Nation-building is a term referring to the process of developing the national identity using the internal power of the state. This process focuses on unifying different ethnicities and social classes under one shared agenda and vision, thus ensuring the long-term sustainability and stability of the state (Egnell & Haldén, 2013). It necessarily involves the creation of anthems, flags, and languages and is often based on the use of propaganda. A broader definition claims that this process also requires the development of the basic infrastructure (schools, government, military, etc.) (Watson, 2004).
Some scholars believe that nation-building is imposed by other states on the less powerful territories (colonialism), while others argue that state-building is the indigenous, independent process during which the majority gradually forms the common worldviews, vision, and policies for the subsequent development of the nation (Egnell & Haldén, 2013). The latter definition is used in the present essay, where I aim to explore the typical strategies and processes involved in state-building.
Before analyzing nation-building in detail, it is important to define the term nation itself. Nation is a unique construction that integrates different populations in one community of citizens, and this community serves as the justification of the legitimate existence of the state (Schnapper, 1994). The nation should be distinguished from ethnical groups, as the latter are not politically organized under one national idea. Based on this definition, one may suggest that nation-building is the political process that aims at unifying diverse populations into one society that views itself as an independent structure that requires its own territory and state (Schnapper, 1994). It is important to note that nation-building can be used as a policy in not only emerging states but also in states facing destabilization, social and military conflicts, and the lack of unity.
Scholars cite several main factors determining successful nation-building (Constructional Rights Foundation, 2017). To begin with, it is argued that nothing can be achieved in the absence of adequate security. People do not think about their worldviews and national identities when their daily lives are subject to threats and when all they can do is to find ways to survive. Although wars and conflicts sometimes spur the development of some nationalist views, they do not affect the process in the longer perspective but only increase internal pressure. Furthermore, nation-building is impossible without the active and democratic participation of people, who are encouraged to take part in decision-making (Constructional Rights Foundation, 2017). It is better if people have an opportunity to take over the basic tasks of the government, even if they do not have enough skills and competence. Although providing countries with foreign specialists may be tempting, people themselves should address their national policies and challenges, as it is the only way to greater social, political, and national awareness.
Finally, it is important to understand that nation-building is a time-consuming process that requires political vision and commitment. According to the estimates, five years is the minimum period needed to achieve successful nation-building (Constructional Rights Foundation, 2017). In many cases, however, the lack of good leadership and internal issues may extend this process for decades. It all depends on numerous factors such as the social composition, history, political will, economic situation, and others (Constructional Rights Foundation, 2017). To summarize, I would like to add that the process of nation-building is often long and painful, and it requires much dedication, stability, and peace to make people unite by the shared vision and be accepted by the international community. However, all these efforts eventually pay off as a state with a clearly-defined national agenda has increased chances to succeed politically and economically.
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Constructional Rights Foundation. (2017). U.S. involvement in nation-building before Iraq. Retrieved from http://www.crf-usa.org/election-central/nation-building.html
Egnell, R., & Haldén, P. (2013). New agendas in statebuilding: Hybridity, contingency and history. New York: Routledge.
Schnapper, D. (1994). Community of citizens: On the modern idea of nationality. Piscataway: NJ: Transaction Publishers.
Watson, C. A. (2004). Nation-building: A reference handbook. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.