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The road to nationalism: Self-Defeating colonialism and the power of high culture

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Abernethy's 'Self-Defeating Colonialism
  3. The opportunistic nature of Gellner's Nationalism
  4. Decolonization and Gellner's Nationalism
  5. Conclusion
  6. Bibliography

In his book The Dynamics of Global Dominance, David B. Abernethy proclaims that imperialistic colonies are, by design, inherently ?self-defeating enterprises.? That is, historically as a colony grows and progresses according to the design of its ruling nation, the volatility of that colony increases exponentially no matter how hard the government described by Abernethy, in power tries to maintain social stability within the colony. This is due to the fact that, as imperialistic nations seek to create microcosms of the mother nation in a foreign colony, the metropole inadvertently facilitates the ability of the colony's indigenous population and its early colonists to break off and form their own nation. Abernethy mentions that a metropole, in its attempts to create an overseas colony, essentially nurtures a society that will eventually find it within itself the need and ability to break off and establish itself as its own, independent nation.

[...] According to David Abernethy, European colonialism was a fundamentally contradictory institution; although imperialist nations wanted to develop semi-advanced, often industrialized societies abroad, they did not believe that these societies should or could be allowed to retain any of the contemporary political and social advancements that existed in the metropole. That is, while ?Sovereignty, popular representation in government, [and] national identity were ideas integral to European political development from the eighteenth century onward . Metropoles refused to grant these ideas an export permit, claiming their inapplicability abroad? (Abernethy 331). [...]


[...] I have described how, through the hypocritical social and political mistreatment of its educated settlers, imperial nations created colonies that were fated from the onset to break free from colonial rule. Furthermore, I have illustrated how, by allowing for such a great disconnect to exist between the metropole and the colony, imperialist rulers created an atmosphere that was ripe for new nationalist movements that had the potential to overthrow colonial rule. That is, by educating colonists and allowing they to become increasingly smarter and more socially and politically conscious while still offering very little political representation or sovereignty to the colonies, metropoles essentially created a ticking time bomb of contradiction that inevitably would cause relations between the metropole and its overseas outpost to explode. [...]


[...] In this sense, it is the homogeneity and unity of a society, most often caused by industrialization, which Gellner argues is necessary for nationalism to exist within a population. In this section I have briefly outlined the necessary social atmosphere that nationalism needs in order to exist. Primarily, nationalism calls for a population unified in language and literacy by a pervasive ?high culture,? as well as a homogenous, mobile society, most often brought about by that society's industrialization. Without fulfilling these specific criteria, a society will never be able to fully support a true nationalist sentiment, Gellner argues. [...]

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