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Nationalism. Where do nations come from? Are they natural or artificial formations?

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Where do nations come from? Are they natural or artificial formations? Nationalism is a very complex and vast ranging phenomenon, a significant number of theories have been proposed to explain its historical emergence and continued existence. Despite the number and wide range of available theories it would be very inaccurate to use any of the theories in isolation to explain and define the concept of nationalism, as it is such a broad and complex concept. This essay will focus on explaining the emergence of nations as well as examining the two different approaches to nationalism in relation to current issues. The two main theories that dominate the study of nationalism are the primordialist (pre-modernist) approach and the instrumentalist (modernist) approach (Uzelac, 2005:196). The primordialist approach believe that nations are natural, organic, inborn phenomena that occur spontaneously and stress that nationalism is historically ingrained and plays a critical role in man kinds organisational and social structure. (Smith,1998:87). It is natural for people to want to belong and be part of a community and according to primordialist ideology, it was this sense of belonging that prompted ...read more.


There are many arguments against the modernist approach including the fact that the power of nationalism can be attributed to the people's psychological insecurity about their identity as the world became modernised. Throughout history the fragmentation and differentiation of society has interfered with human interactions and undermined basic traditional and cultural values, which forced many people to adopt nationalist ideas as a way to regain and re-assert lost cultural and traditional values (Smith, 1986:77). Tradition therefore plays a crucial role in driving nationalism as traditional values represent major events in the history of a particular community and provide a sense of togetherness and security. One historian who is explicit in his disagreement with modernism is Adrian Hastings who, in reaction to the words of Hobsbawm (1992:5) that "The nation is a very recent newcomer in human history" describes this view as "absolutely misleading" and if we assume the rightful place of the nation to be exclusively in the modern period, we will "undermine an understanding not only of nations and nationalism but also of a millennium of European history". ...read more.


EJ Hobsbawn was an advocate for the modernist approach and he believed that the populist cultural renaissance provided the foundation for subsequent nationalist movements. Hobsbawm insists that nationalism can only be considered nationalism when it acquires "at least some of the mass support that nationalists always claim they represent" and therefore his work is, for the most part, concerned with the nineteenth century as he describes the late eighteenth century as being "swept by the romantic passion for the pure, simple and uncorrupted peasantry". (Hobsbawm, 1992:206) Nationalism is a very complex and intertwined phenomenon and is very much open to interpretation depending on certain individuals. With this in mind, it is very difficult to specify the factors which allowed for the rise of nationalism as nationalism is not a concept that can easily be defined, I would be inclined, however, to conclude that nationalism, as a political movement, did not exist before the late eighteenth century. This conclusion is based primarily on the fact that there is not sufficient evidence to cater for nationalism before the late eighteenth century being an active political movement. ...read more.

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