of nationification, which is configured as the healthy exaltation of a superstructure, conformed by the relationship between the categories that conforms the main trichotomy of the nationification phenomenon and/or the statization of societies or as it can be said, «Nationalism, is the healthy exaltation of the Nation, the Fatherland and the State».

The reference to the healthy term, alludes to a concept which derives from cultural or ethnic nationalism from Herder (1982, 1953), which far away from being aggressive, is plainly pluralist and recognizer of each peoples own diversity, and foreign to racist conceptions, and of racial or cultural superiority which have been common to many praxis in the framework of pragmatic nationalisms, making emphasis in those of associative characteristic (military, corporative and fascist).

According to the structural model displayed, could the infrastructure serve as the basis for a concept of cultural or ethnic nationalism? Could the superstructure serve as the basis for a concept of politico-juridical nationalism? We consider that no, in so as, and according to what has been mentioned, the concept of cultural nation, under our neo-structuralist approach, is found implicit in the concept of politico-juridical nation, thus the exaltation of the superstructure already implies per se, the preexistence of the cultural nation, being due to it, it has been considered for the moment to identify the superstructure as unique source of the concept of nationalism in all its meaning.


Seen the fundamental bases of the pure theory of nationalism in previous columns, we pass to the brief exposition of the minimum principiology of nationalism as a pure concept, or as can be said, the transversal principles and which have been shared throughout all political ideologies in which nationalism has been manifested and that can be rescued for the construction of any future political project:

The ontological conception of nation and fatherland. The nation is a conjunction of people who live together in a determined geographical space which is delimited by a specific territory. Its members are held together by identitarian elements to these spaces.  These links, do not only link the respective members of a determined community, to this, in an identitarian sense, but also, in a unitary aspect. This implies that these bonds not only serve for the purpose of constructing the identity of a person with his country, but also, for the re-acknowledgement with a conational.

As inserted in the definition of nation, is the territory jurisdictionally defined –country–, in this geographical space in which this historico-cultural community develops. Being the fatherland the vital space in which the nation develops, the latter being, the population of the State and the depositary of its sovereignty. Country of one nation and fatherland, are as such, synonyms.

As we can see the concept of nation is not only delimited by the territorial aspect but also by transcendental ideals related with cohesive ties. This unitary and identitarian aspect, envelopes the geist or spirit of the nation, in so, the traditions, customs, spirituality, history, science, culture, art, philosophy, etc.

The recognition of the complementarity of the essential human dichotomy. Man is a complex and complete being. This complexity is a consubstantial characteristic of human nature itself, as a rational entity. This is complete because it represents two essential factors that define him and differentiate him from every other living being. On one hand man is a material being that will have needs for his development as a physical entity, by the other hand, he possesses a psychic part, in where the essence of human reason lies. This second constitutive part of man will also have needs, proper of it, like the arts, the science and the philosophy. Vertex and true factors of human development.

The search for national unity and the common wellbeing. Depending on the country in which one is found, this unifying factor could vary, coupling itself to realities of different circumstances. Possibly being in one place ethnicity, in another one religion, in another one history, in another one class, etc. It depends on the sociohistorical-cultural situation of the country, the factor of its unity.

National unity has as main objective, to tie together all of the members of a determined community, from majorities to minorities, with the goal of joining in common cause all of the wills towards the development of all human peoples that are part of a community of interests, without disturbing their desires of personal realization, assuring that these are inserted in that accomplishment of the community.

Healthy exaltation of national identity. The healthy appreciation, in negation of all forms of extremism, of traditions, customs and history of the peoples that form a national community. Such exaltation will not be about whichever elements of a superficial identity, instead, of an authentic and transcendental identity. A people that is not conscious of its identity, that does not value its past and history, is condemned to commit the same mistakes that guaranteed its regression or stagnation in a given moment.

Healthy exaltation of the military values and the civic-patriotic virtues. Both in war, as in peace, the main virtue of a political community is the love to its fatherland, while the own virtue of a Political State, is the love to the Republic. Those virtues are fundamental to the development of a community of interests, in so, one cannot ensure for the perfection of something, if one does not love that which is object of the action, the opposite of hypocrisy and spite; the certain, is the healthy and consequential appreciation of this virtue, which is essential to political, economic and social development of a people.

