Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism

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This book written by Benedict Anderson, who is a respectable political scientist and historian, examines the origins of nationalism in 11 stage. When it first published in 1983, the book drew attention among other examples of this type of books which written about Nationalism. The name of the book comes from Anderson’s description of the nation as imagined communities.

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Particularly the author’s statements about the imagination, adaptation and transformation process of the artificially constructed nation are out of the ordinary. According to me, it is clearly seen that the author’s major contribution is to break down prejudices on nation and nationalism with the examples of the transformation of different nations. Especially it is crucial that the author is looking for answers to questions about nationalism that have not been answered yet.

In recent decades, with the increase in the number of researchers in history, many comments are made on the experiences and staggering concepts. However, in such a period, it is the success of the author to show the invisible side of the iceberg. While the author tells the whole process in full detail, he also interprets the effects of revolutions, discoveries and conquests on this process. By the time he emphasizing the gradually transformation of nation for 150 year duration, he exemplify France and United States to demonstrate impacts of print capitalism. Anderson frequently talks about the role played by the printing press in these changes. It is not difficult to understand from the sentences of the author that the printing house has solved the problem of transportation with a more accurate expression the problem of communication.

When the book is considered in its entirety, although the writer balances the links it establishes between events and concepts, it is confusing for the reader to make acquainted with these links in an unsystematic way. The author explained the reasons for imagining new communities in 3 main items; first is the new ways of production associated with capitalism, second is communication technologies such as printing and the last one is the interactions triggered by linguistic diversity. His cultural and social appraisals have some points in common with some writers, such as Rousseau and Herder, who have already expressed their views on the issue. Nevertheless, the difference from other writers is that it offers suggestions that can make nationalism more satisfying. It is obvious that Anderson defends modernity in the conflict between traditional and modern. In fact, he declares that modernity is inevitable. It is possible that this idea brought her prejudiced against this matter. Moreover, the author’s ability to analyze the process from all aspects, in other words the reader’s having information about the writer’s opinions about 18th century revolution as well as 19th century revolution, enables the reader to better comprehend the changes that have occurred over time.

When we looking at the specific parts of the book, we can see that the author explicitly criticizes the problem of not being bound to the origin. By using concepts such as Russification and Latinization, Anderson refers that nations have become influenced by other nations and transformed. The point he contradicts is that even though the author said that change is inevitable, he criticizes people not to bind to origins. However, the author must take into account that the change brings about taking something from other nations. This is the most effective way of the development of nations. Criticizing this is like separating nations from each other.

The author’s purpose of writing the book is to reach a more satisfactory explanation of nationalism. Though the author has partially achieved the purpose of writing the book, the idea of reaching the nation through dreams may not satisfy some readers.

Nationalism is a broad notion that attempted for many scientist to explain. The reader will be pleased with the book if he wants to learn about nationalism and its origins through the whole process of change and transformation. However, for those who study the concept of nation independently of the events in the past, the information will be more detailed than expected. The formation of imagined societies is a problem that can be seen even today. When we think about the nations which still has changing and the imagined nations in our mind, it can be said that Anderson have achieved a successful work for many years ago.

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Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. (2020, Apr 15). Retrieved December 3, 2022 , from

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