Sessions 12, 13 & 15: Hobsbawm´s Nations and Nationalism since 1780

► Catalan

Nationalism in Comparative Perspective

Barcelona ► FALL 2007 PROGRAM

► ►

Instructor: Andrew Davis e-mail:


is Nationalism?


That depends on who you ask

Nationalists (also called primordialists) argue that nations are timeless phenomena. When man climbed out of the primordial slime, he immediately set about creating nations. Perennialists who argue that nations have been around for a very long time, though they take different shapes at different points in history. Those who follow the ‘modernization school’ see nations as entirely modern and constructed.

Anthony Smith Nationalism and the Reconstruction of Nations

“For nationalists themselves, the role of the past is clear and unproblematic. The nation was always there, indeed it is part of the natural order, even when it was submerged in the hearts of its members. The task of the nationalist is simply to remind his or her compatriots of their glorious past, so that they can recreate and relive those glories.” “For perennialists, too, the nation is immemorial. National forms may change and particular nations may dissolve, but the identity of a nation is unchanging. Yet the nation is not part of any natural order, so one can choose one's nation, and later generations can build something new on their ancient ethnic foundations. The task of nationalism is to rediscover and appropriate a submerged past 4in order the better to build on it.”

Anthony Smith continued…
► “For

the modernist, in contrast, the past is largely irrelevant. The nation is a modern phenomenon, the product of nationalist ideologies, which themselves are the expression of modern, industrial society. The nationalist is free to use ethnic heritages, but nation-building can proceed without the aid of an ethnic past. Hence, nations are phenomena of a particular stage of history, and embedded in purely modern conditions.”


The crux of the debate
► The

modernization debate is particularly important – as it centers on how nations and nationalism developed. ► If nations are naturally occurring, then there is little reason to explain the birth of nations. On the other hand, if one sees nations as constructed, then it is important to be able to explain why and how nations developed.

Benedict Anderson Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism
“It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellowmembers, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion.” “The nation is imagined as limited because even the largest of them encompassing perhaps a billion living human beings, has finite, if elastic boundaries, beyond which lie other nations. No nation imagines itself coterminous with mankind. The most messianic nationalists do not dream of a day when all the members of the human race will join their nation in the way that it was possible, in certain 7 epochs, for, say, Christians to dream of a wholly

Michael Hechter. Containing Nationalism
► “State-building

nationalism is the nationalism that is embodied in the attempt to assimilate or incorporate culturally distinctive territories in a given state. It is the result of the conscious efforts of central rulers to make a multicultural population culturally homogeneous. Thus, beginning in the sixteenth century and continuing into the twentieth, the rulers of England and France attempted fitfully perhaps, and with more or less success - to foster homogeneity in their realms by inducing culturally distinctive populations in each country's Celtic regions to assimilate to their own culture….


Michael Hechter
…Since the rationale for state-building nationalism is often geopolitical - to secure borders from real or potential rivals - this kind of nationalism tends to be culturally inclusive. However, much less liberal means of skinning a culturally homogeneous cat have been resorted to in history, as well. Central rulers of a given culture also can unify their country by expelling culturally alien populations (as in the Spanish Reconquista), or by exterminating them (often the fate of the indigenous peoples of North America).


Hechter’s Typologies

“Peripheral nationalism occurs when a culturally distinctive territory resists incorporation into an expanding state, or attempts to secede and set up its own government (as in Quebec, Scotland and Catalonia).” “Irredentist nationalism occurs with the attempt to extend the existing boundaries of a state by incorporating territories of an adjacent state occupied principally by co-nationals (as in the case of the Sudeten Germans).” “Finally, unification nationalism involves the merger of a politically divided but culturally homogeneous territory into one state, as famously occurred in nineteenth-century Germany and Italy. 10

► Post-feudal

form of political organization ► Stable boundaries ► Characterized by administrative and legal order ► Claims binding authority on its citizens and territory ► (monopoly of legitimate use of force) ► Compulsory organization


► ► ► ► ► ► ►

Sentiment of solidarity Belongs to the realm of values No agreement on what these values are Religion, ethnicity, language, history, common future goals Memories of a common political destiny (capitalism?) Modern process. 19th century. Linked with democratization processes. A new basis of legitimacy to the political organization State.

Relationship between State and Nation
► Nation-state:

state boundaries and national identity correspond ► The state claims a nation: US and France ► Most likely when both S-B and N-B take place at the same time

Peripheral nationalism
► Against

the state, sometimes claim for statehood ► Is secessionism the solution? ► The problem with secessionism is that if the legitimacy of a state depends on identity, there is no limit to statehood claims

Towards state-nations

► One

state, multiple national identities – what does that mean in practice?


