When Nationalism Began to Hate: Imagining Modern Politics in Nineteenth Century Poland

When Nationalism Began to Hate: Imagining Modern Politics in Nineteenth Century Poland

When Nationalism Began to Hate: Imagining Modern Politics in Nineteenth Century Poland

When Nationalism Began to Hate: Imagining Modern Politics in Nineteenth Century Poland

Synopsis

With this book, Porter offers readers a new explanation for the emergence of xenophobic, authoritarian nationalism in Europe. Focusing on 19th-century Poland, he traces the transformation of revolutionary patriotism into a violent anti-Semitic ideology. Instead of deterministically attributing this charge to the "forces of modernization", Porter argues that the language of hatred and discipline was central to the way "modernity" itself was perceived--or perhaps "imagined"--by fin-de-si¿cle intellectuals.

Excerpt

During the late nineteenth century (so the story goes) Poland entered the modern world. As this happened, an appropriately modern form of nationalism emerged, one that allowed all Poles to identify with "their" nation. The old forms of elite political culture became irrelevant as various mass movements burst onto the public stage and the vectors of power shifted toward "the people." Now workers and peasants would be players in the political game and the domination of the nobility and the intelligentsia would come to an end. According to the historian Anna żarnowska, this process reached its climax during the 1905 Revolution: "The most essential element introduced by the Revolution to the political culture of society in the Polish Kingdom was the democratization of political life, a dramatic expansion of the circle of people not only hungry for political knowledge but also actively involved in political life. [The Revolution also brought about] the active inclusion of the 'common man,' not only in collective political protest but also in the creation of institutions and political organizations." Even the definition of the nation would have to change in this new world, and Poland would be reimagined as a broadly based cultural community encompassing all those who spoke Polish. The old, restrictive conception of the nation (with membership limited to the nobility and the intelligentsia) had been challenged throughout the nineteenth century; now it would be consigned irrevocably to the archives. The new, more "democratic" Polish nation was firmly established. As Andrzej Walicki put it, "the 'nation of the people' . . . was the beginning of something radically new -- of the modern Polish nation, as a body embracing all strata of the Polish-speaking population."

For the student of nationalism, this story will be familiar. The adjective "modern" is attached to "nationalism" with such regularity that we have come to take this linkage for granted, to assume that the nation is primarily a means of establishing collective identity in the era of mass politics and that modernity necessarily works . . .

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