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Recent events in Eastern Europe and the Soviet republics have reinforced the central importance of nationalism in the history of political evolution and upheaval. This second edition has been updated in the light of those events.


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Recent events in Eastern Europe and the Soviet republics have reinforced the central importance of nationalism in the history of political evolution and upheaval. This second edition has been updated in the light of those events.

30 review for Nations and Nationalism since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ted

    3 1/2, I know the guy is a great historian. But I can't handle his writing. Abandoning the book, my fault I'm sure. I started reading it about 7 months ago. Things went well for a while, though of course I was reading ten or more other books so progress was slow. Picked it up yesterday to try to make progress, and just couldn't. Since then I've probably snowplowed through 10-12 pages and fallen asleep about four times. A couple quotes from the back of the book: "Eric Hobsbawm's widely acclaimed and h 3 1/2, I know the guy is a great historian. But I can't handle his writing. Abandoning the book, my fault I'm sure. I started reading it about 7 months ago. Things went well for a while, though of course I was reading ten or more other books so progress was slow. Picked it up yesterday to try to make progress, and just couldn't. Since then I've probably snowplowed through 10-12 pages and fallen asleep about four times. A couple quotes from the back of the book: "Eric Hobsbawm's widely acclaimed and highly readable enquiry into the question of nationalism" "Succinct and masterly" Well ... I judge it to be neither succinct nor readable (highly or otherwise). I have no doubt it is a masterfully researched book, with a very well-supported thesis. But it was ultimately too damn hard for me to decipher, I'm not going to spend more time trying to get through its 192 pages. Each chapter 20-35 pages long, with a dense argument, moving from point to point, no section headings, long paragraphs one after another with even longer sentences ... no wait, that's impossible, but the sentences do seem longer than the paragraphs. … There is no reason to deny proto-national feelings to pre-nineteenth-century Serbs, not because they were Orthodox as against neighboring Catholics and Muslims – this would not have distinguished them from Bulgars – but because the memory of the old kingdom defeated by the Turks was preserved in song and heroic story, and, perhaps more to the point, in the daily liturgy of the Serbian church which had canonized most of its kings … The potential popular appeal of a state tradition for modern nationalism, whose object it is to establish the nation as a territorial state, is obvious. It has led some such movements to reach far back beyond the real memory of their peoples in the search for a suitable (and suitably impressive) national state in the past, as in the case of the Armenians, whose last sufficiently important kingdom is to be found not later than the first century BC, or the Croats, whose nationalists saw themselves (implausibly) as the heirs of the noble ‘Croatian political nation’.These sentences are part (perhaps half) of a single paragraph (75-76). I could probably get something out of this paragraph if I read it carefully enough. But why bother? I don’t really care about what the author is saying. It’s too damn much work for too little enlightenment and way too little enjoyment. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Previous review: The Sound and the Fury Next review: Dune Older review: The Ecotechnic Future Previous library review: Tom Paine a political life Next library review: Public Power in the Age of Empire Roy

  2. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    In this influential investigation of the nationalist phenomenon, E. J. Hobsbawm traces its ideological development from the late eighteenth to the end of the twentieth century, demonstrating its constructed nature as a myth and its repercussions in reality as a means of political manipulation. His analysis of the last two hundred years of European history reveals a dialectical tension between civic and ethnic nationalism that alternately revised the terms of the national myth thus rendering a si In this influential investigation of the nationalist phenomenon, E. J. Hobsbawm traces its ideological development from the late eighteenth to the end of the twentieth century, demonstrating its constructed nature as a myth and its repercussions in reality as a means of political manipulation. His analysis of the last two hundred years of European history reveals a dialectical tension between civic and ethnic nationalism that alternately revised the terms of the national myth thus rendering a singular explanation of ‘the nation’ elusive. Nationalism, in this account, has neither a purely objective nor subjective definition—rather it is tied to its historical specificities and can only be accurately described “a posteriori.” Hobsbawm affirms the idea that nationalism is a modern phenomenon and draws upon the work of fellow constructivist Ernest Gellner by asserting the state as a primary agent of nation building, “’a principal which holds that the political and national unit should be congruent’” (9). The three phases of national consciousness outlined by Miroslav Hroch are also cited as they emphasize its irregular development among social groups. Reinforcing the top-down dissemination of nationalist sentiment, Hroch’s phases begin with the educated intelligentsia, to figures of political authority, with the masses as the last to be affected. It is this final stage of nationalism’s proliferation that Hobsbawm finds most compelling; he seeks to tell the story of an ideology constructed from above through the eyes of those below, “in terms of the assumptions, hopes, needs, longings and interests of ordinary people” (10). However, while Hobsbawm provides a solid foundation for his assertion that nationalism was an ideology constructed and dispersed from on high, he fell short of fulfilling his own theoretical aspiration to show how that idea became a nation in the minds of the common people. The chapter on popular proto-nationalism fails to speak with the voice of the lower classes, employing no archival material from the popular perspective. Instead, he concentrates on a set of unifying criteria including language, religion, and ethnicity which could just as easily apply to a discussion of ‘elite’ nationalism leaving the distinction between the two concepts somewhat ambiguous. Focusing on the European perspective, he begins in the age of the French Revolution when nationalism was defined as a civic commitment made by a sufficiently large group of citizens who need not necessarily share a common language or ethnicity. Throughout the nineteenth century, nationalist sentiments were mobilized from above when interaction between the government apparatus and the people grew more frequent, leading to an expanded bureaucracy that required a standardized language. Similar sentiments began to well up from below, filling the void as traditional collectivities were disintegrating. Here, Hobsbawm refers to Benedict Anderson’s concept of the ‘imagined community’ of the nation as a replacement for “real human communities and networks” (46) that have been lost—but what are these real communities? The associative forces of religion and shared memories of a ‘historical nation’ tied to a monarch were both fading to the background and yet, potentially constitutive of the new unity provided by the nation. By the 1880s, the face of nationalism had transformed with more primordial criteria, ethnicity and language, having become the central tenets to this now conservatively leaning movement. Here, Hobsbawm ties national identity to social status, stating that the middle classes were the most ardent supporters of ethno-linguistic nationalism as their insecure employment and standing depended upon their proficiency in the official state language. From the end of the First World War to the mid-twentieth century, nationalism was at its peak. Worldwide financial collapse had led to protectionism and the threat of fascism brought renewed support to the national project among workers and intellectuals. Nationalism had returned to the left, with colonial liberation movements, often associated with socialist anti-imperialism, implementing Western nationalist discourses in their fight for independence. As the twentieth century drew to a close, Hobsbawm acknowledged the continued prominence of nationalism following the collapse of the Soviet Union but maintained that it was on the decline, destined to fall victim to the rise of supra- and infranationalities. It is as his account moves toward the present day that it begins to show its weaknesses. Written just after the end of the Cold War and before the War on Terror ‘justified’ forced nation building in the Middle East, his argument that nationalism has dwindling historical significance seems difficult to rationalize. These conclusions may also reveal the limitations of an essentially Euro-centric study applied worldwide, failing to account for the continued importance of self-determined nationhood in a post-colonial, post-soviet world. Furthermore, if nationalism persists as a political reality, what shape does it now take? Is it a continuation of the ethnic and civic nationalist dialectic that dominated the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, or has a new kind of nationalism arisen to accommodate changing socio-political circumstances? Despite these discrepancies, this book provides a useful framework for understanding the changing nature of nationalism in the modern era.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mark Hebden

