It is normal to feel proud of the country where we are from, and of the things that are found there; beaches, football teams, customs, political systems, etc. But sometimes this patriotism becomes extreme, and leads to an impossibility to see things as they really are.

Chauvinism can be understood as an exaggerated form of bragging about one’s home country , which comes hand in hand with repudiation by other nations. Therefore, it is related to xenophobia. In this article we will see in detail what this psychological and sociological phenomenon is about, and we will review some of its main characteristics.

What is chauvinism?

As we have already seen, chauvinism is understood as the idea that some people have that their country or nation is somehow superior to the rest of the nations , and they are able to defend this idea above any logical argument that is put to them. The term chauvinism is coined because of the surname of a French soldier named Nicolas Chauvin; it is said that this character was faithful to Napoleon Bonaparte and his native France in such a way that everyone was inspired by his blind devotion to the country.

Chauvinism is a pattern of behaviour associated with extreme nationalism , which generates in people a cognitive bias that makes it impossible for them to understand abstract aspects, such as the nuances and cultural diversities of each country, etc. Chauvinists only remain focused on seeing things as they want them to be.

Generally, this type of behavior and attitude can be seen by public figures in the political arena, as a form of advocacy and a campaign strategy or the ideology of your party. Phrases such as, “our country is the most beautiful in the world”, “we have the best citizens in the world”, “we are a model country for the rest of the world” may seem innocent, and in many cases they are not used with the intention of creating confrontation, but taken to their ultimate consequences, they express chauvinism.

These and other ideological expressions are typical of a chauvinist discourse, since they are loaded with the idea that some characteristic or thing coming from the country of origin is superior to that of other countries. These irrational ideas provoke discord and generate enmity between people of different nationalities .

Characteristics of chauvinist behaviour

The following list contains some of the most typical characteristics and actions of people who demonstrate chauvinism through their beliefs and attitudes.

1. Tunnel thinking

The main characteristic of chauvinistic people is that they have a narrow and rigid style of thinking, and are not able to see other perspectives . They seek to show that their nation is the best, regardless of the opinions and arguments of others.

2. Emotional attachment

In this case the emotional attachment is to the nation and everything related to it; people, sports teams, national companies, etc. This attachment makes the subject unable and unwilling to let go of the idea that everything that corresponds to his country is of better quality than that which comes from other parts of the world.

3. Defense of the territorial

People have difficulty leaving their extreme national territory, they feel a high level of anguish at the prospect of living elsewhere, even for a time. They are not able to visualize themselves leading a full life in other territories than their own.

4. They blindly defend the peasant

Chauvinistic subjects have no problem making apologies for anyone who shares the same nationality as them, regardless of whether the other person is right or wrong, or whether he or she is a good person or not. As regards foreigners, the only thing that matters is that they share the same nationality .

5. Absence of logical reasoning

These people do not base the defence of their country on reasonable or logical grounds. Regardless of the fact that the place they come from is in bad political, economic or any other condition, these facts would not affect the opinion of those who irrationally defend their country, because it is an essentialist defence , aimed at a reality beyond the material.

6. Nostalgia for the past

Nostalgia for moments lived in the past intensifies chauvinistic behaviour and thinking. The subject clings to his nation for sentimental rather than logical reasons , and this generates a distortion of thought. The aim is to repeat the same experiences over and over again, without changing the environment too much.

7. Tribal ideas prevail

Tribal instincts are those referring to belonging to a tribe or closed group. The subject has the need to be part of a certain group of people, who must meet the requirement of being of the same nationality, and in some cases of belonging to a specific region within the nation and present certain ethnolinguistic or religious characteristics .

8. Territorial instincts prevail

Territorial instincts refer to the need of people to stay in a certain territorial space, due to irrational beliefs of security or subjective benefits . People will eagerly defend the place they do not want to leave, no matter what their real situation is.


Causes of this social drift

The main reason why a person can have this pattern of thought and behaviour is based on a false reasoning that responds more than anything else to an ethnocentric type of fallacy (analysis from one’s own reality).

Low self-esteem and the perception of being a victim can also motivate chauvinism, as these people seek refuge from low self-esteem. If the defects in the functioning of one’s own society have their roots in the influence of other nations, the imperfections of the collective with which we identify can be excused . At least, before our eyes.

Subjects who unhesitatingly affirm that they could give their lives for their nation have generally suffered from significant emotional deficiencies during the development of their identity, which predisposes them to attribute the protective role to the diffuse concept of nation.

On the other hand, the blind defence of the nation is useful for them to feel part of a stable social group that offers protection and stability. Thus, they displace all their feelings of emptiness and resentment towards a “just cause” that can be achieved collectively.