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Please improve this articleor discuss the issue on the talk page. "Patriots" redirects here. For the football team, see New England Patriots. Defence of the fatherland is a commonplace of patriotism: The statue in the courtyard of École polytechnique, Paris, commemorating the students' involvement in defending France against the 1814 invasion of the Coalition.

Patriotism denotes positive and supportive attitudes to a 'fatherland' (Latin patria < Greek patris, πατρίς), by individuals and groups. The 'fatherland' (or 'motherland') can be a region or a city, but patriotism usually applies to a nation and/or a nation-state. Patriotism covers such attitudes as: pride in its achievements and culture, the desire to preserve its character and the basis of the culture, and identification with other members of the nation. Patriotism is closely associated with nationalism, and the terms are often used synonymously. Strictly speaking, nationalism is an ideology - but it often promotes patriotic attitudes as desirable and appropriate. (Both nationalist political movements, and patriotic expression, may, yet need not, be negative towards other people's 'fatherland').

Patriotism has ethical connotations: it implies that the 'fatherland' (however defined) is a moral standard or moral value in itself. The expression my country right or wrong—perhaps a misquotation of the American naval officer Stephen Decatur, but also attributed to Carl Schurz—is the extreme form of this belief. Patriotism also implies that the individual should place the interests of the nation above their personal and group interests. In wartime, the sacrifice may extend to their own life. Death in battle for the fatherland is the archetype of extreme patriotism.


Types of patriotism

Magnets on automobiles became a popular way to display patriotism in the United States during the 2004 elections.

Personal patriotism is emotional and voluntary. The patriot adheres to certain patriotic values, such as respect for a flag.

Governments promote an official patriotism which has a high symbolic and ceremonial content. It is a logical consequence of the state itself, which derives legitimacy from being the expression of the common good of the political community. National monuments, and veterans days and commemoration ceremonies are typical examples. Often official patriotism is highly regulated by protocol, with specific methods for handling flags, or specific pledges and displays of allegiance.

Patriotism relies heavily on symbolic acts, such as displaying the flag, singing the national anthem, participating in a mass rally, placing a patriotic bumper sticker on one's vehicle, or any other way of publicly proclaiming allegiance to the state. Symbolic patriotism in wartime is intended to raise morale, in turn contributing to the war effort. Peacetime patriotism can not be so easily linked to a measurable gain for the state, but the patriot does not see it as inferior.

Some critics have maintained that (unlike modern nationalism, which is a creation of the 19th-century nation state) authentic patriotism (as the Latin 'pater' would suggest) must be based in some form of genophilia and the sharing of ancestors.

Levels of patriotism vary across time, and among political communities. Typically, patriotic intensity is higher when the state is under external threat.

Conversely, high levels of patriotism tends to be coupled with belligerency according to the Correlates of War. As examples, patriotism was highly rated by Correlates of War in pre-WWI Germany, as is the US today in World Values Survey.

The ethics of patriotism

The United States consistently ranks as one of the most patriotic nations, and Americans often hold strong opinions about other nations.[1]

The primary implication of patriotism in ethical theory is that a person has more moral duties to fellow members of the national community, than to non-members. Patriotism is selective in its altruism. Criticism of patriotism in ethics is mainly directed at this moral preference: Paul Gomberg compared it to racism.[2] The view (in ethics) that moral duties apply equally to all humans is known as cosmopolitanism. (In practice, many patriots would see treason rather than cosmopolitanism as the "opposite of patriotism".)

Patriotism implies a value preference for a specific civic or political community. Universalist beliefs reject such specific preferences, in favor of an alternative, wider, community. In the European Union, thinkers such as Habermas, however, have advocated a European-wide patriotism, but patriotism in Europe is usually directed at the nation-state and often coincides with Euroscepticism.

As this modern patriotic poster suggests patriotism is often closely associated with other perceived national mores, in this case freedom.

Some religious believers place their religion above their 'fatherland', often resulting in suspicion and hostility from patriots. Two examples of groups that have experienced this suspicion in the United States are Roman Catholics and Muslims. In the United States and the United Kingdom, Roman Catholics were seen as owing loyalty to the Pope rather than the nation. As a result, the Knights of Columbus (referred to as "the strong right arm of the church" by several Popes) established the virtue of patriotism as one of their four principle virtues. Muslims are sometimes seen as owing loyalty to the Islamic community (ummah) rather than to the nation. Other groups find a conflict between certain patriotic acts and religious beliefs. Jehovah's Witnesses and Mennonites may choose to refuse to engage in certain patriotic acts or to display certain symbols.

Supporters of patriotism in ethics regard it as a virtue. In his influential article "Is patriotism a virtue?" (1984), the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre notes that most contemporary conceptions of morality insist on a blindness to accidental traits like local origin and therefore reject patriotic selectivity. MacIntyre constructs an alternative conception of morality, that he claims would be compatible with patriotism. Charles Blattberg, in his book From Pluralist to Patriotic Politics (2000), has developed a similar conception of patriotism.

A problem with treating patriotism as an objective virtue is that patriotisms often conflict. Soldiers of both sides in a war may feel equally patriotic, creating an ethical paradox. (If patriotism is a virtue, then the enemy is virtuous, so why try to kill them?)