    Published in 1990. The famous Marxist historian takes up the phenomenon of nationalism. He dates the central theme from 1780 since the concept of nationalism itself is a fairly recent adaptation of old tribal allegiances. In the middle ages and early modern period it was possible for serfs to feel an attachment to their laird or a king but the concept of a nation is relatively new. Patrie has been manipulated throughout the ages and frequently by governments we would not call nationalist in thems Published in 1990. The famous Marxist historian takes up the phenomenon of nationalism. He dates the central theme from 1780 since the concept of nationalism itself is a fairly recent adaptation of old tribal allegiances. In the middle ages and early modern period it was possible for serfs to feel an attachment to their laird or a king but the concept of a nation is relatively new. Patrie has been manipulated throughout the ages and frequently by governments we would not call nationalist in themselves, but it has helped ruling classes to stoke ethnic tensions and keep the workers in their place. The first part of this book deals with what constitutes a nation and the various ethno-linguistic currents of nationalist movements and how they closely relate to nothing more than myth. The second part contests that nationalism has been a potent force particularly in the twentieth century but is waning. Here the author gives himself over to hope as much as reason seeing technological advances and state reductions coupled with unstoppable waves of migration as the precursor to the inevitable collapse of the nationalist ideology of historic imagined communities. Imagined insofar as they are a curious mixture political construction and false sovereignty. Common language or religion mixed with an ethnic cohesion or historical experience present only an opportunity to create these social artefacts we call nations. From here is produced the imagined community. It was necessary to make Italy before Italians could be made. Hobsbawm sees nationalism as chauvinism and an opportunity for the reactionary elements in society to seize power. It is this assumption of perversity that runs through the book and gives it its fierce critical element. Nationalism has done little good for the people of the world, and will one day hopefully have its opportunities for damage reduced. Given that the book was written in the aftermath of Soviet collapse there is an element of wishful thinking in the hypothesis. It could be argued that nationalism has grown since 1990, especially in the Balkans where new states had to be created to halt genocide and the general slip of the United States to nationalistic fascism. Hobsbawm does say that the collapse of nationalism will take a long time, and I hope eventually that he is right. For now, although this is a detailed and interesting history of an ideology in which the conclusion is at best a work in progress.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Matijas

    This is one of those books that should be required reading for everybody, not because the history of nationalism is a topic that most find interesting or engaging, but because the lack of knowledge of the subject continues to contribute to some of the bloodiest misunderstandings we have ever known.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mateo R.

