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Sociological Research Online, 1997
Treanor, P. (1997) 'Structures of Nationalism'
Sociological Research Online, vol. 2, no. 1,

Received: 10/12/96      Accepted: 15/1/97      Published: 31/3/97


     The article reviews briefly the theory of nationalism, and introduces
     (yet another) definition of nations and nationalism. Starting from this
     definition of nationalism as a world order with specific
     characteristics, oppositions such as core and periphery,
     globalism/nationalism, and realism/idealism are formally rejected.
     Nationalism is considered as a purely global structure. Within this, it
     is suggested, the number of states tends to fall to an equilibrium
     number which is itself falling, this number of states being the current
     best approximation to a single world state. Within nationalism variants
     are associated with different equilibrium numbers: these variants
     compete. Together, as the nationalist structure, they formally exclude
     other world orders. Such a structure appears to have the function of
     blocking change, and it is tentatively suggested that it derives
     directly from an innate human conservatism. The article attempts to
     show how characteristics of classic nationalism, and more recent
     identity politics, are part of nationalist structures. They involve
     either the exclusion of other forms of state, or of other orders of
     states, or the intensification of identity as it exists.


     Culture; Globalism; Identity; Innovation; Multiculturalism; Nation
     State; Nationalism; Structuralism



1.1  If a world order of states is so arranged that similarity within each
     state is maximized, and the number of states is minimized, then that
     world order is a nationalist world order, and its components are nation
     states. This definition does not start from the characteristics of a
     nation, as many definitions of nationalism do. It starts instead from
     the world order, considering the nation only in a very abstract sense.
     Implicitly this definition is also a functionalist theory of
     nationalism, and this is expanded later in this article. The article
     closes with a more speculative section on how identity politics could
     replace nationalism, but continue its function.

1.2  That nations have a function, and what it is, is nowhere more clearly
     expressed than in President Clinton's First Inaugural speech:

          When our founders boldly declared America's independence to
          the world and our purposes to the Almighty, they knew that
          America, to endure, would have to change. Not change for
          change's sake, but change to preserve America's ideals -
          life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. Though we march to
          the music of our time, our mission is timeless.

1.3  A world of nation states is a world of states built to maintain past
     ideals, where change is limited to that necessary for their survival, a
     world structured against 'change for the sake of change'.
     Structuralism, functionalism, and voluntarism are currently taboo in
     the social sciences. Yet, I think it strange to reject the clear
     explanations of the purpose of nationalism, so often given by
     nationalists and national leaders. In practice it is often an
     abdication of moral judgement on the actions of nationalists.

1.4  Before considering the relation of structure and function of nations, a
     brief indication of the range of theories of nationalism. Any
     comprehensive review of theories of nationalism could only be of book
     length (for instance Smith, 1983). The Oxford Reader on Nationalism
     (Hutchinson and Smith, 1994) collects examples of the main theories.

1.5  At least nine academic disciplines develop theories of nationalism and
     nation states:

        * political geography
        * international relations
        * political science
        * cultural anthropology
        * social psychology
        * political philosophy (normative theory)
        * international law and Staatsrecht
        * sociology
        * history

1.6  It is not surprising that authors in one discipline are unfamiliar with
     theory in another, or that there is overlap and duplication. Peter
     Alter (1985: p. 169) remarks that the literature can scarcely be
     overseen. In this fragmentation among disciplines, a plurality of
     theories is at least possible. In turn, plurality of theories should
     give more space for innovative theories - more than in a single recent
     paradigmatic discipline. (This reverses the standard assumption, that
     periods of revolution in science are the periods of innovation in
     science. Given fragmentation of disciplines, there might be more
     innovation in 'normal science' than through paradigm change.) However,
     in this respect nationalism theory is a disappointment. Plurality of
     disciplines has not produced an equivalent plurality of theory. Some
     common approaches recur across disciplines. Examples of such common
     features are the tendency, to approach nationalism on a
     country-by-country basis, and to date it as a phenomenon of modernity.

1.7  In any case, it is possible to give some simple (non-inclusive)
     categorization of theories of nationalism:

        * normative theory of nationalism in political philosophy, for
          instance in Walzer (1983).
        * theories of nationalism as political extremism. These use a
          definition of nationalism common in the media: as equivalent to
          jingoism, ethnic hatred, expansionism, militarism, or aggressive
          separatism, contrasted with constitutionalism, liberalism or
          patriotism (see Connor, 1994: pp. 196 - 209). This approach is
          related to 'shopping list' definitions of the extreme right
          (Mudde, 1996: pp. 228 - 9).
        * modernization theories of nationalism: these form the bulk of
          social science theory of nationalism
        * primordialist theories, disputing the modern origin of nations
        * civilization theories of nationalism, often implying an ultimate
          global community. Freud's (1932) comparison of peoples with
          primitive organisms is a core version of such a theory of nations.
        * historicist theories, which take the existence of nations as
          given, and consider their development (or obstacles to that
        * social-integrative theories, especially 'substitute religion'
        * state formation theories, residually explaining nationalism,
          usually as a product of centralizing policy to uniformity
        * global system or global order theories, which do not usually
          consider internal characteristics of nation states. Theory of
          state formation through war combines this with the last category
          (for instance, Rasler and Thompson, 1989).

