Imagined Communities

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Benedict Anderson (1983) Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London, Verso, pp. 10-15.


It is difficult to define nation.

“Transformation in the history of Marxism and Marxist movements is upon us”

Everything contributes to what encourages how people think of a nation.

  • Its most visible wars are of world-historical importance
  • Recent wars between Vietnam, Cambodia and China
  • Regimes who independence and revolutionary credentials are undeniable
  • “None of the belligerents has made more than the most perfunctory attempts to justify the bloodshed in terms of a recognisable Marxist theoretical perspective.”
  • Sino-Soviet border clashes of 1969
  • Soviet military interventions in Germany (1953)
  • Hungary (1956)
  • Czechoslovakia (1968)
  • Afghanistan (1980)
  • According to taste – ‘social imperialism’, ‘defending socialism,’ etc., no one, I imagine, seriously believes that such vocabularies have much bearing on what has occurred in Indochina.” ???
  • “If the Vietnamese invasion and occupation of Cambodia in December 1978 and January 1979 represented the large-scale conventional war waged by one revolutionary Marxist regime against another.”


“The reality is quite plain: the ‘end of the era of nationalism,’ so long prophesied, is not remotely in sight. Indeed, nation-ness is the most universally legitimate value in the political life of our time.”

“Nation, nationality, nationalism – all have proved notoriously difficult to define, let alone to analyse. In contrast to the immense influence that nationalism has exerted on the modern world, plausible theory about it is conspicuously meagre.”


The 3 Paradoxes

  1. The objective modernity modernity of nations to the historian’s eye vs. their subjective antiquity in the eyes of nationalists.
  2. The formal universality of nationality as a socio-cultural concept – in the modern world everyone can, should, will ‘have’ a nationality, as he or she ‘has’ a gender – vs. the irremediable particularly of its concrete manifestations, such that by definition, ‘Greek’ nationality is sui generis.
  3. The ‘political’ power of nationalisms vs. their philosophical poverty and even incoherence. In other words, unlike most other isms, nationalism has never produced its own grand thinkers: no Hobbeses, Tocquevilles, Marxes, or Webers. This ’emptiness’ easily gives rise, among cosmopolitan and polylingual intellectuals, to a certain condescension.

“It is characteristic that even so sympathetic a student of nationalism as Tom Nairn can nonetheless write that: ‘”Nationalism” is the pathology of modern developmental history, as inescapable as “neurosis” in the individual, with much the same essential ambiguity attaching to it, a similar built-in capacity for descent into dementia, rooted in the dilemmas of helplessness thrust upon most of the world (the equivalent of infantilism for societies) and largely incurable.”

  • Unconsciously hypostasising the existence of nationalism”with-a-big-N”

Anderson, B. pp.22-22 (1983) speaks of how individuals within society have their own “image of their communion”, even if they don’t know the fellow members in their society. Without hearing of them or communicating with them, their perception of their society still remains.

“Or l’essence d’une nation est que tous les individus aient beaucoup de choses en commun, et aussi que tous aient oublie biendes codes.”

Or in other words… the essence of a nation is that all individuals have many things in common. This makes me wonder if it is these things we have ‘in common’ that unite us all and make a nation. Our nationalities might be what bind us to the notion that we can stand together, hand-in-hand, representing our countries, except, what about those who join us from other beautiful places in the world? How could that make us any less of a nation? To me, a nation is full of humans who take pride in being introvert about their nationalities, and have no shame in showing their attraction towards combining with people of different nationalities, no matter who they are or where they’re from.

Perhaps a nation is no more than what an individual(s) imagines it to be.

If so, let’s imagine our nations to be incredible.



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