    Intertextualidad Menciones directas: * Physics and politics (1887) de Walter Bagehot. * "Nationalism: a trend report and bibliography" (1973) de A. D. Smith. * Theories of nationalism (1983) de A. D. Smith. * The ethnic origins of nations (1986) de A. D. Smith. * Del gobierno representativo (1861) de John Stuart Mill. * "Qu'est ce que c'est une nation?" (1882) de Ernest Renán. * Les marxistes et la question nationale 1848-1914 (1974) de Georges Haupt, Michel Lowy y Claudie Weill. * Die Nationalitatenfrag Intertextualidad Menciones directas: * Physics and politics (1887) de Walter Bagehot. * "Nationalism: a trend report and bibliography" (1973) de A. D. Smith. * Theories of nationalism (1983) de A. D. Smith. * The ethnic origins of nations (1986) de A. D. Smith. * Del gobierno representativo (1861) de John Stuart Mill. * "Qu'est ce que c'est une nation?" (1882) de Ernest Renán. * Les marxistes et la question nationale 1848-1914 (1974) de Georges Haupt, Michel Lowy y Claudie Weill. * Die Nationalitatenfrage und die Sozialdemokratie (1907) de Otto Bauer. * Toward a Marxist theory of nationalism (1978) de Horace B. Davis. * Marxism and the national and colonial question (1936) de Joseph Stalin. * The historical evolution of modern nationalism (1931) de Carleton B. Hayes. * The idea of nationalism (1944) de Hans Kohn. * Nationalism. Problems concerning the word, the concept and classification (1964) de A. Kemiláinen. * History of nationalism in the East (1929) de Hans Kohn. * Nationalism and imperialism in the Hither East (1932) de Hans Kohn. * Nationalism and social communication. An enquiry into the foundations of nationality (1953) de Karl W. Deutsch. * The age of revolution 1789-1848 (1962) de E. J. Hobsbawm. * The age of capital 1848-1875 (1975) de E. J. Hobsbawm. * The age of empire 1875-1914 (1987) de E. J. Hobsbawm. * "The attitude of popular classes towards national movements for independence" de E. J. Hobsbawm en Mouvements nationaux d'indépendance et classes populaires aux xix et xx siécles en Occident et en Orient (1971). * "Some reflections on nationalism" de E. J. Hobsbawm en Imagination and precision in the social sciences: Essays in memory of Peter Nettl (1972). * "Reflections on 'The break-up of Britain'" (1977) de E. J. Hobsbawm. * "What is the worker's country?" de E. J. Hobsbawm en Worlds of labour (1984) de E. J. Hobsbawm. * "Working-class internationalism" de E. J. Hobsbawm en Internationalism in the labour movement (1988) de F. van Holthoon y Marcel van der Linden. * Social preconditions of national revival in Europe (1985) de Miroslav Hroch. * Imagined communities (1983) de Benedict Anderson. * Nations before nationalism (1982) de L. Armstrong. * Nationalism and the state (1982) de John Breuilly. * The hidden frontier: ecology and ethnicity in an Alpine valley (1974) de John W. Colé y Eric R. Wolf. * Language problems of developing countries (1968) de J. Fishman. * Nations and nationalism (1983) de Ernest Gellner. * The invention of tradition (1983) de E. J. Hobsbawm y Terence Ranger. * Nation und Geschichte: Studien (1981) de Jeno Szücs. * The formation of national states in Western Europe (1975) de C. Tilly y otros. * "When was Wales?" de Gwyn A. Williams en The Welsh in their history (1982). * "The case for a federal constitution for Ceylon" (1951) de Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi. * "Ethnic conflict and the Tamil separatist movement in Sri Lanka" (1985) de Robert N. Kearney. * Mención al país ficticio de Ruritania, de las novelas El prisionero de Zenda (1894) y Ruperto de Hentzau (1898) de Anthony Hope. * "La televisione e la lingua italiana" (1982) de Antonio Sorella. * The making and unmaking of British national identity (1989) de Raphael Samuel. * "Whose nation? Class and national consciousness in Britain 1750-1830" de Linda Colley (1986). * Mención a los escritores Karl Kautsky, Rosa Luxemburg y Lenin.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sean Chick

    I generally do not agree with the arguments in the book, but the real issue is the professorial prose.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Eric Hobsbawm be droppin truth bombs yo! He has this relentless writing style where he just lobs evidence and argument at you until you're forced to submit. And, when you reflect on them, they actually hold up pretty well. I didn't really like his dismissal of the voluntaristic argument of how nations and nationalism come about (i.e. me and my fellow Washingtonians could band together and become Washington State nationalists), because that really seems to be at the core of his argument. He keeps Eric Hobsbawm be droppin truth bombs yo! He has this relentless writing style where he just lobs evidence and argument at you until you're forced to submit. And, when you reflect on them, they actually hold up pretty well. I didn't really like his dismissal of the voluntaristic argument of how nations and nationalism come about (i.e. me and my fellow Washingtonians could band together and become Washington State nationalists), because that really seems to be at the core of his argument. He keeps talking about what nations are not necessarily based on (language, "ethnicity," physical geography, common history, myth and folklore, religion) and so forth that I think in the end he's a voluntarist too. Just a more sophisticated one. Because, regardless of whether or not we could, the people of Washington aren't going to rebel against state control any time soon. Even if you have your disagreements with Hobsbawm, he's very worth reading, simply because he's so knowledgeable and enjoyable to read. Seriously, it's like stuffing your mouth with candy. Candy for your Marxist de-falsified consciousness.

  8. 5 out of 5

    hesham

    The vagueness of the subject has found its way into the book's structure. While Hobsbawm is hard to read (I don't mind it personally), it's safe to say, the lack of framework makes this book even harder. The book nonetheless picks itself around the end, it is worth reading alone to realize how unrealizable the myth that is nationalism is. Hobsbawm rightfully points at several other works & awaits for future analyses & better understandings. The vagueness of the subject has found its way into the book's structure. While Hobsbawm is hard to read (I don't mind it personally), it's safe to say, the lack of framework makes this book even harder. The book nonetheless picks itself around the end, it is worth reading alone to realize how unrealizable the myth that is nationalism is. Hobsbawm rightfully points at several other works & awaits for future analyses & better understandings.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Samanvay Sinha

