தமிழ்த் தேசியம்

"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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CONTENTS OF
THIS SECTION

Last updated
06/11/07

On Civic Nationalism & Ethnic Nationalism
On Virtual Nations
On Tamil Nationalism
List of Member States of the United Nations with dates on which they were admitted
FACTS - The State of Nations, 1996
Future of Self Determination "...Self determination and democracy go hand in hand. If democracy means the rule of the people, by the people, for the people, then the principle of self determination secures that no one people may rule another - and herein lies its enduring appeal..."

Conferences & Associations

Association for the Study of Ethnicity and Nationalism, 18th Annual Conference, 2008 -  "Nationalism, East and West: Civic and Ethnic Conceptions of Nationhood"  - Call for Papers
The Endurance of Nationalism: Ancient Roots and Modern Dilemmas - ASEN Nations and Nationalism Debate, 31 October 2007

Association for the Study of Ethnicity and Nationalism, 17th Annual Conference, 2007: "The Dark Face of Nationalism: Violence, Extremism and the Nation" 17-19 April 2007

13th Annual Ernest Gellner Nationalism Lecture - Nationalism and Cosmopolitanism -  Professor Craig Calhoun, 16 April 2007
Association for the Study of Ethnicity and Nationalism - London School of Economics, UK

Approaches to Nationalism Studies

Nationalism & the Mind - Liah Greenfield, 2004
Structures of Nationalism - P.Treanor, 1997  "...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. It is not surprising that authors in one discipline are unfamiliar with theory in another, or that there is overlap and duplication. ..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. ... However, in this respect nationalism theory is a disappointment. Plurality of disciplines has not produced an equivalent plurality of theory..."

Nations & Nationalism - Warwick Debate: Anthony D. Smith & Ernest Gellner, 1995

What is a Nation? What is a State? - Exploring Minority Rights and their Limits - Richard Falk, 19 April 2004
Teaching Nations and Nationalism in the (former) Soviet Union - Katrina Z. S. Schwartz, 2001
Memory and Modernity: reflections on Ernest Gellner's theory of nationalism - Do Nations have Navels? - Anthony D. Smith, 1996 "...we recall that God created Adam, fashioning his body and then breathing life into it. Not even the most megalomaniac nationalist has claimed quite that power. They have, of course, seen themselves as awakeners; but the body of the nation merely slumbered, it was not without life. Should we confer on nationalists that divine power, to create ex nihilo?..."
Ethnicity: Concept and Meaning: ‘ Them and Us': the Assertion of Ethnic and National Identity in the New Europe - Jeff Richards " ...The notion of ‘identity’ has received considerable attention in recent years, not least in political science and international relations literature. It may refer to the individual and his or her sense of ‘belonging’ and points of reference to the world in which he/she finds himself or herself. It tends to be linked to familiarity and a sense of shared orientations in a community of the similar... The need for identification with a community in order to achieve individual identity or self-respect is in part a function of socialisation experiences. The group constituting the ‘community’ may vary historically and geographically from family, extended family, through ‘kith and kin’ to clan and tribe and on to a larger community. In this sense it relates mainly to a community based on a shared history and culture. In a historic culture- community the modes and goals of identification are given by the group and its past experiences as they coalesce into a collective ‘tradition’ which distinguishes a particular ‘ethnic’ identity. Indeed, the core of ethnicity itself resides in myths, memories, values and symbols, rather than in any idea of race. This is an important point.."  
Cultural Identity: Search for Definition - Thomas K. Schippers, 2001 " (In the beginning of the 20th century)... anatomist and substantivist approaches dominated the research on cultural specificities, thereby promoting the view that cultural particularities were permanent and absolute traits. ..Thus, the academicians often placed certain groups into ethnies and races abusively and arbitrarily, according to criteria that would make us laugh today. These conceptual discussions echoed in the public arena in the 1920’s and 1930’s, particularly in France, Germany, and other European countries, where the domination of Europe over the rest of the world was celebrated in various ways. It was partly to counter these abusive and often superficial perspectives of cultural specificities, that modern anthropology abandoned, starting in the 1960’s, the use of the concept ethnie in favor of concepts like ethnicity (in use in the US) or ethnic groups (in use in Britain) to discuss the changing processes through which belonging and identity are constructed..."
The Study of Ethnicity needs Better Categories - Francisco Gil-White  "..It has been difficult to make progress in the study of ethnicity because of the multiple confusions of analytic and lay terms, and the sheer lack of terminological discipline ... This makes a conceptual cleaning-up unavoidable. I focus primarily on the terms ‘ethnic group,’ ‘nation,’ and ‘nationalism,’ and I will make the following points:
1) so-called ‘ethnic groups’ are collections of people with a common cultural identity, plus an ideology of membership by descent and normative endogamy;
2) the ‘group’ in ‘ethnic group’ is a misleading misnomer—these are not ‘groups’ but categories, so I propose to call them ‘ethnies’;
3) ‘nationalism’ mostly refers to the recent ideology that ethnies—cultural communities with a self-conscious ideology of self-sufficient reproduction—be made politically sovereign;
4) it is terribly confusing to use ‘nationalism’ also to stand for ‘loyalty to a multi-ethnic state’ because this is the exact opposite, so let’s not;
5) a ‘nation’ truly exists only in a politician’s imagination, so analysts should not pretend that establishing whether something ‘really’ is or isn’t a nation matters; and
6) a big analytic cost is paid every time an ‘ethnie’ is called a ‘nation’ because this mobilizes the intuition that nationalism is indispensable to ethnic organization (not true), which thereby confuses the very historical process—namely, the recent historical emergence of nationalism—that must be explained.
The Role of Philosophy and Literature in building up the National Identity of the early 19th century United States - Keijo Virtanen, 2003
What is a nation? - Ernest Renan, 1882 "The piece in this volume to which I attach the greatest importance is the lecture ‘What is a nation?’ I weighed each part with greatest care. It is my profession of faith regarding human affairs, and I hope that these twenty pages will be recalled when modern civilization flounders as the result of the disastrous ambiguity of the words: nation, nationality, race.”
"A Nation is defined by its material culture" - Sharon Murray
The Unity of Italy - Giuseppe Mazzini "...The nation never has existed, said they; therefore it can never exist. But we, viewing the question from the height of our ruling synthesis, declare: The nation has not as yet existed; therefore, it must exist in the future. A people destined to achieve great things for the welfare of humanity must one day or other be constituted a nation..."
Marxism & the National Question - J. V. Stalin, 1913 "...A nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture..."  
Critical Remarks on the National Question - V.I.Lenin, 1913 "The slogan of national culture is a bourgeois.. fraud. Our slogan is: the international culture of democracy and of the world working-class movement. Marxism cannot be reconciled with nationalism, be it even of the "most just", "purest", most refined and civilised brand..."

