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« East Asia is not Confucian | Main | Branding Tao »

February 26, 2010


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You don't mention Stalin's definition from: J. V. Stalin 1913
Marxism and the National Question

First published in Prosveshcheniye, Nos. 3-5, March-May 1913;
Translated by Carl Kavanagh.


I was wondering on how you view it.

Stalin's basic definition (if indeed he wrote it - Trotsky raises questions), if I have it right, is a reasonable starting point:
"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."
The problem, of course, is that he fell into the common Marxist error of assuming that national identity is atavistic, that it will melt away (dare I say "wither away") as modernization, and especially the development of capitalism to socialism, unfolds. It was that expectation that led Marxists to believe (hope) that WWI would spark a great proletariat revolution against various national bourgeoisies. Obviously, that didn't happen. Quite to the contrary, nationalist sentiment caused working classes to rally round their separate national identities and flags. It turned out working me did have nations. I suspect that is why Gellner is so adamant to distance himself from Marxism. And it is also something that drives Anderson's analysis: writing in 1983 he is pressing back against the Marxist tendency to discount the historical force of nationalism.

I wonder if there might be a useful distinction to be drawn [which I'm not doing now] between the idea of "nationalism" and "statism" in the sense that the population of some states e.g. China, Iceland, the Irish Republic, the Hawaiian Islands before the U.S. occupied them and purposefully diluted the national population, Germany, Denmark, France, Italy, Egypt [perhaps] and there are others, are/were quite homogeneous if one uses what we perhaps should call the "Stalin-maybe" metrics to measure homogeneity. While the populations of other states [and former states], e.g. the late-Yugoslavia; the former Soviet Union; South Africa; the U.S.; India were never really "nations" but were states.

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