1.8  This is only one categorization, and indicative only. James Goodman
     (1996), for instance, categorizes theories of nationalism into five
     approaches: ethno-national, modernization, state-centred,
     class-centred, and 'uneven development' theories.

        Little material is available online but a collection of further
        resources has been collected by the author and can be accessed from
     here. Links are ordered on the basis of scale, not of categories of
     theory, and the list is mainly illustrative.

1.9  Four authors have dominated academic consideration of nationalism in
     the last 10 years:

        * Ernest Gellner (Nations and Nationalism, 1983).
        * Eric Hobsbawm (The Invention of Tradition, 1983, co-edited with
          Terence Ranger, and later Nations and Nationalism since 1780,
        * Benedict Anderson (Imagined Communities, 1983).
        * Anthony D. Smith (The Ethnic Origins of Nations, 1986)

1.10 The first three are in the category modernization theories, A. D. Smith
     is the main 'primordialist'. Gellner's academic field was the
     philosophy of sociology, Anderson taught international relations,
     Hobsbawm is a social historian, and Smith a sociologist (notes in
     Hutchinson and Smith, 1994).

1.11 Gellner's work is the most consistently theoretical: it proposes a
     model of the transformation to nation states derived from economic

          So the economy needs both the new type of central culture and
          the central state; the culture needs the state; and the state
          probably needs the homogeneous branding of its flock ...
          (Gellner, 1983: p. 140)

1.12 Anderson does not propose a derivation of this kind, but his central
     thesis is that communication and media did facilitate the emergence of
     nations as imagined communities. For Anderson, only face- to-face
     contact can sustain community: nations are in some sense an illusion.
     Both of these views date nationalism as definitively modern. A. D.
     Smith's central thesis is that pre-modern equivalents of nations
     existed - indirectly invalidating the modernization theories.
     Hobsbawm's article on invented tradition appeared earlier, but can be
     read as a refutation of the pre-modern origin of national tradition.
     Hobsbawm gives examples of how such tradition, even the sustaining myth
     of nations, can be borrowed, added to, or simply invented. (A similar
     work by Bernard Lewis (1977), did not apparently have the same impact.)

1.13 The so-called resurgence of nationalism in Eastern Europe after 1989
     brought these works to media attention, as well as academic status. (At
     one time I could chose between six different courses on them, at one
     university.) All of them are also very readable, with much interesting
     illustration from the history of nations. No more recent work has made
     the same impact, and the fixation on the themes of these authors may
     have limited theoretical perspectives.

1.14 Any attempt to compress these works into one paragraph is inadequate.
     However, one thing is clear: the authors have not engaged in any wide
     speculation about hypothetical worlds of entirely non-national states.
     Nations are explained in these theories, not the absence of
     non-nations. Insofar as possible alternatives are considered, these are
     possible continuations of the mediaeval European order.

  Universalist Particularism

2.1  Most nationalism theory pays little attention to nationalism as a world
     order. This is surprising, since nationalists themselves so often treat
     it as such. Some definitions of nationalism are entirely
     particularistic: Elwert (1989: p. 37) says that nationalists only want
     a nation for themselves, not others. This is untrue: nationalists have
     often wanted other nations. The classic example is Mazzini, who founded
     or inspired not only Young Italy, but Young Germany, Switzerland,
     Poland, Bohemia and Argentina among others (Mack Smith, 1994: pp.
     11-12). Mazzini's vision was global: he saw the peoples as nothing less
     then the units of humanity's army:

          L'Umanità è un grande esercito che move alla conquista di
          terre incognite, contro nemici potenti e avveduti. I Popoli
          sono i diversi corpi, le divisioni di quello esercito.
          (Mazzini (1860) [1953]: p. 89)

2.2  This is a metaphor, but it should emphasize the extreme universalism of
     nationalism. Armies are not known for maximizing autonomy or individual
     will. Any listing of the ethical claims of nationalism (the subject of
     a separate article) will show that nationalism can not de derived, from
     Enlightenment ideas of self-determination. That was the basic thesis of
     Elie Kedourie's influential Nationalism (1960, revised 1992).

2.3  Peter Taylor (1989: p. 175) summarizes the world as seen by
     nationalists, at three levels (approximately the global, national and

        * The world is, for them, a mosaic of nations which find harmony
          when all are free nation states.
        * Nations themselves are natural units with a cultural homogeneity
          based on common ancestry or history, each requiring its own
          sovereign state on its own inalienable territory.
        * Individuals all belong to a nation, which requires their first
          loyalty, and in which they find freedom.

