views updated May 21 2018


Patriotism is one of a large class of words that are linked to the virtues of membership. To participate in relations of, for example, friendship, community, nationhood, citizenship, or marriage implies normative conventions. In other words, there are value expectations built into such membership. One important dimension of any membership relation is an expectation of loyalty. Fidelity or loyalty to a nation, community, friend, citizenship, marriage, or state is thus implied in the actual practice. To participate openly and self-consciously, therefore, in any of these membership practices involves adherence to loyalty-based virtue. In this context, the term patriotism usually denotes a specific loyalty virtue, consequent upon membership of a country or state. However, the term loyalty alone does not quite cover the range of values associated with patriotic membership. Patriotism also signifies a sense of personal identification with, and concern for, the well-being or welfare of that country or state. Further, it entails a readiness to make sacrifices for its defense or welfare. In addition, it provides (for some) the ground for all moral actionin the sense that morality, in itself, is seen to be, quite literally, premised on patriotic membership. Patriotism also indicates a special affection, feeling, or emotive response. This emotive response is commonly designated as a "love of country."


A distinction is often drawn between the terms patriot and patriotism. The former is seen as an older usage, traceable back to the ancient Roman republic, while the latter is viewed as an eighteenth-century neologism. Patriotism, as in most ideological "isms," is therefore often considered a more recent word. However, the older term patriot still covers many of the conceptual aspects of patriotism. The term patriotism figured in European and North American political discussion (and poetry) over the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. However, during the larger bulk of the twentieth century its academic usage diminished. Certainly up to the 1990s it was considered, in academic debate, to be an antiquated termparticularly in liberal and Marxist political theory. However, there has been, over the last decade, a rediscovery of patriotism (among other membership-related concepts) within political theory and related disciplines. This rediscovery began in the 1980s with communitarianism and then developed into a renewed academic interest in nationalism, multiculturalism, citizenship, and the like. Patriotism is one of the latecomers to this process. It should be stressed, though, that this academic interest, or lack of interest, has little bearing on the ordinary political usage of these terms. Patriotism, regardless of academic concerns, persisted in lay political vocabularies throughout the twentieth century.

The deep roots of the word patriot lie in Roman antiquity, particularly in terms such as patria and patrius, which indicate fatherland, city, native, or familiar place. Familiar has links with the word family (familia ). This also has ties with the term father or paternal (pater, père, Vater, padre ), or what is implied by the "role of the father" within a family. In terms of the "role of father," patria and patrius have subtle connections with property, authority, and status. The word patriarch evolves from this dimension. The links between father, authority, family, property, and politics can be observed, for example, in the Roman patrician class, who possessed considerable wealth in land and were dominant in the older Roman political structure. Their property enabled wide-ranging political influence. This was also connected to the original use of the cognate terms patron and patronage. Early Roman political factions, as in later European monarchies, worked through powerful wealthy families. Loyalty to kin in politics was supremely important for survival and political success. Early Roman pietas was, therefore, originally loyalty to the family hearth. However, Roman republican writers, such as Cicero, also saw a wider patria in the res publica (the public thing). The later Roman legal Digesta and Institutiones referred to two patrias affecting citizens: the more local (patria sua ) and the more abstract public Rome (communis patria ). Under the later Roman Empire (and again under later European absolute monarchies), this second patria became increasingly more abstract and legalistic.

In effect, the highest patria (status and estate) became synonymous with the state. The state was, in a sense, paternal authority "writ large." This idea can still be seen in seventeenth-century doctrines of political rule, such as patriarchalism, where all authority is traced to the paternal role. The prince thus embodied the essence of the state. Traces of this can still be seen in eighteenth-century writings, such as Henry St. John, first viscount Bolingbroke's (16781751) Idea of a Patriot King (1749). The opposition to this reading of the state also employed the language of patriotism. Yet it wanted to colonize the state with a different set of values. Thus, liberty under the law became a motif for a divergent set of arguments. Consequently, if republicans, dissenters, and revolutionaries absorbed the language of patriotism, they could claim to be struggling for the "real" rights and freedoms of the people, and consequently for the soul of the state. At this point in the argument, in the early nineteenth century, the language of patriotism began slowly to mutate into nationalist language.

In summary, the qualities of "local familial or community loyalty" and an "impersonal abstract legal loyalty" have remained part of the vocabulary of patriotism to the present day. Local communal identification implies a more visceral loyalty, an attachment and love for the "familiar." This is why some contemporary commentators can still insist that patriotism is more of an emotion than an intelligible political idea. Yet at the same time, the loyalty to the remote authoritative legal abstraction of the state or city-state embodies another important formal aspect of the legacy of patriotism.

Objects of Patriotic Loyalty

First, in the medieval period, the patria could be identified with a locality, hamlet, clan, village, township, or city. The patriot was one who submitted to the village or city and was prepared to defend it. Second, in terms of the feudal structure, defending homelands could also entail defending the lands of a local lord or prince. In this sense, feudal and vassal relations became integral to patriotic argument. Third, in Augustinian Christian thought the significant patria was the "city of God," which transcended all cities and states. During the later medieval period, Roman imperial thought was utilized by secularizing territorial states (initially city-states) in Europe. However, "abstract legal Rome" (communis patria ) was a movable feast. It could apply equally to Venice, Florence, Paris, or London. Princes became, in effect, supreme lawmakers (sovereigns) and emperors in their own realms. The objects of patriotism thus became the new territorial states with their fatherly princes.

