What is patriotism? The dictionary says patriotism is:
love and devotion to one's country.
So, what's a country? The dictionary defines this as:
a state or nation.
So what is a state? What is a nation?
a body politic, especially one constituting a nation.
a large area of land that is controlled by its own government
So, we will take "country" as being both the land and the government, while we can say that "state" means government, and nation means land, people, and government. So, one who is a patriot is dedicated to the people, land, and government of his/her birth place or place of residence should he/she have immigrated to a new country.
There is another term "nation state" that is defined as:
A nation state is a geographical area that can be identified as deriving its political legitimacy from serving as a sovereign nation.
This would then be a country whose government is responsible to no other government; that is, a sovereign government. So, in all of these terms, a government is necessary in the definition of these terms. What is a government? A government is a person or group of people who exercise a monopoly on the use of force within a given area.
This is, essentially, the same as mafia with two important distinctions.
1. A government typically does not allow the illusion of competition within its rule most of the time. 2. Mafias turn profits.
Is patriotism different from nationalism?
Devotion to the interests or culture of one's nation
So... no. Not really.
The use of force is interesting. The "use of force" is generally violence. However, the fact that the state is willing to use force means that the threat of violence is often enough to get people to comply. The police do not have to shoot. Everyone knows that they will shoot, so when they draw their weapons and threaten people, people tend to do as the police command. Generally speaking then, advocating for one's government or for governance in general is the advocation of coercion at best, and slavery or murder at worst. Yet people do not consider this.
For most, the dedication takes on nearly religious tones. People consider the "Founding Fathers", the Constitution, and government monuments to be holy and beyond reproach. Condemnation of the Constitution, the founders, or the monuments makes one immediately an enemy, and pretty much evil in the eyes of the right wing, and much of the left. This would explain why people can view the state committing theft as something other than theft. They call it "taxation." When the state commits murder it is "war", "execution", "capital punishment", or "police action." When the state commits fraud, the believers call it politics. Oddly, people are quick to condemn modern politicians for graft and corruption, despite the supposed model being the founders... who were corrupt as well but are magically beyond judgement. People even laud the Constitution, and point to it as a reference for how things ought to be despite the fact that the Constitution has either allowed such government as what we have, or has been powerless to stop the government from developing as it has. In either case, the Constitution has failed the people of the USA and the time to laud it has long since passed.
When these points are mentioned aloud, many become nearly violent in the defense of the state and of their beliefs. They may mention the "social contract" which no one ever actually is asked to sign. They might mention a need of government to prevent chaos. Yet, there exists no proof that without government chaos occurs. There is absolute evidence of the reverse, however. They may mention the need of government to provide those services which are not economically viable, despite the fact that the government does not actually provide those services very well, and private business certainly does (retirement accounts, roads, mail, etc...). Yet, even should these beliefs of the patriots be proven incorrect, the patriots continue in their beliefs and rituals. The sing the praises of the state. They celebrate the creation of the state. They hold their hands over their hearts and recite a pledge of allegiance to the state. They sing national hymns, and they pray to their gods asking favor for their state.
I think it may be rather important to note that this a somewhat new phenomenon. Traditionally, people felt allegiance to a ruler or to a dynasty. Sometimes people had a devotion to their local community. Rarely did this sense of devotion to a nation or government as a whole come about. Indeed, throughout most of human history we see people tolerating governance either out of fear of calamity or out of fear of the state itself. Patriotism and nationalism came about during the mid to late 1800s in the West. This was during the time of massive upward trend in personal and national wealth. It was also a time of rebellion. The USA had a civil war and much of Europe saw the monarchies losing power.
Nationalism and patriotism served the purposes of the state quite well, as they kept people from embracing the anarchist movements, and helped propel keynesian economics, national banking, and war. The idea is that the nation state is more important than the individual so you must sacrifice for its benefit. This is noble, or so the state tells us.
Nationalism and patriotism are so strong that they produce reverance for the state's enforcers. Police and military personnel are given quite a bit of praise, despite police being the most dangerous element within society to the average civilian and the military destroying vast amounts of resources and eliminating markets that could have improved the lives of millions.
George Orwell, my favorite socialist (I'm a market anarchist), has this to say:
All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage -- torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians -- which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by 'our' side.
Your country is merely a bunch of land with a powerful gang running everything, and it was on that land that your mother happened to be standing when her water broke and she went into labor producing you. This a very odd thing of which to be proud.