2.4  This standard nationalist thought says more about nationalism than the
     immediate goals of any one nationalist group. For both of these things
     - world view and activism - the word 'nationalism' is used. This may be
     confusing, but it is also misleading to split nationalism into
     'international relations' and 'internal politics', and then include
     secessionism in the second category. Basque separatists in Northern
     Spain and South-western France want a nation state, and are labelled
     nationalists: the governments of France and Spain, who have already got
     a nation state, are not. There is undeniably a secessionist
     nationalism, with claims against a larger state, such as those of the
     ETA. However, the definition at the start of this article is intended
     to emphasize the global effect of such movements, and their historical
     equivalence to the founders of the states they oppose. The term
     nationalism is used here, deliberately, to describe both aspects of the

2.5  Nationalism is not a particularism. It is a universalism, a consistent
     vision or ideology. Autonomy, secession, war and conquest can be
     compatible with a universal shared goal. Apparently amending his
     earlier view of nationalism, Peter Taylor (1995: p. 10) described one
     world as 'the nemesis of interterritoriality'. However, a world of
     nations can still be one world, if it is one nationalist world. The
     definition of nationalism used here is intended to emphasize this
     universal, 'world order', aspect of nationalism. Since nations, united

2.6  The definition implies that nationalism is a substitute for a world
     state. If cultural homogeneity cannot be achieved, because
     co-ordination over distance is not perfect, then a strategy of
     co-operating local similarities is the best option. The number of
     cultures on earth will be the outcome of this strategy. Later, as
     states form on the basis of pre-existing ethnic or cultural groups, the
     number of states will also derive from this strategy. If there are too
     few states, and each too large, they may become internally diverse. If
     there are too many, they will differ too much among themselves. It is
     therefore not possible to project the long term fall in the number of
     states to the point at which only one is left, as Robert Carneiro did
     (1976; see Chase- Dunn, 1990). The trend to fewer political units
     seemed clear enough to Carneiro, to project a date for world
     government: 2300 AD. If however, the nationalist world order is
     considered as a global structure, and not seen as competing states,
     then there is no certainty of reaching a single world state. If there
     is already such a global order, globalization does not imply the
     reduction of its components to one. Instead, there is an optimum number
     of nation states at any one time, within such a nationalist world
     order. That optimum is determined by limits of communications,
     transport, and the degree of political and social organization. This
     number is falling, but constraints of distance may never be eroded
     enough to reduce it to one. The optimum number may in fact exceed the
     number of states that now exist. The many separatist movements, the
     success of small states, and the fact that there are many more
     languages than states, all indicate a world with many more than 185
     states: perhaps closer to 1000.

2.7  That implies a change in the nature of the component states. The
     classic 19th century European nation state, the basis of most
     definitions of nationalism, would best fit a world of between 200 and
     500 states. It is a universalism: but there are competing
     universalisms, variants within nationalism. This is very clear in
     Europe, where these variants are used as programmes for the whole
     continent. Most are serious, some are what might be called geopolitical
     kitsch (Heineken, 1992; Pedersen, 1992). Classic nationalists speak of
     Europe des patries, ethno-nationalists of Europe des ethnies (Heraud,
     1993), regionalists of Europe of the regions (Borrás-Alomar, 1994).
     Only in Europe are the alternatives formulated so explicitly, but these
     universalist structures are implicitly global. They are ways of
     dividing the world: alternatives to classic nationalism. In other
     words, use of similar terms at a global scale can be expected: a world
     of the regions, a world of the peoples, and so on.

2.8  There is what might be called world- nationalism, associated with a
     single global state. Its explicit form is world federalism, and plans
     to the UN into a sort of world government. This centuries-old tradition
     (see ter Meulen, 1917; van der Linden, 1987) is represented by the work
     of Richard Falk (1987; 1992) and many others (Marien, 1995: pp. 297 -
     301). It is paralleled by the philosophical tradition of
     cosmopolitanism (see Toulmin, 1990), and by a belief in globalization.
     (Marien's 1995 article covers a very wide range of global visions, from
     New Age to neo-liberal.) Then there is inter-culturalism - the division
     of the world into 5 to 50 cultures or civilizations, once used in
     organicist versions by historians (Demandt, 1978: pp. 96 - 101), and
     recently revived by Samuel Huntington (1993). At the same scale are the
     pan- nationalist movements, all of them failures until now (Snyder,
     1984: p. 254). Then there is classic (inter-) nationalism, the basis of
     the existing world order. Next to that is ethno-nationalism (Connor,
     1994; Heraud, 1993; Tiryakian, 1985; Watson, 1990). Although there is
     no clear distinction between some 'nations' and 'peoples', the scale of
     the inter-ethnic world is very different, with up to 10,000 'peoples'.
     It is this variant which has the clearest demands at present,
     classically stated in the International Covenant on the Rights of
     Indigenous Nations (CWIS, 1994). At a similar scale is a
     historic-cultural-linguistic regionalism, well organized in Europe (see
     Kohr, 1986; Labasse, 1991). These regions are often seen as units of a
     future federal Europe, combining regionalism with a weak
     pan-nationalism. Finally although it rarely generates separatism, there
     is an inter-localism: it sees the small community, the village or
     neighbourhood, as the only authentic unit of social organization.

