Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (1991, rev. ed.).

Key terms:

* Imagined community

* Nation: “is an imagined political community – and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign. It is _imagined_ because the members of even the smallest nations will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives an image of their community” (6)


Summary: Anderson posits three causes for the rise of nationalism: i) print-capitalism; ii) the rise of new provincial elites; and, iii) the collapse of the welding of nations to empires.  The key point here is the creation of a sense of community where none existed before, print allowed for the conceptualization of ‘imagined communities’ that bound people together – this was exploited by provincial elites. Nationalism is best seen not as an ideology, but as more destiny than choice (like religion or kinship) – this helps to explain willingness to die for one’s country.


Critique: Anderson’s definition of ‘imagined community’ logically applies to all social groups – problematic? Are all social groups imagined communities? And what of places where capitalism didn’t take hold (i.e. Soviet Union) but Nationalism is extremely strong?


Note: Different from Gellner’s claim that nationalism invents nations where they do not exist.