Why has Nationalism Become Such a Powerful Force in the Modern World?.
The question of the continued power of nationalism in the modern world has long been the subject of debate amongst sociologists. One could define nationalism as a set of beliefs which asserts that a particular community of people constitutes an actual or potential nation, or desire for an advancement of that nation and projection of its virtues and powers. In a world of interdependence, trade agreements and the increasingly inter-reliant nature of the European Union, many have questioned why nationalism is still so relevant, especially when considering how little attention the so-called founders of sociology paid to it. Although Treitschke and Weber both locate the state in the arena of the constant struggles between nations, Durkheim believed that "patriotism" would be replaced by "world patriotism" and Marx could not fathom the idea of "the people" aligning themselves with the "elites" above the "masses" of other nations, and promoted "universal emancipation." There have been various theories regarding nationalism in the present day, although it seems necessary within the confines of this essay to concentrate on three of the most prominent and interesting analyses. The first of these is the "modernist" theory outlines by Ernest Gellner, who argues that nationalism was uniquely a theory of the modern world and was crucially interlinked with industrialism and culture. The second is the social constructionist theory of Benedict Anderson in "Nationalism and Imagined Communities." This idea again places nationalism firmly in the modern era, but points to social changes such as print capitalism and the increase in literacy to explain the rise and maintenance of nationalism. Finally, I will concentrate on Smith's "ethno-symbolist" theory which places nationalism in the more historical setting of ethnic communities.