The Sociology of Nationalism: Tomorrow's Ancestors

By David McCrone | Go to book overview

PREFACE

What kind of book is this? Inevitably it is a book of its time and place. Fifty—even thirty—years ago it would have been hard to imagine such a book being written, indeed adding to a long list of books which have been published on nationalism in the last decade. It joins a burgeoning literature which spreads across the social sciences—sociology, social anthropology, politics, history—and into cultural and literary studies. Nor is it simply part of an intellectual fad. We struggle to keep up with, never mind to explain, the manifestations of nationalism wherever we look. There is no continent, no economic system, no level of development which does not have to come to terms with nationalism. If we had told our predecessors in the middle of this century that studying nationalism was not simply writing history but coping with its many modern manifestations, in all probability they would not have believed us. But then, we inhabit a late twentieth-century world in which many of the old nostrums and doctrines have withered. Socialism has gone; fascism has gone. Nationalism has survived and prospers.

This book is a sociologist’s modest attempt to make sense of these different manifestations. It is not a history book, still less a revelation of a new, bright theory of nationalism. It reviews the literature on nationalism from a disciplinary perspective. It does not seek to claim that only sociologists can make sense of it, but, rather like the cobbler who thought there was nothing quite like leather, the author starts from the viewpoint of his sociological trade. Nationalism is above all a social and political movement. It manifests itself in rich and in poor countries; it has left-wing as well as right-wing variants; it works with, as well as against, movements of class and of gender.

This is a sociological book because it does not reduce nationalism merely to politics. It seeks to look at the social and economic interests which mobilise nationalism, without arguing that it is in any sense epiphenomenal. It is a cultural form of politics which is not simply reducible to material interests. We live in an age of nationalism, but one which spends a lot of its energies denying that nationalism exists. The orthodoxy is that it is a virus left over from an older more vicious age, which, as if mutating itself against all known antidotes, comes back to wreak its havoc on hapless victims. Centres of power employ the common-sense that they are patriotic while their enemies are nationalistic. If we look about us, we know

-vii-

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The Sociology of Nationalism: Tomorrow's Ancestors
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • 1 - The Fall and Rise of Nationalism 1
  • 2 - Tribe, Place and Identity 22
  • 3 - Inventing the Past 44
  • 4 - ‘devils at His Back’ 64
  • 5 - Nation as State 85
  • 6 - Dialectic with the Other 102
  • 7 - In and Out of the State 125
  • 8 - The Unforeseen Revolution 149
  • 9 - Nationalism and Its Futures 169
  • Bibliography 188
  • Index 199
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