Nationalism is a way of thinking that says that some groups of humans, such as ethnic groups, should be free to rule themselves. Nationalists think that the best way to make this happen and avoid control or oppression by others is for each group to have their own nation. Some nationalists think this is the best way to save small and weak groups threatened by the mixing of ethnic groups. The opposite of nationalism is Internationalism and anti-nationalism.
Many early socialists were also nationalists. The earliest forms of nationalism had lots of socialist features. In this period, political thinkers who thought that ethnic groups should not be oppressed by other ethnic groups thought also that ‘normal folk’, the backbone of society, like workers and peasants, should not be oppressed by higher social classes like rich people. They thought that it is wrong for somebody to live in great welfare that is made of the hard work of others, or the oppression of others. All the social classes should work together and have a common goal that aims for the good of everyone. These goals can be called “national interest”. National interest is ideal and not always easy to find. There are different ways to reach national interest, for example politics.
Nationalism had an important role in ending the colonial rule. Nationalism spread to colonies and made their people desire independence. Nationalism also made the people in metropolitan states (countries that colonized others) accept more the desire of other people to rule themselves. However nationalists think that the end of colonialization of Africa was not done well. They think that there would not be so many conflicts in Africa if African nations had built in a nationalist way (so that every ethnic group is its own nation). After the imperialists left their African colonies, the new nations were built with borders that were not the same as the ethnic borders. New nations became nations with many ethnic groups, which do not want to or cannot live peacefully in the same society with the others.