Difference between Nationalism and Patriotism

Updated on June 28, 2017

The terms “nationalism” and “patriotism” bear strong associations. However, they are far from being interchangeable. This article provides valuable information on the differences between the two.

Definitions

Nationalism

Nationalism is a strong sense of devotion and loyalty to a country. It is geared towards maintaining national independence by rejecting interference from other countries and promoting self-governance and authoritarianism.

A strong ideology that binds people with shared characteristics such as religion, race, culture and political ideals, nationalism may promote aggression and superiority toward other countries. Since it can intensify false feelings of superiority, it can spark international conflicts and war.

Patriotism, on the other hand, is a sense of love and devotion to a country. Fundamental in achieving liberty, patriotism aims to unify the people living in a country by promoting shared values and beliefs.

Nationalism vs Patriotism

So what’s the difference between nationalism and patriotism?

Firstly, nationalism is an ideology geared towards achieving and maintaining national independence by rejecting interference from other countries. Patriotism, on the other hand, aims to unify the people living in a country.

Nationalism and patriotism also focus on different aspects. While nationalism focuses on the country, patriotism focuses on the people living in it.

Since they differ in aim and focus, they are also guided by different principles. Basically, nationalism promotes self-governance and authoritarianism to achieve independence, while patriotism promotes values and beliefs to unify people and achieve liberty.

Also, nationalism may promote oppression towards people who do not share the same ethnicity. Since it is a strong feeling of devotion and loyalty to a country, it classifies people based on shared characteristics like religion, race, culture, and political ideals. Meanwhile, patriotism focuses on uniting the country regardless of ethnicity and other shared characteristics.

It follows, therefore, that unlike patriotism, nationalism can unite people against other people especially since it can lose the concept of equality. In a nationalist’s perspective, people who do not belong in their group are inferior. Patriotism, by contrast, offers equality to everyone who lives in the state or country regardless of ethnicity, race, and other characteristics.

Lastly, nationalism can spark international conflicts and war since it can promote oppression, while patriotism spreads equity and peace.

Comparison Chart

NationalismPatriotism
An ideology geared towards achieving and maintaining national independenceA strong sense of emotion geared towards unifying the people living in a country
Focuses on the countryFocuses on the people living in a country
Promotes self-governance and authoritarianismPromotes values and beliefs
Classifies people based on shared characteristics like religion, race, culture, and political idealsDoes not classify people based on shared characteristics like religion, race, culture, and political ideals
Can lose the concept of equalityPromotes equality
Can promote oppressionDoes not promote oppression
Can lead to international conflicts and warDoes not lead to international conflicts and war