    It took me sometime to finish this book which deals with nations, nation-states and nationalism. It aims to explain how nation states and nationalism gathered pace in 19th century and how the concept has mutated over a period of time till the late 20th century. I did learn a few basic facts and concepts but it was hard going through this very tough piece of writing and add to that layers of historical information you have on each page.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    A well-researched, thorough and clearly structured interrogation into the development of the concept of nationalism. Hobsbawm's ideas are effectively supported through numerous examples. Unfortunately, as expected this was such a dense read, and was fairly dry in its expression. Although relevant (somewhat) to my purpose, this was a tedious read. A well-researched, thorough and clearly structured interrogation into the development of the concept of nationalism. Hobsbawm's ideas are effectively supported through numerous examples. Unfortunately, as expected this was such a dense read, and was fairly dry in its expression. Although relevant (somewhat) to my purpose, this was a tedious read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Raully

    While thought-provoking, his theories are not convincing to me. They seem too rigidly Marxist to understand the phenomenon of nationalism. Most specifically, they do not match well with what I have seen in my own studies.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    Hobsbawm is erudite, creative, very well versed in modern history, and has a way of putting things just so. He is also a committed Marxist with all the political blinders that that entails. A good summary of the modernist school of nationalism studies.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Hyslop

    Benedict Anderson and Ernest Gellner wrote brilliantly on nationalism. But for me, this is the book which really tells the story of the construction of this toxic ideology, to which we are still in thrall.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lord_Humungus

    Review in English (not my mother tongue) and Spanish (below). A book about the history of world nationalisms from the French Revolution until just after the implosion of the USSR, rather focused on Europe. Good points: -The author is a true scholar, with encyclopedic knowledge and great capacity for synthesis. He cites examples easily and gives the feeling that he has everything in his head. -The first thing he does is deconstruct the term "nation" honestly. He is not a nationalist and goes so far a Review in English (not my mother tongue) and Spanish (below). A book about the history of world nationalisms from the French Revolution until just after the implosion of the USSR, rather focused on Europe. Good points: -The author is a true scholar, with encyclopedic knowledge and great capacity for synthesis. He cites examples easily and gives the feeling that he has everything in his head. -The first thing he does is deconstruct the term "nation" honestly. He is not a nationalist and goes so far as to say that a nationalist historian can't write about the history of nationalism, because the historian needs objectivity and a nationalist believes in what obviously does not exist. Hobsbawm looks at nationalism as an atheist looks at religion: he describes it as a collective mirage that changes over time and has important effects, but whose object does not really exist. Neutral points: -The point of view is the whole world and the cultural history, and the order is chronological. It does not deepen or narrate the history of each nationalism case by case, but only uses them as examples to illustrate his ideas. -He describes the possible origins of nationalism, the social classes that support and reject it, the differentiated periods of its evolution, its ideological alliances with the left and the right, and many other issues. Bad points: - Prose is difficult to understand. The sentences are long and both the paragraphs and the chapters lack what Steven Pinker calls "arcs of coherence": although each sentence is well written, the succession of sentences is read as something out of focus, disjointed, the sense of which is difficult to find. One has the sensation of understanding it phrase by phrase, but after several pages begins to ask "and all this for what?" or "what exactly is the objective of the last 10 pages that I have read?". I suppose it's better if you reread it with a clear question in your head, but it lacks clarity in the exposition. - The author does not confuse public opinion with published opinion, and distinguishes between the writings of the intelligentsia and the feelings and thoughts of the masses. He is more interested in how the masses experience nationalism but, although he gives a couple of examples, he doesn't go deeply into this question. It is true that it is difficult to know what the peasants thought at the end of the eighteenth century, but that difficulty is lessened as we get closer to the present time, and even then he does not go much into the subject. Un libro sobre la historia de los nacionalismos mundiales desde la Revolución Francesa hasta justo después de la implosión de la URSS, bastante centrado en Europa. 1.The Nation as novelty: from revolution to liberalism 2.Popular proto-nationalism 3.The government perspective 3.The transformation of nationalism (1870-1918) 4.The apogee of nationalism 5.Nationalism in the late twentieth century Puntos buenos: -El autor es un auténtico erudito, con conocimientos enciclopédicos y gran capacidad de síntesis. Cita ejemplos fácilmente y da la sensación de que lo tiene todo en la cabeza. -Lo primero que hace es deconstruir honestamente el término "nación". No es nacionalista y llega a decir que un historiador nacionalista no puede escribir sobre la historia del nacionalismo, pues el historiador necesita objetividad y un nacionalista cree en lo que patentemente no existe. Hobsbawm mira al nacionalismo como un ateo mira la religión: la describe como un espejismo colectivo que se va transformando con el tiempo y que tiene efectos importantes, pero cuyo objeto no existe realmente. Puntos neutros: -El punto de vista es mundial y de historia cultural, y el orden es cronológico. No profundiza ni narra la historia de cada nacionalismo caso por caso, sino que sólo los utiliza como ejemplos para ilustrar sus ideas. -Describe los posibles orígenes del nacionalismo, las clases sociales que lo apoyan y lo rechazan, los periodos diferenciados de su evolución, sus alianzas ideológicas con la izquierda y la derecha, y muchos otros temas. Puntos malos: - La prosa es difícil de entender. Las oraciones son largas y tanto los párrafos como los capítulos carecen de lo que Steven Pinker llama "arcos de coherencia": aunque cada oración esté bien escrita, la sucesión de oraciones se lee como algo desenfocado, desarbolado, a lo que es difícil encontrarle el sentido. Tiene uno la sensación de ir entendiéndolo frase a frase, pero tras varias páginas empieza a preguntarse "¿y todo esto a qué venía?" o "cuál es exactamente el objetivo de las últimas 10 páginas que llevo leídas?". Supongo que es mejor si se relee con una pregunta clara en la cabeza, pero le falta claridad en la exposición. - El autor no confunde la opinión pública con la opinión publicada, y distingue entre los escritos de la intelectualidad y los sentimientos y pensamientos de las masas. Le interesa más cómo las masas viven el nacionalismo pero, aunque pone un par de ejemplos, no logra profundizar en esta cuestión. Es verdad que es difícil saber lo que opinaban los campesinos a finales del siglo dieciocho, pero esa dificultad se va diluyendo a medida que nos acercamos a la época actual, y aún así no entra mucho en el tema.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Frank