Albert Einstein on Zionism "...The Jews are a community bound together by ties of blood and tradition, and not of religion only: the attitude of the rest of the world toward them is sufficient proof of this. When I , came to Germany fifteen years ago I discovered for the first time that I was a Jew, and I owe this discovery more to Gentiles than Jews.."

What is Judaism?  Is it a Religion? -  Is it a Race? -  Is it a Culture? - It is a Nation " ...there is a certain amount of truth in the claims that it is a religion, a race, or an ethnic group, none of these descriptions is entirely adequate to describe what connects Jews to other Jews... The best explanation is the traditional one given in the Torah: that the Jews are a nation. The Hebrew word, believe it or not, is "goy." We use the word "nation" not in the modern sense meaning a territorial and political entity, but in the ancient sense meaning a group of people with a common history, a common destiny, and a sense that we are all connected to each other..."
Iqbal's Concept of Muslim Nationalism - Rizwan Malik, 1996 "...'The principal that each group is entitled to free development on its own lines is not inspired by any feeling of narrow communalism ... A community which is inspired by a feeling of ill-will towards other communities is low and ignoble. I entertain the highest respect for the customs, laws, religions and social institutions of other communities.' Nationalism in the sense of love of one's country and even readiness to die for its honour is a part of the Muslim's faith... The religious ideal of Islam, therefore, is organically related to the social order which it has created. The rejection of the one will eventually involve the rejection of the other.."
 Why India Is A Nation -  Sankrant Sanu, 2003
compare with For Province Read Nation - Pramatha Chaudhuri, 1920
Benedict Anderson on Western Nationalism & Eastern Nationalism, 2001 -  Is there any significant difference here between East and West? [also in pdf]
Adrian Hastings on The Construction of Nationhood: Ethnicity, Religion, and Nationalism "..For the development of nationhood from one or more ethnicities, by far the most important and widely present factor is that of an extensively used vernacular literature. A long struggle against an external threat may also have a significant effect as, in some circumstances, does state formation, though the latter may well have no national effect whatever elsewhere. A nation may precede or follow a state of its own but it is certainly assisted by it to a greater self-consciousness..."
Nationalism and Universal Norms - Donald Ipperciel  "..Nationalism seems to be a phenomenon that the world will have to live with. From this fact ensues a heighten interest in its study..."
Country, State & Nation "While the terms country, state, and nation are often used interchangeably, there is a difference..."
Structure and Strategy in Ethnic Conflict - Donald L. Horowitz, 1998 - "There is a long-standing difference of approach between those who see ethnic groups as firmly bounded, durable communities inclined toward ethnocentrism, hostility to outsiders, and passionate conflict, and those who see them as social constructs, with a solidarity based on material rewards and conflict behavior based on calculation. This difference of approach ought to yield to a new synthesis based on an understanding of ethnicity as a powerful Gemeinschaft affiliation that can induce both calculative and passionate action..."
Irredentism: An Inevitable Tendency of Ethnic Nationalism - Dimo Yagcioglu
When is a nation, a nation? FIFA
National Identity in the Democratic Multi-Cultural State - John Rex, 1996
Beyond the Nation-State: National Identity and Citizenship in a Multicultural Society:A Response to Rex - Gerrard Delany, 1996 "...Citizenship implies membership of a polity while identity implies the recognition of common ties.."
Contemporary Nationalism Its Causes and Consequences for Europe - John Rex, a reply to Delanty, 1996
Representative Government - John Stuart Mill
Nationalism Links
Nationalism - Internet Modern History Source Book
Nationalism Resources at Social Science Information Gateway 
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Graduate Program, Spring 2001
 
The Nationalism Project 
New Internationalist Selection of Books on Nationalism, 1996

Visit the
Nations & Nationalism
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NATIONS & NATIONALISM

What is a Nation? : Definition of a Nation

Nadesan Satyendra
27 November 1997, Revised 14 November 2000, 10 May 2003

(Included in Course Reading at Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs,Graduate Program on Social Movements, Democracy and Justice, Spring 2001)

"'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less'. 'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things'. 'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master - that's all'." Lewis Carrol - Through the Looking Glass, c.vi

"Bullets and borders: The nation-state is on its last legs - but people are still prepared to die for their country." Nikki van der Gaag in the New Internationalist, 1996

bullet All definitions are partial...
bullet No scientific definition of a nation can be devised...
bullet Subjective attributes of a nation...
bullet It is nature and nurture - it is not either or, but both...
bullet A nation is not simply a cultural togetherness - it is a political togetherness...
bullet A political togetherness consolidated by struggle and suffering...
bullet A nation is a political togetherness but it is not a state...
bullet A nation may be divided amongst several states - a trans state nation...
bullet It is not necessarily a state in waiting...
bullet Political institutions are not unrelated to material conditions of existence...
bullet But a nation is a political togetherness which cuts across the vertical divisions amongst a people...
bullet Digital revolution is helping to forge anew the cultural, economic and political togetherness of a people...
bullet Failure of 'objective' definitions and the tautological nature of 'subjective' definitions of a nation...
bullet Gellner was right to separate the two elements of the attempted definition - the objective and the subjective...
bullet Subjective feelings of a people are not uniquely determined by their material conditions of existence...
bullet Leaders play an important role in nation building...
bullet Nations and the One World...
bullet What then is a nation in an emerging post modern world?


up All definitions are partial...

