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Theoretical and Conceptual Background,

Competing basis for individual/personal and

collective identities, Definitions: What is a Nation?
What is Nationalism? How do Nations Emerge?
Primordialism vs. Constructivism. 27/05/2018 07:18:00
Hutchinson + Smith – Nationalism

Geertz – Primordial and Civic Ties

 new states animated by two distinct but opposed motives:
1. desire to be recognised as responsible agents who’s wishes, acts,
hopes etc. ‘matter’
2. desire to build an efficient, dynamic modern state
 one is to be noticed (search for identity/be publically acknowledged),
other is demand for progress, for raising standard of living/more
effective political order/greater social justice etc. (exercising influence
among other nations)
 tension between them id driving forces in natural evolution of new
 tension id great in new states because peoples sense of self is tied up
in blood/race/language/locality etc. and because of idea of sovereign
state being seen as a positive instrument for the realisation of
collective aims
 Things that discontent tends to crystallise around:
1. Assumed blood ties
2. Race
3. Language
4. Region
5. Religion
6. Custom

Walker Connor – A Nation is a nation, is a State, is an Ethnic Group, is a…

 State is major political subdivision of the globe – easily conceptualised

in quantitative terms
 Defining nation more difficult – essence psychological bond that joins
 Social group that shared a common ideology, common institutions and
customs and sense of homogeneity – strong sense of belonging
associated with particular territory considered to be peculiarly its own
 Nation is self defined rather than other defined – broadly held
conviction concerning groups similar origin need not and seldom will
accord with factual data
 Propensity to employ term nation as substitute for territorial judicial
unit ‘the state’
 ‘nation-state’ designed to describe a territorial political unit (state)
who’s borders coincided with the territorial distribution of a national
group e.g. describing when a nation had its own state
 mistakenly equating nationalism with loyalty to the state has
contributed to terminological confusion
 ethnicity – identity with ones ethnic group
 ethic group refers to ‘a group with a common cultural tradition and a
sense of identity which exists as a subgroup of a larger society
 this makes ethnic group synonymous with minority
 nation is a self aware ethnic group
 ethnic group may be other-defined, nation must be self-defined

Paul Brass – Elite Competition and Nation Formation

 primordialist argues that every person carries with them ‘attachments’

derived from place of birth, kinship, language, religion – provide basis
for affinity with other peoples from the same background
 ‘attachments’ constitutes the ‘givens’ of the human condition
 primordialist view – ethnicity, properly defined, is based on descent
 not actual descent that is considered essential to the definition of an
ethnic group, but a belief in a common descent

Breuilly – Nationalism and the State

Basic Arguments
 nationalism is a form of politics
 nationalism is treated as a state of mind, as expression of national
consciousness, as political doctrine elaborated by intellectuals –
 to focus on culture, identity, ideology, class or modernisation is to
neglect the fundamental point that nationalism is, above and beyond
all else, about politics and that politics is about power
 power in the modern world is principally about control of the state
 the central task is to relate nationalism to the objectives of obtaining
and using state power

Definitions and Classifications

 term ‘nationalism’ is used to refer to political movements seeking or

exercising state power and justifying such action with nationalist
 a nationalist argument is a political doctrine built upon three basic
o there exists a nation with an explicit and peculiar character
o the interests of this nation take priority over all other interests
and values
o the nation must be as independent as possible. This usually
requires at least the attainment of political sovereignty

Smith – Are Nations Modern?

Modernists and primordialists

 most arguments share a belief in the contingency of nationalism and

modernity of nation
 differ over the weight to be attached to different modern processes in
stimulating the sense of national identity, they are in complete
agreement about the periodicity of nationalism, and the direction of
explaination of the modern nation
 in some ways ‘modernists’ are right. Nationalism as an ideology and
movement, is a phenomenon that dates from the later 18th C, while
specifically ‘national’ sentiment can be discerned little earlier than the
late 15th or 16th C in western Europe
 nation-state as a term is also quite modern
 ‘nation’ and ‘national character’ also modern. Not until early modern
period in Europe that idea of populations being divided by ‘national
character’ and processing common identity became widespread among
European educated classes
 however we can find pre-modern parallels to the ‘modern’ idea of
national identity and character e.g. how greeks and romans looked on
others who did not share their culture
 in a ancient world we fine movements that resemble our modern day
nationalist movements e.g. desire to liberate territories conquered by
aliens, or to resist foreign encroachment
 with this evidence can we really say that can we really say that
nationalism is a new phenomenon?
 Primordialists say we cant… importance of primordial ties based on
language, race, ethnicity, territory – proponents of this view claim that
nations and ethnic communities are the natural units of history and
integrals elements to human experience
 Ethnicity is an extension of kinship and kinship is the normal vehicle
for the pursuit of collective goals in the struggle for survival

Ethnie, myths and symbols

 In rejecting claims of both modernists and perennialists we look to the

concept of ethnie, or ethnic community and its symbolism, to distance
our analysis from the more sweeping claims on either side
 Rejection of modernist standpoint immediately concedes a greater
measure of continuity between ‘traditional’ and ‘modern, ‘agrarian’ and
‘industrial’, eras which many sociologists are prone to firmly
 In rejecting claims of perennialists, due weight is accorded to the
transformations wrought by modernity and their effects on the basic
units of human loyalty in which we operate and live
 Of crucial importance for such an analysis are the concepts of ‘form’
‘identity’, ‘myth’, ‘symbol’ and ‘communication’ codes.
 Form is like style, though the symbolic contents and meanings of
communal creations may change over time, they characteristic mode
of expression remains more or less constant
 Identity relates to mainly to a sense of community based on history
and culture, rather than to any collectivity or to the concept of
 Other three closely linked, indicate an approach wich attaches
importance to the shared meanings and experiences of individuals, and
to their crystallisations over generations in such varied types of
phenomena as sacred texts and languages, religious shrines, style of
dress, art, architecture, music poetry and dance

