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Nationalism, Chauvinism and Racism as Reflected in European Musical Thought and in Compositions from the Interwar Period

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Andrzej Tuchowski

This book concerns the ways in which many different types of nationalism, chauvinism and racism penetrated into musical thought in the interwar period, and how the leading artistic personalities of that period reacted to these ideologies. The concept of "nationalism" is understood broadly in this book and covers the entire spectrum of its positive and negative aspects. The topics listed in the book’s title have been discussed on the example of selected four countries, significant with respect to population and territory and representing different social-political systems: Germany (mostly after 1933), Italy, Poland (after 1926) and Great Britain. This selection is also representative of the main ethnic groups in Europe: Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, Latin-Romance and Slavic.

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Introduction

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The concept of “nationalism” usually does not evoke positive associations in Poland. Nationalist beliefs, views and attitudes are for the most part associated in articles on social and cultural subjects with unjustified claims concerning the superiority of everything that is “our own” over all things “foreign” or “alien”, with feelings of aversion or at best suspicion toward other cultures, and with the desire to isolate one’s own nation viewed as a kind of besieged fortress. In the West, on the other hand, nationalism is for many historians and journalists a neutral concept referring to a certain type of social-political and cultural awareness which developed in the early 19th century and was based on the conviction that the interests of a nation are superior to the interests of individuals, social groups and classes. This concerned first and foremost the problem of power and control since – as Anthony D. Smith1 observes – the key feature of all nationalism is the conviction that the nation is the most important, ultimate source of political power, which dominates over all other forms of legitimacy. One might well challenge this thesis by pointing to nationalisms that flourished in 19th-century imperial monarchies, such as tsarist Russia, which combined national messianism with the doctrine of the divine origins of the emperor’s authority. However, in the reality of the 20th century, and especially in the face of the clear tendency to form ethnically tightly-knit and cohesive national states in the period between the two world wars (which we...

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