Anthony Smith, Chosen Peoples: Sacred sources of national identity (2003).

_Summary: _ Book aims to shed light on the significance of the historical relationship between religion and nationhood in order to boost understandings of our world. Smith argues that political, social, and economic theories of nationalism which fail to take account of its belief-systems and their relation to religion miss something of fundamental importance. For Smith, nationalism is of ‘this world’, which suggests a paradoxical linking to sacred concepts of religion. He overcomes this by distinguishing between ‘functionalist’ and ‘substantive’ approaches to religion. In association with nationalism, religion is seen as a ‘moral, or social, force’ rather than as a quest for salvation. Key concept is that of a _sacred communion of the people_ – the “central concept of the political religion of nationalism.” Smith sees authenticity (one of the key linkages b/w nationalism and religion) as being derived substantially from heroes, messiahs, and prophets.

 

For Smith, while ethnicity (see his other work, below) helps to explain the origins of nations, the ‘sense of the sacred and the binding common bonds of religion’ has been even more important in explaining the persistence of national identities and aspirations.

 

_Important Insight: _ Nationalism cannot be understood without its relationship to religion, and sacred beliefs.

 

_Note: Should look at Smith’s work on ethnic formation of national identity – see below:_

 

The conception of ‘ethnie’ is important’