It is said that definitions come at the end of knowledge. That is, perhaps, another way of saying that all definitions are incomplete and partial.

"...reason cannot arrive at any final truth because it can neither get to the root of things nor embrace their totality. It deals with the finite, the separate and has no measure for the all and the infinite." - The Future Evolution of Man - Sri Aurobindo

Ludwig Wittgenstein did not say something very different in the *Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus -

"...all the propositions of logic say the same thing, to wit nothing. To give the essence of a proposition means to give the essence of all description, and thus the essence of the world. The limits of my language mean the limits of my world..."

For * Emile Durkheim,

"...Explanation requires comparison; comparison requires classification; classification requires the definition of those facts to be classified, compared, and ultimately explained." - Robert Alun Jones in Emile Durkheim: An Introduction to Four Major Works. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications, Inc., 1986

But, to define is to elementalise and reduce - and there is no finality to this process. To define is to separate - and the separating line is never the line of zero thickness of Euclidean geometry. The whole is never the static sum of the separate parts.

Why then attempt to define? It may be said that it is helpful to let others know what one is talking about. But then, talk is not an end in itself - not even for Humpty Dumpty. 

Theory and practice are the two legs on which we walk. Theory informs that which we do and that which we do helps to refine our theory. The relationship between word and deed is intrinsic and it is dynamic. Definitions are partial but they serve as stepping stones in an enfolding and unfolding process.

" .... reason has a legitimate function to fulfil, for which it is perfectly adapted; and this is to justify and illumine for man his various experiences and to give him faith and conviction in holding on to the enlarging of his consciousness." - The Future Evolution of Man - Sri Aurobindo

Theory is a practical thing.


up No scientific definition of a nation can be devised...

Hugh Seton-Watson, after a life time devoted to the study of the origin of nations and the politics of nationalism observed:

"I am driven to the conclusion that no 'scientific definition' of a nation can be devised; yet the phenomenon has existed and exists. " - Hugh Seton-Watson, Professor of Russian History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London: * Nations & States - Methuen, London 1977

Seton-Watson was right to insist that no 'scientific definition' of a nation can be devised. But he was wrong to imply that this difficulty was peculiar to the definition of a nation. Again, the certainty that he attributed to 'scientific' definitions may have applied with some force to Newtonian science but today, science itself is compelled to live with the uncertainty enunciated by the Heisenberg principle, where reality lies in the elusive interplay of space and time.

Our understanding of what is a nation is furthered by our understanding of what is not a nation. A nation is not a state. A nation is not an ethnic group. The attributes of a nation are both subjective and objective. Words acquire meaning in context. Alan Watts was right to point out:

"That for every outside there is an inside, and for every inside there is an outside, and though they are different, they go together." - Alan Watts in Om - Creative Meditations, Edited and Adapted by Judith Johnstone, 1980)

Every inside has an outside - and the relationship between the two is intrinsic and not extrinsic. Reality may have to grasped - not simply analysed and 'reduced'.


up Subjective attributes of a nation...

The oft quoted words of Rupert Emerson emphasised the subjective attributes of a nation:

'The simplest statement that can be made about a nation is that it is a body of people who feel that they are a nation; and it may be that when all the fine spun analysis is concluded, this will be the ultimate statement as well'. - Rupert Emerson: From Empire to Nation - The Rise to Self-Assertion of Asian and African Peoples, 1960

Seton-Watson echoed these words when he declared:

"All that I can find to say is that a nation exists when a significant number of people in a community consider themselves to form a nation, or behave as if they formed one. It is not necessary that the whole of the population should so feel, or so behave, and it is not possible to lay down dogmatically a minimum percentage of a population which must be so affected. When a significant group holds this belief, it possesses 'national consciousness'." - Hugh Seton-Watson, Professor of Russian History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London:* Nations & States - Methuen, London 1977

However, he was careful to add 'common-sense', and remind us of the power that flows through the barrel of the gun - and from the pen of the propagandist:

"Commonsense suggests that if this group is exceedingly small (let us say less than 1% of the population), and does not possess great skill in propaganda, or a strong disciplined army to maintain it until it has been able to spread national consciousness down into much broader strata of the population, then the nationally conscious elite will not succeed in creating a nation, and is unlikely to be able to indefinitely remain in power on the basis of a fictitious nation."


up It is nature and nurture - it is not either or, but both...

For Achmed Sukarno, a nation was 'more real than you and I are, for it existed in our fathers and will exist in our children'.

"But what is a nation? Many great thinkers have applied their minds to this. Many answers have been given, often conflicting, and usually confusing. One of the truest and most moving descriptions I know was contained in a short essay by a little known professor of Ohio University. About 40 years ago Professor Taylor wrote: Where and what is a nation ? Is there such a thing ? You would answer that the nation exists only in the minds and hearts of men. It is an idea. It is therefore more real than its courts and armies; more real than its cities, its mines, its cattle; more real than you and I are, for it existed in our fathers and will exist in our children. It is an idea, it is an imagination, it is a spirit, it is human art. Who will deny that the nation lives?" - Achmed Sukarno : Address to The National Press Club - 1956 Department of State Bulletin.

The primordial roots of a nation are to be found in kinship - in blood relationship. In Tamil we say "udan pirapukal". 'It existed in our fathers and will exist in our children'. At the same time, a nation grows by a process of differentiation and opposition. It is nature and nurture - it is not either or, but both.

