Ernest Gellner's Nations And Nationalism

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(quoted from - Gellner, Ernest. Nations and Nationalism. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983, pp. 6-7.) Again as Gellner stated that though both the above definitions (the former cultural and the latter volunttaristic) have some merit, neither of them is adequate. Thus according to him the best possible way to approach the problem is to probably look at what culture does. In his books on Nations and Nationalism, Hobsbawm said that neither objective nor subjective definitions are satisfactory, and both are misleading. So he says that for practical purposes the working definition of a nation may be any sufficiently large body of people whose members regard themselves as members of a 'nation'. However, whether such a body of people does…show more content…
This implication distinguishes modern nationalism from other and less demanding forms of national or group identification which is also encountered. Secondly he does not regard the 'nation' as a primary nor as an unchanging social entity, but belonging exclusively to a particular, and historically recent, period. It is a social entity only insofar as it relates to a certain kind of modern territorial state, the 'nation-state', and it is pointless to discuss nation and nationality except insofar as both relate to it. Moreover, in agreement to Gellner he stresses the element of artifact, invention and social engineering which enters into the making of nations. He says that 'Nations as a natural, God-given way of classifying men, as an inherent ... political destiny, are a myth; nationalism, which sometimes takes preexisting cultures and turns them into nations, sometimes invents them, and often obliterates preexisting cultures: that is a reality.' In short, he therefore contends that nationalism comes before nations, or that nations do not make states and nationalisms but it is the other way round. Thirdly the 'national…show more content…
If he has a major criticism of Gellner's work it is that his perspective of modernization from above makes it difficult to pay adequate attention to the view from below. That view from below, i.e. the nation as seen not by governments and the spokesmen and activists of nationalist (or non-nationalist) movements, but by the ordinary persons who are the objects of their action and propaganda, is exceedingly difficult to discover. Luckily, he says, social historians have learned how to investigate the history of ideas, opinions and feelings at the sub-literary level, so that in the present era we are less likely to confuse, editorials in select newspapers with public opinion. We do not know much for certain. However, three things are clear. One, official ideologies of states and movements cannot and do not serve as guides to what it is in the minds of even the most loyal citizens or supporters. Two, we cannot assume that for most people national identification (if any) excludes or is superior to the remainder of the set of identifications which constitute the social being. In fact, it is always combined with identifications of another kind, even when it is felt to be superior to them. Three, national identification

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