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"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home  > Library  > Nations & Nationalism > Nations without States: Political Communities in a Global Age

TAMIL NATION LIBRARY: Nations & Nationalism

[note by tamilnation.org - A must read book for those concerned with furthering their understanding of the Fourth World: Nations without a State. see also Nations & Nationalism and From the Conclusion]

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Nations without States

From the back flap:

"The sociology of nationalism has recently come of age, chiefly through the endeavours of an outstanding generation of social scientists. Some critical aspects of nationalism, however, though an all-important modern phenomenon, still remain unexplored. In her new book Montserrat Guibernau tackles the difficult issue of its manifestation in stateless nations, whose weight in the current restructuring of the political world is all too obvious. Herself a citizen of a 'stateless' nation, Catalonia, as well as a remarkable scholar in the field of nationalism, the author provides us with a systematic, comparative and extremely well-balanced study of this intricate and ambivalent phenomenon. This book is bound to become a crucial work of reference for all those interested in the fate and dynamics of nationalism in the now dawning global age." Salvador Giner, University of Barcelona

'Montserrat Guibernau has written a clear, succinct and stimulating analysis of the politics of stateless nations. Her book should be recommended reading for courses in ethnicity and nationalism in Europe and should have a wide appeal to professionals and students in the social and political sciences.' Anthony D. Smith, London School of Economics

Publishers Note: "Nations without states - where there is a strong sense of national identity, but no state - are common. They have a new importance today, when established nation­states are changing their nature in response to globalization. This book provides a comprehensive analysis of Western substate nationalism by drawing on a wide range of case studies which include Catalonia, Scotland, Wales, the Basque Country, Northern Ireland, Quebec and Indian nations in North America.

Drawing on a comparative framework, in which both the nature of nationalist movements and the state containing them are studied, the book offers a typology of the different political scenarios in which substate nationalism emerges and develops, ranging from cultural recognition to federation. Guibernau offers a comparative analysis of nationalist movements in nations without states and considers cultural resistance and political terrorism as strategies currently employed by some of these nations to attain their goals. The future shape of the nation-state and the conditions for the success of alternative structures, such as those prompted by substate nationalist movements, lie at the core of the book. Nations without States will be essential reading for students and professionals in sociology, politics and international relations."


From Pages 98-100:

"...The task of intellectuals in nations without states involves the constant actualization of the nationalist ideology to respond to the community's needs. His or her job is one of service to society..."

"Intellectuals have the capacity to create ideologies which can contribute to legitimizing particular regimes or social structures, but they can also provide challenge and criticism to those regimes and structures. When confronted with the task of intellectuals in nations without states we need to distinguish between their role in the early stages of the nationalist movement, and their task once the movement has attained considerable success and possibly turned itself into one or more political parties which may or may not rule the nation which, as a result of the nationalist movement's action, may have achieved a certain degree of political autonomy.

At the outset of the nationalist movement, intellectuals study the history, culture, myths, language and specific traits of the group and construct a picture of it as a distinct community. They emphasize the main differences between the national minority and the culture and language of the nation which dominates the state within which they are included. Hence, Catalans stress their specific identity as different from a Spanish identity primarily based upon Castilian culture. Scots emphasize their distinctiveness when related to a British identity basically moulded according to England's culture in the same wav that the Quebeckers distance themselves from a Canadian identity primarily shaped by English culture and language.

At this stage, however, the intellectuals' function is not restricted to a re-creation of a sense of community among group members by investigating the cultural and political history of the community. One of the pressing matters facing them is the construction of a discourse a critical and subversive of the current order, a discourse which delegitimizes the state and its policies as a threat to the existence or development of the nation they represent. The radicality of their  statements depends upon the aims of the nationalist movement and the treatment their community receives from the state. Seeking cultural recognition, political autonomy or independence are likely to produce disparate discourses concerning the state's portrayal and the definition of its relation with the national minority. Thus, intellectuals play a double role.

On the one hand, they act as architects of the nationalist movement by providing cultural, historical, political and economic arguments to sustain the distinctive character of the nation and a legitimation of its will to decide upon its political future... The intellectual is the creator of the common myth that guides the revolution. The same could be said about the intellectual's position at the dawn of a nationalist movement.

On the other hand, as we have already mentioned, intellectuals are subversive and construct a discourse which undermines the legitimacy of the current order of things. They denounce the nation's present situation within the state and offer an alternative to it by promoting the conditions and processes of conflict. In so doing they become 'creators and leaders in the production of new state structures, new Gestalts of power and ideology'."

When the nationalist movement is still incipient, a certain degree of altruism and love of country act as potent forces informing the intellectuals' actions. These sentiments are bound to emerge with greater intensity where a national minority suffers from repression exerted by the state. In these circumstances, backing the nationalism of the oppressed nation often involves not only radical exclusion from the state's elite, but a considerable risk to one's own life.

Intellectuals are to be considered as formulators of the nationalist ideology. Their task does not end here, however, since many of them also act as agitators and mobilizers of the nationalist movement. It has to be added that not all intellectuals perform both functions. In the case of a nation without a state of its own, its intellectuals' discourse is opposed by the state's intellectuals, some of whom will operate within the territory of the national minority defending the status quo, questioning its nationalist ideology and displaying a clear 'pro-state nationalist' attitude. It should be noted that within a democratic state, political disagreement about its legitimacy together with the definition and aims of the national minority's movement are at least permissible. In other circumstances, force is employed to prevent the rise of any social movement which could potentially pose a threat to the state's unitary structure.

Albeit that intellectuals play a vital role in the initial stages of the nationalist movement, Smith warns us `to be careful not to exaggerate that role in the later stages or even in the organization of more regular nationalist movements'. This poses a serious question: can nationalist movements once they get under way dispense with intellectuals? I think not. Once the nationalist movement achieves power it needs to select which parts of the history and culture of the community are to become prominent and turned into essential elements of the national identity they have to forge.

A large section of the nation's population may for various reasons support the nationalist movement but they often remain divided. If the nationalist movement is to succeed it should promote a sense of community among the members of the nation.

To do so the dissemination of a unified common culture and language becomes a priority and intellectuals are likely to play a key part in this process. Furthermore, the nation is an entity subjected to constant change and forced to respond to different influences and pressures to constantly adapt to the new circumstances surrounding it.

The task of intellectuals is to grasp these changes and offer suggestions as to how the nation can better respond to them. The absence of intellectuals in any nationalist movement is bound to affect the strength of the movement by limiting its ability to react to social, political and economic challenges. Any nationalist movement needs a medium and long term programme of action which exceeds short term political strategies. The task of intellectuals involves the constant actualization of the nationalist ideology to respond to the community's needs. His or her job is one of service to society..."

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