2 Answers

  1. First of all, it should be noted that the term “nationalism” is often used in meanings that are by no means always correct. Thus, in Russian-language literature (usually journalistic), the view of nationalism is widespread as a negative phenomenon associated with the idea of the superiority of some nations over others. Such an understanding is not correct and refers more to chauvinism and xenophobia than to nationalism. In Western literature, however, this term is often interpreted as “the philosophy or ideology of a nation, the expression of its spirit”, is not usually associated with any moral and ethical categories and is used in a neutral sense.

    Within the framework of nationalism itself, two concepts of understanding the nation are most common today. According to the first of them, a nation is primarily a cultural community (here the importance of ethnic, linguistic, and territorial characteristics is emphasized). According to the second one, a nation is a political community (here the emphasis is placed on the role of civil and public relations). The first approach has its roots in the work of eighteenth-century German thinkers, especially Johann Gottfried Herder and Johann Gottlieb Fichte. On this aspect of the topic, I especially advise you to read “Speeches to the German Nation ” by Fichte. The understanding of the nation as a political community, according to many researchers, goes back to the philosophy of J.-J. Russo. The French thinker did not write special works devoted to nationalism, but his ideas of a common will, the sovereignty of the people, etc. influenced the key figures of the Great French Revolution and served as the basis for the formation of the French nation, which united all representatives of the French state. Therefore, the treatise “On the Social contract, or principles of political law” will also be useful for understanding the phenomenon of nationalism.

    In general, studies of nationalism today balance between these two approaches, often combining them.

    According to the modern theorist E. Gellner, nationalism is “a political principle, the essence of which is that political and national units must coincide.” For example, if there is a German nation (a national unit), then there must also be a German state (a political unit). Nations themselves, according to Gellner, are formed in Modern times, along with the modernization and industrialization of societies. National identity begins to play the role of a kind of “bonds” that can unite the whole country (previously, the functions of such integrating mechanisms were performed, for example, by religion, traditions, customs, etc.)Nations and nationalism“. Gellner's book and B. Anderson's monograph already mentioned in another answer “Imaginary communities. Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism – is a classic of modern texts on nationalism, a kind of cultural minimum:)

    The Russian historian A. I. Miller objects to Gellner's interpretation of nationalism as the principle of national and political coincidence. In his monograph “The Romanov Empire and Nationalism: an essay on the methodology of historical research ” expresses a different approach: thus, Russian nationalism was in no way ready to lock itself in the limited space of only the Russian ethnic group. On the contrary, it was nationalist ideas that inspired expansion and the desire to subordinate more and more territories to their influence. Russian nationalism, then, is an imperial nationalism. Detailed arguments and many different facts can be found in this book.

    A comparative analysis of the formation of national ideas on the example of England, France, Russia, Germany and the USA is given in the work of L. Greenfeld “Nationalism. Five Paths to Modernity“.

    A neo-Marxist approach to the topic is presented in the book Race, Nation, Class by E. Balibar and I. Wallerstein. Ambiguous identities” and E. Hobsbawm “Nations and Nationalism after 1780“.

    I would also highlight the work of E. Smith “Ethnic Roots of Nations“, which provides arguments in favor of the relationship of modern nations with earlier forms of national identity-ethnic groups. To get a full impression of the most diverse theories of nationalism, it does not hurt to read another work by E. Smith – “Nationalism and Modernism: A review of Modern theories of Nation and Nationalism.” It provides a detailed overview of various concepts of nationalism and recommends a wealth of literature for further reading.

  2. I think that now a lot of interesting things will be advised. I recommend Benedict Anderson's classic study, Imaginary Communities. A. L. Zorin's monograph ” Feeding the double-headed Eagle…” through the study of ideology in the Russian Empire, one comes to the problem of nation-building. The book is extremely interesting.

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