Nationalism is a movement and a state of mind that brings together national identity, consciousness, and collectivities. It accomplished the great transformation from the old order to modernity; it placed imagination above production, distribution, and exchange; and it altered the nature of power over people and territories that shapes and directs the social and political world. A five-country study that spans five hundred years, this historically oriented work in sociology bids well to replace all previous works on the subject. The theme, simple yet complex, suggests that England was the front-runner, with its earliest sense of self-conscious nationalism and its pragmatic ways; it utilized existing institutions while transforming itself. The Americans followed, with no formed institutions to impede them. France, Germany, and Russia took the same, now marked, path, modifying nationalism in the process.
Nationalism is based on empirical data in four languages—legal documents; period dictionaries; memoirs; correspondence; literary works; theological, political, and philosophical writings; biographies; statistics; and histories. Nowhere else is the complex interaction of structural, cultural, and psychological factors so thoroughly explained. Nowhere else are concepts like identity, anomie, and elites brought so refreshingly to life.
[A] comprehensive, erudite, and highly illuminating book.
Greenfeld displays near-encyclopedic knowledge of the culture and history of various countries; her enterprise is not just impressive, it is heroic… In this age of specialization, it is refreshing to come across a new book that attempts ‘to understand the world in which we live.’ For having tackled an enterprise of such magnitude and complexity, the author deserves our admiration.
With great erudition, Ms. Greenfeld traces the rise of nationalism in five countries—England, France, Russia, Germany and the United States—through the prism of sociological history… This book is a great contribution to understanding nationalism’s place in the world.
[An] exhilarating, ambitious, and thoughtful study… Greenfeld’s analysis allows one to see just what is wrong with that strain of liberal thinking that views nationalism as a form of atavism.
Greenfeld is a trenchant scholar. Her book employs all the apparatus of the academy, complete with quotations from historical sources in five languages: it is a work of striking erudition.
Liah Greenfeld has written a big book: a strong theoretical description and explanation of modern nationalism, a set of brilliant historical studies of its European versions, and an account, at once analytical and passionate, of how it sometimes turns out well and sometimes very badly. No one will write about nationalism again without starting here.
- 596 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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