The rise of nationalism, according to Richard A. Koenigsberg in his psychoanalysis of this phenomenon, has to do with the rise of a “Gemeinschaft society,” a group mentality which includes those far away who have similar characteristics to be in the same group as those nearby (37). For example, someone born and raised in California shares the same American identity as someone born and raised on a US military base in Germany. This national identity is the unifier of people from the United States, as is the case among many groups of nations and nationalists. Such an idea rose out of the shift from the focus on immediate relations within towns and families to the focus on common threads among entire bodies of people.

Additionally, the concept of individuality rises with nationalism. As one moves away from a close-knit group, such as a small town, and moves into a larger unified body like a city, they find themselves more free to pursue personal goals and needs as opposed to working around the group mentality of conformity. Keonigsberg then declares that the “national community” works as a unifier which includes the individual without restricting them from doing as they please (40). This ideology therefore makes nationalism into a healthy mode of living, however the argument is simplified to the point where one of a different view would easily disagree; nationalism is inclusive to only those who fit the view of that national group. It maintains a restrictive view of how the nation as a whole should act, and while it is more relaxed than the more intimate group’s ideology, it keeps a strong hold on the overall mode of behavior.

Keonigsberg’s theory maintains, however, that the creation of nationalism only goes to that level under the rise of totalitarianism, in which the individuals within a group seek an intimate group mentality among their much larger society. In this case the population loses individuality and merges into one solid body, therefore creating a society which rejects all but its own kind (42). In order to explain this concept Koenigsberg uses Marx’s interpretation of totalitarianism and nationalism in general, critiquing the ideology of a unified state under equality as opposed to individuality. Totalitarlianism, he then claims, is based upon the idea that an individual’s every motive is driven by the community and that no sphere of individuality truly exists (45). As such, the argument stands that nationalism is the balance between a small, intimate group and a large, congealed society. Of course, as mentioned earlier, this argument only holds when assuming that nationalism does not carry the faults that alleged totalitarian societies tend to create.

This narrative also fails to point out the faults of individualism, how such stagnant denial of the group’s needs foster inequality, elitism, and Social Darwinism which leads to the mistreatment of individuals across the board. According to Koenigsberg, the foundation of the individual is more important than the whole of the nation, and nationalism fosters individuality for the sake of balance and prosperity where “totalitarianism,” or focus solely on the group, is a faulty means of a wholesome life for the individual.

Koenigsberg, Richard  A. The Psychoanalysis of Racism, Revolution and Nationalism. “Chapter IV: The Social Psychology of Nationalism.” New York: The Library of Social Science, 1977. Print.


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