NOTE: Ernest Gellner was one of the most important scholars of nationalism. His book, Nations and Nationalism (1983) remains one of the most important books in the field.
"In fact, nations, like states, are a contingency, and not a universal necessity. Neither nations nor states exist at all times and in all circumstances. Moreover, nations and states are not the same contingency. Nationalism holds that they were destined for each other; that either without the other is incomplete, and constitutes a tragedy. But before they could become intended for each other, each of them had to emerge, and their emergence was independent and contingent. The state has certainly emerged without the help of the nation. Some nations have certainly emerged without the blessings of their own state. It is more debatable whether the normative idea of the nation, in its modern sense, did not presuppose the prior existence of the state.
"What then is this contingent, but in our age seemingly universal and normative, idea of the nation? Discussion of two very makeshift, temporary definitions will help to pinpoint this elusive concept.
"Each of these provisional definitions, the cultural and the voluntaristic, has some merit. Each of them singles out an element which is of real importance in the understanding of nationalism. But neither is adequate. Definitions of culture, presupposed by the first definition, in the anthropological rather than the normative sense, are notoriously difficult and unsatisfactory. It is probably best to approach this problem by using this term without attempting too much in the way of formal definition, and looking at what culture does."
Gellner, Ernest. Nations and Nationalism. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983, pp. 6-7.
Nationalism Project Home * About The Nationalism Project * What is Nationalism?
Bibliography of Journal Articles * Book Reviews and Abstracts * New Books
Nationalism Links * Subject Bibliographies * H-Nationalism
Conferences/Calls for Papers * Search
Eric G.E. Zuelow
Copyright © 1999-2007 by Eric G.E. Zuelow