"Nationalism ... is an act of consciousness .. the mental life of man is as much dominated by an ego-consciousness as it is by a group consciousness. Both are complex states of mind at which we arrive through experiences of differentiation and opposition, of the ego and the surrounding world, of the we group and those outside the group" - *Hans Kohn - Idea of Nationalism -  A Study of its Origins and Background  New York 1944

"... it has been repeatedly observed that the presence of an out group, especially one evincing hostility, promotes the loyalty of people to their own group.. For this reason, nationalistic movements among nationals living under what they consider to be foreign or alien domination are likely to grow strong when conditions are bad and can be ascribed to the alien power.. Interference with a people's language not only is a symbolic insult but also creates difficulties of a realistic sort in simple communication. - Leonard W. Doob: Patriotism and Nationalism -Their Psychological Foundations , Yale University Press, 1964


up A nation is not simply a cultural togetherness - it is a political togetherness...

The roots of a nation are to be found in kinship, and a nation grows by a process of differentiation and opposition - but a nation is not simply a cultural togetherness. A nation is not simply an ethnic group. Neither is a nation simply an economic togetherness. It is a political togetherness as well. It is a political togetherness concerned both with the structure and the exercise of power. A nation exists together with other nations - and (in a sense) because other nations exist. The inside and the outside go together.

A nation is a togetherness which gives expression to the shared aspirations of a people for equality and freedom - and to establish, nurture and maintain the institutions necessary for that purpose.

If democracy means rule of the people, by the people, for the people, then it also follows that no one people may rule another. Free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of different nations but which has one army.

"Free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities. An altogether different set of leaders have the confidence of one part of the country and of another. Their mutual antipathies are much stronger than their jealousy of the government... Above all, the grand and only effectual security in the last resort against the despotism of the government is in that case wanting: the sympathy of the army with the people. Soldiers to whose feelings half or three fourths of the subjects of the same government are foreigners, will have no more scruple in mowing them down, and no more reason to ask the reason why, than they would have in doing the same thing against declared enemies. *John Stuart Mill: Considerations on Representative Government. London 1872


up A political togetherness consolidated by struggle and suffering...

A nation is a political togetherness consolidated by struggle and suffering. Suffering is a great teacher and distress binds a people together.

".. to have suffered, worked, hoped together; that is worth more than common taxes and frontiers conforming to ideas of strategy... I have said 'having suffered together'; indeed, common suffering is greater than happiness. In fact, national sorrows are more significant than triumphs because they impose obligations and demand a common effort. .. A nation is a grand solidarity constituted by the sentiment of sacrifices which one has made and those that one is disposed to make again. " Ernest Renan: Que'est-ce qu'une Nation? Paris 1882

"The emergence of a martyr likewise facilitates patriotism and nationalism: if people feel that someone with whom they identify themselves has been killed, tortured, or otherwise deprived of some value, their indignation is likely to be great and perhaps long enduring.  - Leonard W. Doob: Patriotism and Nationalism -Their Psychological Foundations , Yale University Press, 1964

The cyanide capsule in the hands of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam is evidence not of a simple minded willingness to die but of a fierce determination that cries out: ''I will not lose my freedom except with my life.'' It is this thiyagam, this willingness to suffer, that has found an answering response from millions of Tamils living in many lands.

A nation is a political togetherness which becomes real to the extent that it finds expression not only in words but in tangible deed. Aurobindo remarked bitingly of the early Indian National Congress in 1893:

"Popular orators, who carry the methods of the bar into politics, are very fond of telling people that the Congress has habituated us to act together. Well, that is not quite correct; there is not the slightest evidence to show that we have at all learned to act together; the one lesson we have learned is to talk together, and that is a rather different thing..."

In 1907, Aurobindo expanded on the growth of an idea such as freedom:

"... The idea or sentiment is at first confined to a few men whom their neighbours and fellow countrymen ridicule as lunatics or hare brained enthusiasts. But it spreads and gathers adherents who catch the fire of the first missionaries and creates its own preachers and then its workers who try to carry out its teachings in circumstances of almost paralysing difficulty. The attempt to work brings them into conflict with the established power which the idea threatens and there is persecution.

The idea creates its martyrs. And in martyrdom there is an incalculable spiritual magnetism which works miracles. A whole nation, a whole world catches the fire which burned in a few hearts; the soil which has drunk the blood of the martyr imbibes with it a sort of divine madness which it breathes into the heart of all its children, until there is but one overmastering idea, one imperishable resolution in the minds of all besides which all other hopes and interests fade into significance and until it is fulfilled, there can be no peace or rest for the land or its rulers.

It is at this moment that the idea creates its heroes and fighters, whose numbers and courage defeat only multiplies and confirms until the idea militant has become the idea triumphant. Such is the history of the idea, so invariable in its broad outlines that it is evidently the working of a natural law."


up A nation is a political togetherness but it is not a state...

A nation is a political togetherness but it is not a state. "The belief that every state is a nation, or that all sovereign states are national states, has done much to obfuscate human understanding of political realities."

"...States can exist without a nation, or with several nations, among their subjects; and a nation can be coterminous with the population of one state, or be included together with other nations within one state, or be divided between several states. There were states long before nations, and there are some nations that are much older than most states which exist today. The belief that every state is a nation, or that all sovereign states are national states, has done much to obfuscate human understanding of political realities. A state is a legal and political organisation, with the power to require obedience and loyalty from its citizens. A nation is a community of people, whose members are bound together by a sense of solidarity, a common culture, a national consciousness... -  - Hugh Seton-Watson, Professor of Russian History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London: * Nations & States - Methuen, London 1977

Though the circularity of Professor Seton-Watson's definition (i.e. a nation is a community of people bound together by a national consciousness) would not have escaped him, nevertheless, the distinction that he has drawn between a nation and a state is an important one, more so because in the English language the word 'nation' is sometimes used to mean a 'state' and sometimes a 'community of people, whose members are bound together by a sense of solidarity, a common culture, a national consciousness'. For example, the United Nations Organisation is an organisation of states.

