Nationalism is a political state of mind in which the supreme loyalty of the individual is felt to be due to the nation-state. The nation-state is regarded not only as the ideal, 'natural', or 'normal' form of political organization but also as the indispensable framework for all social, cultural, and economic activities. The main tenets of nationalism are: love of a common soil, race, language, or historical culture; desire for the political independence, security, and prestige of the nation; mystical devotion to a vague, sometimes even supernatural, social organism which, known as a nation or Volk, is more than the sum of its parts; the living of an individual exclusively for the nation, with the corollary that the nation is an end in itself; belief that the nation is or should be dominant among other nations and should take aggressive action to this end. Characteristics of nationalism are ideas of national superiority and national exclusiveness, which are developed to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the historical situation and the relations of a particular nation with other nations.
In addition to ethnic nationalism, there is statism where nationalist loyalties are focused on the state. Statism demands that all subjects obey and serve the state, as distinct from the nation or people, as the highest object of their allegiance. They are expected to pay taxes, serve in the armed forces, and whole-heartedly back the state's goals at home and abroad. These two forms of nationalism are frequently intermingled.
In 1993 the west European experiment was seen as faltering. Instead of greater union, there is a rise in separatism, chauvinism and petty nationalism. In eastern Europe, nations were breaking up with the rise of fratricidal warfare. Prior to its breakup the USSR had succeeded in bringing together some 100 nationalities on the premise that national differences were bound to wither away or at least be attenuated. It has become apparent that national feelings remained dormant, fraught with romantic yearnings and irrational utopianism. No "Soviet culture" had emerged.
Nationalism is an infantile disease, the measles of humanity (Albert Einstein).
Developing first in western Europe with the consolidation of nation states, nationalism brought about the reorganization of Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries (unification of Germany and Italy; break-up of the Hapsburg and Ottoman empires); and has been the prime force in the political awakening of Asia and Africa. Nationalism has been a powerful source of inspiration in many of the arts and in the development of historical and language studies. This has proved to be as true of the 'new nations' of Africa and Asia as it was of 19th-century Europe.