    Some good insights, especially toward the end. But, generally speaking, too much time is lost to unsupported, spurious claims and repetitive recitation of the obvious.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    Interesting discussion of the origins and development of nationalism.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alex Rose

    Marxist analysis gets in the way of actual history. If you are into the actual History aspect of books and not History as a avenue for political analysis, this book may not be for you. The first half of the book, including an stellar introduction, was wonderful and I devoured it in a whole sitting. This is mostly because the actual history lends itself very nicely to the theoretical (mostly Marxist) claims of the author. Afterwards though, near the end of the Chapter IV, the claims become pretty Marxist analysis gets in the way of actual history. If you are into the actual History aspect of books and not History as a avenue for political analysis, this book may not be for you. The first half of the book, including an stellar introduction, was wonderful and I devoured it in a whole sitting. This is mostly because the actual history lends itself very nicely to the theoretical (mostly Marxist) claims of the author. Afterwards though, near the end of the Chapter IV, the claims become pretty outlandish in my opinion and require much more evidence to be taken seriously then what is given. I’ll summarize these sections so that you don’t have to read them like I did. Throughout Chapter IV, Hobsbawm begins discussing the problems of Wilsonian Nationalism in some detail. At first he is perfectly logical when he discusses the logistical impossibility of the ideal of Wilsonian Nationalism, but it then falls apart. On page 130 he asserts that the success of Wilsonian Nationalism “emerged a the matrix of fascism” due to the idea of a nation based off ethnicity and race. I find this concept pretty preposterous, as much as I despise Wilson, he clearly was not aiming for genocide and the concept is an ideal rather then an absolute practice. Countries like Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Yugoslavia, etc. in the Interwar period did not become fascists despite being the main beneficiaries of the Treaty of Versailles when the concept famously made an actual change in the world. I would be more open-minded if he actually backed up the claims but he really doesn’t. Chapter V is a fairly mixed bag. He begins with a summarization of how nationalism led to the various mass expulsions and killings because of the Wilsonian ideal (He even calls Hitler an logical Wilsonian nationalist on page 132). Most of my complaints about this are quite similar to what I stated above. Again, to make such a bold claim one must provide ample evidence. Fortunately, he provides an excellent analysis of how nationalism as a concept became ‘leftist’ during the anti-fascist struggle and the struggle for self-determination during the post-war, so you should read these sections. Chapter VI (and the Second Edition’s post-Soviet fall chapter) was shockingly lacking in my opinion. To summarize it tries to show the history of nationalism after WW2 prior till the fall of the Soviet Union (or after depending on the edition). It has some interesting analysis of the struggles of African countries due to the inability of nationalism as a state-building mechanism. Otherwise, I found multiple errors that make me question his narrative. Specifically, his analysis of Central Asia and Eastern Europe has a bunch of claims that can be pretty easily countered with my fairly average knowledge, around 3 books, of its respective history. Because of its limited scope, the author generalizes the history of the region, and just makes a bunch of false claims. For example, his claim that the modern day nations of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, etc. have no history of nationalism, if he had looked into the history of intellectuals of the region he would found some, they would’ve been classified into Stage 1/2 of Hroch’s concept. Overall it continues the trend of making broad analysis while hurting the actual aspect of history. In the second edition he devotes a small chapter into the idea that nationalism is declining. At the time he wrote it it made sense, but in light of the current political climate it is hard to take too seriously, a valiant effort though. Hobsbawm’s Marxist ideology gets in the way of his historical methods, ironic since he criticizes conservative historians because paraphrasing, someone who idealizes the past cannot be a true historian. I would still recommend buying a copy since their are some excellent ideas here during the first half. But irritating someone not at all averse to leftism with leftist analysis due to a lack of nuance is bad news for someone who isn’t leftist.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sumallya Mukhopadhyay