However, such conceptually confusing usage is not found in all languages. The German language, for instance, appears to have retained the quite separate Nation and Staat.

In Telegu, 'thesam' most closely approximates to the English 'nation'. Scholar politician V. Kaliyanasundarar writing in 1929 in Tamil Cholai, Volume 1, Madras 1954, urged that the correct English translation of the Tamil word 'nadu' was nation and not land. But 'nadu' may be more appropriately translated as 'country' or perhaps, 'state' and the context in which Kaliyanasundarar made the suggestion supports this view. Today, Tamils use  'thesam' or 'thesiya inam' or 'thesiyam', as the equivalent to a 'nation' or an 'ethno-nation'.


up A nation may be divided amongst several states - a trans state nation...

A nation may be divided amongst several states. Such a nation is a multi state nation - or, more appropriately, a trans-state nation. The Tamils today are a trans-state nation and their 'coherence and unity' is growing and is directed to the establishment of an independent Tamil state. But that independent Tamil state will not constitute the whole Tamil nation. The people of Tamil Eelam constitute a part of the Tamil nation.

The Jews too are a trans-state nation which has successfully established Israel as a Jewish state. But the people of Israel do not constitute the whole Jewish nation - they are a part of it. The Jewish nation (and the Zionist movement) encompasses Jews living across the globe. Golda Meir's remarks to the Council of Jewish Federations in Chicago, about the Jews in Palestine have a general significance:

"I do not doubt that there are many young people among the Jewish community in the United States who would do exactly what our young people are doing in Palestine. We are not a better breed; we are not the best Jews of the Jewish people. It so happened that we are there and you are here. I am certain that if you were in Palestine and we were in the United States, you would be doing what we are doing there, and you would ask us here to do what you will have to do." Golda Meir's speech to the Council of Jewish Federations in Chicago, 1948

" ...(althougth ) there is a certain amount of truth in the claims that it (Judaism) is a religion, a race, or an ethnic group, none of these descriptions is entirely adequate to describe what connects Jews to other Jews... The best explanation is the traditional one given in the Torah: that the Jews are a nation. The Hebrew word, believe it or not, is "goy." We use the word "nation" not in the modern sense meaning a territorial and political entity, but in the ancient sense meaning a group of people with a common history, a common destiny, and a sense that we are all connected to each other..." What is Judaism?  Is it a Religion? -  Is it a Race? -  Is it a Culture? - It is a Nation


up It is not necessarily a state in waiting...

Peter Alter, concerned with the extreme difficulty of finding a valid definition of 'nation', attempted to specify the 'substance' of the concept.

"... it is extremely difficult to arrive at a generally valid definition of nation. But this does not absolve us from the need to specify the substance of a concept that will be frequently employed in the following.... a nation will be understood here as a social group... which, because of a variety of historically evolved relations of a linguistic, cultural, religious or political nature, has become conscious of its coherence, unity and particular interests.... A nation is constituted by the social group's (the people's) consciousness of being a nation or of wanting to be one and by their demand for political self determination." *Peter Alter, Professor of Modern History in the University of Cologne: Nationalism, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1989.

Alter was right to emphasise that a nation is 'constituted by the social group's consciousness of being a nation or of wanting to be one' but his further requirement that this should go together with 'their' demand for political self determination may require some clarification..

'A social group because of a variety of historically evolved relations of a linguistic, cultural, religious or political nature', may become conscious of its 'coherence and unity' even though it lives in many lands and across distant seas. That coherence and unity may reflect in the demand for an independent state but  it is not necessary that the entirety of  that social group should itself aspire to become a part of that state. A nation is a political togetherness but not necessarily a state-in-waiting.


up Political institutions not unrelated to material conditions of existence...

The institutions that a people  establish to secure their shared political aspirations  for equality and freedom are not unrelated to their material conditions of existence. Technological change and societal change go hand in hand.

It was with the agricultural revolution that settled communities came into existence. Unsurprisingly therefore, feelings  of togetherness, in the vast majority of cases points to a deep, almost spiritual connection between land and people.

"Modern nationalism in the vast majority of cases points to a deep, almost spiritual connection between land and people. This can be related to the basic psychological needs of man in terms of the need for security and a sense of group identity... the concern for the preservation of habitat exists as a passionate reflex in all human communities. Territory is the physical aspect of the life of the community and therefore reflects and conditions the identity of that community." *Malcolm Shaw: Title to Territory in Africa - International Legal Issues

However, that is not to say that nationalism is chiefly a product of physical geography.

"Nationalism is not chiefly a product of physical geography, but rests on traditions, on politics, religion, language, wars, invasion, conquests, economics, and society, which have been fashioned by peculiar and often fortuitous circumstances and which have been preserved and synthesised by great writers and other intellectuals" *Carlton J.H.Hayes: France - A Nation of Patriots, New York 1930 

Again, the second wave of the industrial revolution broke down the limiting structures of a feudal society rooted in land as the principal means of production. The printing press and the steam engine helped to extend frontiers in more ways than one.  And the new bourgeoisie were in the fore front of the struggle to find expanding markets for the products of the industrial age. Economics and culture fused in a new togetherness.

Joseph Stalin's effort in 1913, continues to stand today as the classic attempt at a definition of a nation in the age of the industrial revolution:

"A nation is a historically evolved, stable community of language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a community of culture. It is only when all these characteristics are present that we have a nation.

It might appear that 'national character' is not one of the characteristics but the only essential characteristic of a nation, and that all the other characteristics are only factors in the development of a nation, rather than its characteristics... (this) point of view, which identifies a nation with its national character, divorces the nation from its soil and converts it into an invisible self contained force. The result is not a living and active nation, but something mystical, intangible and supernatural." *Joseph Stalin: Marxism and the National and Colonial Question, Lawrence Wishart, 1936

Stalin was right to point out that a nation is a historically evolved community of people and direct attention to the influence of the material conditions of existence of a people on the growth of their group identity.