Eric Hobsbawm
► Eric

Hobsbawm falls into the "historicist" or "modernist" school of nationalism along with Ernest Gellner and Benedict Anderson. They posit 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.


Hobsbawm cont…
► Hobsbawm

defines nationalism as "primarily a principle which holds that the political and national unit should be congruent" ► Nations are a modern construction and that they are not unchanging social entities. ► The development of nations as "situated at the point of intersection of politics, technology and social transformation" and he argues that they must be seen as such. In other words…

Hobsbawm also argues that…
► Nationalism

is NEW. Results form a particular and historically recent period. It is not primordial or unchanging social reality. ► Nations do not make states, but the other way round ► Built from above, reproduced from below in terms of assumptions, hopes, needs, longings, and interests of ordinary politics. ► It has undergone several


Eric Hobsbawm cont…
► The

modern nation was created by the unification of various people into a common society or community, which takes the 19th century nation-state form, forged out of disciplinary institutions such as the school, the army or the factory.


Eric Hobsbawm cont…

claims that nations have traditionally been understood as top-down constructions and argues that they must also be looked at from the bottom up. Building on this idea, he argues 3 main points.


Hobsbawm’s 3 main points
► 1)

Ideologies of states are not guides to how the people feel – we cannot take the literary statements of the elite to represent the past feelings of ordinary citizens. ► The spread of nationalism must be analyzed from below and not just as it is imposed from a above. The sense of belonging fostered by the state rarely sets down roots without a popular proto-nationalist soil.

Hobsbawm’s 3 main points cont…
► 2)

we cannot assume that most people place national identity above other identities which constitute the social being; Nationalist feeling always interpenetrates with the remainder of the set of identifications which constitute the social being. ► 3) that national identification changes over time.
► In

short – we need to understand the bottom-up realities as much as the top-down constructions.

Hobsbawm 1780 - 1830




1st stage: French (and American) Revolution

Nation was mainly a political concept – the body of citizens whose collective sovereignty constituted them a state which was their political expression. French Declaration of Rights 1795: ‘Each people is independent and sovereign, whatever the number of individuals who compose it and the extent of the territory it occupies. This sovereignty is inalienable’. It was not yet ethnic or language oriented, represented common interest against particular interests, common good against privilege. Difference between Americans from England was neither language nor ethnicity.


1 Stage cont…
► In

France, Eric Hobsbawm argues, the French state preceded the formation of the French people. Hobsbawm considers that the state made the French nation, and not French nationalism, which emerged at the end of the 19th century, the time of the Dreyfus Affair. ► At the time of the 1789 French Revolution, only half of the French people spoke some French, and between 12% to 13% spoke it "fairly", according to Hobsbawm. 2.5% of Italians spoke ‘Italian’ at unification.


1st stage cont…
► This

first form of nationalism he terms revolutionary-democratic ► revolutionary-democratic is inclusive and institutional ► Only later does (ethnic) nationalist discourse develop - exclusive and cultural.

1st stage cont…

19th century Europe (and 20th century third world) the revolutionary-democratic one was a ‘liberating’ and ‘unifying’ because it aimed to extend the scale of human units rather than restrict and separate on the lines of current European ethnic nationalism.

did nationalism appear? Economics and Social Darwinism



► Linked

to the emergence of free trade liberalism. Emergence of the so-called ‘national economies’. ► “The division of humanity into autonomous nations is essentially economic”. The state guarantees contracts and property rights, provides fiscal policies of a vast territory, protectionism against foreign competition. ► Debates about the most efficient SIZE of the state. Formal criteria for state building and maintaining. Social Darwinism. ‘Balkanization’ still derogatory.


Social Darwinism
► Nationalism

is the result of a process of expansion (and therefore it is a heterogeneous political unit). Perfectly ‘natural’ for some nationalities and languages to disappear. ► JS Mill argued ‘Nobody can supposed that it is not more beneficial for a Breton or a Basque of French Navarre to be…a member of the French nationality, admitted on equal terms to all the privileges of French citizenship….The same remark applies to the Welshman or the Scottish highlander as members of the British nation’


What is the effect of creating nations?
► Nation

as PROGRESS ► Democratizing politics (as opposed to no democracy and absolute monarchy), turning subjects into citizens tends to produce a populist consciousness. ► It is the democratization of politics what makes it essential for states to “make Italians” or to turn “peasants into Frenchmen”, and attach all to nation and flag.

