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Imagined Communities Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism by Benedict Anderson

Imagined Communities Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism by Benedict Anderson

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Published by Mark Malone
Anderson falls into the "historicist" or "modernist" school of nationalism along with Ernest Gellner and Eric Hobsbawm in that he posits that nations and nationalism are products of modernity and have been created as means to political and economic ends. This school stands in opposition to the primordialists, who believe that nations, if not nationalism, have existed since early human history. Imagined communities can be seen as a form of social constructionism on a par with Edward Said's concept of imagined geographies.

In contrast to Gellner and Hobsbawm, Anderson is not hostile to the idea of nationalism nor does he think that nationalism is obsolete in a globalizing world. Anderson values the utopian element in nationalism.[4] According to his theory of imagined communities, the main causes of nationalism are the declining importance of privileged access to particular script languages (such as Latin) because of mass vernacular literacy; the movement to abolish the ideas of rule by divine right and hereditary monarchy; and the emergence of printing press capitalism—all phenomena occurring with the start of the Industrial Revolution.

Anthony D. Smith states that even when nations are the product of modernity, it is possible to find ethnic elements that survive in modern nations. Ethnic groups are different from nations. Nations are the result of a triple revolution that begins with the development of capitalism and leads to a bureaucratic and cultural centralization along with a loss of power by the Church. Smith, however, maintains that there are also many cases of ancient nations and therefore cannot be considered a modernist.

The concept of imagined communities remains highly relevant in a contemporary context of how nation-states frame and rescript their identities in relation to domestic and foreign policy, such as policies towards immigrants and migration.[5]
Anderson falls into the "historicist" or "modernist" school of nationalism along with Ernest Gellner and Eric Hobsbawm in that he posits that nations and nationalism are products of modernity and have been created as means to political and economic ends. This school stands in opposition to the primordialists, who believe that nations, if not nationalism, have existed since early human history. Imagined communities can be seen as a form of social constructionism on a par with Edward Said's concept of imagined geographies.

In contrast to Gellner and Hobsbawm, Anderson is not hostile to the idea of nationalism nor does he think that nationalism is obsolete in a globalizing world. Anderson values the utopian element in nationalism.[4] According to his theory of imagined communities, the main causes of nationalism are the declining importance of privileged access to particular script languages (such as Latin) because of mass vernacular literacy; the movement to abolish the ideas of rule by divine right and hereditary monarchy; and the emergence of printing press capitalism—all phenomena occurring with the start of the Industrial Revolution.

Anthony D. Smith states that even when nations are the product of modernity, it is possible to find ethnic elements that survive in modern nations. Ethnic groups are different from nations. Nations are the result of a triple revolution that begins with the development of capitalism and leads to a bureaucratic and cultural centralization along with a loss of power by the Church. Smith, however, maintains that there are also many cases of ancient nations and therefore cannot be considered a modernist.

The concept of imagined communities remains highly relevant in a contemporary context of how nation-states frame and rescript their identities in relation to domestic and foreign policy, such as policies towards immigrants and migration.[5]

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Published by: Mark Malone on Apr 01, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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04/02/2013

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