Thursday, October 15, 2009

Commentary 6 - Hobsbawm Ch. 6-8

Hobsbawm focused on three major themes of late nineteenth, early twentieth century history, separated into three chapters. Chapter six details nationalism, chapter seven discusses the bourgeois, and chapter eight is about the role of the women and the emergence of feminism. All three themes have a heavy impact on global history, but the topic of nationalism struck me as most interesting; therefore, I chose to discuss only this topic for commentary six’s blog post.

An interesting point Hobsbawm mentions early in the chapter was that the term “nationalism” changed meaning as history progressed. In the nineteenth century, the word denoted liberal radicals, particularly during the French Revolution, to describe all politics regarding a national matter. As politics democratized, and the working-class had a larger voice, a new definition of nationalism materialized. Nationalism now described the ideology of attaining an identity as a nation, which created a collective sense of patriotism within these nation-states.

Politic nationalism, according to Hobsbawm, transpired from four separate happenings. Firstly, a new global desire for a national identity surfaced. Second, a collective belief that any group that self-proclaimed to be a nation was applicable to national self-determinism. Third, independence was considered vital in attaining the ability for national self-determinism. Lastly, it was a natural inclination to group nations by way of ethnicity, race, religion, and language.

This brings up the concept of linguistic nationalism; “the creation of people who wrote and read, not of people who spoke (p147).” Language easily grouped regions of people into nations because a family’s mother-tongue was so stagnant and concrete in nature. Hobsbawm obviously finds linguistic nationalism to be an enormous impact in twentieth century history. How would Hobsbawm respond to the twenty-first century Latin America desire to create a national identity through the sacrifice or simplification of language, as in the linguistic genocide?

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