But, in placing objective characteristics such as language, territory and economic life on the same footing as the subjective characteristic of 'psychological makeup' he effectively objectified the latter as well - and ended with a static definition which ignored the dynamic interplay between the objective and subjective. He dismissed the 'ideal' as 'something mystical, intangible and supernatural'. He failed to grasp that the ideal and the material go together - and neither has primacy.

Stalin's 1913 article refuted the view that the Jews were nation. Forty five years later, the Jewish nation did establish the Jewish state of Israel. The subjective determination and will of the Jewish people, rooted in an ancient heritage and consolidated by suffering led to a growing togetherness, a renaissance in the Hebrew language and eventually, to the promised land. In the end, Theodor Herzl, and not Stalin, was proved right:

"We are one people - our enemies have made us one.. Distress binds us together, and, thus united, we suddenly discover our strength. Yes, we are strong enough to form a state and a model state. We possess all human and material resources for the purpose." - *Theodor Herzl : The Jewish State, 1882 quoted in Wittamayer Baron - Modern Nationalism and Religion, New York 1947

Albert Einstein's comments in 1929 serve to reinforce Herzl's vision:

"...a communal purpose without which we can neither live nor die in this hostile world can always be called (nationalism). In any case it is a nationalism whose aim is not power but dignity and health. If we did not have to live among intolerant, narrow-minded, and violent people, I should  be the first to throw over all nationalism in favor of universal humanity. The objection that we Jews cannot be proper citizens of the German state, for example, if we want to be a "nation," is based on a misunderstanding of the nature of the state which springs from the intolerance of national majorities. Against that intolerance we shall never be safe, whether we call ourselves a people (or nation) or not..."

But to Lenin, the slogan of national culture was a 'bourgeois swindle'

"The slogan of national culture is a bourgeois fraud... Marxism cannot be reconciled with nationalism, be it even of the "most just", "purest", most refined and civilised brand. In place of all forms of nationalism Marxism advances internationalism, the amalgamation of all nations in the higher unity, a unity that is growing before our eyes with every mile of railway line that is built, with every international trust, and every workers' association that is formed (an association that is international in its economic activities as well as in its ideas and aims). The principle of nationality is historically inevitable in bourgeois society and, taking this society into due account, the Marxist fully recognises the historical legitimacy of national movements. But to prevent this recognition from becoming an apologia of nationalism, it must be strictly limited to what is progressive in such movements, in order that this recognition may not lead to bourgeois ideology obscuring proletarian consciousness..." Nikolai Lenin: Critical Remarks on the National Question,1913

And Lenin's support for 'national self determination' was directed to wean the working class away from 'bourgeois nationalism' and was derived from the Marxist view that a nation was not simply a historical category, but a historical category belonging to a definite epoch, the epoch of rising capitalism.

"A nation is not merely a historical category , but a historical category belonging to a definite epoch, the epoch of rising capitalism." Stalin's formula appears in many ways close to the mark, but it applies much better to the handful of original nation states in the West than to their imitations further a field; it applies far less well still to the majority of nationalist movements as distinct from nations.

Marxism has often slurred over the distinction between these two things, and made modern nationalism, as well as the classical nation state, an alter ego of capitalism... Like religion,.. or any other great emotive force, nationalism is ambivalent, and can escape very completely from a prescribed political channel. Even in its origins, it was a complex phenomenon, deriving both from the solidarity and from the divisions of society. It would have astonished Marx to see socialism owing so much to partnerships with nationalism in Afro-Asia and in the Soviet Union during the second world war... " - V.Kiernan - 'Nationalist Movements and Social Classes'  in Nationalist MovementsAnthony D Smith (Ed), 1976


up But a nation is a political togetherness which cuts across the vertical divisions amongst a people...

The political togetherness of a people is not unrelated to their economic life. But a nation is a political togetherness which cuts across the vertical divisions amongst a people, whether they be class or caste, and reaches deep into the historic and cultural roots of a people. The opposition to the outside over rides the divisions inside.

"Nationalism has proved an uncomfortable anomaly for Marxist theory and precisely for that reason, has been largely elided, rather than confronted. How else to account for the use, for over a century of the concept of the 'national bourgeoisie' without any serious attempt to justify theoretically the relevance of the adjective? Why is this segmentation of the bourgeoisie - a world class in so far as it is defined in terms of the relations of productions - theoretically significant?

A nation is an imagined political community... It is imagined as a community, because regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is always conceived as a deep horizontal comradeship. Ultimately, it is this fraternity that makes it possible, over the past two centuries, for so many millions of people, not so much to kill, as willingly to die for such limited imaginings." *Benedict Anderson: Imagined Communities - Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, 1991 


up Digital revolution is helping to forge anew the cultural, economic and political togetherness of a people...

Today, the third wave, the digital revolution,  is accelerating the process not only of globalisation but also of localisation and helping to forge anew the cultural, economic and political togetherness of a people - even where they are divided between different states. State boundaries are becoming increasingly porous, not only to the market but also to informationhuman rights and political activism - and deep rooted kinship ties are finding fresh avenues for expression. In a thoughtful analysis, Scott Crawford & Kekula Bray-Crawford commented in 1995:

"..The swiftly evolving information and communication technologies and networking infrastructures are playing an expanding role in supporting the self-determination of peoples and emergent nations. Internally, access to information and facilitation of communication provides new and enhanced opportunities for participation in the process of self-determination, with the potential to accelerate political, economic, social, educational and cultural advancement beyond the scope of traditional institutions and forms of governance. Externally, regional and global information networks expand the voice of emergent nations and peoples with electronic forums to focus international attention and support toward specific self-determination issues and efforts..." -  Scott Crawford & Kekula Bray-Crawford, in Self Determination in the Information Age, 1995

And Piet Bakker's comments in 2001 are equally relevant:

 "..Although it is sometimes argued that the nation state is becoming less important and we’re heading towards a global village, evidence is also pointing the other way. Nationalism is flourishing – almost every armed conflict in the modern world has nationalistic roots. One of the most visible aspects of the new nationalism is the spread of nationalistic online activities..." - Piet Bakker on New Nationalism: The Internet Crusade,2001


up Failure of 'objective' definitions and the tautological nature of 'subjective' definitions of a nation...

