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The Shifting Foundations of Modern Nation-States

The Shifting Foundations of Modern Nation-States: Realignments of Belonging

Edited by Sima Godfrey
Frank Unger
  • Book Info
    The Shifting Foundations of Modern Nation-States
    Book Description:

    Nation-states today are under pressure from opposite directions. In Western Europe, they are being challenged by the call of assimilation into a larger supra-national polity. Elsewhere, as in Southeastern Europe, nation-states are being challenged by separatist forces from within, demanding independence or self-determination for particular ethnic groups. In either instance, the ultimate aim is not simply the breaking of bonds but rather a realignment of belonging.

    When the prospect of prosperity and the good life requires an adjustment of national identities and alliances, old myths and new tales alike are mobilized in the effort. People's choices of belonging are flexible and often blatantly pragmatic. Some will never renounce their original 'nation,' while others gladly assume two or three national identities in a lifetime, all of them with a deeply felt commitment. InThe Shifting Foundations of Modern Nation-States, Sima Godfrey and Frank Unger have gathered together a distinguished, multidisciplinary group of authors to discuss national myths from Europe, North America, and Asia. Just as the plurality of nations implies diverse voices and distinct narratives, the authors, coming from different disciplines and backgrounds, represent multiple discourses on the theme of nationhood.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8235-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-2)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 3-16)

    Nation-states today are under pressure from opposite directions. In some parts of the world – for example, in Western Europe – they are being challenged by the movement towards assimilation into a larger, supra-national polity. Supporters of integration argue that, aside from the obvious benefits in the matter of peace and security, the new global economic order has rendered politics based on the traditional nation state outmoded and somehow insufficient for the modern political-economic environment. They want to overcome the nation-state by extending it.

    In contrast, in other parts of the world – for example, in central and southeastern Europe...

  4. Canada: A Post-Nationalist Nation?
    (pp. 17-34)

    Over the past twenty years, the academic study of nationalism – to say nothing of the phenomenon itself – has grown at an astounding pace. Where once it was merely a subject for the detailed historical analysis of particular communities or ethnic groups, nationalism has recently become a subject approached from a multiplicity of perspectives: history, sociology, literature, religion, political science, and anthropology. Moreover, new theoretical prescriptions abound as class, race, gender, and ethnicity expand their explanatory empires. To his recent surveyNationalism and Modernism, which assesses work published since his first surveyTheories of Nationalismin 1971, Anthony Smith...

  5. Closing the Nation: Nationalism and Statism in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Germany
    (pp. 35-58)

    In academic as well as in public discourse, it is widely agreed that the German brand of nationalism is determined by the idea of ethno-cultural homogeneity. Thisvölkischtradition emerged from the romantic roots of German nationalism in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries,priorto the existence of a German state.¹ It is exemplified by the citizenship law of 1913, which madejus sanguinis– the principle of common descent – the sole and determining principle of membership in the state.² The law of 1913, and thus the ethno-cultural character of Germanness, remained by and large intact until...

  6. Quasi a Nation: Italy’s Mezzogiorno before 1848
    (pp. 59-81)

    The story of modern Italy usually begins with the magic date of 1861, when Italy was ‘made’ and theRisorgimento, the movement of resurgence, triumphed. The old kingdoms, duchies, and regions that for centuries had constituted the peninsula were all dissolved and annexed to the feisty little kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia. Austria, the villain of the previous hundred years, was defeated and forced to surrender Lombardy and all her influence on the peninsula. Venetia and Rome would follow suit. The King of Sardinia was crowned Victor Emanuel II of Italy, and an instant pantheon of founding fathers was established – Camillo...

  7. Are We Dreaming? Exceptional Myths and Myths of Exceptionalism in the United States
    (pp. 82-99)

    The playwright Arthur Miller recounts in his memoirs a story from an extended stay in Pyramid Lake, Nevada, during the mid-1950s. While establishing the six-week state residency required to obtain a divorce, he met two rodeo men who, between appearances, caught wild mustangs in the area. During their free time the two read westerns and dreamed of going to Hollywood to play cowboys on the silver screen. Miller drew from this acquaintance while writing the screenplay for the filmThe Misfits. Back in Nevada four years later with the crew that was shooting the film, Miller, since married to the...

  8. The Republic: A French Myth
    (pp. 100-108)

    Among the political myths that shape the French collective mind, the myth of the Republic is probably the most influential and certainly the most controversial. It is a very particular idea of the Republic, which used to be undisputed and has now been called into question. Yet it remains at the centre of French political debate.

    The French historian Raoul Girardet wrote a book fifteen years ago about French political myths and mythologies. He studied four of them that he thought typical of French politics: the myth of conspiracy, the myth of the saviour (from Napoleon to de Gaulle), the...

  9. Russia’s Babel: Myth Production and Its Purposes
    (pp. 109-130)

    Since the demise of the Soviet Union and the refounding of the Russian state, Russia has been searching for self-images that connect the past to the present, address the desire for uniqueness, and provide mobilizing ideas. Most observers agree that post-Soviet Russia’s search for a cohesive national identity has been futile,¹ but implications of this failed search are under dispute. Some authors claim that Russia’s lack of a coherent national ideology was a major source of its misery in the 1990s. Others hold that the absence of a hegemonic nationalist ideology prevented a regression into authoritarianism. The absence of nationalist...

  10. Foundation Myths and the Reflection of History in Modern Hungary
    (pp. 131-148)

    It is common sense that myths of origin play a crucial role in the formation of national consciousness and identity. This paper reflects on the state of collective historical memory in Hungary as it is expressed in attitudes towards the foundation of the medieval kingdom of Hungary by Stephen I and the Revolution of 1848. Most people’s attitudes towards these two watershed events – one marking the beginning of Hungary as a territorially organized community, the other often taken to symbolically represent the beginning of Hungary as a modern nation – reflect their status as historical myths – that is...

  11. Cracking Myths of Nation-ness: Indonesia after the Fall of Suharto
    (pp. 149-162)

    A myth one often encounters is that of each nation’s ancient and continuous past: Stonehenge is ‘British’ Machu Picchu is ‘Peruvian’ the Borobudur is ‘Indonesian’ and so on. The myth exists not only at the level of popular folklore, the output of tourist industries, and the state’s history textbooks for children and adolescents; one finds it even in the highly sophisticated and erudite work of Professor Anthony Smith, of the London School of Economics, an eminent theoretician of nationalism. His work shows his belief that in the modern era, nations –realnations, that is – are built on top...

  12. Contributors
    (pp. 163-164)