From the twelfth century, the notion of patria often arose in the context of defense of a state territory. Defense of patria was a key ground for "just war." This identification with patria intensified with renewed study of writers such as Cicero (10643 b.c.e.), and later, with the thirteenth-century re-discovery of Aristotle's political writings. Thomas Aquinas (12251274) also touched on the issue of the religious duty of citizens to render themselves vulnerable to death for their patriapro patria mori. Religious language was immensely important here. Death for patria and death for the Christian faith became virtually coeval by the late medieval and early modern period. The emotive religious memorials and formal recognition we still give to patriotic war dead are a testimony to how deeply this idea has permeated state theory. It is crucial to the understanding of patriotism to the present day. Finally, it is important to underscore the point that patriotism is formally compatible with any political creed or "object of attachment." Family, locality, city, tradition, land, absolute monarch, total state, and republic have all been objects of patriotic loyalty.

Forms of Patriotism

In contemporary discussion there have been a number of renderings of patriotism. These can be distinguished between two formsstrong and moderate patriotisms. The stronger version argues that patriotic loyalty is the sole source of any meaningful moral claims. The content of patriotism is therefore always particular or local. In this context, the loyalties demanded from the patriot are simply to whatever values are regarded as dominant within a state or community. The key critical opposition to this perspective comes from universalist forms of argument, such as universal human rights claims. However, the larger bulk of recent writings on patriotism have appeared within the moderate category. The moderate category tries to mediate between universalism and localism.

Strong patriotism.

The strong variant of patriotism does not have as many proponents as the moderate form. One key example of this is strong communitarian patriotism. In his 1984 essay, "Is Patriotism a Virtue?," Alasdair MacIntyre sees patriotism as one of a class of "loyalty-exhibiting virtues." These virtues exhibit "action-generating regard" for particular persons or groups, and they are embedded in highly particular relationships. Morality is thus rooted within communal relations. For MacIntyre, morality is always learned from within a particular way of life. Goods are always the particular goods of communities. The morality of patriotism is therefore seen as perfectly natural to us as communal beings. MacIntyre's citizen is basically a very mild-mannered political animal; however, it is important, nonetheless, to realize that the strong particularist arguments he deploys have been utilized by much more worrying forms of politics. Racial exclusivism or political authoritarianism could well be justified within this framework. The dangers implicit within this perspective are those of extreme exclusion and the lurking possibility of communal jingoism. In the twentieth century, strong variants of patriotism have been associated (rightly or wrongly) with the militaristic or bellicose stance of German national socialism and Italian fascism in the 1930s.

Moderate patriotism.

The more recent moderate account of patriotism contains four subtle variants. First, for neoclassical republicans the distinctive character of patriotism is its focus on political liberty and civic virtue. Love of country is not love of a language or ethnicity, but rather of political liberty. This is not a love of a particular liberty, but a generic nonexclusive liberty as embedded in law. It is seen essentially as a universalizing force. A republic is seen to embody a powerful sense of local solidarity contained within a universal vessel of liberty under law. For its proponents, republican language is thus a viable alternative to current liberal foundationalism, ethnic nationalism, and strong patriotic arguments.

Second, for recent theorists such as Charles Taylor, moderate communitarian patriotism envisages a direct link between patriotism, republicanism (although some would categorize it as civic humanism), and communitarian motifs. Communitarians are clearly not of one mind here. The distinction between strong and moderate patriotism has direct parallels with the distinction, made within communitarian theory, between strong and moderate senses of community. Whereas MacIntyre sees a direct synonymity between nationalism and patriotism and adopts a narrower, stronger, and more exclusive sense of community, Charles Taylor seeks some separation between patriotism and nationalism and adopts a more differentiated view of community (incorporating multicultural diversity). Further, whereas, for Taylor, moderate patriotism is a matter of self-conscious citizen identification with a polity, strong patriotism swims in murkier waters, usually envisaging patriotism as a prepolitical, nonintentional attachment. Moderate communitarian patriotism, for Taylor, has no "prepolitical" reference. It rather implies more intentional attachment to a country and its laws. Patriotism is therefore always "politically defined," as in the American and French Revolutions. However, most moderate communitarian patriots admit that in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the vocabularies of nationalism and patriotism became confusingly intermeshed.

Third, Stephen Nathanson, in constructing his moderate liberal patriotism, has contrasted it with both the "extreme patriotism" of MacIntyre and communitarian arguments. Moderate liberal patriotism basically sees certain liberal universalist, essentially neo-Kantian, moral constraints acting upon patriotic goals. Too much patriotism, or too much liberal universalism, is to be avoided. Patriotism therefore requires a middle way. Thus, liberal universalism can and should legitimately restrain local solidarities and membership loyalties. Nathanson's position is at least a salutary reminder to republicans that liberal universalist language is not necessarily always antipatriotic.

The fourth, final strand is constitutional patriotism. This is associated with the writings of Jürgen Habermas on what he calls Verfassungspatriotismus. This is essentially, again, a neo-Kantian orientated loyalty to the universalistic principles of liberty and democracy embodied in a constitution. The emphasis is quite explicitly legalistic. Constitutional patriotism is an allegiance to a constitutional juristic tradition embodying certain fundamental rational values. The background to this is Habermas's own deep sensitivity to the events of World War II in Germany, particularly in relation to nationalism. In Habermas's case, constitutional patriotism is patriotic loyalty to the universalistic principles embodied in the German constitution. Citizens, in this scenario, are linked together by a formal common agreement on the shared values of the constitution. Habermas is insistent that constitutional patriotism has no connection with any prepolitical attachments, characteristic of nationalism or strong patriotism. This kind of general constitutional theme can be found, for some Habermasians, in the polity of the United States and, possibly, even the burgeoning European Union legal structures.