Eric Hobsbawm was right to point out the failure of 'objective' definitions and the tautological nature of 'subjective' definitions of a nation.

"Attempts to establish objective criteria for nationhood, or to explain why certain groups have become 'nations' and others not, have often been made, based on single criteria such as language or ethnicity or a combination of criteria such as language, common territory, common history, cultural traits or whatever else... All such objective definitions have failed, for the obvious reason that, since only some members of the large class of entities which fit such definitions can at any time be described as 'nations', exceptions can always be found... How indeed could it be otherwise, given that we are trying to fit historically novel, emerging, changing, and, even today, far from universal entities into a framework of permanence and universality?....

The alternative to an objective definition is a subjective one... (These) are open to the objection that defining a nation by its members' consciousness of belonging to it is tautological and provides only an a posteriori guide to what a nation is. Moreover, it can lead the incautious into extremes of voluntarism which suggests that all that is needed to be or to create a nation is the will to be one.... - Eric Hobsbawm, Emeretius Professor of Economic and Social History, Birkbeck College, University of London:*Nations and Nationalism Since 1780 - Programme, Myth, Reality - Cambridge University Press, 1990

But Hobsbawm errs, when he attributes the difficulty of defining a nation to the attempt to fit 'historically novel, emerging, changing' entities into a 'framework of permanence and universality' . The search for 'a framework of permanence and universality' is a search for an ever receding mirage. History never stands still. Hobsbwam fails to draw the conclusion that reality will always lie in the dynamic interplay between the objective and the subjective - and cannot be cast in a 'deterministic' mould.


up Gellner was right to separate the two elements of the attempted definition - the objective and the subjective...

Ernest Gellner, finding that 'the definition of a nation presented difficulties greater than those attendant on the definition of the state" went on, somewhat more cautiously than Hobsbwam:

"What then is this... idea of a nation? Discussion of two very makeshift, temporary definitions will help to pinpoint this elusive concept.

1. Two men are of the same nation if and only if they share the same culture, where culture in turn means a system of ideas and signs and associations and ways of behaving and communicating.

2. Two men are of the same nation if and only if they recognise each other as belonging to the same nation. In other words nations maketh man; nations are the artefacts of men's convictions and loyalties and solidarities. A mere category of persons (say occupants of a given territory, or speakers of a given language, for example) becomes a nation if and when the members of the category firmly recognise certain mutual rights and duties to each other in virtue of their shared membership of it. It is their recognition of each other as fellows of this kind which turns them into a nation, and not the other shared attributes, whatever they might be, which separate that category from non members."

Each of these provisional definitions, the cultural and the voluntaristic, has some merit. Each of them singles out an element which is of real importance in the understanding of nationalism. But neither is adequate." - Ernest Gellner, Professor of Social Anthropology at Cambridge University: *Nations and Nationalism  - Basil Blackwell, 1983

Gellner was right to separate the two elements of the attempted definition - the objective and the subjective - the 'shared attributes' of a group and the voluntaristic recognition of 'each other as belonging to the same nation' and to conclude that neither is adequate.


up Subjective feelings of a people are not uniquely determined by their material conditions of existence...

The short point is that the subjective feelings of a people are not unrelated to their material conditions of existence. At the same time, they are not uniquely determined by such conditions. A people may change their material conditions of existence by actions that their feelings may impel them to take. Gellner's 'elusive' reality lies in the interplay.

John Stuart Mill, writing in 1872, a century before Gellner drew attention to the subjective 'feeling' that a people have and the 'causes' for that feeling.

"A portion of mankind may be said to constitute a nationality, if they are united among themselves by common sympathies, which do not exist between them and any others - which make them cooperate with each other more willingly than with other people, desire to be under the same government...

...This feeling of nationality may have been generated by various causes. Sometimes it is the effect of identity of race and descent. Community of language, and community of religion greatly contribute to it. Geographical limits are one of its causes. But the strongest of all is identity of political antecedents; the possession of a national history, and consequent community of recollections; collective pride and humiliation, pleasure and regret, connected with the same incidents in the past." - *John Stuart Mill: Considerations on Representative Government. London 1872)

But to the extent that humans are not animals, there will always be space between stimulus and response and different peoples may respond in different ways to the same 'stimulus'.

"Man is of less terrestrial mould than some would have him to be. He has an element of the divine which the politician ignores. The practical politician looks to the position at the moment and imagines that he has taken everything into consideration. He has indeed studied the surface and the immediate surroundings, but he has missed what lies beyond material vision. He has left out of account the divine, the incalculable in man, that element which upsets the calculations of the schemer and disconcerts the wisdom of the diplomat." - Sri Aurobindo, in the Morality of the Boycott - Collected Political Writings, Bande Mataram, 1907

Perhaps, it was the space between stimulus and response which led Ernest Renan to declare with passion in 1882, that a nation was a 'spiritual principle' rooted in a common legacy and the will to value that legacy - one was the past, and the other was the present.

"A nation is a soul, a spiritual principle. Only two things, constitute this soul, this spiritual principle. One is the past, the other is the present. One is the possession in common of a rich legacy of remembrances; the other is the actual consent, the desire to live together, the will to continue to value the heritage which all hold in common...It supposes a past, it renews itself especially in the present by tangible deed: the approval, the desire, clearly expressed to continue the communal life. The existence of a nation is an everyday plebiscite..." - Ernest Renan: Que'est-ce qu'une Nation? Paris 1882

And to the past and the present, H.A.L.Fisher added common aspirations as to the future:

"What is essential to the growth of the national spirit is a common history - common sufferings, common triumphs, common achievements, common memories, and, it may be added, common aspirations." H.A.L.Fisher: The Common Weal, London 1931


up Leaders play an important role in nation building...

