Different Scholars' Attitude to the Problem of Nationalism

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In the readings of this week about nationalism, I interpreted that nationalism is seen as a social problem, which eliminates human reasoning and leads to actions that are counter-productive, as can be seen in case of war where generate losses in all aspects of a country citing Schrock. But then instead of defining nationalism as a problem of modernity, Greenfeld argues that we must define modernity precisely because of the rise of nationalism, which was born in England around 1600 and would occupy the place that the great religions had occupied in the previous period.

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That said, one could divide the articles according how the authors treat this problem, either from parameters that might call primordial parameters, or from modernist parameters. The first parameter looks for the origins of nationalism, its causes, beyond modernity, cultural traditions, symbolic, and ethnic; even nationalism in this case is the crystallization of all those traditions.

So what's interesting to me is to understand from when the idea of nationalism was born, therefore nationalism. Traditionally, nationalism is the individual will or culture we turn to support the nationalist ideal. Gellner analyzes these positions, and while not discarded the will (obviously will play an essential role in accessions of individuals, and the cultural element), the nuances, and adds a third element, essential: the state, but why not simply the will to define nationalism. The will, we could say, is a necessary element to define nationalism, but not enough.

One of the aspects that have determined the positions of the theorists of nationalism has been, as we pointed out in the first section, which refers to the discussion on the origin of nationalism, the discussion between the primordial and the modernists. To illustrate this debate, we can go to Anthony Smith, who would hold some discussions with Gellner on this subject. Nations, the primordial would say, are much older than Gellner's primordial approach supposes. Smith and Hroch offer subtle approaches that merge something of modernism with primordial elements. Nation-states that have developed successfully must have an ethnic core, says Smith.

In the fifteenth chapter of his work Nationalism, entitled "Do nations have a navel?” Gellner evidently subscribes to this last position. It does not deny that some nations have an ethnic navel, but it is only in modernity that the elements that make the identification between political claims and identity cultural elements possible, are given in the way they occur in nationalism. But Gellner's thesis, therefore, is that nationalism derives from the action of a cultural and social group placed at a disadvantage by a newly unified cultural space, its origins being causal in certain political and economic conditions. And the functionalist analysis is not necessarily teleological. It can be avoided illegitimate transformation of needs causes explaining the mechanisms that link the functional requirement of the industrial era with the emergence and consolidation of a nationalist language in a free context and linked to literacy. These mechanisms are related to the fact that people who cannot dominate or reject this nationalist language feel frustrated, as second-class citizen.

With these brief references to some of the criticisms about the work of Gellner have been poured, I end this short outline introduction to his thought. I thought that in my opinion, is one of the most accomplished attempts to establish a typology of nationalism. Because from my point of view nationalism has much correlation with the past, and agree with Gellner as today the history of industralization continue to set the nationalism of many states since the division of colonies and industrialization made us create different cultures and borders between countries. and is a must for us to defend our territory and our origins and what we have created.


  1. Smith, A. D. (1983). Theories of nationalism: Anthony D. Smith. New York, NY: Holmes & Meier.

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