Bibliographic References

GELLNER, Ernest (1997). «Naciones y nacionalismo». Alianza Editorial.

GUARISTI, Jhon (2000). «Prólogo a Estado y Nación de John Hall». Cambridge University Press. Madrid.

HALL, John (2000). «The State of The Nation», Cambridge University Press.

TEJADA GALINDO, Sergio. (2004). «La Nación Por-Venir: el bicentenario y lo nacional-popular en el Perú». 1era.Ed.Fondo Editorial PUCP.

SILVIERA ABRAO, Janete (2007). «Nacionalismo cultural y político: la doble cara de un proyecto único: Cataluña». Universidad de Barcelona.

HERDER, J.G. (1959). «Ideas para una filosofía de la historia de la humanidad» Traducción directa de J. Rovira Armengol. Buenos Aires: Editorial Losada.

HERDER, J.G. (1982). «Otra filosofía de la historia para la educación de la humanidad». En: Johann Gottfried Herder. Obra Selecta. Prólogo, traducción y notas de Pedro Ribas. Madrid: Ediciones Alfaguara.

RENAN, Ernest. (1987). «¿Qué es una Nación?». Alianza Editorial.

FERNÁNDEZ A, Joaquín. (2005). «Las raíces profundas del nacionalismo». En: Ciencias Sociales Online, Universidad de Viña del Mar-Chile, Marzo, Vol. II, No. 1. pp. 75-81.

J.M. SABUCEDO & C. FERNANDEZ. (1998). «Nacionalismo e Ideología: un análisis psicosocial». En: Psicología Política, No. 17, pp-7-19.

J. CONTRERAS, Francisco. (2002). «Cinco tesis sobre el Nacionalismo». En: Revista de Estudios Políticos (Nueva Época), Núm. 118. Octubre-Diciembre.

B. ANDERSON. (1991). «Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism». 2 ed. Verso, Londres-Nueva York.

BERJAR, Héctor (2006). «Los Nacionalismos».

OSZLAK, Oscar. (1978). «Formación histórica del Estado en América Latina: elementos teórico-metodológicos para su estudio». Estudios CEDES. Vol.1, No.3.


Such was the case of the North-American Revolution, where the Union of States was configured as the formation of the North-American politico-juridical nation; and the French Revolution, in which the Third State was configured as the new French politico-juridical nation.

«Article 43. The Republic of Peru is democratic, social, independent and sovereign.

The State is one and indivisible»


Us, the multinational people of the Russian Federation, united by a common destiny in our land, ratifying the rights and liberties of the person, civic peace and concord, conserving the state unity by our constituted history, starting from the principles universally recognized of equality of rights and self-determination of the peoples, giving tribute to our ancestors, which have located the love and respect for the Fatherland, the believe in goodness and justice, reestablishing the sovereign status to Russia and reaffirming the immutability of its democratic foundation, aspiring to guarantee the well-being and prosperity of Russia, starting with the responsibility for our Fatherland on behalf of present and future generations, recognizing ourselves as part of the global community, we adopt the CONSTITUTION OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION»

«Article 1° – The People’s Republic of China is a socialist State of democratic popular dictatorship, directed by the working class and based upon the farmer-worker alliance.

The socialist system is the basic system of the People’s Republic of China. Every sabotage by any organization or individual against the socialist system is forbidden.

Article 2° – All the Power in the People’s Republic of China belongs to the people.

The institutions by which the people wield the State’s Power are the National Popular Assembly and the popular local assemblies on diverse levels.

The people administer the matters of the State, the economic and cultural activities and the social matters by diverse means and in different forms regarding the stipulations of the law».

«Us, the People of the United States, on behalf of forming a more perfect Union, to establish Justice, to affirm inner tranquility, to provide the common Defense, to promote the general well-being and to secure for ourselves and our descendants the benefits of Liberty, we state and sanction this CONSTITUTION for the United States of America».

Just like it was the case in the era of fascisms as in Europe as in Iberoamerica, communitarian proposals like Peronism strictu sensu under General Juan Domingo Perón, the Arab Renaissance Party – Baath of Michel Aflaq, Gaddafism and Nasserism.