    Nations and Nationalism, E.J. Hobsbawm Hobsbawm historicizes the conceptual framework of nationalism through the well-trodden path of its specified forms and phases since the dawn of Enlightenment in Europe. He is of the opinion that nationalism has developed itself through the tripartite regulations of ‘politics, technology and social transformation’ [p. 10]. His is a work of synthesis and explication which displays a heavy influence of Ernest Gellner and Miroslav Hroch. He subscribes to Gellner Nations and Nationalism, E.J. Hobsbawm Hobsbawm historicizes the conceptual framework of nationalism through the well-trodden path of its specified forms and phases since the dawn of Enlightenment in Europe. He is of the opinion that nationalism has developed itself through the tripartite regulations of ‘politics, technology and social transformation’ [p. 10]. His is a work of synthesis and explication which displays a heavy influence of Ernest Gellner and Miroslav Hroch. He subscribes to Gellner’s observation that nationalism is the principle that holds the political and the national unit in congruent structuration. Also, Hobsbawm supplements Hroch’s argument that nationalism has developed unevenly in various parts of the world, in compliance with the social and regional diversity of national belonging. The most crucial argument that Hobsbawm presents is his insistence on reading nationalism from below, depicting how subjects conceived of nationalism as it was bestowed on them by the State. Without a ‘proto-national’ footing, it is difficult for the nationalist ideology to sustain itself. Hobsbawm clearly demarcates between state patriotism and nationalism by exemplifying how multi-national empires eroded in the face of nationalist aspiration of various ethnic and linguistic units. The introduction starts by reminding us that 'attempts to establish objective criteria for nationhood' [p. 5] have all failed. The alternative is a subjective definition which involves 'defining a nation by its members' ‘consciousness of belonging to it' [p. 7-8]. Hobsbawm understands subjectivity as ‘conscious or choice’ [p. 8] but fails to clarify how such subjective definition of nationalism encapsulate class/caste/race/gender boundaries. If a nation is an imagined community, as Anderson claims, is it possible to have a subjective understanding of nationalism where the nation can mean whatever people want it to stand for? I think it is likely because, with changes in regimes of power, different versions of nationalisms come to the surface and dominate public imagination. However, it is also essential to understand that a nation cannot simply be defined as historical fiction. Instead, there are material and cultural realities that result in the conception of nations. The entire idea of a nation is a modern phenomenon. Hobsbawm underscores this point to help argue how language and ethnicity have paved the way to construe a nation. Most importantly, against the backdrop of the anti-colonial movement, subjects of various empires desired liberty. Moreover, freedom to them was intrinsically associated with having a nation of their own with a stipulated territorial boundary. What started off as a leftist movement, looking to empower individuals through liberty, gradually changed course to form exclusivist ideology. During the inter-war period in Europe, the meteoric rise of Fascism and Nazism are cases in point. Furthermore, similar incidents happened in Bosnia during the 1990s. Nonetheless, Hobsbawm offers little importance to territoriality as a concept, especially when borders have emerged as contentious issues between neighbouring nations, often resulting in war. Drastically, he moves on to state that the history of the globe cannot be limited to writing about nations and nationalism. For, with the establishment of the European Union (EU), one encounters a ‘supernational restructuring of the globe’ [p. 191]. One can read this as a wonderful introductory text though one of the drawbacks being his examples is mostly from Europe.

  19. 4 out of 5

    John David

    The question of what makes a nation is one that might seem like it has definite answers – until you try to scratch beyond the superficial. Does it have anything to do with psychological identification? Having a common language, culture, ethnic background? Or is it really more of a collective myth told by and to us as human beings because we derive fundamental meaning and value from such stories? Are nations, to borrow the considered language of Benedict Anderson writing on precisely the same sub The question of what makes a nation is one that might seem like it has definite answers – until you try to scratch beyond the superficial. Does it have anything to do with psychological identification? Having a common language, culture, ethnic background? Or is it really more of a collective myth told by and to us as human beings because we derive fundamental meaning and value from such stories? Are nations, to borrow the considered language of Benedict Anderson writing on precisely the same subject, nothing more than “imagined communities”? Overall, this is indeed the route that Hobsbawm seems to take when attempting to answer these questions. Hobsbawm’s book is an expansion of the six Wiles Lectures that he gave at Queen’s University in Belfast in 1985, integrated into a cohesive whole for the purposes of publishing in the present form. With the exception of the last chapter, his discussion covers the concepts of the “nation as novelty” (mostly the product of the French Revolution, but to a lesser extent, the English Revolution as well) to the “apogee of nationalism,” which he dates to right after the end of World War I. For those interested in the topic of nationalism outside of the European “long century,” this book offers only minimal amounts of insight. While Hobsbawm is a probably one of the best historians of the twentieth century, there’s little debating that his style leaves a lot to be desired. Despite some of the reviews in academic journals, which actually described this book as easy to read and meant for a popular audience, I have to disagree on both accounts. The ideas are presented, often in such a qualified, limited way that they obscure much more than they elucidate. I’ve always been interested in nationalism since having read Anderson’s aforementioned “Imagined Communities,” and Hobsbawm’s book was one of the titles that kept appearing and reappearing in the critical and scholarly literature on the subject. But there have to be better books out there than this jumbled mess. I can’t help but think that there are much more useful and more importantly, well-written, books out there that offer a comprehensive, integrated framework in which to discuss the past, present, and future of nationalism and peripheral topics.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ron Peters

    Nations and Nationalism brings up interesting ideas. One is that that the nation is a relatively new concept. For example, in 1909 it was "not possible to know the precise number of Albanians who come to the United States, for these early immigrants did not often identify themselves as Albanians." Another is that the idea of the nation is nebulous and changes over time. When he investigates defining factors such as language, ethnicity, race, religion, and economics, every factor he puts forward i Nations and Nationalism brings up interesting ideas. One is that that the nation is a relatively new concept. For example, in 1909 it was "not possible to know the precise number of Albanians who come to the United States, for these early immigrants did not often identify themselves as Albanians." Another is that the idea of the nation is nebulous and changes over time. When he investigates defining factors such as language, ethnicity, race, religion, and economics, every factor he puts forward is followed by a string of “yes-buts” that negate their power to uniquely determine the meaning of nationality. In terms of historical trends, starting with the disintegration of empires such as Austria, Turkey, and Russia, we first saw a concern with forming large “viable” states, with “viability” being economically defined. Because of their size, these states were often necessarily heterogeneous, e.g., no separate nationhood for the Basques. On the ugly side, he notes that the idea of the nation also became popular at the time of the expansion of colonialism and theories of racial superiority. Later he documents the emergence of a push for nationhood “even among peoples hitherto only of interest to folklorists,” e.g., Georgians, Lithuanians, Macedonians, and so on. Now the emphasis was more on factors such as ethnicity. Hobsbawm argues that nationalism was a convenient emotional cement to pull diverse citizens together under a banner of patriotism. These nations were in turn building blocks of world capitalism and bourgeois society. The creation of national economies that interacted with other national economies fostered international trade. Now instead of a fusion of peoples, we see a fissioning: Quebec, the former Yugoslavia, Biafra, Bangladesh, Catalonia, Scotland, Xinjiang. The downsides of this process have been many and dangerous, e.g., separatism, partition, repression, mass expulsion, refugees, and genocide. This was also sped up by decolonization from the 1960s onward. It can also be argued that the rise of transnational corporations and globalization has made nation-states, especially large viable nation-states, increasingly superfluous so they “are no longer the force they were.”