2.9  In all these variants, the possible states share four functional
     characteristics (described later), and there is a global order of such
     states. I would emphasize that this article is not intended to explain
     all aspects of nationalism, but to consider why states do not deviate
     from this model.

  Core, Periphery, Hegemony

3.1  In universal structures (functional or not) there is logically no core
     or periphery - at least, not in the sense of most world system models.
     However, competition between universalisms can create this appearance.
     Some separatist movements, for instance, defy the expected logic of
     core and periphery: the Lega Nord, or Catalonian separatism. Mansvelt
     Beck (1991) explains this as an 'inverted core- periphery
     relationship'. This kind of explanation can be avoided on the
     assumption that there is no real separatism at all. Catalonian
     regionalism is regionalism, a model for the whole world, not just
     Spain: Basque nationalism is a manifestation of global ethno-
     nationalism, and so on. The variants of nationalism are superimposed
     universalisms. An ETA attack on a Spanish army barracks is, seen in
     this way, a clash of universalisms.

3.2  To this extent, nationalist movements cannot logically be analyzed in
     terms of social movement theories. (This is an example of the formal
     consequences of adopting the universalist definition used in this
     article). Nor can electoral support for 'nationalist parties' be
     analyzed. In Britain, the Scottish National Party supports a nation
     state, but then so do the Labour Party and the Conservative Party.
     Support for nationalism in UK elections is consistently around 99
     percent. Again, separatist sentiment is labelled nationalist, but
     unionist sentiment is not. In this way, SNP support enters a different
     category for electoral analysis: but this is a purely taxonomic effect.

3.3  In a similar way, a rise in the number of states may generate the
     illusion of power, struggle and resistance. This may be the case, even
     if there is no difference of scale. All units (potential states) might
     be comparable, as with Czechoslovakia, Czechia, and Slovakia. These are
     all classic European nation states. However, seen from Slovakia,
     Czechoslovakia stands for hegemonic culture, an imposed universalism,
     oppression and 'power'. Earlier, the Slavic nationalists who inspired
     the Czechoslovak state, had opposed the dominance of German-language
     culture in Central Europe. Earlier still, German romantic nationalists
     had opposed the dominance of French Enlightenment rationalist culture.
     All secessionist movements are anti-hegemonic and anti-universalist,
     until independence day. After that they become another's hegemonic
     universalism, another's 'state'. And, indeed, Slovakia has been
     criticized, for its treatment of the Hungarian minority.

3.4  Logically, in a perfect order of nations, there is no dominance or
     'power': everyone co-operates a nationalist in sustaining the
     structure. This may however involve changing the number of states,
     creating the illusion of conflict. People volunteer for military
     service: that is said to prove they are willing to die for their
     country. It is equally logical to say they die for the functioning of
     the world order. That, emphasized, in a perfect order of nations.

3.5  This is an abstraction, true. Nevertheless, it is not such an
     abstraction that is has no real effect. Conflicts do involve common
     reinforcement, including reinforcement of national structure.
     Secession, especially, forces both sides further into their own
     identity. Identity makes counter- identity (see Barth, 1969), as with
     Slovak and Czech. It is probably true that Czecho-Slovakia is more
     nationalist since it split: it is certainly true of Yugoslavia. In this
     way the action of individuals in one nation can intensify global
     identity, affecting the number of nations in the process. So it is
     logically possible that there is no national oppression, nor national
     liberation. The 'struggle' is to intensify nationalism, the world
     order. Inside it, to oppress or be oppressed as a nation serves the
     same function. In practice, an oppressed group will say it is a nation
     fighting a state: the state will say it is a nation fighting

  Global/National, Order/Chaos

4.1  Another opposition recurrent in theory on nations is that between the
     national and the global (see Arnason, 1990). The nation state and
     national culture are being eroded by global communication - it is often
     said. It is said that Internet will dissolve nations. Much the same
     thing was said about satellite television, air travel, radio, the
     telegraph, and railways. Nation states are still here. Yet few people
     are sceptical about 'globalization' (Cox, 1992; Smith, 1990), and in a
     sense there is no reason to be. There is no erosion of the national by
     the global, but only because there is nothing to erode. Nationalism is
     100% global: a world order cannot logically be further globalized.

4.2  The components of an order do not stand in opposition to it: certainly
     not in the sense implied by the term 'globalization'. The implicit
     assumption is that nations are particular entities, necessarily at a
     sub-global level. In other worlds, the whole idea starts from the
     assumption that there is no universal nationalism. If I claim the
     people on the pitch at a football match walked there by chance, and I
     see them playing football, then I could say they are being 'football-
     ized'. In fact they went there as a group, for that purpose.