Nationalism and Patriotism

There are negative and positive arguments for both separating and fusing nationalism and patriotism. The positive statement for their fusion is contained in stronger views of communal identity. Both concepts embody powerful statements on the moral priority of the community. The positive view therefore involves the direct normative assimilation of nationalism and patriotism to communitarianism. This can be termed the "positive assimilation model." MacIntyre articulates this view, in which patriotism and nationalism become indistinguishable.

The negative reading of the "fusion" views patriotism and nationalism with equal contempt as blemishes on political and moral discourse. This can be termed the "mutually disagreeable model." There are a number of background points to this model. First, patriotism is seen as a verbal "sleight of hand" to avoid the pejorative connotations of nationalism; however, basically they are the same. The separate use of patriotism therefore has a face-saving character. Second, it might well be the case that patriotism did have an older individual meaning, but since the nineteenth century that older sense has been totally lost. Patriotism is exactly the same appalling entity as nationalism. Patriotism should therefore share all the opprobrium heaped upon nationalism. The "mutually disagreeable model" was well formulated by Leo Tolstoy at the beginning of the twentieth century. Tolstoy found both ideas repellent. Despite great efforts by states to foster patriotism, it is the same doctrine as nationalism. In the final analysis, both entail the renunciation of all human dignity, common sense, and moral conscience.

The opposite thesis to the above is the separation of nationalism from patriotism. This again has positive and negative dimensions. The positive reading of the separation is most forcibly rendered by recent republican writers. Thus, true patriotism must be kept completely distinct from nationalism. For such republicans (as Maurizio Viroli), the language of patriotism invokes a specific love of the political institutions and laws that embody a nondominatory concept of liberty. It is therefore about sustaining a particular way of life in a republic. Nationalism, on the other hand, is seen as a highly exclusive, prepolitical, culturally oriented attachment that is antagonistic to liberty. It is therefore deeply pernicious to confuse patriotism and nationalism, since patriotism is the theoretical and practical antidote to nationalism.

The negative reading of their separation suggests that patriotism and nationalism should be kept distinct on negative grounds. The concepts are historically different. Each has a distinct historical trajectory. Patriotism, for example, is an older terminology that has a much more intimate connection with both the state and religious language, whereas nationalism has closer connections to modernity and secularism. However, both terms are to be mistrusted for different reasons. Both are equally objectionable as narrow, exclusive, tribal, and deleterious to human dignity. In this context, the separation between patriotism and nationalism is valid, but this redeems neither doctrine.

See also Nation ; Nationalism ; State, The ; Romanticism in Literature and Politics .


Dietz, Mary. "Patriotism." In Political Innovation and Conceptual Change, edited by T. Ball, J. Farr, and R. L. Hanson. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

Habermas, Jürgen. "Citizenship and National Identity: Some Reflections on the Future of Europe." Praxis International 12 (1992): 119.

Ingram, Attracta. "Constitutional Patriotism." Philosophy and Social Criticism 22 (1996): 118.

MacIntyre, Alasdair. Is Patriotism a Virtue? Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1984.

Nathanson, Stephen. Patriotism, Morality, and Peace. Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1993.

Nussbaum, Martha Craven. For Love of Country: Debating the Limits of Patriotism. Edited by Joshua Cohen. Boston: Beacon, 1996.

Primoratz, Igor, ed. Patriotism. New York: Humanity Books, 2002.

Taylor, Charles. "Nationalism and Modernity." In The Morality of Nationalism, edited by Robert McKim and Jeff McMahan, 3155. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Tolstoy, L. N. "Christianity and Patriotism." In his The Kingdom of God and Peace: Essays. Translated by Aylmer Maude. London: Oxford University Press, 1935.

Vincent, Andrew. Nationalism and Particularity. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Viroli, Maurizio. For Love of Country. Oxford: Clarendon, 1995.

Andrew Vincent


views updated May 21 2018



The word patriotism derives from the Latin patria, meaning country. Patriots are citizens joined by a love of country and a readiness to sacrifice, perhaps even die, for their country. Such patriotism was emphatically characteristic of the Spartans of classical antiquity. They were citizens in the strict sense of the term: They shared an identity with others to whom they were related by nationality, as well as by blood, and a sense of belonging to a community for which they bore responsibility. In a word, they were public-spirited.

The Spartans sense of public-spiritedness did not develop by accident. Spartan boys were trained, almost from birth, to be soldiers, and Spartan girls were required to exercise naked (in public), with a view to producing sons capable of being soldiers, as well as daughters capable of giving birth to them. Their readiness to fight (and perhaps give their lives) for their country is best exemplified by the legendary King Leonidas and the three hundred Spartan soldiers who fought the Persians and died at Thermopylae in 480 BCE. For good reason, then, the word Spartan has come to be associated with patriot.

In one respect at least, it was easy for Spartans to be patriots, easier than it would prove to be for later generations of Greeks, or Europeans generally. Spartans could be for their city without reservation or equivocation, because there was nothing else in Sparta to be for: no gods other than the citys gods, and no life other than the life in and provided by the city. As George Grote suggests, the subordination of the individual to the state has had no parallel in the history of the world.