2nd stage: 1830s – 1880
► 1st

time expressed in terms of community, tradition, and primordialism. Greenfield calls it ‘particularistic’. ► the nationalists’ meaning of nation emerges and coexists with the revolutionary, the ‘original’ nationalism. ► the stress is now on pre-existing traits rather than new aspirations. ► Examples are Germany, Italy, Belgium.


Why the change?
► Emergence

of new states that needed a new source of legitimacy. ► Germany and Italy emerge as new powers, partition of a third of the Austro-Hungarian Empire 1867, creation of new political entities as states (from Belgium to Ottoman successor states).

Why the change? Cont…
► During

Italian unification, the number of people speaking the Italian language almost non-existent. ► The French state promoted the unification of various dialects and languages into the French language. The introduction of conscription, and the Third Republic's 1880s laws on public instruction, facilitated the creation of a national identity.

How is it done?
► Proto-nationalism:

existing bonds and feelings of collective belonging which could fulfill the purposes of the new states and nationalist movements and mobilize in their favor. ► Where it exists it makes the task of nationalism easier. ► What kind of traits feed protonationalism?

Criteria for nationhood
► 1)

Historic association with a current state or one with a fairly lengthy and recent past (England, France, Russia) ► 2) Long established cultural elite, written national literary and administrative vernacular (Italian and German) ► 3) Proven capacity for conquest (empire)


4) What was the role of language?
► Did

it constitute a barrier or criteria to separate entities that could be regarded as potential nationalities or nations? Can be used as a form of proto-nationalism? ► How were national languages created? Dialects. ► The choice of the language is political and has political consequences. Spain?

5) Ethnicity?
► Is

the base of an ethnic group social or biological? ► Are the new nation-states homogeneous ethnically? ► What is the function of ethnic (as well as language) claims? ► To what extent can ethnicity be used as a form of proto-nationalism? Used to divide social strata.

Definition of ethnicity
► An

ethnic group or ethnicity is a population of humans whose members identify with each other, usually on the basis of a presumed common genealogy or ancestry. Recognition by others as a separate ethnic group, and a specific name for the group, also contribute to defining it.

Definition of ethnicity
► Ethnic

groups are also usually united by certain common cultural, behavioral, linguistic and ritualistic or religious traits. In this sense, an ethnic group is also a cultural community.


6) Religion?
► Poland

and Ireland cases how religious ties can be used to mobilize national consciousness ► Role of religious symbols and rituals? Huge proto-nationalist component. Extent of its potential as protonationalisms?


Review: 1st and 2nd stage
► Nation

as the “body of citizens whose rights as such gave them a stake in the country and thereby made the state to some extent ‘their own’”. ► turning subjects into citizens tends to produce a populist consciousness. ► It is the democratization of politics what makes it essential for states to “make Italians” or to turn “peasants into Frenchmen”, and attach all to nation and flag.

Review: 1st and 2nd stage
► Nationalism

as a function of modernization. E. Gellner and K. Deutsch. ► Ideological engineering takes place from above by retrieving pre-existing proto-national traits that could raise the desired cohesive sentiments. ► Nation and nationalism is created to serve the state

3rd stage: 1870-1918
► Differs

from 1st and 2nd stages of nationalism in three linked traits ► 1) abandonment of SIZE as criteria ”Every nation has the right of self-determination”. ► 2) ethnicity and language become central criteria of nation.
 non-state national movements emerge (peripheral movements within states as well) – Catalans, Basques, Quebecois, Flemish, antiSemitism movements.

► 3)

From nationalism as liberalism and progressive forces, to chauvinist, xenophobic conservative movements

Karl Renner on problems of selfdetermination
► in

his essay of 1899, 'State and Nation‘, he talks about the problem of self-determination. ► His central insight, that cultural nations and political orders could not be presumed to overlap in all cases, exposed the conceptual and political fragility of the idea of a nation-state.

Karl Renner cont…
► Renner

accepted multinational territories as a fact of political life, much as we have come to accept cultural pluralism as a fact of life in the modern state. urged the adoption of overlapping jurisdictions as a means of ameliorating the minority problems that arise in any political context.

► Renner

Karl Renner cont…
► The

thought that 'nations' and 'states' should somehow be congruent invited, in his view, endless attempts by minority nations to secede from larger political entities, while majority cultures would be bent on forced nation-building as a condition of their survival.


Karl Renner cont…
► He

supported separating territorial jurisdiction from cultural affiliation at least opened up space for selfgovernment and collective responsibility in certain spheres, without generating endless pretexts for national struggle.