4.3  The question is why there is such enthusiasm for the concept of
     globalization. First, it is in the nature of nationalism itself. The
     world of nations is an imperfect substitute for a homogenous world
     state: it is logical for nationalists to hope it is approaching.
     Secondly, the enthusiasm is in any case matched by the
     anti-universalist ideas mentioned above. There are books and
     conferences on the coming global state, but equally on the rise of
     regions. It seems possible to combine two scales of thought, for
     instance in cultural pan-syncretism (see Nederveen Pieterse, 1993) or
     sub-state federation (Bengoetxea, 1993). Thirdly, this is only one
     example of a pattern: for each of the level of scale of nationalism,
     there are possible upward and downward transitions. Shifts from the
     ethno-regional to the global, for instance, or from pan-nationalism to
     linguistic regionalism.

4.4  Only three of these possibilities are active at present:

        * globalism, more normative than descriptive
        * anti-hegemonic criticism of existing national states and their
          cultures, without any territorial effect as yet. In reaction there
          is some new defence of the nation state, especially in response to
          multiculturalism and identity politics. This applies most in
          high-immigration western industrialized countries, where it is a
          major issue. (The U.S.A. especially: see Schlesinger, 1992.) In
          any case, more recent interest in fusion, hybridity, and 'crossing
          boundaries' favours pan- nationalism. Separatist identity politics
          seems on the way out.
        * ethno-nationalism, and in Europe regionalism at the same
          subnational scale - which enjoys some support within the EU (van
          der Knaap, 1994).

     This last is by far the most active shift. The next ten years are
     unlikely to see a world government, and the US is unlikely to break up
     (and does not need Arthur Schlesinger to save it): but it might see an
     independent Vlaanderen or Catalunya, or the definitive break-up of

4.5  The world order of nations is therefore characterized by both secession
     and fusion, but it is not being 'torn apart'. It is a structure being
     rebuilt to function better. All these shifts in scale merely substitute
     one universalism for another, all variants of one world order. There is
     no dramatic fragmentation, and no paradigmatic shift to one world
     community. No shift is needed.

4.6  It also follows, from the definitions used here, that a world of nation
     states cannot be chaotic or anarchic. The academic discipline of
     international relations is influenced by the idea of a slow progress
     toward the imposition of some kind of order on warring, aggressive
     states, the tradition of, for instance, Hedley Bull (1977, 1984). This
     tradition concedes some 'order in the system'. However, logically there
     cannot be anything else but order. A world order is by definition not
     disorder: international relations are by definition 'idealist' in
     International Relations terms, and a national state cannot be a
     Machtsstaat. So called realism models a world of aggressively
     competitive states - sometimes identified with mediaeval Europe. From
     this a recognition of commonalities may emerge, and states may
     co-operate, bringing order and peace. Those who consider this inherent
     or inevitable are usually classified as idealist.

4.7  But war is not disorder: Carneiro's model, the simplest possible,
     demonstrates that states disappear through 'competitive exclusion'
     until there is one left: there are many wars, but it is an ordered,
     linear process (see Cioffi-Revilla, 1991). The realist/idealist dispute
     ignores the type of state involved. The question is not why there are
     so many wars between nations, but why there are so few wars between
     non-nations. Not why there is ethnic cleansing, but why there is so
     little non-ethnic cleansing. Not what is international relations, but
     why there are only inter-national relations. Any attempt to imagine a
     fundamentally non-national world, should make clear how stable the
     world of nations is. Nation states can apparently fight each other,
     without risk of emergence of new state forms in the alleged 'chaos'.

  Other Worlds

5.1  It may seem that all this imposes a simplistic order on a complex
     world. However it is nationalists who want to impose a simple
     structure, and they have been remarkably successful. Of course the
     world order is not perfect, and states do have autonomous interests.
     These may be of the kind graphically attributed to them in pre-war
     Geopolitik (Schmidt, 1929), or less obsessively in recent geopolitical
     atlases. Nations do sometimes act as entities 'seeking access to the
     sea', or 'control of river basins', or resources, or historical
     territories. The Schmidt-Haack Atlas maps tens of different types of
     claim, and some were later used by Germany. However, if all nation
     states consistently acted like this, there would be constant all-state

5.2  There is also the possibility that a state will turn against the world
     order, a real renegade state. Usually this term merely indicates a
     state disliked by western policy makers: see Dror (1971) on 'crazy
     states'. A real renegade state would have to stop being a nation state:
     no-one speaks of 'crazy nations'. More probable is that nationalism as
     a universal order conflicts with other universalisms; other world
     orders of one or more states, or perhaps a stateless world. The
     definition of nationalism used here, defines it as a monolith with
     great historical continuity. It should then react to competing
     monoliths, as a unit. The Greek polis is often cited as the prototype
     of nations, indeed of all political community. It was also a unit
     within an order of similar states. That Hellenic order may have had a
     proto-national identity itself. However, as an order of city states, it
     was in intermittent conflict with Asian empires. The present order of
     nation states covers the globe, however, so that any competing world
     will be found within it.

