Can politics in a globalized world be patriotic or is patriotism in politics always equal to nationalism?

An emotion-based German Case Study of the “Alternative for Germany”

Essay, 2018

13 Pages, Grade: 70 - Distinction


Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 Emotions
2.1 Types of Emotions
2.2 Hatred
2.2.1 Psychological Aspects of Hatred
2.2.2 Sociological Aspects of Hatred

3 Nationalism

4 Patriotism

5 Populism

6 Case Study
6.1 Social Context
6.2 Analysis of posters
6.3 Interpretation of findings from a psychosocial perspective

7 Conclusion


Word Count: 5070 words

1 Introduction

In a globalized world and a network society, people are connected beyond the borders of their home country. The role of the nation state is losing its significance and most people are becoming more global-minded. Therefore, it is interesting to explore to what degree politics in a globalized world can be patriotic without discriminating others or expressing nationalistic and xenophobic views. While most people are encouraging global integration and respect different cultures melting together, some people feel differently. With the rise of globalization and cultures developing beyond restricted geographic borders, populist movements have also risen. This is for example visible in Europe. The European Union has been growing over the past decades, but so have nationalistic parties. This development is increasingly polarizing European politics and splitting society.

This essay aims to give an insight on the formation of populist parties from a psychosocial perspective. The psychosocial approach is combining the complexity of a psychological and sociological analysis.

“Psychosocial research draws inspiration from a range of sources including sociology, psychoanalysis, critical psychology, critical theory, post-structuralism, process philosophy, feminism, post-colonial theory, queer theory and affect theory” (Association for Psychosocial Studies 2018).

By analyzing how an emotion such as hatred is triggered and influences a person’s perception, one aspect of the rise of populist parties can be explained. Another important aspect of understanding the rise of populist parties in Europe is the sociological aspect. It explains what happens when multiple individuals get together who all feel the same way about something.

The findings of the psychosocial analysis will then be applied to a political context: Can politics in a globalized world be patriotic or is patriotism in politics always equal to nationalism?

To answer this research question, a case study on the German political party “Alternative for Germany” will be conducted. In this case study, posters of the party will be analyzed to point out the difference between the portrayed and the subliminal meaning. By pointing out how this party uses patriotic images to promote nationalistic views, it will be possible to provide a better understanding of the problem and to find an answer to the research question.

Afterwards the findings of the case study will be evaluated and put in a global context to see whether the results are unique to German politics and history, or if they apply to other countries as well.

2 Emotions

2.1 Types of Emotions

Emotions play an increasingly important role in politics today. According to Jasper (2006, p. 17), there are five categories of emotions. He categorizes them as follows:

Urges are emotions that are usually based on physical impulses and need to be satisfied. They are not playing a very big role in relation to politics. Reflex emotions are arising quickly, but tend not to last very long, therefore they also play only a minor role in politics. Moods tend to last longer than reflex emotions, but are usually not triggered by any particular incident. Affects on the other hand last longer than moods and therefore play a bigger role in politics. Affects can unite people who feel the same way about a cause. The last category are moral emotions, which are part of someone’s belief system and principles by which someone lives. Moral emotions play an important role and are addressed frequently by politics.

“Nationalism, which combines affects and moods, developed in large part when political elites needed to mobilize populations for war without wishing to share decision making with them. A belligerent mood of pride, combined with hatred for others, was sufficient” (Jasper 2006, p. 20).

This quote demonstrates which emotions are important when looking at nationalistic movements in societies. Therefore, this essay will focus on affects, moods and moral emotions.

2.2 Hatred

2.2.1 Psychological Aspects of Hatred

Hatred is a powerful emotion (Jasper 2006.). According to Melanie Klein, an Austrian psychoanalyst who extended Sigmund Freud’s research and focused on child-development, love and hatred are the basis of human existence. Psychoanalysis has its origins in the clinical field where Freud treated patients with hysteria by using hypnosis (Ahmed 2011). “Psychoanalysis is a lived emotional experience” (Ogden 2004, p.1). Hence, the dialog between the patient and the analyst is the foundation of psychoanalysis. Many mental disorders are consequences of childhood experiences and unresolved conflicts. Therefore, psychoanalysis aims to help the patient find the cause and cure it (Times 2000). The interpretation of dreams and unconscious mind are also important aspects of psychoanalysis.

