Nationalists believe that being a member of a particular nation is wonderful and worthy of celebration. For example, one should honor one’s “Frenchness” if from France or “Americanness” if from the United States. This belief is not tied to any one political system. Nationalists favor behavior, governmental systems, and other values or behaviors that promote a strong nation, including a powerful economy, a strong military, and unity among citizens. Threats to the nation are taken very seriously and need to be addressed. Historically, there have been many authoritarian regimes, in which governments may do whatever they want, that were strongly nationalist in character, but there are plenty of democratic nationalist states as well. The means of promoting a strong nation vary greatly from one nationalist state to another.
Example: The 2006 World Cup in Germany gave political scientists the opportunity to watch a democratic country become more nationalist. After World War II, Germans largely refrained from outwardly demonstrating any sense of nationalism, a result of lingering guilt over Nazism and the Holocaust. But the success of the German soccer team prompted many citizens to begin feeling strong nationalist pride for the first time in decades, including proudly displaying the German flag.
Fascism is a highly nationalist, militaristic, totalitarian political ideology in which one person has absolute power. World War I was the key event that spawned fascism. The war was the first major war fought between industrialized nations, which were armed with technology such as machine guns and chemical weapons. The result was utter devastation. Millions died, entire countries collapsed, and those who survived were often profoundly disillusioned. For many people, the war showed that modern ideas had failed and that a new way was needed.
Fascism arose in Italy in the 1920s. Italy had fought on the winning side of World War I, but it had suffered greatly. Many Italians were angry and disappointed that the country gained very little for the price it paid. Some war veterans felt alienated from society: They had grown accustomed to the horrors of war, and now normal life seemed unreal and incomprehensible. Some of these war veterans began to rally together, trying to re-create the camaraderie of the war. Their meetings led to the development of fascism. In its original form, fascism was neither racist nor anti-Semitic. Indeed, some early Italian fascists were Jewish.
Although Italy was the birthplace of fascism, this -ism spread to other countries. In the mid- to late twentieth century, the Spanish government under General Francisco Franco was fascist, as were the Argentinean government under Juan Perón and some of the governments in Eastern Europe before WorldWar II. The Japanese government before and during World War II also shared some fascist ideas.