5.3  There is at present one clear example of a competing world order:
     theocratic religious universalism, of the kind promoted (in Britain) by
     the Muslim Unity Organization. It advocates a world caliphate, khilafa.
     It is not accidental that this group operates from Britain: the
     existing Islamic nation states would be the first to disappear on the
     road to the caliphate. However small such groups are, they have a
     coherent and radical alternative not just to 'the West', but to the
     whole existing world:

          ...there is a long and still vibrant tradition of Muslim
          agitation against nationalism and the nation state. The most
          recent manifestation of this agitation has had Shi'i
          inspiration, but there are no significant differences between
          Sunni and Shi'a on this question, or between Arab and
          non-Arab Muslims. Feeling that Islam's decline is due chiefly
          to the adoption of Western ideas and culture, all express
          pessimism and suggest a radical restructuring of the world
          order. (Piscatori, 1986: p. 145)

5.4  A complete alternative world order is unlikely to control any territory
     within the world order it rejects. It is however not adequate to
     consider such universalist Islamic movements as 'social movements'
     within existing nation states. They cannot be accommodated within the
     'public domain' of these states, as suggested by John Rex (1996) in a
     previous article in Sociological Research Online. This has nothing to
     do with their immigrant or ethnic status: a Catholic theocracy would
     not fit into a liberal democratic nation state either.


6.1  As long as there are nations, there will be no caliphate; it is neither
     a people, nor a region, nor a nation, nor a culture. Structurally,
     nationalism excludes other entities from state status. Nationalism is a
     blocking world order: it excludes other worlds. It is difficult to
     imagine all these possible worlds from inside the world of nations, and
     that is part of its success. Any attempt to imagine them will lead to
     apparent absurdity.

6.2  What nationalism blocks, above all, is change. The definition of
     nationalism as tending to total homogeneity implies stability also. The
     order blocks, but not without direction. It may well be, in itself,
     empty: it does not define, for instance, what language will be spoken
     in the third nation east of the Rhine. That does not stop it having a
     purpose. If the world order of nations (as defined here) is
     superimposed on a world, it will block change in time, and exclude the
     alternative worlds that are possible at any point in time. That is an
     ethical choice, and the ethics of nations are outside the scope of this
     article, as noted.

6.3  If nationalism is chosen, someone chose it. No one person invented
     nationalism: the most logical 'someone' is, exactly as Mazzini
     suggested, humanity. There is some theory which links the nation to the
     psyche: the most obvious areas of interest are self-determination
     (Ronen, 1979) and personal identity, sense of self (Bloom, 1990). I
     suggest the structure of nationalism derives from an innate human
     conservatism. This is no more absurd than saying that structures of
     reservoirs and water supply derive from an innate human need for water.
     It does not imply that all persons at all times are absolutely
     conservative. (Nor does it contradict biology: change causes stress.)

6.4  How can the world order of nations answer such an innate aversion to
     change? First, in that it gives a monopoly of state formation - and so
     of sovereignty - to nations. Not that all states correspond exactly to
     one nation: again, the point is how few states correspond to
     non-national entities. They do exist as historical curiosities: the
     Vatican, and the autonomous Agio Oros (Athos) in Greece. Some
     nationalists have a horror of a state without a nation: see Heraud's
     comment on the Vatican as a product of History, 'qui est violence'
     (1993: p. 11). If national divisions were not dominant, there should be
     more of these counter-examples. Secondly, the nation itself is
     past-based. Trans-generationality is a key characteristic of nations,
     and found in many definitions of nation. Writing on the subjective
     experience of cultural identity, A. D. Smith (1990: p. 179) names three
     components of shared experience: a sense of transgenerational
     continuity, shared memories, and a sense of common destiny. Collapsing
     the three into one gives the purpose of a nation: it exists to project
     the past (as collectively remembered) into the future, as little
     changed as possible. Nationalists almost do not ignore the future:

          Nations are thus projects for the future and have the right
          to self-determination in order to organise their future.
          (Bengoetxea, 1993: p.95)

6.5  However in a national world order, nations are the only entities with
     self-determination and territory, and they are past- constituted. Just
     as with the world order, the nation is empty but not directionless:
     superimpose a nation on a heritage, and it will preserve it. In fact it
     will make the past into a 'heritage', one of the metaphors of
     possession common in nationalism. It is logical in nations, that the
     past should increase its share of economy, society and culture (see
     Horne, 1984; Lowenthal, 1985), that territory undergoes
     'heritage-ization' (Walsh, 1992: pp. 138 - 147), that memory is
     cultural (see Assman, 1988) and that its preservation is a task of the
     state. Despite Lowenthal's title, the past is not treated as an apart
     entity, but rather divided up to correspond to existing nations. The
     world is thus occupied by states projecting parallel pasts into the
     future: there is no non-memory space, no space which is not of the

6.6  Thirdly, the nations are in principle eternal, and so the nation state,
     and so the world order. (Dependent territories and mandates can have a
     formal time limit, but this relates to a transfer of power. Mandate
     territories become independent nation states, or join an existing
     neighbour.) The idea of setting up a state for a limited time for a
     specific purpose is alien to nationalism. The exceptions which show it
     is possible - for example extraterritorial mining concessions - are
     curiosities in a world of nations. The projection of the past will

