The concept of “nation” is readily used in kitchens and stands, but who can accurately describe its essence? Without knowing the nature and origin of nations, any conversation about nationalism, nationalities and their relationships does not make sense.

Oddly enough, the nationalists have no sense in seeking an answer to this question. As at the level of individual characters, and at the level of organizations, looking at the “literature” sections of their sites, it is easy to notice that they are filled for the most part with articles about lost greatness, threats from all sides, about anything, just not about how they were created nation, what caused their appearance and what they are.

The reasons are very simple. Nations do not differ in particular antiquity (the “age” of the oldest does not exceed 300 years), their image in people’s thoughts has little in common with reality, and their occurrence did not occur as a result of the growth of self-awareness of any group of people, but often in the course of quite targeted actions of the state .

For example, at the time of the emergence of the state of Italy in 1860, only 2.5% of the population used the official Italian language in everyday speech, and the rest of the “nation” spoke local dialects, often without understanding each other.

Any of the books below will take you on cold January evenings and provide food for thought.

Eric Hobsbaum – Nations and Nationalism after 1780

The book of the British historian covers the development of nationalism, starting from the moment of its appearance and ending with the transformations that took place in the 20th century. The author’s views clearly do not allow him to be attributed to the “orthodox,” and the stormy polemic with dogmas throughout his life is reflected in the thoughts set forth in this book.

” Therefore, the French language has become an essential element of the concept of” France “, although in 1789 50% of the French did not speak it at all and only 12-13% spoke” correctly “, and outside the Paris region – even in the langue d’oui region – it was the usual means of communication only in cities, and even then not in any urban suburbs. In northern and southern France, almost no one spoke French.

… the question was not simply the acquisition of a new type of legitimacy – although in the newly emerged or transformed states, they also faced this task. The most convenient and attractive way to solve it – and for states that declared the principle of popular sovereignty, the only one by definition – was identification with the “people” or “nation”, no matter how these concepts were interpreted specifically. What else could give the monarchies a legal status in states that had never existed before (Greece, Italy, Belgium), or in those whose existence broke with all historical precedents (German Empire in 1871)? ”

It is worth reading to understand the evolution of nationalism and the concept of “nation”, which were perceived differently at different times by intellectual elites, the state, and ordinary people.

Benedict Anderson – Imaginary Communities

Perhaps one of the most famous and popular works in his field. As correctly noted in the preface to the Russian edition, “the formula” imaginary communities “was mastered even by those who have never read the famous essay.” The author is a living classic of sociology, professor at Cornell University, USA, part of the Ivy League.

“… it is imagined as a community, because regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may exist in every nation, the nation is always understood as a deep, horizontal partnership. Ultimately, it is this fraternity over the past two centuries that gives many millions of people the opportunity not so much to kill as to die voluntarily for such limited products of the imagination.

These deaths suddenly confront us directly with the main problem posed by nationalism, namely: what makes these shriveled imaginations of recent history (spanning scarcely more than two centuries) cause such enormous sacrifices? In my opinion, to answer this question, we must first turn to the cultural roots of nationalism. ”

Craig Calhoun – Nationalism

Craig Calhoun is a student of Pierre Bourdieu and Jacques Derrida, one of the most talented popularizers of science. The book summarizes the achievements of theories of nation, identity and nationalism. Recommended for those who want to understand the topic with minimal time.

“Nationalism takes various forms: some are soft and calm, others are frightening. Sometimes sociologists try to separate the “good” nationalism (patriotism) and the “bad” nationalism (chauvinism), as if they are completely different social phenomena. This complicates the understanding of each of them and leads to the concealment of similarities between them. “

Ernest Gellner – Nations and Nationalism

E. Gellner (1925-1995) during his life was one of the most famous scientists in Western political and social anthropology, philosophy, and cultural history, he was the creator and director of the Center for the Study of Nationalism at the Central European University. “Nations and Nationalism”, first published in Russian in 1989, has been repeatedly reprinted as one of the best studies on the origin of nationalism as a product of industrial society.

“The definition of a nation is associated with much more serious difficulties than the definition of a state. Although a modern person is inclined to take a centralized state (and in particular a centralized national state) for granted, he can easily understand his random nature and imagine the social situation in which the state is absent. He is quite capable of imagining a “primitive state.”

The anthropologist can explain to him that a tribe is not always a diminished state, that there are forms of tribal organization that can be considered non-state. On the contrary, the idea of ​​a man without a nation is difficult to fit into modern consciousness.

Chamisso [3], a Frenchman who emigrated to Germany during the Napoleonic period, wrote a vivid Protokafkian novel about a man, lost his shadow. Although the impact of this novel is largely based on the intentional duality of the allegory, one cannot help but guess that for the author, a Man without a Shadow is a Man without a Nation. When his followers and friends notice this abnormal lack of shadow, they turn away from Peter Schlemil, despite his other advantages. A man without a nation defies generally accepted norms and therefore causes hostility.

The point of view of Chamisso — if this is really what he wanted to express — was completely justified, but justified only for a certain state of human society, and not for human society in general at any place and at any time. A person must have a nationality, as he must have a nose and two ears; in any of these cases, their absence is not excluded, and sometimes this occurs. But this is always the result of an accident, and in itself is already a misfortune.

All this seems self-evident, although, alas, it is not. But the fact that it was involuntarily implanted into consciousness as a self-evident truth is the most important aspect or even the essence of the problem of nationalism. Nationality is not an innate human property, but now it is perceived precisely as such. ”

Immanuel Wallerstein, Etienne Balibar – Race, Nation, Class: Ambiguous Identities

The last book on the list is for the most persistent. Immanuel Wallerstein, one of the founders of the school of world-system analysis, together with the philosopher Etienne Balibar, in a collection of essays and articles, the consideration of nations in which is only part of a more general topic.

This work cannot be called easy, but the result is able to recoup the efforts expended on it. Hard Level.

“The history of nations, including ours, always appears to us in the form of a story that prescribes its plot continuity. Thus, the formation of a nation is manifested as the implementation of a centuries-old “project”, with its stages and moments of awareness that historians arbitrarily declare more or less decisive (What should be considered the beginning of France? Gallic ancestors? Capetian monarchy? Revolution of 1789?). But in any case, these stages fit into the same scheme: the scheme of self-expression of a national personality. Such a view, of course, creates a kind of retrospective illusion, but in addition, it reflects the coerciveness of institutional realities.

This is a double illusion. It makes us believe that generations whose name remained almost the same replaced over the centuries in a relatively stable territory, transmit to each other a certain unchanging substance. And this same illusion makes us think that evolution, the individual sides of which we retrospectively select in such a way as to consider ourselves its completion, was the only possible one, that it is our destiny. Design and purpose are two symmetrical figures of the illusion of national identity. ”

All these books are published in Russian and are in electronic form. Have a good weekend and remember, the proverb “knowledge is power” has never been as relevant as in our time.