David Conway: Nationalism and Liberalism: Friends or Foes?

William McDougall, in The Group Mind,6 his ground-breaking 1920 social psychology classic, offered guidance on how much mutual affinity a people needs in order to be a nation. McDougall contended that no fewer than seven separate conditions must be satisfied so that people could enjoy sufficient mutual affinity to live together harmoniously in a territory under the same government, should they endeavour to do so. Without satisfying these seven conditions, a people cannot be considered a genuine nation.

First, they must possess what McDougall terms a certain degree of mental homogeneity.7 According to McDougall, this similarity of outlook and sensibility can result not just from a people sharing a common culture and physical environment, but also from their being of the same race. Typically, in McDougall’s view, all such mental homogeneity as distinguishes one nationality from another derives in part from both sources, with only the degree of predominance of each varying from nation to nation.

Second, to live together harmoniously, a people must enjoy freedom of communication.

 

Without… freedom of communication, the various parts of the nation cannot become adequately conscious of one

another;. . . The idea of the whole must remain very rudimentary in the minds of the individuals; each part of the whole remains ignorant of many other parts, and there can be no vivid consciousness of a common welfare and a common

purpose…. [M]ore important still, there can be none of that massive influence of the whole upon each of the units which is the essence of collective mental life.8

Included in the means of communication which facilitate free and reciprocal communication among a people who reside in any territory larger than the city-states of antiquity are the press, radio, telephone, and television, as well as such mass transportation systems as railroads, cars, and airplanes. However, the prime necessary condition for a people to communicate with each other is fluency in the same language.

A third condition of a people’s being able to live harmoniously together is their jointly possessing the capacity to produce national leaders, “personalities of exceptional powers who . . . play the part of leaders.”9

Fourth, there must have been, on occasion at least, a common well-defined purpose “present to, and dominant in, the minds of allindividuals.”10 One such occasion is the need for concerted actionon the part of a people to stave off a threat to their survival or freedomposed by the prospect of their imminent invasion or conquestby a foreign power. War is one, but not the only, such occasion forcommon purpose.

A fifth condition of a people being able to live together harmoniously is their enjoying a sufficient degree of what McDougall terms material and formal continuity.11 By “material continuity,” McDougall means a continuous period of residence in the same territory. By “formal continuity,” he means the stability and longevity of the major public institutions which structure their lives. Such continuity is said to be an “essential presupposition of all the other main conditions On it . . . depends the strengths of custom and tradition and, to a very great extent, the strength of national sentiment.”12

Sixth, a people must also possess some national self-consciousness, that is, some awareness of themselves as a distinct people. “Onlyin so far as the idea of the people or nation as a whole is present to theconsciousness of individuals and determines their actions . . . [has] anation in the proper sense of the word existed.”13

Finally, a people must feel some sentiment of love or devotion toward that people they consider themselves to be. McDougall terms this sentiment patriotism,™ which may be considered the wellspring from which all nationalist sentiment and aspiration ultimately derives.

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