Referring to Jacques Lacan, a French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist, who is among others known for his concepts of the unconscious in language as well as the concept of mirroring, people have a desire for ‘the other’ (Minsky 1998). This desire is expressed in the need for recognition as well as a constant thrive to become like ‘the other’ - a better and much more perfect version of oneself. Research has also found that the real cause for hatred most often is the ‘other’. Idealizing ‘the other’ version of ourselves can also be dangerous and lead to frustration and envy when the idealized version is impossible to obtain. Consequently, people project their feelings onto ‘the other’ in order to cope with the frustration. Envy, according to Klein (1957), expresses a desire to destroy the good, which over time can turn into hate for the other. This experience first appears in early child development. Klein describes this process as the transition into the depressive position. The child’s emotions alternate constantly between loving the mother and hating her. While experiencing hate, the child has a desire to destroy the mother (Alford 2006). This feeling is caused by the first experiences of relating to and depending on to the mother (Minsky 1998). Freud described this as “an ego state that wishes to destroy the source of its unhappiness” (Freud 1915, p.138).

This early childhood experience and the way a child manages to cope with the anxiety of separation from the mother as well as overcoming hate is significant for future development. If the child does not experience early splitting during development, the consequences can affect his or her whole life.

“Thus the basis is not laid for a fully developed and integrated adult personality; for the later differentiation between good and bad is disturbed in various connections. In so far as this disturbance of development is due to excessive envy, it derives from the prevalence, in the earliest stages, of paranoid and schizoid mechanisms” (Klein 1957, p.192).

“Hatred is a relationship with others, and it is a relationship with oneself” (Alford 2006, p.85). In this quote Alford expresses that there is always something about ourselves in the emotions people have, even when they are expressed towards someone else such as hate. Feelings like hatred are perceived as ‘external’, because the emotions are projected onto another person or problem, whereas the real cause is internal and reflects a deeper emotion such as frustration or envy.

Understanding how hate is influencing people and where it originates is important to understand how it can be used to steer social movements or political decisions. This will be analyzed more in-depth in the next section.

2.2.2 Sociological Aspects of Hatred

Growing up in a world where good and bad are mostly clearly defined by institutions, laws or cultures, those who did not learn to overcome negative feelings by themselves are stuck in a depressive state. Because they cannot bear the emotions in themselves, they project them onto other people, other groups of people or identify a possible origin of their feelings such as a certain institution, political party or leader. If these people find other people with the same ‘enemy’, groups start forming based on collective identities. This process is also referred to as ‘social polarization’ (Barbalet 2006). The hate and, in some cases, even violence most often targets groups that have a different ethnicity, religion, nationality, social stand, sexuality or gender. Abuse of women, the holocaust, slavery, Apartheid, or attacks on LGBT communities such as in Orlando 2016, are just a few examples of group hate against other collective identities.

To bind people with similar feelings together, organizers provide a space or community where people can express their feelings and opinions without receiving the usual rejection, since they are surrounded by like-minded people (Van Troost et al. 2013). That is how individual emotions become group emotions and people start to identify with the group rather than expand their autonomous thinking (Van Stokkom 2012). While the individuals develop a sense of belonging and loyalty towards the group, the organizers are gaining more control and influence over the group, which can be used to harm others or to manipulate other groups, for example affecting elections or, in the worst case, resulting in a holocaust. What makes people become part of the group are positive emotions that people within the group share, whereas negative emotions towards outsiders unite them and separate them from others (Jasper 2006).