6.7  Fourth, and most specifically, no state has ever been established for
     the primary purpose of change. This logical possibility is not limited
     by available technology or culture - it could have been done 1000 years

6.8  Returning to the definition: there logically exists a general class of
     orders of states where the boundaries are not drawn so as to maximise
     change. In other words, a class of change-limiting orders, in effect
     change-minimizing orders. The order of nations is probably the most
     effective of these. Formally, it is an order of coterminous states
     covering the entire land surface, formed by transgenerational identity
     communities, claiming a monopoly of state formation, and eternal
     legitimacy. All the scale variants of nationalism conform to this

6.9  These four functional characteristics of the nationalist world order
     emphasize how different it is from other possible orders, and how it
     has excluded them for a long time. In effect it has become superimposed
     on the world, by choice. It would be inaccurate to say it arrived at
     one instant. No-one can give a definitive date for when nationalism
     began: Marcu (1976: pp. 3 - 15) quotes 41 different views on the issue.
     Instead, a structure has been elaborated and intensified, and the
     beginnings of other structures have been abandoned. Compare the five
     possible futures of thirteenth century Europe suggested by Tilly (1975:
     p. 26), or the different routes to the national identity suggested by
     Armstrong (1982: pp. 283 - 300). The intensification has increased in
     the last 200 years, as nations become more national.

6.10 It is a property of nationalism that intensifying the national identity
     intensifies the world order. Most theory of nationalism attributes this
     process to the state, at most to the interaction of state and civil

          Après avoir ajusté à leur échelle propre l'armée, la justice,
          la religion et l'administration, ils en viennent à
          nationaliser le marché (impôts, douanes, lois et règlements,
          poids et mesures, etc.) à nationaliser l'école (langue
          officielle, programmes, examens, etc.) et, de proche en
          proche, à nationaliser encore la conscription, les services
          publics, certaines entreprieses au moins (chemins de fer,
          postes, ports etc.) ... l'Etat tend à façonner toute la
          societé civile, laquelle tend, en retour, a soumettre l'Etat
          à ses finalités propres... (Fossaert, 1994: p. 195)

          After having adjusted the army, the courts, religion and
          administration to national scale, they start to national-ise
          the market (taxes, customs, laws and regulations, weights and
          measures), to national-ise the schools (official language,
          educational programmes, exams), and then to nationalise in
          turn, conscription, public service, some business enterprises
          (railways, post, ports) ... The State forms civil society,
          which in turn begins to use the State for its own goals...
          (Fossaert, 1994: p. 195)

6.11 The logic of nationalism however, is that this is a process of
     convergence driven from below, that the national identity is exactly
     what A. D. Smith (1990: p. 179) says it is not: an average. The state
     is merely an instrument. Too large a state and the convergence will be
     ineffective, too small and the averages will differ too much - and so
     back to the starting definition. Neither secession nor conquest disturb
     this process in the long run: the new nations will have their own
     'nationalization', their own convergence. In other words, even at the
     level of the individual state, attitudes to change can determine the
     degree of national uniformity. Secession, in effect, punishes the state
     for allowing too much difference in the population. This is not an
     abstraction: many nationalists explicitly value homogeneous

6.12 In any case, daily reality in most nations is not secession, but less
     spectacular processes of emancipation. Nations are not perfect: they
     include minorities (or majorities) which do not conform to the national
     ideal, but have no other national identity. Repeatedly, such groups
     chose to integrate into the nation, rather than allow non-national
     secession. They pressure the state for inclusion, and often try to
     adjust the national identity, through cultural politics. Once again,
     there is no political-geographic inevitability in this: if people can
     secede as a nation they can secede as something else. They chose not
     to, with some historical exceptions. Again, the remarkable feature of
     the world order of nations is not the number of secessionist movements,
     but the fact that all of them represent a people, or a nation.

6.13 A good example of the intensity of this choice is the campaign of gay
     and lesbian groups - especially in the U.S.A. - against the military
     ban on service, for 'the right to die for my country'. It seems absurd
     to demand to be killed in an army which discriminates against you. The
     emotions here can only be nationalist, U.S.A. nationalist: a sort of
     desperate desire to be part of an identity, to conform, to belong, not
     to be different. This is an example of genuine anger directed against
     the state, for failing to homogenize the nation. The logically possible
     alternatives do not occur. Despite the influence of religion in the
     U.S.A., there is no comparable demand for the 'right to die for my
     church', let alone any other organization. There is also no serious
     secessionist movement of gays and/or lesbians despite decades of social
     organization. When Cardinal Archbishop Quarracino of Buenos Aires
     proposed (in August 1994) a 'separate country for homosexuals', he had
     to publicly apologise, saying it was a joke. He did not know, probably,
     of Queer Nation (Bérubé, 1991; Chee, 1991), nor that it makes no
     territorial demands, despite its name.