The likes of Sparta were surely not to be found anywhere in the West after the advent of Christianity. By effecting a separation of the things that are Caesars and the things that are Gods, Christianity made it more likely that a persons loyalties would be divided, and sometimes come into conflict.

Such conflict became even more likely after Martin Luther (14831546) launched the Reformation. Before Luther, there had been one church, but now there were several: Lutherans and Calvinist, as well as Roman Catholic. This development had political consequences. Could a devout Roman Catholic such as Thomas More (14781535) obey his sovereign, Henry VIII (14911547), after the sovereign broke with the papacy in Rome? Could the Calvinist (or Presbyterian) Scots obey their king, Charles I (16001649), who commanded them to worship according to the Anglican Book of Common Prayer? Not likely and, in the event, impossible; the pious More preferred the scaffold and the stubborn Scots a civil war.

The seventeenth century was not a propitious time for the making of patriots. Almost everywhere in Europe, the rulers were princes and the people subjects, not citizens. This may explain why the first recorded use in English of the word patriotism did not occur until 1726, when it was defined as public-spiritedness. Generally speaking, only citizens (not subjects) could be expected to be public-spirited.

Thus, patriotism became linked with the rise of popular sovereignty. This development, in turn, depended on the discovery or pronouncement of new universal and revolutionary principles respecting the rights of mansee, for example, Thomas Hobbess Leviathan (1651) and John Lockes Two Treatises of Government (c. 1690). From these new principles came new governmentsfirst in America, then in Franceand with them a new understanding of patriotism, or an understanding other than the sort of filial piety associated with Sparta.

Alexis de Tocqueville (18051859) was the first to recognize this new form of patriotism, or at least to speak of it. In his Democracy in America (18351840), Tocqueville argued that this patriotism was more rational than the simple love of ones native land; this patriotism, he said, was born of enlightenment and grows with the exercise of rights. Abraham Lincoln (18091865), in his 1852 eulogy on the American statesman Henry Clay (17771852), declared that Clay loved his country partly because it was his own country, but mostly because it was a free country; and he [worked zealously] for its advancement, prosperity and glory, because he saw in such the advancement, prosperity and glory of human liberty, human rights, and human nature (Lincoln [1852] 1989, p. 264). There is nothing parochial about this patriotism; Lincoln made that very plain. Clay is praised not so much for loving his country, but rather for loving the idea of his country, or its principles. Those principles are scientific and, therefore, universal principles. Any country might adopt them.

This was of particular concern to Edmund Burke (17291797), the Anglo-Irish statesman and political theorist. He understood that the French Revolution (17891799) was something new and (to him) something alarming, especially because its principles appeared to be readily exportable; those abstract, scientific, and universal principles, if exportedand unleavened by the unique experiences or traditions of a countrywould reduce not only the French but the people of all Europe to one homogenous mass.

Something like this did in fact begin to happen, but the French Revolution, and what Pierre Manent has called the enormous Napoleonic enterprise, unleashed a contrary movement of particularization and national separation (Manent 1998, p. 187). In a word, the attempt to export these universal principles gave rise to the glorification of the nation, which is to say, nationalism and a politics of ethnicity, where what matters is blood, not the political principles associated with patriotism. I speak for Germans simply, of Germans simply, said the philosopher Johann Fichte (17621814) in 1807, a sentiment repeated by many another Europeans (Fichte 1807, p. 3).

Since then, in intellectual circles, the very idea of the nationas well as that of patriotismhas been discredited. This process began in 1848 when Karl Marx (18181883) declared in The Communist Manifesto that working men have no country (Marx and Engels [1848] 1932), and they would refuse to fight for country. This proved not to be true when World War I broke out in 1914. Then, after World War II (19391945), Europeans set about the task of divesting themselves of their sovereignty in favor of the European Union. It remains to be seen if the citizens of the European Union will love it, let alone fight for it.

It seems that patriotism has become unfashionable among some intellectuals. One prominent American university professor, Martha Nussbaum, suggests that the times require that people get rid of patriotism and, to that end, become citizens of the world and lovers of humanity. But humanity does not have a government, and there is no reason to believe that, if it had a government, it would be lovable.

SEE ALSO Citizenship; Nationalism and Nationality


Berns, Walter. 2001. Making Patriots. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Fichte, Johann Gottlieb. [1807] 1922. Address to the German Nation. Trans. R. F. Jones and G. H. Turnbull. London: Open Court.

Grote, George. 18511867. History of Greece. Vol. 2. New York: The Bradley Company, Publishers.

Lincoln, Abraham. 1989. Eulogy on Henry Clay, July 6th, 1852. In Abraham Lincoln: Speeches and Writings 18321858, ed. Don E. Fehrenbacher. New York, NY: The Library of America.

Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. [1848] 1932. The Communist Manifesto. New York: Modern Library.

Manent, Pierre. 1998. Modern Liberty and Its Discontents, ed. and trans. Daniel J. Mahoney and Paul Seaton. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

Nussbaum, Martha Craven. 1996. For Love of Country: Debating the Limits of Patriotism. Boston: Beacon.

Tocqueville, Alexis de. [18351840] 2000. Democracy in America. Vol. 1 (Pt. 2, chap. 6). Trans. Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Walter Berns


views updated May 17 2018


The love of and devotion to one's country, having as its moral foundation the virtue of piety. Benedict XV considered it a twin virtue with religion itself and a tie between the human person and his roots in nature.

