Ernest Gellner's Nationalism

Topics: Industrial Revolution, Sociocultural evolution, Nationalism Pages: 3 (718 words) Published: October 21, 2008
Ernest Gellner’s thesis in his book Nations and Nationalism is that economic change requires cultural homogeneity, and that the demand for cultural homogeneity, and the state apparatus to provide it, is what drives nationalism.

Ernest Gellner was a philosopher and a social anthropologist. He was once referred to as a “one-man crusade for critical rationalism”. He produced many works that have prompted deep thought. His first book Words and Things, A Critical Account of Linguistic Philosophy and a Study in Ideology caused a month long correspondence on the letters page of The Times of London. He spent most of his time as a professor of Philosophy, Logic, and Scientific Method at the London School of Economics for 35 years. Gellner constantly fought against beliefs that he saw as closed minded. These ideas being communism, relativism, and free markets ( His most famous piece of work has got to be his analysis of nationalism and its causes, Nations and Nationalism.

Ernest Gellner believed that nationalism is the byproduct and precondition of industrialism. He makes several different arguments to prove his point. Gellner defines nationalism as “a theory of political legitimacy, which requires that ethnic boundaries should not cut across political ones and that ethnic boundaries within a given state should not separate the power holders from the rest”.

Gellner believed that nationalism was caused by nationalism. He describes the transition to industrialism on page 40.
All this being so, the age of transition to industrialism was bound, according to our model, also to be an age of nationalism, a period of turbulent readjustment, in which either political boundaries, or cultural ones, or both, were being modified, so as to satisfy the new nationalist imperative which now, for the first time, was making itself felt.

Gellner was clearly making a connection between the rise of industrialization and the emergence of nationalism....
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