Durability of ethnic communities

 One of the benefits of adopting a standpoint intermediate to that of the

perennialists and modernists is that it allows one to delineate different
patterns of nation formation, according to the degree to which an
‘ethnic mosaic’ persisted in the relevant area up to the eve of the era
of nationalism
 Nationalism as both ideology and movement is a wholly modern
phenomenon, even if, as we shall see, the ‘modern nation’ in practice
incorporates many features of pre-modern ethnie and owes much to
the general model of ethnicity which has survived in many areas until
the dawn of the ‘modern era’
 What analysis hopes to reveal is the wide range and durability of
historical ethnie in pre-modern eras, at least in europe and asia and
that the impact of the phenomenon on the shape and content of
modern nations and nationalism and one that sets limits to elite
attempts to manipulate and mobilise populations in their strategies of
national construction

Anderson – Imagined Communities


 Since ww2 every successful revolution has defined itself in national

terms e.g. peoples republic of china – in doing so has grounded itself
firmly in a territorial and social space inherited from the pre-
revolutionary past
 Hobsbawm – ‘marxist movements and states have tended to become
national not only in form but in substance ei.e. nationalist
 The end of an era of nationalism is not remotely in sight. Indeed
nationaness is the most universally legitimagte value in the political life
of our time
 Nation, nationality and nationalism – all are hard to define
 Hugh Seton-Watson ‘thus I am driven to the conclusion that no
“scientific definition” of the nation can be devised; yet the
phenomenon existed and exists
 Anderson’s point of departure is that nationality or as one might prefer
to put it in view of that world’s multiple significations, nationess as well
as nationalism are cultural artifacts of a particular kind
 Anderson will be trying to argue that the creation of these artefacts
towards the end of the 18th C was the spontaneous distillation of a
complex crossing of discrete historical forces; but that once created,
they became modular, capable of being transplated, with variying
degrees of self-consciousness, to a great variety of social terrain, to
merge and be merged with a wide variety of political and ideological

Concepts and Definitions

 Three paradoxes:
o Objective modernity of nations to a historians eye vs. their
subjective antiquity in the eyes of nationalists
o Formal universality of nationality as a sociocultural concept – in
the modern world everyone has a nationality like everyone has a
gender etc.
o The ‘political’ power of nationalisms vs. their philosophical
poverty and even incoherence
 Anderson’s definition ‘it is an imagined political community – and
imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign
 It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will
never know most of their fellow members yet in the mind of each lives
the image of their communion
 The nation imagined is limited because even the largest of them,
encompassing perhaps a billion living humans, has finite, if elastic,
boundaries, beyond which lie other nations – no nation imagines itself
to include all of mankind
 Imagined as sovereign because the concept was born at a time when
enlightenment and revolution were destroying legitimacy of the
divinely ordained, hierarchical dynastic realm – the gauge and emblem
of this freedom is the sovereign state
 It is an imagined community because regardless of the actual
inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is
always conceived as a deep horizontal comradeship

The Origins of National Consciousness

 Development of print-as-comodity is key to generation of wholly new

ideas of simultaneity
 Revolutionary vernacularizing thrust of capitalism was given further
impetus by three extraneous factors, two of which contributed directs
to the rise of national consciousness
 First was change in the character of Latin itself
 Second impact of the reformation, which at same time owed much of
its success to print-capitalism. Before age of print rome won all gthe
battles against heresey because it had better lines of communication
than its challengers – luther changed this
 Protestantism always on the offensive because it knew how to make
use of the expanding vernacular print-market being created by
capitalism, while the counter reformation defended the citadel of latin
 Coalition between Protestantism and print-captialism, exploiting cheap
popular editions quickly created large new reading publics – including
merchants and women who knew no latin – and simultaneously
mobilized them for politico-religious purposes
 Third was slow, geographically uneven, spread of particular
vernaculars as instruments of administrative centralization by certain
well-positioned absolutist monarchs
 In effect the political fragmentation of western Europe after the
collapse of the western empire meant that no sovereign could
monopolise latin and make it his-and-his-only language-of-state and
thus latin’s religious authority never had a true political analogue
 The birth of administrative vernaculars predated both print and
religious upheaval of 16th C and must be regarded as independent
factor in the erosion of the sacred imagined community
 What made the new communities imaginable was a half fortuitous, but
half explosive interaction between a system of productive relations
(capitalism) a technology of communications (print) and the fatality of
human linguistic diversity
 The essential thing is the interplay between fatality, technology and
 These print languages laid the bases fir national consciousness in three
distinct ways
o Finst they created unified fields of exchange and communication
below latin and above the spoken vernaculars. They gradually
became aware of the hundreds and thousands of people in their
particular language field – these fellow readers formed the
embryo of the nationally imagined community
o Second print capitalism gave a new fixity to language – helped to
build that image f antiquity so central to the subjective idea of a
nation – the printed book kept a permanent form, capable of
virtually infinite reproduction – no longer subject to
individualizing and unconsciously modernizing habits of monastic
o Third print capitalism created languages of power of a king
different to the older administrative vernaculars. Certain dialects
were closer to each print language and dominated their final
 Cannot summarise the conclusions to be drawn from the argument this
far by saying the convergence of capitalism and print technology on
the fater diversity of human language created the possibility of a new
form of imagined community, which in its basic morphology set the
stage fir the modern nation
 the concrete formation of contemporary nation-states is by no means
isomorphic with the determinate reach of particular print languages

Gellner – Nations and Nationalism

5/27/2018 7:18:00 AM
5/27/2018 7:18:00 AM