Faith in the Nation: The idea of the nation is a fundamental “assumption” that defines the manner in which modern man perceives, and experiences, social reality. Just as people in earlier historical periods possessed an absolute faith in the reality of God, so do people in contemporary cultures possess an absolute faith in the reality of the nation.
In a democratic culture, people differ regarding the stance taken in relation to the nation: the country may be “loved” or hated; perceived to be “healthy” or sick; “strong” or weak. But whatever stance is adopted, people are united by their absolute faith in the reality of this entity, and their belief that this entity constitutes a fundamental determinant of the nature, and of the quality, of their daily lives.
The Difference Between Nationalism and Christianity: A central distinction between the religion of nationalism and Christian religion is that while the Christian worships an object that is “invisible,” the nationalist worships an object which can be “perceived.” Johann Fichte describes the nation as a thing “in whose soul heaven and earth, visible and invisible meet and mingle, and thus, and only thus, create a true and enduring heaven.” It is the capacity to combine “visible and invisible” that is a fundamental source of the power of the ideology of nationalism. Unlike God, the nation possesses “referents” in the real world: there does, indeed, exist a body of territory; there are human beings who reside within this territory; there are governing institutions which “represent” it.
But the nation is much more than these “referents” in the external world: it is conceived of and related to as a single, integral entity. Thus, a primary function of these referents in the external world is to provide a “material base” upon which the phantasy of an omnipotent object may be projected. By citing the existence of a body of territory, millions of “people,” governing institutions, etc., the nationalist persuades himself that the omnipotent object he worships is “real;” that it exists as a part of the external world.
Modern man believes that he lives in a rational world and that his central preoccupation is reality. Existing coextensively with this “profane” world, however, is this “sacred object,” the nation. The nation may be viewed as a sacred object that merges with, “saturates” our day to day reality, a sacred object that “accompanies us” as we move through our daily activities.
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While modem man finds it difficult to place God in the center of his life, insofar as his “manifestations” are not readily observable, he has no trouble “believing in” the nation: its manifestations are all around him. The Christian deity falls before the empirical spirit: “What is the evidence for the existence of God?” One rarely, however, hears the question: “What is the evidence for the existence of the nation?”
What we encounter is a coherent phantasy, which may be summarized as follows: the nation is a living organism; this organism is suffering from a “disease,” the source of which is a particular class of people lying within the body of this organism. In order to cure the disease, and thereby to “save the nation,” it may be necessary to “remove” this class of people from within the body of the nation.
This phantasy is a fundamental source of acts of destruction, and particularly mass-destruction, which are carried out in the name of racist and revolutionary ideologies: the perpetrators of mass-destruction think of themselves, not as murderers, but as men who have undertaken the “necessary task” of removing a disease element from within the body of the nation.
The class of people identified as a “disease element,” then, may be characterized as a class of people which lies within the boundaries of the nation, but which is perceived, simultaneously, as not belonging there. This class of people, in short, is perceived as an alien element within the body of the nation, an element that must be “rejected,” just as any organism rejects alien elements that invade the interior of its body, and which endanger its health.
Famous Personalities and the National Community: The national community is rooted in that “world” of events, issues and personalities that are “brought to us” by the mass-media of communication. And it is the shared attachment to this world among the citizens of a nation that generates the sense of a national community.
“Famous personalities” come to play, in the Gesellschaft society, the role that had been played by “neighbors” in the Gemeinschaft society, i.e., they come to constitute our fundamental “secondary relationships.” Thus, the development of a national community embodies a transformation in the nature of the individual’s connection to the community: where once the individual’s connection to the community had been defined in terms of relationships with people present in the immediate physical environment, now this connection is defined in terms of relationships with people not present in the immediate physical environment.
I. The Country, the Mother and Infantile Narcissism
- The Country as Suffering Mother
- The Country as Omnipotent Mother
- The Country as a Projection of Infantile Narcissism
II. The Country as a Living Organism
Racism and Revolution as a Wish to Eliminate the “Disease” from Within the Body of the Nation
- The Disease Within the Nation as a Projection of Malignant Internal Objects
III. Revolution as a Struggle against Passivity
- The Struggle Against Passivity: Hitler
- The Struggle Against Passivity: Lenin
- The Struggle Against Passivity: Aurobindo
IV. The Social Psychology of Nationalism
- The “National Community”
- The Renunciation of Personal Gratification in the Name of a Devotion to the Collectivity