Basis and Notion. Its social foundation is community. Man is bound to act in accordance with the divinely revealed and humanly confirmed truth that it is not good for him to be alone. Genesis attributes the statement of this truth to the Lord God before Eve's creation; it can be understood in an even stronger sense after the fact: given his social nature, it is impossible for man to be alone, and any pretension to independence from the human community must be disastrous because it is unrealistic and inhuman. Each man is compelled by nature to live in society for the attainment of his personal good, which good in turn provides the basis for society's growth and development toward a common good, ordered in love and justice. To live humanly is to live in community; and to live morally, as a creature under God, is to love that community of which one forms a part.

Patriotism in the sense of the love of one's community is therefore a duty of man flowing from intelligent recognition and moral acceptance of the very form of creation: the creation not of the individual, man, who existed alone only long enough for God to confirm the fact of his incompleteness, but of the human family, mankind, which provides the social principle of the person's being and the necessary context for his truly personal growth.

But patriotism as a form of charity, or love, has a more specific object in its actuation than mankind or the human family as such. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, the particular love of one's fatherland is an important aspect of that preferential form of charity that is called pietas (Summa theologiae 2a2ae, 101.1). Through piety the person has an obligation of love to God, parents and fatherland. Each is in some sense a principle of man's being: God through creation; parents through procreation and education; fatherland through a formation of one's cultural and historical identity.

Patriotism, in its specific sense of love of fatherland, or of one's people, is a historical corollary of a natural demand of community. The love of community that is an imperative of man's created being gains only a vague and illusory existence if it is directed finally at nothing more specific than mankind. And again, love-in-community, when confined to family and friends, or even a local community, becomes a confinement, or limitation, of the person, if not even a "passion against" when it meets the larger communities of nation and world. To the love of hearth and of mankind, a love of country is the psychological and moral, as well as historical, mediacy.

Patriotism can therefore be defined descriptively as the reverent acknowledgment of community as it is expressed in history in a form intermediate to home and world, a response in love to the people and milieu in which man exists because he is created not only as a member of a family or species but is bound to a particular cultural group in space, time and tradition. Put more concisely, patriotism is a special form of piety binding a person to his historical and cultural sources. As such, it makes certain practical demands of the person: loyalty to his nation, collaboration in its political order and the will to seek the moral perfection of his people.

Traditional Catholic teaching, notably as it is synthesized doctrinally and in practical applications by the modern popes, has insisted especially on the profoundly moral basis of rightly ordered patriotism. Pius XI reminded Christian citizens in Ubi arcano Dei that "it is never lawful, nor even wise, to dissociate morality from the affairs of practical life," so that "in the last analysis, it is 'justice which exalteth a nation: but sin maketh nations miserable"' (Proverbs 14.34). The citizen must seek the good of his nation according to the norms of a moral order rooted in nature itself, though confirmed by Old Testament precepts and New Testament counsels. The Catholic acknowledgment of natural law is nowhere more explicit or normative than in moral questions connected with the ius gentium, nationalism and internationalism, civic loyalty and patriotism.

National and International Dimensions. The understanding of this natural moral order in practical affairs, though often difficult and obscure, admits no concessions from political expediency or in the name of "moral ambiguity" to violations of justice. Thus, within a moral context, an act of civil disobedience may conceivably be the patriot's deepest expression of love, when other actions would only pass over or strengthen a process of injustice corroding the community. The Christian citizen is bound to his nation in a loyal but intelligent union, accepting gladly his national identity but freeing himself and his nation, by a continual reference to the supranational values of charity and justice, for constant growth and reformation. For patriotism is love, and love wills the good of the otherin the case of a nation, a good dependent on its united response to the just claims of its citizens and, to whatever extent possible, to the human needs beyond its borders.

There is no contradiction in seeing a nation's own common good dependent on its contribution to the common good of other peoples in an international community, since, as Pius XII pointed out in Summi pontificatus, "legitimate and well-ordered love of our native country should not make us close our eyes to the all-embracing nature of Christian charity." This is so true that patriotism rightly understood, far from obstructing a love of mankind, becomes itself in modern papal teaching one of the bases for sane and salutary internationalism.

The charity of patriotism, while being preferential in its practical object, is at the same time universal in its ultimate aim. It is directed at the exaltation of one's nation under God and thus at its fulfillment in justice of the moral principles governing the relations among states. The devout patriot fears nothing so much for his nation as its following a course of injustices that, however "politically realistic," he recognizes as a way of self-destruction. Since patriotism is a form of charity directed toward a social order whose goal and perfection is justice, its concern for the nation's good extends naturally and harmoniously into the international order, where the nation's drive for global justice is its own exaltation. The aggressive character of political nationalism, the "immoderate nationalism" that Pius XI repeatedly distinguished from patriotism, is, on the other hand, the kind of sin that "maketh nations miserable."

The flowering of a rightly ordered patriotism is therefore wider than one's own fatherland alone and seeks relations of that land to the wider human community and worldhence the manner in which modern papal teaching emphasizes at every turn the balance between a sane nationalism and a humane internationalism. Recent popes base this integration of patriotic piety with international loyalty on the fact that the preferential love that finds its object in the nation wills the good of that nation as realizable through its pursuit of a justice greater than itself and extending beyond its borders. Furthermore, since patriotism is a species of charity, its development involves the deepening of an unspecified power at its source in the human will. Man widens his family through love. Just as the father's deepening love for his family increases his capacity for love, so must the true patriot's love for his country grow naturally until it simultaneously embraces the world while yet remaining, alive and effective within the symphony of human loves and social loyalties, the special preferential piety that is patriotism.