  21. 4 out of 5

    Arun

    Hobsbawm in this book argues against Gellner and Anderson's proposition that nationalism is a concept that is deeply rooted in the minds of people. The first chapter talks about how the concept of Nation is not even older than 240 years and in the subsequent chapters looks at the changing nature of nationalism and nation-states starting from the French revolution, the Mazinnian phase (1830-1870) based on the threshold principle, followed by the 'Wilsonian' phase (1870-1918) based on the self-det Hobsbawm in this book argues against Gellner and Anderson's proposition that nationalism is a concept that is deeply rooted in the minds of people. The first chapter talks about how the concept of Nation is not even older than 240 years and in the subsequent chapters looks at the changing nature of nationalism and nation-states starting from the French revolution, the Mazinnian phase (1830-1870) based on the threshold principle, followed by the 'Wilsonian' phase (1870-1918) based on the self-determination principle, and the postcolonial formation of nation-states in the middle of the 20th century based on anti-imperialism. Hobsbawm's analysis of the formation of new nations in the Third World is also interesting. He argues that the colonial frontiers along with the administered units (ethnolinguistic territorial units in the case of USSR) put in place by the imperial powers paradoxically led to the imagination of the multi-ethnic and multi-lingual population inside these units to imagine a new nation occupying this territory. This is applicable to the 'nation' of India as well as to the imagination of new nations that resulted in the formation of new 'imagined' nations (Kazhak, Kirghiz, Uzbek etc.) after the split of USSR. In the last chapter, Hobsbawm looks at the phenomenon of nation and nationalism. While stating that the 'national economy' no more holds water, the nation-state still in the age of globalized economy retains a central position amongst it population, but in a different role, that of the redistributor of social income. Further, he also looks at the role of 21st century technology that has been accelerating the movement of people (migration), ideas and money, thereby making the role of inter-governmental, non-governmental agencies and economic regions more significant and how the phenomenon of nationalism might have crossed its peak. Overall, an interesting analysis on a phenomenon that is new to humans but has impacted the lives of humans never before seen in our history.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Stoa

    Same issue as Balibar. Neither really provides a usable framework for fundamentally distinguishing national units, and Hobsbawm remains actively agnostic on how to do this. Instead (being forced to, given the nature of this work), he focuses his analysis on nationalism as defined by Gellner: "a principle which holds that the political and national unit should be congruent." His idea of what the "national unit" is remains pretty vague and uncommitted throughout the book. That is the core of the bo Same issue as Balibar. Neither really provides a usable framework for fundamentally distinguishing national units, and Hobsbawm remains actively agnostic on how to do this. Instead (being forced to, given the nature of this work), he focuses his analysis on nationalism as defined by Gellner: "a principle which holds that the political and national unit should be congruent." His idea of what the "national unit" is remains pretty vague and uncommitted throughout the book. That is the core of the book's problems. First, because it's difficult to apply Hobsbawm's comments to the work of authors without a lot of semantic clarifications, as Hobsbawm's "nationalism" can include and exclude "nationalism" as examined by people such as Connor or Nairn. Fortunately, this plays on Hobsbawm's strengths as a historian; there is enough good research to inform the major theoretical approaches, but it must be examined very carefully. Second, it limits the scope of Hobsbawm's analysis; so it's largely restricted to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Unlike other authors who focused their research on that era, Hobsbawm's idea of the nation is so vague that one can't extend it far (backwards or forwards) in time. No surprise that Hobsbawm failed to predict the endurance of nationalism post-USSR (and had to extensively edit the 2nd edition following the Union's dissolution). So, read it anyway, but it won't be very useful alone

  23. 4 out of 5

    Donald Luther

    I was introduced the Eric Hobsbawm while I was in graduate school, and I found that his approach to historical issues and questions offered a marvelous starting point in forming my own ideas about the large issues he always dealt with. This collection of lectures, originally delivered in 1985 and gathered for publication in 1990 (with a final supplemental chapter added later), provides the reader with a brilliant overview of the development of Nationalism, what it is and what it isn't, how it ha I was introduced the Eric Hobsbawm while I was in graduate school, and I found that his approach to historical issues and questions offered a marvelous starting point in forming my own ideas about the large issues he always dealt with. This collection of lectures, originally delivered in 1985 and gathered for publication in 1990 (with a final supplemental chapter added later), provides the reader with a brilliant overview of the development of Nationalism, what it is and what it isn't, how it has been used and misused, and what was the current status of this dangerous ideology at the time of publication. I have nowhere found a more comprehensive treatment of these ideas, drawn from European as well as non-European sources (Hobsbawm examines American, Latin American, East and South Asian, even some ANZAC materials), in this thoroughgoing examination of what may have been a terrifyingly potent intellectual force in the century before 1980. The thing I found most mind-boggling (in a book replete with boggles) was the evidence that Nationalism was an ideology that was kind of reverse-engineered. Its characteristics were deduced and added only after the targets of these ideas were identified and the best way to 'sell' them was determined.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Makenna Gaynor