Within nations, politicians may appeal to patriotic emotions in attacking their opponents, implicitly or explicitly accusing them of betraying the country. Minorities may reject a patriotic loyalty and pride, which the majority finds unproblematic. They may feel excluded from the political community, and see no reason to be proud of it. The Australian political conflict about the Black armband view of history is an example. Conservative Prime Minister John Howard, who would undoubtedly describe himself as an Australian patriot, said of it in 1996:

The 'black armband' view of our history reflects a belief that most Australian history since 1788 has been little more than a disgraceful story of imperialism, exploitation, racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination.

In the United States, patriotic history has been criticised for de-emphasising the post-Colombian depopulation, the Atlantic slave trade, the population expulsions and the wars of conquest against Native Americans.

Patriotism is often portrayed as a more positive alternative to nationalism, which sometimes carries negative connotations. Some authors such as Morris Janowitz, Daniel Bar-Tal, or L. Snyder argue that patriotism is distinguished from nationalism by its lack of aggression or hatred for others, its defensiveness, and positive community building. Others, such as Michael Billig or Jean Bethke Elshtain argue that the difference is difficult to discern, and relies largely on the attitude of the labeller. [3]

Patriotism for other countries?

There are historical examples of individuals who fought for other countries, sometimes for their independence - for example the Marquis de Lafayette, Tadeusz Kościuszko and Kazimierz Pułaski in the American Revolutionary War, and the "Philhellenes," western Europeans who fought in the Greek War of Independence, notably Lord Byron. Was Lafayette an American patriot, or the Philhellenes Greek patriots? Alasdair MacIntyre would claim that they were not; that these and similar cases are instances of idealism, but not of patriotism. Under this view, Lafayette was only devoted to the ideals of political liberty that underlay the American Revolution, but was not specifically patriotic for America. For MacIntyre, patriotism by definition can only be a preference for one's own country, not a preference for the ideals that a country is believed to stand for. Charles Blattberg's conception of patriotism, however, is more nuanced: to him, a patriot can be critical of his or her country for failing to live up to its ideals.

Patriotism by country

Several surveys have tried to measure patriotism for various reasons. The Correlates of War project found some correlation between War propensity and patriotism.

The results from different studies are time dependent. Patriotism in Germany before WWI ranks at or near the top, whereas today it ranks at or near the bottom of surveys.

The Patriotism Score table below is from the World Values Survey and refers to the average answer for high income residents of a country to the question: "Are you proud to be [insert nationality]?" It ranges from 1 (not proud) to 4 (very proud).[4]

First Survey: 1990-1992

Country Score USA 3.73 India 3.67 South Africa 3.55 Canada 3.53 Slovenia 3.46 Spain 3.28 Denmark 3.27 Italy 3.25 Sweden 3.22 France 3.18 Finland 3.17 Belgium 3.07 Netherlands 2.93 Germany 2.75 Average 3.26

Second Survey: 1995-1997

Country Score Venezuela 3.92 South Africa 3.73 USA 3.72 India 3.70 Peru 3.68 Turkey 3.64 Poland 3.55 Australia 3.54 Spain 3.40 Chile 3.38 Argentina 3.29 Sweden 3.13 Moldova 2.98 Japan 2.85 Russia 2.69 Switzerland 2.59 Lithuania 2.47 Latvia 2.10 Germany 1.37 Average 3.12

See also

This entry is related to, but not included in the Political ideologies series or one of its sub-series. Other related articles can be found at the Politics Portal.


  1. ^ Americans Are World's Most Patriotic People, National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago Finds, University of Chicago, June 30, 1998.
  2. ^ Paul Gomberg, “Patriotism is Like Racism,” in Igor Primoratz, ed., Patriotism, Humanity Books, 2002, pp. 105-112. ISBN 1-57392-955-7.
  3. ^ Billig, Michael. Banal Nationalism. London: Sage Publishers, 1995, p. 56-58.
  4. ^ Patriotism in Your Portfolio

Sources and further reading

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Patriotism
  • Alasdair MacIntyre, 'Is Patriotism a Virtue?', in: R. Beiner (ed.), Theorizing Citizenship, 1995, State University of New York Press, pp. 209 - 228.
  • Joshua Cohen and Martha C. Nussbaum, For Love of Country: Debating the Limits of Patriotism, Beacon Press, 1996. ISBN 0-8070-4313-3.
  • Jürgen Habermas, “Appendix II: Citizenship and National Identity,” in Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy, trans. William Rehg, MIT Press, 1996.
  • Maurizio Viroli, For Love of Country: An Essay on Patriotism and Nationalism, Oxford University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-19-829358-5.
  • Daniel Bar-Tal and Ervin Staub, Patriotism, Wadsworth Publishing, 1999. ISBN 0-8304-1410-X.
  • Charles Blattberg, From Pluralist to Patriotic Politics: Putting Practice First, Oxford University Press, 2000. ISBN 0-19-829688-6.
  • Igor Primoratz, ed., Patriotism, Humanity Books, 2002. ISBN 1-57392-955-7.
  • Paul Gomberg, “Patriotism is Like Racism,” in Igor Primoratz, ed., Patriotism, Humanity Books, 2002, pp. 105-112. ISBN 1-57392-955-7.
  • Craig Calhoun, Is it Time to Be Postnational?, in Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Minority Rights, (eds.) Stephen May, Tariq Modood and Judith Squires. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004. pp 231-256. Online at
  • George Orwell, “Notes on Nationalism,” in England Your England and Other Essays, Secker and Warburg, 1953.
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