6.14 Many processes, then, which may seem separate or contradictory, can be
     described in a structure of nationalism, starting from its formal
     definition as a specific world order. Integration through formalism is
     a characteristic of conspiracy theories: does all this imply a vast
     conspiracy involving almost all humans over centuries? Not necessarily:
     it is possible to generate complex structures from simple rules. The
     most general rule for a nationalist world as a blocking world order
     would be approximately: 'if there is change, intensify identity'. A
     second rule might be to intensify identity preferably by fusion or
     accretion, and only if that failed, by secession. However, it is not
     necessary to imply a hidden formal grammar of nationalism. People do
     not need one: they can reflect on what is happening, and produce open
     doctrines of complex action - as did Mazzini, and other nationalist

  Identity Politics and Territory

7.1  National identity links the individual to the world order. It has also
     been a central theme in universities over the last 15 - 20 years.
     Especially so, in English-speaking countries where a liberal political
     tradition is confronted by ethnic diversity (Rex, 1996). Some of that
     academic activity has an obvious link to nationalism, ethnic studies
     for example. More generally, there is an interest in what might be
     called structures of cultural identity, which may have a spatial or
     territorial counterpart.

7.2  In the US the work of bell hooks, for instance, shows a transition from
     marginality as a 'site of deprivation' to a 'site of resistance' to a
     'site one stays in' (hooks, 1990: p. 341), which is almost a summary of
     secessionist nationalism. In this way nationalist models, even of
     classic Mazzinian nationalism, may be adopted for identity politics.
     (That is, without necessarily breaking up existing nation states.) This
     continuity from 19th century nationalism to recent identity politics
     has yet to be researched. Even before the First World War, the
     Austro-Marxist Bauer (1907) anticipated the model of a multicultural
     state, now common in political speech in western Europe. Already in
     1944, Louis Adamic described the United States as 'A Nation of
     Nations', and President Kennedy echoed the idea in the sixties
     (Kennedy, 1964). In contrast to Benedict Anderson's view (1992) that
     multiculturalism is transitional, there is no reason why a nation state
     can not be a Vielvölkerstaat, with diversity as a national value. The
     ultimate logic would be to make each nation itself a microcosm of the
     world order: united nations of united nations.

7.3  It seems possible that use of identity can be further intensified,
     possibly to the point that a non-territorial structure of
     transgenerational identity replaces classic nationalism. For an example
     of the new politics, see the post-structuralist critique of Transgender
     Nation by Newitz (1993), and other texts at the same site. The new
     world order could be 'syncretic', a term from the study of religion
     (see Colpe, 1987). It could be a world order of gender pluralism,
     trans- diaspora cultures, trans-trans hybrids, and other new
     combinations of the existing - suppressing change by the volume of

7.4  More probable is, that the parallels between the new politics and the
     old, will reinforce classic nationalism. Take this (random) example: a
     comment on bell hooks from a recent paper on spaces of citizenship:

          In hooks's case these 'homes' entailed her grandparent's
          house and then the black neighbourhoods containing this house
          and also her own, and the implication is that these houses
          and neighbourhoods were rather more to her than 'just' sites
          of belonging, they were also sites where black people could
          escape from the antagonism, anger and attacks which arose
          when they trespassed on white space (however legitimate in
          legal terms their presence in this white space would actually
          be). In other words, hooks indicates something of how black
          people can never be citizens confidently occupying the spaces
          of white society, but hints too at how they may find ways of
          trying to foster alternative locales in which some sense of
          being a citizen - this time of a distinctively black world -
          is made possible. (Painter & Philo, 1995: pp. 116 - 7)

7.5  Change some names and this becomes much less friendly:

          In Tudjman's case these 'homes' entailed his grandparent's
          house and then the Croat neighbourhoods containing this house
          and also his own, and the implication is that these houses
          and neighbourhoods were rather more to him than 'just' sites
          of belonging, they were also sites where Croat people could
          escape from the antagonism, anger and attacks which arose
          when they trespassed on Yugoslav space (however legitimate in
          legal terms their presence in this Yugoslav space would
          actually be). In other words, Tudjman indicates something of
          how Croat people can never be citizens confidently occupying
          the spaces of Yugoslav society, but hints too at how they may
          find ways of trying to foster alternative locales in which
          some sense of being a citizen - this time of a distinctively
          Croat world - is made possible.

7.6  And of course it was made possible.

7.7  There is no need to reinvent nationalism, for nations have not
     disappeared, but some people seem determined to reinvent it anyway. The
     structure of nationalism is being altered, but its singularity and
     purpose are not. It remains one structure, one world order excluding
     other worlds. The man who more than anyone, was the founding father of
     modern nationalism, Johann Gottlieb Herder, wrote in 1774:

          Ist nicht das Gute auf der Erde ausgestreut? Weil eine
          Gestalt der Menschheit und ein Erdstrich es nicht fassen
          konnte, wards geteilt in tausend Gestalten, wandelt - ein
          ewiger Proteus! - durch alle Weltteile und Jahrhunderte
          hin...(Herder, 1990/1774: p. 36)

7.8  Nationalism is a Proteus, but it changes only to prevent change.
     Rewriting Herder in the negative gives the judgement of nationalism:
     Only that which is already strewn about the Earth, is good.



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