June, 2006, montenegero became the world's 196
country, after it gained independence from
Serbia and montegnegro and established its own entity and state. More importantly, it highlights the
ever-present influence that nationalist movements currently hold on our world.
However, the question of whether these nationalist movements are a modern creation is one that
remains unanswered. My essay will tackle this question by providing historical examples that show
“nationalism” (as defined in the essay) has not come about as a result of the “modern” period, and has
never been, and never will be, exclusive to it.
My essay will include defining “nation” and “nationalism”, analyzing the leading theories of
nationalism (with particular emphasis on modernist theories), and highlighting the issues that keep
these theories from proving nationalism to be a modern invention.
This essay will use Ernest Gellner's definition of “nation” (as found in his text, “State and Nation”),
Stanford's Encyclopedia of Philosophy's definition of “nationalism” and the Theory of Modernism's
definition of “modern.”
Hence, in this essay, two men are of the same nation if they recognize each other as from the same
nation and if they share the same culture (“culture” being “a system of signs, ideas and association and
ways of behaving and communicating”), “nationalism” is “(1) the attitude that the members of a nation
have when they care about their identity as members of that nation and (2) the actions that the members
of a nation take in seeking to achieve (or sustain) some form of political sovereignty” (Nationalism,
Stanford), and “modern” is the period after the French revolution.
As the dominant positions on the concept of nationalism help push forth the arguments of this essay,
understanding them is crucial to evaluating the arguments. There are four main schools of thought, the
first of which is the modernist theory, advocated by Ernest Gellner and Benedict Anderson, among
The modernist theory explains nationalism as a product of modern processes, such as capitalism,
industrialism, secularism, the appearance of bureaucratic state, and urbanization, all of which came
about after the revolution in France of 1789. Proponents of this theory claim that nationalism became
necessary only in the modern era; there was no space for it before that.
Constructivism, a similar approach, states that human beings have a fundamental psychological need to