Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hobsbawm on Nationalism

This week in our readings and in lecture the birth and spread of nationalism is explained. Hobsbawm makes many points on the events, social movements and other reasons for the rise of nationalism and its spread through politics and society. He explains how it began as a term to describe far right winged politicians in France and Italy, but had many different meanings and uses. One problem with explaining the history of nationalism is a question of semantics. When a topic comes up and there are different semantic meanings and uses it is hard to discuss, but Hobsbawm does a good job explaining the different uses in different areas and countries. Also, along with semantics come written and spoken languages that are a great part of nationalism. Although, areas and territories that saw and see mass migration and emigration have difficulty relating to a particular language and a particular ethnicity. Ethnic nationalism is another form that has been around for awhile that is difficult to describe as well. Hobsbawm bring up a good point about immigrants to the United States that would use U.S. money and speak English did not plan on giving up their native tongue or their cultural histories. From these ethnic groups the argument of its use in politics arose. Either way, nationalism is deeply entwined in politics, specifically democracy.
I think Hobsbawm bring up a lot of good points about nationalism. One thing he said that was interesting was “When the future President Masaryk signed the agreement which was to create a state uniting Czechs and Slovaks (Czechoslovakia) he did so in Pittsburgh, for the mass basis of an organized Slovak nationalism was to be found in Pennsylvania rather than in Slovakia” (154). Not only does he bring up Pittsburgh which makes it a great point, but it shows how the United States nationalism developed.
There are many questions I wonder about. Some of them like how is language important to the concept of nation and the quotes that we would have covered in class if people wouldn’t ramble about irrelevant facts and simply got to the point. Nonetheless, I think language is a huge concept for the development of a nation and nationalism. I also think that the education system is also linked to nationalism. One question I would ask is as we move to this more global world, when could we possible see nationalism decline or disappear, and when will people realize that we are all in this together?


  1. I feel like nationalism would have to disappear for a global world to truly take hold. Nationalism needs an 'us' and a 'them' to work, in a global world there could be no 'other'. I find this a fascinating question and topic, and something that is probably impossible to answer. I find it very difficult to imagine the world without 'others', without national divides. I'll keep my fingers crossed for it though.

    --Arielle Parris

  2. I don't think a truly global world is realistic in the near future, in fact, I hope it doesn't happen. I think that it's important to have pride in your own nation and to uphold your nation's history and culture. That's imperative to diversity and cross cultural learning and understanding. Everyone just needs to have this nationalistic pride along with an openness towards others so that there can be peace but remain this boiling pot or tossed salad of different people and cultures. I think one example in this trend towards a global world is the establishment of the European Union. But within the EU, nations have kept their individual identities while working together with others and standardizing some things and abiding by a specific standard of humanity. I think this is a perfect example of this trend but closer to my ideals in which nations come together and can be interconnected and peaceful while simultaneously embracing their own identities.

    --Dana Bodnar