Bibliography: General. j. c. bennett, The Christian as Citizen (New York 1955). m. curti, The Roots of American Loyalty (New York 1946). c. dawson, Religion and the Modern State (New York 1935). c. j. h. hayes, Essays on Nationalism (New York 1926); Christianity and Western Civilization (Stanford 1954). j. l. spalding, Things of the Mind (Chicago 1894; 4th ed. 1901); Socialism and Labor and other Arguments, Social, Political and Patriotic (Chicago 1902) ch. 8, essay on "Patriotism." c. van doren, Patriotic Anthology (New York 1941). j. j. wright, National Patriotism in Papal Teaching (Westminster, Md. 1956). Encyclicals. leo xiii, "Sapientiae christianae" (Jan. 10, 1890) Acta Sanctorum, 22 (1890) 385404; Eng., Tablet, 75 (Jan. 25, 1890) 121126; "Immortale Dei" (Nov. 1, 1885) Acta Sanctorum, 18 (1885) 161180; Eng., Catholic Mind, 34 (Nov. 8, 1936) 425429. pius xi, "Caritate Christi compulsi" (May 3, 1932) Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 24 (1932) 177194; Eng. ibid. 30 (June 22, 1932) 228243. john xxiii, Mater et Magistra. john xxiii Pacem in terris.

[j. j. wright]


views updated May 23 2018


War and patriotism are often two sides of the same coin because warfare produces strong feelings of nationalism as well as challenges to the nation's culture and society. Patriotism not only has made Americans feel more strongly about their ideals, but also has led to excesses in which those ideals of tolerance and defense of basic rights are compromised in the name of patriotism. Although patriotism became a common way of expressing national identity, it also divided Americans and created disputes about the meaning of loyalty.

Some of America's most important patriotic holidays and rituals of patriotism either originated or gained familiar, contemporary characteristics between the Spanish-American War and the end of World War II.

nineteenth and early twentieth centuries

The Spanish-American War helped give patriotic celebration new national significance. A shift occurred in the meaning of Memorial Day, a holiday first called Decoration Day that originated in the 1860s with local ceremonies held to honor soldiers who died in the Civil War by decorating their graves with flowers. By the 1890s, northern states celebrated Memorial Day on May 30 to remember those who had given their lives for the Union, while southern states had separate holidays to commemorate the Confederate war dead.

The Spanish-American War contributed to sectional reconciliation, as soldiers from all parts of the country served together under the American flag. After the war was over, the commander of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), an organization of Union veterans, urged members of his organization to celebrate Memorial Day by placing flowers on the graves of fallen Confederates. Another GAR commander declared, "We had a new Union, no Northerners, no Southerners, but Americans all" (O'Leary, p. 146). Sectional differences, of course, persisted, but Memorial Day started to become a national holiday. In addition, a new national organization, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), emerged after the Spanish-American War.

Heavy immigration, especially from nations in southern and eastern Europe, created new concerns about loyalty and patriotism. As early as the 1890s, the GAR called on public schools to establish programs of citizenship education, which included pledging allegiance to the flag. Americanizing immigrants became a matter of national

importance after the beginning of war in Europe in August 1914. Even as President Woodrow Wilson sought to keep the United States out of war, he worried that the divided loyalties of recent immigrants threatened national cohesion. At the president's urging, citizens celebrated the Fourth of July in 1916 as "Americanization Day."

Wilson also proclaimed the first national observance of Flag Day in 1916 and marched in a parade draped in a flag. The Pledge of Allegiance became a daily ritual in many public schools, although some advocates of Americanization worried about an ambiguity in the original version that Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister, had written in 1892. They insisted that in a diverse society with many people who had been born in other countries, citizens should pledge allegiance not to "my flag" but to the "flag of the United States of America," a change that Congress formally recognized in 1942.

world war i

After U.S. entry into World War I in 1917, the federal government played an unprecedented role in arousing patriotism. A Committee on Public Information rallied public support for the war by creating an army of 75,000 Four-Minute Men—speakers who gave brief, stirring, patriotic talks in local communities. Gold Star Mothers also became part of the war effort when Wilson decided to recognize those who had given their lives in battle by having their mothers wear a black arm band with a gold star. Wilson encouraged representatives of various ethnic groups to demonstrate their commitment to the war effort during Fourth of July celebrations in 1918, including a parade in the nation's capital called "Democracy Triumphant" that he personally reviewed.

Yet patriotism, at times, went to excess, as zealots sometimes measured loyalty by ethnicity or nationality. Some communities prohibited the teaching of German in the public schools. German-Americans occasionally became the targets of mob violence. Citizens who opposed U.S. involvement in the war or criticized the Wilson administration's policies faced not only challenges to their patriotism, but also the possibility of conviction and imprisonment under the Espionage and Sedition acts. Even the end of the war on November 11, 1918, did not bring a return to peace on the home front. A wave of strikes, including some that turned violent, and several terrorist bombings produced a postwar Red Scare, as many patriotic Americans worried that "hyphenated Americans" with radical or revolutionary ideas threatened homeland security.

