National Identity / Edition 1

National Identity / Edition 1

by Anthony D. Smith
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University of Nevada Press
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National Identity 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
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In his book National Identity Anthony Smith takes a middle course between the primordialist and instrumentalist explanations of nations and nationalism. According to him, nations and nationalism are based on the collective cultural phenomenon, which he calls national identity. With the help of a socio-historical analysis of the formation of pre-modern ethnie and their continuity in the form of modern nations, Smith attempts to explain the complex and multidimensional nature of nationalism and its future prospects in the age of globalization. Smith distinguishes two types of nations, the Western territorial or civic nation and the non-Western ethnic concept of the nation, although he argues that both civic and ethnic elements of varying degrees and forms are contained in every nationalism. According to him, the basic components of the Western type of nations are historic territory, legal-political community, legal-political equality of members, and common civic culture and ideology. Unlike the Western model in which the stress is on a legal community the non-Western one emphasizes a community of common descent and native culture. While the civic model puts the stress on territory, the ethnic one sees the nation as a 'super-family.' So, the basic elements of the ethnic model are genealogy and presumed descent ties, popular mobilization, vernacular languages, customs and traditions. Despite the differences between the two models, however, Smith derives some common features, which he uses to define the nation in general as 'a named human population sharing an historic territory, common myths and historical memories, a mass, public culture, a common economy and common legal rights and duties for all members.' (Smith, p. 14) That multi-dimensionality of nations and national identities, according to Smith, accounts for the flexibility of nationalism, which allows it to easily combine with other powerful ideologies and movements. The two types of nation models are predicated on the two types of ethnic communities, lateral and vertical, that determine the two major processes of nation formation. Lateral ethnic communities were composed of the aristocracy and the higher clergy, although they could also include bureaucrats, high military officials, and the richer merchants. The centralized and bureaucratic states that were built around led to the formation of the first western nations in which the outlying regions and the lower classes were incorporated into the culture of the ethnic core. In contrast, the vertical ethnic communities were based on a distinctive historical culture that united different classes, usually lower classes, around a common heritage and tradition, especially when the latter were under threat from outside. The chief mechanism of ethnic persistence among vertical ethnic communities was organized religion and its sacred scriptures, liturgy, rituals, and clergy. In order to become nations, however, such vernacular communities had to be mobilized by the intellectuals, who provided new communal self-identification and goals that elevated the people and their vernacular culture to the center of what became ethnic nations. In both cases, nations were based on existing ethnic cores and were not simply the result of artificial creation. The stronger the ethnic core, the more likely it was a nation to emerge from it although other factors, of course, also came into play. In any case, those ethnic cores, Smith argues, are by means primordial but have come into being as a result of processes of coalescence and division and can change, disappear or be revived depending on various factors and circumstances. The two basic models of nations, according to Smith give rise to certain types of nationalism, which he generally defines as 'an ideological movement for attaining and maintaining autonomy, unity and identity on behalf of a population deemed by some of its members to constitute an actual or potenti