Understanding Scotland: The Sociology of a Nation

Understanding Scotland: The Sociology of a Nation

Understanding Scotland: The Sociology of a Nation

Understanding Scotland: The Sociology of a Nation

Synopsis

Understanding Scotland has been recognised since publication as the key text on the sociology of Scotland. This wholly revised edition provides the first sustained study of post-devolution Scottish society. It contains new material on: * the establishment of the Scottish parliament in 1999 * social and political data from the 1997 general elections * the new cultural iconography of Scotland * Scotland as a European society. For anyone wishing to understand Scottish society in particular or the general issues involved in nation building, McCrone's clear-headed coherently argued account of the main issues will be essential reading.

Excerpt

Scotland in the twenty-first century: how are we to understand it sociologically? Should we even try? It might seem that we would be better focusing on the broad social, economic and cultural processes which shape the modern world as a whole, and that there is little to be said that is different about a small, north-west European nation to make the effort worthwhile. Do we not, after all, live in a ‘global’ world in which individual societies, especially small ones which are part of bigger states, seem to be unimportant players? That would be to misunderstand the modern world. Globalisation does not create bland, uniform homogeneity. How territories react to these broad social forces is very different, and the local and the global are but two sides of the same coin. Further, we are frequently more likely to spot social change in small societies before we do so in bigger ones, just as we notice the turn of the tide by observing small boats rather than large ships.

It is almost ten years since the first edition of this book was published. What has changed? First of all, and significantly, the title has altered. It is no longer the sociology of a ‘stateless nation’. Recovering its parliament, albeit a devolved one, after almost 300 years of union means that Scotland is no longer stateless. To be sure, it never was, for it had retained and developed considerable institutional autonomy within the British Union such that it was always semi-detached in what was constitutionally a unitary state. Scotland was—and remains—of course, stateless in the sense that it is not formally independent, but one of the features of the past decade has been that few would lay odds against that possibility in the next. Whether or not the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will survive even in its present devolved form remains to be seen. The people of these islands, the English not least, but at last, have entered a debate about who they are and how they wish to be governed. This is an argument as much about the new Europe as anything which is happening within the British archipelago. The UK has long had a constitutional contradiction at its heart: it is manifestly a multinational state, but its system of governance has been unitary, and nowhere has been more anomalous than Scotland, with its considerable apparatus of self-government.

What has this to do with sociology, as opposed to politics? This is to make a false dichotomy, for political change in Scotland has largely been driven by

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