In 1919, veterans of the American Expeditionary Force that had fought in Europe founded the American Legion, which became an important organization in shaping patriotic observances after World War I. The American Legion helped secure recognition of Armistice Day—November 11—as a national holiday in 1938. In 1954, after World War II and the Korean War, the name changed to Veterans Day, to honor those who served in all U.S. wars. The American Legion also drew up a code of flag etiquette that Congress accepted, with few changes, in 1942.

world war ii

World War II produced an outpouring of patriotism, which the federal government directed toward boosting the war effort. Each year during the war millions of citizens celebrated "I Am an American Day" on the third Sunday in May. The holiday began in 1940 as a way of encouraging naturalized citizens to accept American values; it was intended to protect against the dangers of fascism and communism. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, "I Am an American Day" helped solidify public determination to do everything possible to win the war. More than a million people turned out for celebrations in New York City in 1945, and one thousand other communities held events to mark the occasion.

Because of its similarity to Nazi ritual, the traditional salute of the flag with arm extended and palm down while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance changed after America entered the war. That salute, as one West Virginia official put it, was "too much like Hitler's." During the war and thereafter, the usual practice was to hold the right hand over one's heart while pledging allegiance. Jehovah's Witnesses, who refused to accept any salute because of their religious beliefs, became targets of harassment and violence.

By 1945, there were more patriotic holidays than there had been a half century earlier and their observance conformed to national standards as well as local practices. The federal government and large organizations like the American Legion had helped make patriotism and its expression a significant part of national culture.


Fried, Richard M. The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! Pageantry and Patriotism in Cold-War America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Hansen, Jonathan M. The Lost Promise of Patriotism: Debating American Identity, 1890–1920. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.

Kennedy, David M. Over Here: The First World War and American Society. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980.

O'Leary, Cecilia Elizabeth. To Die For: The Paradox of American Patriotism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999.

Chester J. Pach, Jr.

See also:Armistice Day.


views updated Jun 08 2018

Patriotism, in the most elementary sense of the term (the word derives from the Latin patria or “fatherland”), suggests the loyalty that all citizens owe to their country or nation. With varying degrees of intensity, nearly all Americans claim to be patriotic citizens of the republic. But the term also has a narrower, more specific history, with sharper political implications. In the two centuries since the Revolutionary War, patriotism has tended to shift from a left‐wing to a right‐wing cause.

The term first achieved prominence in Anglo‐American politics during the second quarter of the eighteenth century. The British ministry of Sir Robert Walpole, which admitted only Whigs to office and castigated all Tories as disloyal to the Hanoverian dynasty, alienated a number of prominent Whigs, who took the name “Patriots” to distinguish themselves from the Tory opposition. But some prominent Tories, such as Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke, saw an opportunity to create a combined Tory and Whig opposition strong enough to topple Walpole, and also appropriated the label “Patriot” for that goal. By 1750, even Frederick, Prince of Wales, claimed to be a patriot prince, an ambition he bequeathed to his son, who inherited the throne as George III in 1760. To everyone invoking a patriot identity, the label implied placing loyalty to one's country ahead of personal interest or factional causes.

North American spokesmen jubilantly hailed the accession of George III as a “Patriot King,” only to find that his ministers threatened their liberties through direct parliamentary taxation of the colonies. As the resistance movement gained coherence and grew more militant, its members called themselves “Sons of Liberty,” “Whigs,” and “Patriots.” Their enemies were “Tories,” who preferred the softer name of “Loyalists.” The launching of American independence identified American patriots as republicans and enemies of monarchy, a radical position in the eighteenth century that would become associated with “left” politics during the French Revolution a few years later. That association persisted into the early national period. Democratic‐Republicans called their opponents “Tories” and “monocrats” (champions of monarchy), not “Federalists.” By 1800, the Federalists seemed to oblige them by increasingly refusing to celebrate the Fourth of July (they preferred Washington's Birthday as their national festival) and above all by refusing to read the Declaration of Independence in public lest it offend Great Britain. Well into the nineteenth century, the term patriot retained these radical associations.

The veterans' movements that followed the Civil War probably marked a shift toward a more conservative definition of patriot. In the former Confederate states, secret paramilitary societies such as the Ku Klux Klan drew heavily on Confederate veterans and their younger kin to undermine Radical Reconstruction through terrorist acts. They saw themselves as patriots committed to “redeeming” the South for white supremacy from “black Republican” rule. The Union counterpart was much less militant, but over time the veterans' group known as the Grand Army of the Republic grew less eager to celebrate emancipation and more inclined to glory in the triumph of the Union, while agitating for bonuses and other veterans' benefits.

That trend has continued in the twentieth century. Veterans' organizations, such as the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, have at times almost claimed a monopoly on American patriotism and have often questioned the loyalty of citizens who disagreed with their objectives. The word patriot was becoming strongly associated with the Right in politics, partly because the Left often advocated such internationalist causes as the republican side in the Spanish Civil War and decolonization movements after World War II, both of which also had strong Communist support.

The Vietnam War sealed these identities. The Left opposed the war and tried to end it; the Right denounced such efforts as disloyal and appropriated all the symbols of American patriotism. By the 1972 presidential election, President Richard M. Nixon, who had served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, but without seeing combat, successfully invoked his own patriotism while overwhelming his Democrat opponent, George McGovern, who had survived twenty‐five missions as a bomber pilot in the European theater of World War II but never used his Army Air Force record to win votes in the campaign.

The label “Patriot,” at least in its partisan sense, is recently shifting even further to the right. It has been actively appropriated by paramilitary militia movements around the country, which now seem to equate “Patriot” with white supremacy and a fierce hatred for most actions of the federal government. The ability to capture the label remains an important touchstone in American public life.
[See also Commemoration and Public Ritual; Culture, War, and the Military; Militarism and Antimilitarism; Nationalism; Public Opinion, War, and the Military; Religion and War.]


