Nationalism in the twentieth century




Smith, Anthony D

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Australian National University Press


Why has nationalism become one of the most powerful and widespread political forces of our century? And why has the national ideal triumphed over its rivals? In this book, Dr. Anthony Smith explores its fundamental and enduring appeal in the modern world, by systematically comparing nationalism with other ideologies like millennialism, fascism, racism and communism. Nationalism, he argues, flourishes today because of the pressures and effects of modern conditions on ancient ethnic ties and sentiments. Far from dissipating these mass sentiments, as one might have expected, modern bureaucracy, science and internationalism have only inflamed them, causing many to protest against their impersonal rationalism. At the same time, nationalism is revealed as an infinitely flexible and adaptable political movement. Unlike communism, racism or fascism, it is not tied to specific dogmas, classes, periods or countries. Nationalism can accommodate itself to the most diverse social backgrounds and contrasting environments, and appear as their natural outgrowth. Everywhere its propagators among the intelligentsia have used it to secure the often passionate, but always enduring, support of different classes among their compatriots. So varied in its forms, so easy to identify with the tasks of modernisation, and so indispensable as an instrument for mobilising all kinds of people, nationalism can frequently absorb rival movements like communism or racism, without losing its basic vision or profoundly practical momentum. Hence it is unlikely to wither away. Even in the heavily industrialised states of the West with their well-educated citizenry, ethnic nationalism has recently experienced a resurgence. Having overcome the challenges of communism and fascism in our century to a very considerable extent, nationalism today is built into the fabric of the international order. Both in the West and in the developing countries, the national ideal is likely to command men{u2019}s loyalties for the foreseeable future.







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Open Access

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