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Ernest Gellner: Nations and nationalism

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Gellner's view.
    1. Analysis of Gellner's theory
  3. Walter Bagehot's view.
  4. Development of ethnically homogenous entities.
  5. Emergence of Nationlism in Europe.
  6. Unificatory Nationalism.
  7. Conclusion.

Ernest Gellner's Nations and Nationalism , which was published in 1983, is a core reading for the study of eighteenth and nineteenth-century European history for it cleverly conceptualizes notions ?namely nationalism and nation-state- that are essential components of that period. The course Culture and Politics in Europe 1700-1870 embraces historical events as well as cultural, social, economic and politic trends and among all, the birth of the nation-state is one of the major concepts it studies. The review will mainly focus on chapters one to seven of Gellner's book for they are the only chapters relevant for the course. The aim is to show to what extent this text is essential to the study of culture and politics in eighteenth and nineteenth-century Europe and, consequently, how it helped me in my studies and why it was selected by the lecturer.

[...] In the years 1880-1914, European nationalism shifted to the right wing; the consciousness of belonging to a nation involved the materialization of far-right nationalism. The coexistence of more or less equally powerful (and interested in colonialism) nation-states in Europe stimulated exclusive feelings of love and pride for one's nation and another type of nationalism emerged. Later, in a time of world (mostly European) war, state nationalism was aimed at reinforcing national consciousness and cohesion relatively to foreigners, that is to say, enemies. [...]

[...] The four first chapters of Nations and Nationalism, as well as Anderson and Hobsbawm theories are thus indispensable to understand the needs for the formation of nation-states in nineteenth-century Europe. Nationalism consequently emerged in Europe in order to convince people that they were sharing cultural features and that they should gather into a nation-state. If educated liberal bourgeois were conscious that capitalism required a unified state, they still had to convince other classes. To achieve this aim, they had to conceptualize similarities between people and make them willing to be united. [...]

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