Patriotism is commonly defined as love of and/or devotion to one's country. The word comes from the Latin patria, and Greek patris, πατρίς. However, "patriotism," or the love of one's country, has come to have different meanings over time. Thus, the meaning of patriotism can be highly dependent upon context, geography and philosophy.
Although patriotism is presently used in certain vernaculars as a synonym for nationalism, nationalism is not considered an inherent part of patriotism. Among the ancient Greeks, patriotism is comprised of notions concerning language, religious traditions, ethics, law and devotion to the common good, rather than pure identification with a nation-state. Scholar J. Peter Euben writes that for the Greek philosopher Socrates, "patriotism does not require one to agree with everything that his country does and would actually promote analytical questioning in a quest to make the country the best it possibly can be.
During the 18th century Age of Enlightenment, the notion of patriotism continues to be separate from the notion of nationalism. Instead, patriotism is defined as devotion to humanity and beneficence. For example, providing charity, criticizing slavery, and denouncing excessive penal laws is considered patriotic. In both ancient and modern visions of patriotism, individual responsibility to fellow citizens is an inherent component of patriotism.
Many contemporary notions of patriotism are influenced by 19th century ideas about nationalism. During the 19th century, "being patriotic" becomes increasingly conflated with nationalism, and even jingoism. However, some notions of contemporary patriotism reject nationalism in favor of a more classic version of the idea of patriotism which includes social responsibility.
Patriotism implies a value preference for a specific civic or political community. Universalist beliefs reject such specific preferences, in favor of an alternative, wider, community. In the European Union, thinkers such as Habermas, however, have advocated a European-wide patriotism, but patriotism in Europe is usually directed at the nation-state and often coincides with Euroscepticism.
Some religious believers place their religion above their 'fatherland', often resulting in suspicion and hostility from patriots. Two examples of groups that have experienced this suspicion in the United States are Roman Catholics and Muslims. In the United States and the United Kingdom, Roman Catholics were seen as owing loyalty to the Pope rather than the nation. As a result, the Knights of Columbus (referred to as "the strong right arm of the church" by several Popes) established the virtue of patriotism as one of their four principle virtues. Muslims are sometimes seen as owing loyalty to the Islamic community (ummah) rather than to the nation. Other groups find a conflict between certain patriotic acts and religious beliefs. Jehovah's Witnesses and Mennonites may choose to refuse to engage in certain patriotic acts or to display certain symbols.
Supporters of patriotism in ethics regard it as a virtue. In his influential article "Is patriotism a virtue?" (1984), the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre notes that most contemporary conceptions of morality insist on a blindness to accidental traits like local origin and therefore reject patriotic selectivity. MacIntyre constructs an alternative conception of morality, that he claims would be compatible with patriotism. Charles Blattberg, in his book From Pluralist to Patriotic Politics (2000), has developed a similar conception of patriotism.
A problem with treating patriotism as an objective virtue is that patriotisms often conflict. Soldiers of both sides in a war may feel equally patriotic, creating an ethical paradox. (If patriotism is a virtue, then the enemy is virtuous, so why try to kill them?)
Within nations, politicians may appeal to patriotic emotions in attacking their opponents, implicitly or explicitly accusing them of betraying the country. Minorities may reject a patriotic loyalty and pride, which the majority finds unproblematic. They may feel excluded from the political community, and see no reason to be proud of it. The Australian political conflict about the Black armband view of history is an example. Conservative Prime Minister John Howard, who would undoubtedly describe himself as an Australian patriot, said of it in 1996:
In the United States, patriotic history has been criticised for de-emphasising the post-Colombian depopulation, the Atlantic slave trade, the population expulsions and the wars of conquest against Native Americans.
Patriotism is often portrayed as a more positive alternative to nationalism, which sometimes carries negative connotations. Some authors such as Morris Janowitz, Daniel Bar-Tal, or L. Snyder argue that patriotism is distinguished from nationalism by its lack of aggression or hatred for others, its defensiveness, and positive community building. Others, such as Michael Billig or Jean Bethke Elshtain argue that the difference is difficult to discern, and relies largely on the attitude of the labeller.
The results from different studies are time dependent. Patriotism in Germany before WWI ranks at or near the top, whereas today it ranks at or near the bottom of surveys.
The Patriotism Score table below is from the World Values Survey and refers to the average answer for high income residents of a country to the question: "Are you proud to be [insert nationality]?" It ranges from 1 (not proud) to 4 (very proud).
First Survey: 1990-1992
Second Survey: 1995-1997