Why is Renner’s distinction important for Hobsbawm?

to establish objective criteria for nationhood have all failed. ►It will always be a subjective definition which involves defining a nation by its members consciousness of belonging to it, and will almost always exclude someone. ►We must embrace multinational

Renner Rejected
► What

explains this rejection of the multinational state, and embracing of xenophobic nationalism?
 the existence of traditional groups threatened by the onrush of modernity – against modernity.  urbanization and emergence of novel and non-traditional classes and social strata.  unprecedented migrations

Renner Rejected
► Instead

of multinational and plural states as an alternative to national self-determination, the main antagonist to nationalism during the late 19th and early 20th century is….. what?


Nationalism vs Socialism
► Working

class rejects nationalism? ► Reaction against state nationalism. The identification of a state with a language and the opportunities and social mobility potential bound to the use of that language underlined the inferiority and status insecurity and resentment of lower middle strata. Socialism offered a way out for proletariat/working class.

Nationalism vs Socialism
► Middle

class embraces nationalism: ► Reaction against socialism by middle classes. Rejected by middle classes as it defended internationalist ideas, class conflict. State nationalism gave them the social identity that proletarians got from their class movement. ► Move to the political right predominantly one of a middle class holding onto its place in society, against an increasingly hostile proletariat. German and Italian fascism gets its strength from middle


But reality is complicated
► In

reality, this division was played out more by elites more than by average people. ► In reality, people can hold multiple identities. Example of the Welsh miners, who both rushed to enlist in the first world war, and later did not hesitate to demonstrate against unfair conditions and wages. ► Therefore, we cannot generalize too much about these distinctions, in reality they are multiple and overlapping. It is elites who have to clear narratives they attempt to sell.


4th stage: 1918-1950
► Apogee

of nationalism ► Contextual factors: ► collapse of Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman multinational empires ► Russian revolution made it desirable to allies of WWI to play the nationalist card against the Bolshevik card. ► As international economy collapses, reemergence of ‘national economy’ and protectionism. Free trade slows to trickle.

Treaty of Versailles results
► Nationalism

of small nations was just as impatient of minorities as what Lenin call ‘great-nation chauvinism’ ► Impracticability of Wilsonian principles – replace Italian minorities in Habsburg empire with Slovene minorities in Italy. ► Mass expulsion and genocide – Armenians and Greeks in Turkey; Hitler repatriating Germans and expelling and exterminating Jews.

4th stage: 1918-1950
► Emergence

of nationalist movements in areas that diverged greatly from Europe: 3rd world nationalism, anti-colonialism. ► There, nationalism and socialism come together: national liberation against oppressors. ► Did not revolve around language, ethnicity or religious identity. It comes from above. What they have in common is oppressive colonization.

5th stage: nationalism in the 20th century
► ►

Eric Hobsbawm argues that the current wave of nationalism will be shortlived. Nationalism, he suggests, is an anachronism best suited to an earlier historical period dominated by industrialisation and print technology. Why is this? Since the 1960s, the role of national economies has been undermined by major transformations in the international division of labor whose basic units are transnational, and multinational. Hence, the ongoing removal of the flow of capital from the control of nation-state renders nationalist ideologies obsolete (Hobsbawm 163-183).

Anthony Smith takes the opposite view
► He

does not think that nations have been transcended in the global era. On the contrary, the current wave of nationalism to be observed in various parts of the world testifies to the enduring nature of the national idea, the way in which it responds to some deep-felt human need. ► What do you think?

Hobsbawm’s conclusions Why Build Nations – Interest and Opportunity
► Interest

and opportunity criteria: claim for independence, autonomy or some form of political recognition and structures of their own. Nationalism as the result of interest and opportunity (Hobsbawm, Gellner).

How do we build nations?
► National

discourse is created (optical illusion) because interest and opportunity ► It works best where proto-national traits exist ► While proto-nationalism is desirable for nationalisms, it is not essential for the formation of national patriotism.

► phase

A was purely cultural, literary and folkloric, and had no particular political or even national implications ► phase B we find a body of pioneers and militants of 'the national idea' and the beginnings of political campaigning for this idea - minorité agissante.

Hobsbawm: Nationalism is invented by elites to legitimise their power

Hobsbawm’s conclusions

‘My own concern in this book is more with phase C when - and not before - nationalist programmes acquire mass support, or at least some of the mass support that nationalists always claim they represent.’ ‘The transition from phase B to phase C is evidently a crucial moment in the chronology of national movements. Sometimes, as in Ireland, it occurs before the creation of a national state; probably very much more often it occurs afterwards, as a consequence of that creation. Sometimes, as in the so- called Third World, it does not happen even then.’