    I could only bear to endure one chapter, but you don't have to take my review with a grain of salt because one page is all you have to read to understand how tedious, repetitive, and poorly written this book of a fool is. Unsurprisingly, Hobsbawm being a devote Marxist makes his political blindness more than clear with repetitive, meaningless, poorly (or more often not at all) backed statements. I have never read something so unorganized and senseless. In reading this, I felt as if a 4 year old I could only bear to endure one chapter, but you don't have to take my review with a grain of salt because one page is all you have to read to understand how tedious, repetitive, and poorly written this book of a fool is. Unsurprisingly, Hobsbawm being a devote Marxist makes his political blindness more than clear with repetitive, meaningless, poorly (or more often not at all) backed statements. I have never read something so unorganized and senseless. In reading this, I felt as if a 4 year old in a state of distress was trying to persuade me and had run out of arguments and therefore resulted to simply throwing completely unrelated arguments in my face, making a complete fool of himself in the process, except so much worse because Hobsbawm was in fact 73 years old, not 4, at the time in which this was published. The amount of times that I cringed while reading this was near endless, even cried twice. To be quite frank, in fact, reading this piece of nonsense is what solidified my decision to drop my current major and instead follow my dreams. So, thank you, Hobsbawm, your failed attempt at persuasion has driven me the exact opposite direction and has shown me the light!

  25. 4 out of 5

    mike osman

    Very good description of the rise and spread of modern nationalism. Hobsbawm fleshes out how nationalism was constructed under modern conditions (economic and technological) and how its definition changed in each era. The book is very wide-ranging and he spends a lot of time pointing out the inconsistencies of various notions of nationalism. I would have liked it more if the writing were a bit better focused and if he emphasized and dwelt more on the fundamental issues he raises (it seemed like Very good description of the rise and spread of modern nationalism. Hobsbawm fleshes out how nationalism was constructed under modern conditions (economic and technological) and how its definition changed in each era. The book is very wide-ranging and he spends a lot of time pointing out the inconsistencies of various notions of nationalism. I would have liked it more if the writing were a bit better focused and if he emphasized and dwelt more on the fundamental issues he raises (it seemed like somewhere in each chapter there are one or several 1-2 page passages where the main points are made, in between seemingly random observations about minor nationalisms in Europe). Although I feel like I have just scratched the surface on this topic, I do feel a lot more comfortable with the thesis of nationalism's modernity and why it would usually be anachronistic to talk about nationalism before the modern era. By the end of the book, Hobsbawm questions what future nationalism might have. Definitely a worthwhile read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Fernando Pestana da Costa

    This is a great study about the nature and history of the concepts of nation and nationalism since the French Revolution. The difficulty (or even the impossibility) of giving a definition encompassing all the meanings of these terms in their various historical situations and contexts is masterly exposed by Hobsbawm. This second edition of the book concludes with some reflections about the explosion of new nationalisms in the wake of Yugoslavia and Soviet Union disappearance: Hobsbawm sees this f This is a great study about the nature and history of the concepts of nation and nationalism since the French Revolution. The difficulty (or even the impossibility) of giving a definition encompassing all the meanings of these terms in their various historical situations and contexts is masterly exposed by Hobsbawm. This second edition of the book concludes with some reflections about the explosion of new nationalisms in the wake of Yugoslavia and Soviet Union disappearance: Hobsbawm sees this flurry of nationalism as the unfinished business of 1918, not as part of a new global political programme for the twentieth century, concluding that "the very fact that historians are at least beginning to make some progress in the study and analysis of nations and nationalism suggests that (...) the phenomenon is past its peak". He may as well be right...

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tony Gualtieri

    Like Hobsbawm's "Invention of Tradition," the ideas of this book will stay with me long after my frustration with their exposition has been forgotten. While Hobsbawm is often considered a good stylist and while his writing is free of jargon, I often find myself struggling to uncoil the meaning of his paragraphs from the turgidity of his prose. But I love a paradigm challenging thesis and this one is exemplary. Hobsbawm decouples the state from the nation and shows that the latter is often a const Like Hobsbawm's "Invention of Tradition," the ideas of this book will stay with me long after my frustration with their exposition has been forgotten. While Hobsbawm is often considered a good stylist and while his writing is free of jargon, I often find myself struggling to uncoil the meaning of his paragraphs from the turgidity of his prose. But I love a paradigm challenging thesis and this one is exemplary. Hobsbawm decouples the state from the nation and shows that the latter is often a construct of political convenience rather than an inherent property of peoples. He has a great synthesizing mind which moves supplely from the Tamils of Sri Lanka to the Québécoises of Canada.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Peter Caron

    Though written in 1985 (it contains a postscript from 1992), this is a classic study of the emergence and history of nations. Hobsbawn argues convincingly that nations and nationalism do not adequately describe modern political entities not do linguistic, ethnic or cultural definitions of nations hold up under scrutiny. Should be on the bookshelf of every student of politics, history or economics.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Praveen Kishore

    As usual, Hobsbawm is sharp, incisive and clear. However, it has a largely European focus, which is in a way natural in a book dealing with historical development of ideas of nation and nationalism.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Louis Picone

    Helped better understand nationalism for my Masters thesis on Presidential Monuments. Only issue was that is was a global focus and not much on American nationalism

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