The decline of nationalistic identity

Rather than getting lost in the daily news cycle, let’s try to think in the long term or look at the “big picture.”


As globalization progresses, attachments to nationalistic identity should decline. In terms of function systems, the global economy, global mass media, global politics, global science, global education, etc. would logically put a lot a strain on nationalistic identities. Global organizations (.g., transnational corporations, The United Nations, scientific organizations, athletic organizations, etc.) also directly undercut nationalism. In the long term, more people should see themselves as global citizens or maybe have a more cosmopolitan identity, though there is no guarantee that this will happen. Although during the Trump years, we’ve seen an rise of toxic American nationalism, with its attendant scapegoating of those perceived as un-American, in the longer run this reactionary conservative movement is likely to fail.

Since the end of World War II, if we judge by the Google Books corpus, nationalism has, in general, been in decline. The following Google ngrams suggest the the global brain has been thinking about national identity less over the last several decades. For example, the phrase “The American people,” after rising during the two World Wars, has been in steep declines since 1942. Note: I am more interested in “The . . . people” phrasal pattern than in more generic terms like “Germans” or “Americans,” because including the word people is more likely to capture nationalistic-identity concerns.

The first few charts are limited to the English-speaking global brain.


Here are a few other charts for English phrases, beginning with “The German people.”


The French people:


The Italian people:


The Chinese people:


The Spanish people:


The Russian people:


We can also look at phrases that represent ethnic identity rather than strictly national identity. For instance, the Slavic people, which hit its peak in the about 1921 and rose again in the 1930s-early ’40s:


The Jewish people:


Here are some phrases from German, beginning with Das deutsche Volk:


Das amerikanische Volk:


In French, the term for “the French people” is apparently Les Français, which yields a different pattern. In this case, Les Français hits it peak in 1816, after rising throughout the the Napoleonic wars. It rises, though more modestly, during two World Wars and again in the 1980s.


But for Le peuple allemand, the pattern is closer to the previous charts, although the peak occurs in about 1919:


Le peuple américain is similar. The highest points are during the two World Wars, though much higher during WWI:


Here are some charts for the term “global citizen” in a few languages.


Citoyen du monde:




Or we can look for cosmopolitan in a few languages.





These all rise starting in the 1980s, though for some reason Kosmopolit was very high in 1948, and the English term was high in 1916–almost equal to 2000.


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