The Sociology of Nationalism: Tomorrow's Ancestors

By David McCrone | Go to book overview

1

THE FALL AND RISE OF NATIONALISM

Few social and political phenomena have attracted more attention in recent years than has nationalism, and yet few have been so much neglected. By the middle of the twentieth century much of social and political science had confined it to the dustbin of history. Nationalism was ‘over’. It had ushered in the modern state in the nineteenth century, and had reached its deformed apotheosis in fascism in the twentieth. Its final purpose seemed to be to break up empires thereafter, as post-colonial regimes used it as a vehicle for state-building. For the rest, this observation by Dudley Seers on the conventional wisdom seemed to ring true:

Nationalism was not merely of little and declining practical consequence: it was obviously evil. It had lain at the root of war. German chauvinism, in particular, had contributed to two terrible wars. Moreover, nationalist sentiment was still a menace in the second half of the twentieth century, getting in the way of the creation of a just, peaceful and prosperous world society, which modern technology had put within our reach—if only population growth could be controlled. Particularly silly and dangerous were the narrower nationalists who rebelled, often violently, against the state to which they belonged—the Basques, Welsh, Kurds, Matabele, Amerindians, French Canadians, to name a few out of scores of possible examples. They might have economic grievances, but these could be put right by some redistribution of income.

(Seers, 1983:10)

Writing this in the early 1980s, Seers was pointing to the failure of social scientists to see what was developing beneath their noses. His gentle sarcasm was aimed at their failure to take nationalism seriously. As the millennium approaches, this is no longer possible. In the West, regions and nations which seemed settled within their existing states for so long began to seek greater autonomy in the final quarter of the century just as new supra-national organisations such as the European Community/Union and the North American Free Trade Association were eroding the sovereignty of these states. In the Third World, liberation nationalism was judged to have done its work of breaking up empires, but was proving

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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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