What's wrong with nationalism

About nation and nationalism

A little criticism from the nation

The cheapest kind of pride is national pride.
Because he reveals the defect in what is affected by it
of individual properties,
that he could be proud of.
(Arthur Schopenhauer)

The real German's best friend
is still the real German Shepherd Dog.
He's got something human.
(Dietrich Kittner)

The slogan of national identity
security plays against insecurity
a contradicting perception of reality.
(Detlev Claussen)

Anyone who grapples with racism inevitably stumbles upon nationalist arguments. “The boat is full” is a linguistically endeavored image that is intended to express that not everyone is allowed to enter “our country”. The CSU politician Zeitlmann even said: "The boat is more than full, it is already sinking". It goes without saying that a German “we” is used in order to differentiate oneself from the “others” and subsequently to integrate or exclude these “others” as required.

Are those who are proud of Germany also a racist, or only if they insist that “others have to adapt to our dominant culture”? Is nationalism bad or just normal? We want to answer these questions.

“But I'm German!” We hear when the conversation revolves around discrimination, multiculturalism or even just football. We are interested in what people associate with “being German”. Often this question is answered with reference to collective characteristics: “Germans are poets and thinkers, orderly and hardworking, respected in the world…” “Belonging gives me security, it guarantees me that I have claims and rights because of being German . ”In order to understand how national feelings of belonging work, it is useful to know a little about the history and ideology of the nation in general and Germany in particular.

Why do people cling so to their homeland, to their nation, to Germany? Does that have to do with a world that is becoming more and more inscrutable? And where are the connections to the desire for power and being part of a strong community? What is behind the feeling of community and nation?

A current IG Metall youth study by Seddik Bibouche and Josef Held (2002) comes to the result “that young people agree more with national orientations than international ones.” (Bibouche / Held, p. 13; see alsoBACKGROUND - Why right-wing attitudes are increasing - also in trade unions. B.3, page 78)

The majority of the young people surveyed agree with the statement, "We should orientate ourselves more towards German virtues such as hard work, order and cleanliness". The endorsement of the statement “whoever lives in Germany should also adapt to German culture” (ibid. P. 97) is very high. The authors state that biological racism (the assumption of biological inequality of so-called “races”) is decreasing, but exclusionary nationalism is increasing significantly. They see a connection between the increase in nationally exclusionary orientations with the rise of authoritarian values ​​such as adaptation and the enforcement of one's own norms against deviant behavior.

Our goals, content and methods

In this chapter we want to shed light on nationalism and the meaning and history of nations and to investigate what people connect with being German.

gives a brief overview of the history of the modern concept of nation and various theories that explain nation and nationalism.

But for us it's not just about explaining. The headline “Criticism of the Nation” is intended to encourage people not only to take a critical look at the excessive nationalism of right-wing extremists. What does “normal” nationalism look like? What is patriotism? We claim that, apart from the intensity of the feeling, there are often no great differences between patriotism and nationalism. The boundaries to so-called exaggerated nationalism are fluid and change depending on the social situation and current requirements.

The following two materials are devoted to the relationship between nationalism and patriotism:

In addition to the immigration debate, national tones are currently being heard especially in the location debate. See:

In our seminars we experience very different views on nation and nationalism. We want to bring this into the discussion. It is important for us to critically question the notion of the naturalness of nations.

For us, nationalism includes the construction of external images, which are constructed as counter-images parallel to national WIR images, or which are their necessary co-conditions. National self-images only emerge in the delimitation. Germans are not Jews / French / Turks / Blacks. This is how identity arises in negation: without the others there is no WE!

is devoted to the question of which of the so-called typically German achievements actually have a German origin and what comes to mind when we do not define “German” through delimitation, but want to fill the term with content.

The homogenization of the state people and the function of nationalism as integration ideology and kit ideology, be it in the field of sport or the local community, is taken up with the

also allows a look at how Germans are seen abroad and what the external perspective means for our self-image.

Nationalism increases as soon as it gets into trouble. Because the feeling of belonging can never be fully satisfied. That shows that when people talk about Germans they mostly mean men

The statements in the Song of the Princes can easily be converted into an opinion barometer, with which the participants can be asked how they themselves respond to statements such as "We are the friendliest people in this world" or "We are always ready for war" stand. You can find more information about the opinion barometer in

We encourage people to reflect on their own identifications, to work out their plurality and to discard homogeneous ideas (the Germans, the Turks). We want to find out how nationalism works, see through national slogans and get to know what exclusion or symbolic expatriation from the nation mean:

The passport

The passport is the noblest part of a person. It also does not come about in such a simple way as a person. A person can come into being anywhere, in the most reckless way and for no good reason, but never a passport. For this he is also recognized, if he is good, while a person can still be so good and yet is not recognized.
(Bertolt Brecht)

We would particularly like to recommend the

ACTIVITY - Pictures of Germany: We found it on the website www.daf-portal.de/typisch/index.html. The photo activity shows the "quirks of Germans" in a funny way.

We want to encourage mistrust of a German perspective of normality, which, with statements to the end, evades a critical examination of nationalism and historical responsibility for the “crimes committed in the German name”. Because wrongly maintaining national traditions is dangerous for the future. “Forgetting or misunderstanding history is an essential moment in the formation of history.” (Ernest Renan). That gives clues

The relationship between citizenship and nation is thematized with:

This in-depth working paper shows that the debates about citizenship and immigration have a tradition in Germany. The fact that immigration was discussed as early as 1913 can make it clear that Germany has been a country of immigration for over 100 years - in other words, it is not experiencing a new, difficult-to-process phenomenon.

We would like to analyze feelings of German arrogance and question national identity as a construct, e.g. with

And this is how it can be implemented

We believe that nationalism can be made a topic in the seminar in a variety of ways:

  1. Based on statements in the seminar that concern identifications and images of the enemy, for example: “I'm German” / “You can be proud of Germany” / “The Turks…” / “The Americans…” etc., but also “ German workmanship ”and the now notorious slogan of the foreigners who are taking away their jobs.

    On the occasion of such statements, we should take the time to discuss what national, regional and company affiliations mean to us, e.g. with

  2. Based on the three seminar phases, the following approaches are available:

    Getting to know each other / gathering experience, identifications, plural affiliations and groups:

    Analysis part nation and society:

    In the action phase, alternative internationalist options for action can be reflected on, such as: