Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

Nation, Nationalism in Controversial Debates and Thought: A Review of Origin of Nation and Nationalism

Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

Nation, Nationalism in Controversial Debates and Thought: A Review of Origin of Nation and Nationalism

Article excerpt


In sociological and anthropological view there is a challenge between the paradigms about nature, power and origin of nations and nationalism. The aim of this article is to discuss and describe the source of nations and nationalism. Here there are three main categories of explanation: the Primordialist or the perennialists, the modernist, and the ethno-symbolic. Primordialist and perennialists' emphasis is on nation and nationalism as a natural and biological phenomenon. Modernists think to nation and nationalism as new events. They determine nations as a 'constructed' or 'invented' phenomenon, but ethno symbolism criticizes modernism view of origin of nation and nationalism. Ethnosymbolism seeks to provide some conceptual tools as an alternative approach and research programme for the study of nations and nationalism.

Key words: Nation; Nationalism; Primordialist; Perennialists; Modernist; Ethno-symbolism; Common History; Myth; Symbols


These days the world is divided by nation- states. In other words it is known as "inherently fragmentated space". Every nation-state identifies itself against others by territorial and geographical aspect of life. Every person and every society belongs to a nation. The world is divided into the nations naturally, because nation is the only legitimate source of political power. Every society and nations carry some meanings and share several symbols because they need to have independency against others who live and belong to other societies and territories or nations (Triandayllidou, 2010). Ernest Gellner (1983) wrote "nations existing today had to fight to secure their survival and to achieve their independence. For most national communities, there have been and there probably still are significant others, other nations and/or state". The aim of every nation is distinguishing themselves against other nations. The sense of autonomy and unity is a necessary condition for every nation (Triandayllidou, 2010). Cultures are shaped in this space. It is vital for every human who live in a particular nation and territory for having a unit definition of self, society and nation.

Identity and culture are shaped in this realm in which "group of people use the system of shared meanings to interpret and make sense of the world, has traditionally been tied to the idea of a fixed territory" (Inda & Rosaldo, 2002, ρ 10). So territoriality is an organizing principle for social and cultural life (Waters, 1995, p.5).


The concept of nationalism has been controversial during twenty century. At first it is necessary to define nation. There is a problem in defining nation because there is no mutual agreement between researchers about the relationship between nation and nationalism, nation and ethnicity and nation and state (Hutchinson & Smith, 2007, ρ 24).

Three classical definitions in the field of nation belong to Ernest Renan (1823-92), Joseph Stalin (1878-1953) and Max Weber (1864-1920). Ernest Renan, (1823-1892) French historian, theologian and linguist, believed that for recognizing a nation we should investigate it as a spirit or spiritual basis. In his famous article "what is the nation", he mentioned that race, language, religion, common interests and geography can't define the base of nation. He argued nation as a kind of correlation which emanates in a daily plebiscite (Hutchinson & Smith, 2007, p.39-42).

Joseph Stalin (1878-1953) was the Premier of the Soviet Union, characterized some features for a nation. He didn't agree with those who define nation on one hand as pure races and tribes and on the other hand as emperor governments. He strongly believed a nation doesn't exist unless having combination of some elements such as economic life, language and territory (Hutchinson & Smith, 2007, p.43-46).

Max Weber (1864-1920) German sociologist and political economist, investigated nation as prestige community fruition with a kind of cultural commission. …

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