Peculiar is the case of Kim-il-sung-ism, Juchism or the «Juche Idea», which associates Marxist-Leninist socialism with an exaltation of the Korean Fatherland and nation. Regarding this, Kim Jong IL in his writings «In order to Comprehend Nationalism Correctly» delimits that: Nationalism is not in contradiction with internationalism. Internationalism is to help, to support and to have solidarity between countries and nations. Given that borders between countries and differences of nationality exist, and the revolutionary and constructive process is done by the unity of the nation, internationalism represents the relationships between countries, nations, and has nationalism as its basis. Truth be told, an internationalism marginalized from the nation and divorced from nationalism means nothing. If one is indifferent to the destiny of his country and people, one cannot be loyal to internationalism. The revolutionaries of each country should be loyal to internationalism via the efforts, foremost, for the development and prosperity of their nation».

Military Nationalism, Corporatist Nationalism, Fascist Nationalism and Communitarian or Identitarian Nationalism.

Liberal or Civic (Bourgeois) Nationalism, Popular or Left-Wing Nationalism, Religious Nationalism, Banal Nationalism or Chauvinism.

We consider that in a meta-theoretical sense the ultra-nationalism is a similar, analogue or equivalent category to authentic nationalism, in the sense that the prefix ultra– means something situated way beyond, nature which fits with an integral focus of nationalism. Notice that the category here remarked, has little to do with an extremist sense, instead with a labor of resignifictation from an objective framework.

For example, in the case of popular or left-wing nationalism, between the internationalist-classist base of classical Marxism and national identity, as well as the reduction of nation to a mere socioeconomic category in detriment of its ontological essence, however, interesting experiences can be recovered of attempts to overcome this contradiction in China and North Korea, just like in the now extinct Soviet Union, Tito’s Yugoslavia and Nicolae Ceacuescu’s Romania. Regarding this A. Epishev in «Some matters of political works of the party in the soviet army» he remarks that: «The defense of the socialist Fatherland –remarks the USSR constitution – is transcendental function of the State and duty of all the people».

Given that the goal is the construction of a pure theory, understood as dialectic synthesis of such pragmatic manifestations of nationalism. The construction or reconstruction is that theory which Contreras (2002) and Anderson (1991) point out that nationalism doesn’t possess. It is the theorizing recollection of pragmatic experience of nationalism as a political phenomenon and with it the inference of its minimal and fundamental principles derived from all of its practical tests, transversal to all political ideologies (Liberalism, Conservatism, Communism or Fascism) in which it has manifested itself.

Which remarks and reaffirms in popular or left-wing nationalism, reliable proof that an ideology which in its classic strand negated the nation and the fatherland and which conceived nationalism as a bourgeois invention that divided the proletariat (K. Marx & F. Engels, Pekin, 1975), in a second moment had to accept the fact that the workers felt more identified with their nation than with their social class and to reconsider the national question in socialist terms (M. Rodinson, 1975), emerging like this the terms of, enlightened patriot, the proletariat as national class, proletariat nation and workers nationalism, proving likewise that all political ideologies (including those of international basis) cannot escape the treatment of the national question and of nationalism, manifesting itself as an inevitable fact.

«Analytically, the statehood supposes the acquisition on behalf of that entity in formation, of a series of properties: (1) capacity to externalize its power, obtaining recognition as sovereign unity inside a system of interstate relations; (2) capacity of institutionalizing its authority, imposing a structure of power relationships which guarantees its monopoly over the organized means of coercion; (3) capacity to differentiate its control, through the creation of a functionally differentiated set of public institutions with recognized legitimacy to stably extract resources of civic society, with certain degree of professionalization of its functionaries and in some capacity of centralized control over its varied activities; and (4) capacity of internalizing a collective identity, through the emission of symbols that reinforce sentiments of belonging and social solidarity and permit, in consequence, the ideological control as mechanism of domination» (Oszlak, 1978).

The pure conception of nationalism expressed in terms of set theory.



Original in Spanish:


Комментариев нет:

Отправить комментарий

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...