Leaders play an important role in nation building.

"Leaders play such an important part in achieving and sustaining loyalty...they contribute ideas and plans which lead to nationalism and to its continuation and perpetuation. The beginnings of the growth of modern nationalism in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries, is usually traced to a relatively small nucleus whose influence slowly spreads until it eventually reaches millions of people"

This eminent company of intellectuals evidently expressed some of the unexpressed aspirations of their time and consequently inspired many contemporaries to strike out for independence.. Intellectuals, writers, and artists have repeatedly been in the vanguard of national movements...

It seems likely that ordinary citizens, concentrating as they must upon the normal challenges of their existence, have relatively little time or inclination to conceive of nationalism or to dwell upon it after its establishment unless they are induced or compelled to do so... research in the West suggests that informal leaders who lack formal status in a society are often the very people having greatest influence upon groups of followers....

The talent of such people, the unconventionality of their creations, or their own frustrations force them into social positions different from that of their provenance. By changing their status, they acquire knowledge of another social group or class and they are able, consequently, to survey society with greater perspective...They seek change for the society since they themselves have been compelled to change....

For national leaders to function effectively certain optimal conditions are essential: they seem to require an opportunity within their own society to interact with one another, so that they can cooperate, produce new ideas, and indeed provide the communication necessary for the formation and maintenance of nationalism... Leonard W. Doob: Patriotism and Nationalism - Their Psychological Foundations , Yale University Press, 1964


up Nations and the One World...

Ofcourse, nations are not for all time.

"Nations are not something eternal. They have begun, they will end... But such is not the law of the century in which we live. At the present time, the existence of nations is a guarantee of liberty, which would be lost if the world had only one law and only one master.... A great aggregation of men, with a healthy spirit and warmth of heart, creates a moral conscience which is called a nation. When this moral conscience proves its strength by sacrifices that demand abdication of the individual for the benefit of the community, it is legitimate, and it has the right to exist." (Ernest Renan: Que'est-ce qu'une Nation? Paris 1882)

"That the difference in poverty is so great, and that the world's poorest people are so numerous, comprising as they do, more than one half of mankind, these are perhaps the fundamental facts behind much of today's nationalistic insistence on national separateness... not before the vast poverty of Asia and Africa will have been reduced substantially by industrialisation, and by gains in living standards and in education, not before then will the age of nationalism and national diversity see the beginning of the end." (Karl W.Deutsch : Nationalism and Social Communication, New York 1953)

Today, the so called third world (in truth, the majority world), is approaching 80% of the world's population. And the Fourth World is emerging as a new force in international politics.

"Increasingly, the Fourth World is emerging as a new force in international politics because in the common defence of their nations, many indigenous peoples do not accept being mere subjects of international law and state sovereignty and trusteeship bureaucracies. Instead, they are organising and exerting their own participation and policies as sovereign peoples and nations." (Bernard Q. Nietschmann: Fourth World nations, Conflicts and Alternatives)

To those who advocate internationalism for others, whilst holding fast to their own nation, the words of Sun Yat Sen, written more than 80 years ago, will serve as a continuing reminder of political reality - and the need to match words and deeds:

"At present, England and France are advocating a new idea which is proposed by the intellectuals. What is that idea? It is an anti nationalist idea which argues that nationalism is narrow and illiberal; it is simply an idea of cosmopolitanism.. Cosmopolitanism will cause further decadence if we leave the reality, nationalism, for the shadow, cosmopolitanism.... First let us practise nationalism; cosmopolitanism will follow." (The Triple Demism of Sun Yat Sen, 1924)

A true trans-nationalism will emerge, not by the suppression of nations but when nations flower and mature. To work for the flowering of nations is to advance the emergence of a true trans-nationalism. It is true that no people are an island unto themselves. But nationalism is not chauvinism - it becomes so only when it takes exaggerated forms and is directed to the subjugation of one nation by another.

"It is a fact often commented upon that this growth of nationalism and of national sectionalisms happened at the very same time when international relations, trade, and communications were developing as never before; that local languages were raised to the dignity of literary and cultural languages just at the time when it seemed most desirable to efface all differences of language by the spread of world languages. This view overlooks the fact that that very growth of nationalism all over the earth, with its awakening of the masses to participation in political and cultural life, prepared the way for the closer cultural contacts of all the civilisations of mankind, at the same time separating and uniting them." - Hans Kohn: *Idea of Nationalism -  A Study of its Origins and Background, 1944 

Michael Lind writing in Prospect Magazine in October 2000 is persuasive:

"...The ethnic nation can be broadly defined to include all people with a common language or culture, or limited narrowly to people sharing a common descent. But whether it is defined broadly, as in multiracial Brazil, Mexico or the US, or narrowly, as in mono racial Japan or Sweden, the ethnic nation is the largest community with which ordinary human beings can have an emotional attachment. ...The 19th century was a century of nationalism. The 20th century was also a century of nationalism. In all likelihood, the 21st century will be a century of nationalism as well..."


up What then is a nation in an emerging one world?

What then is a nation in an emerging one world?

A nation is a community of  people rooted in kinship and which has grown through a process of differentiation and opposition. It is not nature or nurture - but, it is both. It is a togetherness rooted in a shared heritage, language and culture and expressed in a determined will to live in equality and in freedom. It is a political togetherness concerned both with the structure and the exercise of power in an inter-national frame. But a nation is not a state. And it is not necessarily a state in waiting. The digital revolution is  helping to forge anew the togetherness of a people -as State boundaries become increasingly porous, not only to the market but also to informationhuman rights and political activism - and deep rooted kinship ties are finding fresh avenues for expression

All definitions are incomplete and partial. But, to the extent that they serve to abstract human experience, they help to provide platforms for action - and further growth. Theory is a practical thing.

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