3 Nationalism

Nationalism is a word that is often used in context of World War II and the years prior to the war. But in recent years, the word has been receiving more attention again as a ‘new-nationalism’ has grown in Europe (Kinnvall 2013). Triggered by the waves of immigration, many European countries are facing nationalistic movements and anti-immigrant parties have been established. In times of uncertainty after the financial crisis of 2008, many people were looking for something like an anchor in their lives. A national identity can be that anchor for many people, as it allows people to see themselves as part of a group and gives them a sense of belonging. It also refers to a constant in their life that many people mistake for an idealization of their past (Eriksen 2002). Therefore, holding onto one’s national identity can be seen as a defensive state to protect oneself from the anxiety of uncertainty that change, or crisis bring along.

Different types of nationalism exist.

“All nationalisms imply a principle of identity based on impersonal ties, remote ties, vicarious ties - all of which are mediated by a set of common symbols embedded in a certain pattern of communication” (Haas 1986, p.709).

Ernst Gellner, a British-Czech social anthropologist, defined nationalism as follows:

“Nationalism is not the awakening of nations to self-consciousness: it invents nations where they do not exist” (Gellner 1964, p.168).

This definition is close to what Benedict Anderson, an Anglo-Irish political scientist who is known for his theories on nationalism, said about nationalism. In his famous book “Imagined Communities” (1983), Anderson defines ‘nation’

“as an imagined political community — and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign. It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion” (Anderson 1983, p.49).

Michael Skey (2013, p. 94) adds that

“communities that are perceived to be (and treated) as if they are ‘real’ entities are associated with a range of psychological benefits”.

This indicates that the perception of the imagined community also has a positive influence on a person’s psychology, as benefits are being associated with the imagined bound. Anderson’s work does not address the emotional aspects of nationalism much, which play a significant role (Heaney 2013). The sense of belonging plays an important role and refers to the identification with a group that shares the same values or opinions. Nationalism also has a patronizing function for many people. “The nation is often imagined as a mother or a father” (Auestad 2014, p.xxii). Anything that appears to be a threat to this imagined community and the ‘mother’ or ‘father’ is seen as an enemy.

“This is clearly the case where the metaphor of invading forces is applied to refugees or immigrants; the other as a real historical adversary has been made an enemy within.” (Auestad 2014, p.xxii).

4 Patriotism

When talking about patriotism and nationalism, it is important to draw a line in order to understand what separates one from the other. This differentiation is particularly important in regard to the question that this essay aims to answer. Therefore, a clear definition of each is necessary.

Druckman (1994, p. 63-64) draws the line between them as follows:

“Patriotism seems to lead to strong attachments and loyalty to one's own group without the corresponding hostility toward other groups while nationalism encourages an orientation involving liking for one's own group and disliking of certain other groups. While those strong in patriotism are willing to risk their lives for their country, they are not as prone to war as those strong in nationalism who have an enemy built into their attachments to their nation.”

This differentiation clarifies the difference between patriotism and nationalism and therefore provides a suitable approach for the case study that will follow later on in this essay. Druckman’s definition describes patriotism as love for the home country that he or she will defend against others if necessary. Yet, for the most part, patriotism has a peaceful nature.

Davidov (2009) differentiates between two types of patriotism: The first type he labels as pseudo- patriotism or blind patriotism, because it represents a negative aspect of national identities and therefor is almost identical to nationalism. This type of patriotism has an authoritarian nature. The second type is more positive and refers to the pride in one’s culture and everything related to one’s home country. This form of patriotism is also called constructive patriotism. Constructive patriotism presumes a critical reflection of the values, politics and events related to one’s home country. Therefore, this type of patriotism is much more conscious than blind patriotism, which idealizes the history, values and politics of one’s home country and embodies inflexibility.


Excerpt out of 13 pages


Can politics in a globalized world be patriotic or is patriotism in politics always equal to nationalism?
An emotion-based German Case Study of the “Alternative for Germany”
Bournemouth University
70 - Distinction
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
political psychology, alternative for germany, alternative für deutschland, social psychology, psychology, kleinian, politics, german politics, nationalism, patriotism, german patriotism, germany
Quote paper
Michelle Trauth (Author), 2018, Can politics in a globalized world be patriotic or is patriotism in politics always equal to nationalism?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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