Monday, September 12, 2016

Ideology of Liberalism and National Unity were Interlinked in Early 19th Century

The ideals of Liberalism entail fundamental rights for citizens, limited government, government by consent of governed, emphasis on individualism, principle of toleration and free market economy. All these ideas had significant impact on emerging nationalism in early 19th century Europe.

The arguments in support of Interlinkage between Liberalism and National Unity are: 

1) Economically the society was undergoing change. New social groups such as working class population, middle class made up of industrialists, businessmen and professionals were now dominant. These social groups were now involved in trade, commerce for which a common economic market, relative peace, stable non despotic government was important. In the 19th century, German nationalism grew when Napoleon united the states of Rhineland and Westphalia and the economic advantage in terms of minimization of customs duty led the people to realize the importance of political unity. Similarly Zollverein which stood for customs union of the major principalities of Germany fuelled feelings of nationalism. Similarly by treaty of Louisville, Napoleon had united the provinces of Italy into 3 republics leading the people to realize the advantage of political, administrative and economic unity

2) Bismarck also relied on infrastructural development, industrialization, establishing Imperial Bank and guaranteeing safety, security and employment to satiate the needs new economic class leading to economic prosperity. Thus free market economy, a fundamental tenet of liberalism, had a key role in encouraging European nationalism.

3) The ideals of French Revolution spread to other parts of Europe courtesy Napoleon’s expeditions. This led people to come in touch with the idea of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. It led to middle class uprising in several sections of Europe where the people started demanding Constitution from their rulers. The people could no longer remain subservient to a despotic ruler as seen during the Revolution of 1830 in France when people rebelled against Charles X, who dissolved Parliament, curbed freedom of press and freedom of expression. Thus the liberal ideas of limited government, -protecting citizen’s rights had a bearing on European nationalism

4) The idea of Equality before Law also took root following French Revolution and Napoleonic Code. Thereafter, throughout the 19th and 20th century, Europe particularly England saw many movements demanding equal voting rights for men and women, propertied and non propertied class leading to people coming together and developing feeling of nationalism

5) The Revolution of 1830 and 1848 was another example of Liberal Nationalism. It was in reaction to the return to conservatism following Napoleon's defeat and the Vienna Congress of 1813. The new regimes did not tolerate dissent, sought to curb activities that questioned the legitimacy of autocratic governments, imposed censorship laws on newspapers, books etc, all fundamentally opposed to Liberal ideas whose ethos is tolerance and freedom

6) Religion which used to be a major uniting force earlier was no longer so important. The liberal idea of separating private and public life took root in Europe. Economic issues became more important and the question of religion was relegated to personal sphere only.

Thus we can see the impact of Liberal ideals on European nationalism.

In case of India this interlinkage between Liberalism and National Unity is valid as seen in following cases: 

1) The idea of economic unity manifests itself in GST.

2) The widespread outrage as seen in cases which are seen as taking away civil liberties such as freedom of speech

3) The emphasis placed on Equality Before Law and Rule of Law which are designated as Basic structure of the Constitution

4) The emphasis placed on the idea of secularism and treating all religions as the same

5) The desire among the progressive section to move away from group identity markers such as caste etc towards an emphasis on individualism

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