Imagined Communities Benedict Anderson

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According to Benedict Anderson, nations are “imagined communities”. First, we must understand what a nation actually is. Anderson defines a nation as “an imagined political community that is imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign”. It is imagined because members of a particular community will never meet or know other members in the same community. However, each member of that community understands and believes in their community’s unique image or communion. A nation is limited because it only reaches beyond the borders of another nation. It is sovereign because it came to maturity at a stage of human history when freedom was a rare and came at a costly price. Anderson suggests that there are three basic paradoxes to the idea of a nation: 1) that nations are objectively new, but nationalists claim antiquity; 2) that there is a universality to the idea of nationality in that everyone has a nationality, just as everyone has a gender; and 3) nationalism has great political power even though it has philosophical paucity. Nationalism arose at a time when three cultural factors started to decline and fade: religion, sovereignty, and time. The changes in the religious communities started to decline after the Middle Ages. After this time, explorations discovered a new world outside of Europe. The existence of land over European borders led to the development of new communities, which were much different. For example, different languages came about, which made older communities back in Europe lose confidence in the unique sacredness of their language. Older communities also lost confidence in their ideas about what a membership to a religious community entitles. Now that there was new land, different languages, and different religions forming, people became skeptical about the validity of their religion. Sovereignty is the second factor that led to the rise of nationalism. After the Middle Ages, there were changes in the dynastic realm. In the older...
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