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  • Cited by 2
  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: March 2008

21 - Scandinavia: Lutheranism and national identity



Nation, nationalism and national identity

Nationalism is an ideology or a principle, in which the political and the cultural parts should agree. The political ambition of a nation is independence or domestic self-government, while its cultural aspiration is moral and national regeneration on the basis of a national and historical distinctive character. The main problem when nationalism became a strong political force during the nineteenth century, altering the map of Europe, was, however, that almost no European state matched such goals, because they were composite states. Another obstacle was that the cultural unit called the nation was defined in different ways. The definitions combined language, history, culture, religion and ethnicity in all kinds of permutations. Such was the case in nineteenth-century Scandinavia.

The nation is first of all an imagined community, but it is not an invented community. It is based on historical raw material, which the intellectual elite shapes to form the concept of the nation. The nation as an imagined community means that it depends on people’s consciousness of belonging to a national community characterised by certain features. These features create national identity, which becomes an important part also of individual identity. For this reason a national system of education is a central part of nation building. Furthermore, national identity describes that condition in which a mass of people have internalised the symbols of the nation, so that they may act as one psychological group when there is a threat to, or the possibility of enhancement of, nation and national identity.