Pauline Maier , From Resistance to Revolution: Colonial Radicals and the Development of American Opposition to Britain, 1765–1776, 1972.
George C. Rable , But There Was No Peace: The Role of Violence in the Politics of Reconstruction, 1984.
William Pencak , For God & Country: The American Legion, 1919–1941, 1989.
Christine Gerrard , The Patriot Opposition to Walpole: Politics, Poetry, and National Myth, 1725–1742, 1994.
Richard Abanes , American Militias: Rebellion, Racism & Religion, 1996.
Simon P. Newman , Parades and the Politics of the Street: Festive Culture in the Early American Republic, 1997.

John M. Murrin


views updated May 18 2018


The various current meanings of the term patriotism emerged during and after the early modern period. In the tradition of republicanism, patriotism is the citizens' commitment to or love for their shared political freedom and the institutions that sustain it. This commitment manifests itself in civic activity on behalf of the political commonwealth and its members. In this tradition, patriotism is often synonymous with public spiritedness. In the nineteenth century, patriotism was increasingly interpreted in a different, nationalist manner, and patriotism and nationalism are nowadays often equated.

An effective tool for mobilizing popular support for national policy, including military aggression and other forms of national aggrandizement, patriotism is often regarded as implying the glorification of war and imperialism. Opponents of such policies have also acted in the name of patriotism, however. Therefore, two preliminary questions require answers before any further discussion of the ethical implications of patriotism can proceed. First, the patria, the object of patriotic loyalty or activity, needs to be specified. According to some, this is the constellation of political institutions one finds oneself in. According to others, it is one's cultural or linguistic community (nation), one's country, the physical environment in which one was born or with which one identifies, or a combination of these. Accordingly, one can distinguish between different kinds of patriotism, such as "constitutional patriotism" and "nationalist patriotism." Second, while all agree that patriotism is a certain attitude, there is disagreement as to its precise nature. If it is an attitude of loyalty, what does loyalty require? Does patriotism require a certain sentiment, such as love or enthusiasm? Or should it primarily be understood as a social practice, and if so, what type of practice?

The belief in the superiority of one's own patria and a concomitant disdain for others is not a necessary element of the concept of patriotism. Nor does patriotism require that one refrain from criticizing one's patria. Indeed, criticism of governmental policy is often presented as patriotic since it aims at improving the patria.

The contemporary philosophical discussion of patriotism focuses on its relation to cosmopolitanism, as one aspect of the more general debate about particularism and universalism. Many authors in the republican tradition have argued emphatically that patriotism and cosmopolitanism are compatible, even that patriotism is a step toward cosmopolitanism, as it widens the individual's scope of concern beyond that of the family and so prepares one for the wider community of humankind. Others, however, especially defenders of patriotism in the nationalist tradition (as well as many defenders of cosmopolitanism), have seen an irreconcilable tension between (nationalist) patriotism and cosmopolitanism, on the grounds that cosmopolitanism would (rightly or wrongly, depending on which side one is on) prohibit favoring one's own national group over the rest of humankind.

Any defense of patriotism should address the question where justified special care or commitment ends and unjust parochialism begins. Thus, the philosophical debate over patriotism takes place in the context of the debate over "special obligations." Here the question is whether patriotism is prohibited (e.g., as necessarily jingoistic, as violating a moral standard of impartiality), permissible (and if so, under what conditions), or a duty (e.g., as a necessary condition for a well-functioning polity, or as a special obligation toward one's fellow citizens). Clearly, the specific answer one gives to this question depends on both one's particular conception of patriotism and one's underlying moral theory.

See also Loyalty; Nationalism.


Kleingeld, Pauline. "Kantian Patriotism." Philosophy and Public Affairs 29 (2000): 313341.

Nussbaum, Martha C., et al. For Love of Country: Debating the Limits of Patriotism, edited by Joshua Cohen. Boston: Beacon Press, 1996.

Primoratz, Igor, ed. Patriotism. Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 2002.

Viroli, Maurizio. For Love of Country: An Essay on Patriotism and Nationalism. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995.

Pauline Kleingeld (2005)


views updated May 23 2018

492. Patriotism (See also Chauvinism, Loyalty.)

  1. America, Captain comic-strip character known as the protector of the American way. [Comics: Horn, 155156]
  2. American elm traditional symbol of American patriotism. [Tree Symbolism: Flora Symbolica, 182]
  3. Cincinnatus farmer-hero who defeated Romes enemies, returned in triumph, went back to his farm. [Rom. Hist.: EB (1963) V, 712]
  4. Fourth of July Independence Day; day celebrating adoption of the Declaration of Independence. [Am. Hist.: Misc.]
  5. Hale, Nathan (17551776) hero of American revolution; famous for I regret I have but one life to give for my country. [Am. Hist.: Hart, 341]
  6. Joan of Arc, St. (14121431) heroically followed call to save France. [Christian Hagiog.: Attwater, 187]
  7. nasturtium symbolizes love of country. [Flower Symbolism: Flora Symbolica, 176]
  8. Nolan, Philip long banished, he comes at last to passionately love the United States before his death. [Am. Lit.: Hale The Man Without a Country in Magill I, 553]
  9. Uncle Sam personification of U.S. government. [Am. Folklore: Misc.]