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Thu Dec 15, 2011, 10:08 AM

What kind of nationalism makes people happy?

The term nationalism can encompass many strands of ideology; from believing your country is superior to all other countries, to 'civic' nationalism, to protecting a state from another state's imposed power.

'Ethnic' nationalism, often expressed in racial or religious terms, sees ancestry as the key social boundary defining the collective national 'us'. 'Civic' nationalism on the other hand is more about creating an inclusive society, requiring only respect for a country's institutions and laws for belonging. Whilst ethnic nationalism often employs a closed and antagonistic approach to minorities or immigrants, civic nationalism, in principle anyway, is more open to building bridges between different communities and opening up borders to immigrants.

Like the previous studies they found that people who exhibited more national pride had greater well-being. But Reeskens and Wright's findings also show that it was the civic nationalists who were on the whole happier, with even the proudest ethnic nationalists' well-being barely surpassing that of people with the lowest level of civic pride.

By looking at how people define their pride we can make predictions as to how they might react as situations change.

With extreme nationalist parties once again on the rise in Europe, studies like these are essential for getting to grips with complex political ideologies and for defining exactly what kind of nationalism is a desirable one. Wright believes that the findings give clues to what popular responses we might expect to trends such as millions of people crossing borders from poorer to wealthier countries looking for work or seeking refuge from war or political repression. 'It's unclear what the political implications of the happiness measure are - though unhappy citizens could demand many politically dangerous, xenophobic responses. Ethnic nationalists, proud or not, appear relatively less happy to begin with and more likely to lead the charge as their nation diversifies around them.'


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