Nationalism and modernism: a critical survey of recent by Prof Anthony D Smith, Anthony Smith

By Prof Anthony D Smith, Anthony Smith

This publication represents a much-needed analytical survey of present theories of nationalism by means of one of many best experts within the box. It contextualizes the recent insights into nationalism and its courting with states and state-building on one hand, and ethnicity and ethnic revival at the different. Anthony Smith assesses the contributions of key figures within the box. Given the level of nationalist and ethnic phenomena and the variety of ways that have been recommend, Smith's available account will end up an imperative consultant.

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Sample text

It is difficult indeed to see how and why anyone should have wanted to turn the pre-modern Finnish or Czech, Kurdish or Ewe ‘low’ cultures into modern, literate ‘high’ cultures, rather than adopting the nearest high culture of the dominant ethnic population in the state. Of course, this is just what happened with increasing frequency at the level of the individual. 8 There is a further problem. Gellner frequently underlines the invented, even artificial, nature of so much of the high culture of modernity, manufactured by intelligentsias and purveyed to thousands of schoolchildren through standardised textbooks and courses.

For Gellner, it is a political principle, ‘which holds that the political and national unit should be congruent’. It is a theory of political legitimacy, which requires that ethnic boundaries should not cut across political ones, and in particular, that ethnic boundaries within a given state…should not separate the power-holders from the rest. : 1) National sentiment is the feeling of anger or of satisfaction aroused by the violation or fulfilment of this principle, while nationalist movements are ones actuated by this sentiment.

One should add that nationalists themselves, perhaps not unexpectedly, have wanted to have things both ways: seeing the nation as organic and rooted in history and territory, but at the same time as created and engineered by nationalist elites. This is not just opportunism. Nationalism is itself an activist, autoemancipatory programme for the oppressed; at the same time the nation which they seek to ‘reawaken’ is often seen as part of nature and subject to the laws of evolution like any other organism.

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