tutor2u | Inclusive and Exclusive Nationalism

Study Notes

Inclusive and Exclusive Nationalism

A Level
AQA, Edexcel

Last updated 22 Jun 2020

Another all-encompassing distinction derives from inclusive nationalism and exclusive nationalism (Dowds and Young, 1996).

In accordance with the inclusive strand of nationalism, members of a community are encouraged to accept and uphold those that symbolise a nation. Members may join a nation on a voluntary basis via the process of citizenship. Inclusive nationalism also celebrates liberal values of diversity and tolerance. Under the inclusive approach to nationalism, the individual needs a secure national identity to experience a life of liberty. Furthermore, inclusive nationalists adopt the prevalent values and parameters of a liberal democratic regime. Mainstream nationalist parties within a liberal democracy adopt a firmly inclusive tone.

In contrast, the more exclusive strand of nationalism is commonly associated with more authoritarian regimes in which the political culture does not embrace that of liberal democratic values. Such groups are racialist and – at times – overtly racist in their outlook. Evidence of this point is the renaissance in nationalist feeling within parts of Eastern Europe since the collapse of Communism. Exclusive nationalism is also a feature of ultra-nationalist parties and pressure groups that are commonly labelled as ‘fascist’ including Britain First, Jobbik, Alternative for Deutschland and Golden Dawn.

The distinction between inclusive and exclusive nationalism can also be understood via the political spectrum. Inclusive nationalism is located nearer to centre of the political spectrum, whereas exclusive nationalism is further to the right. The key dividing line between them is their attitude towards others.

Exclusive nationalism centres upon the need to scapegoat ‘others’ for that nation’s social ills. However, liberal nationalists are strongly opposed to the xenophobia, ignorance and prejudice that represents the very worst excesses of nationalism. For instance, the Italian theorist Giuseppe Garibaldi once argued that national self-determination is rooted in the popular will of the people to govern themselves. He argued in favour of the unification of Italy (or Risorgimento) on an inclusive basis. In contrast, exclusive nationalism has been expressed in the belligerent rhetoric of Donald Trump. The style in which he blamed Mexicans during the presidential campaign and his pledge to build a wall to keep them out of the United States are worth considering in this context.

Moreover, at its most extreme exclusive nationalism transforms into the ideology of fascism. There is a considerable overlap between fascist groups and nationalists on the far-right in regard to their anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-globalisation and anti-establishment position. Indeed, fascism itself is an ideology built upon an ultra-nationalist standpoint - so whereas most nationalists could never be depicted a fascist, all fascists are (ultra)nationalists. In complete contrast, inclusive nationalism is consistent with the politics of compromise that lie at the very heart of any liberal democracy. To use a useful analogy, exclusive nationalism adopts a ‘drawbridge up’ approach. It is therefore more insular than the ‘drawbridge down’ attitude associated with inclusive nationalists such as the Italian liberal theorist Giuseppe Mazzini.


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