Benedict Richard O’Gorman
Anderson (1936-2015) was a historian and political artist. He published his
book Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism
in 1983, and achieved wide popularity due to his brilliant researches and
arguments about the nationalism. This book has eleven contents including the
In this report, I am
going to explain his main researches and arguments.
Benedict Anderson defines
the nation as an imagined political community that has four characteristics:
the nation is imagined because most of its fellow members never know each
other, and their minds live in the image of their community.
A nation state always
emphasizes an immemorial past, and goes into limitless future, if it is
considered as new and historical state. This magic leads the turn of chance to
destiny for a nation state. Anderson expresses two relevant cultural systems
from that point. One is religious community and another is dynastic realm. As a
religious community, the sacred language of conversation allows an Englishmen
to become Pope and a Manchu son of Heaven. In the dynastic realms, kingships
have a centralized way of governing and its legitimacy drives from divinity,
instead of the population who are already recognized as subjects, not citizen.
Also there are seen dynastic marriages who derive mix-blooded lineages. However
nation states, that are regarded as imagined community by the Anderson,
‘growing out of and replacing religious communities and dynastic realms’.
Anderson’s theory of
national consciousness is, ‘An imagined political community and imagined as
both inherently limited and sovereign’. A national consciousness is a shared
sense of national identity that is, a shared understanding that a people group
shares a common ethnic, linguistic or cultural background. Historically, a rise
in national consciousness has been the first step towards the creation of a
nation. National consciousness at a glance, is one level of awareness and one’s
understanding that without ‘them’ there is no us. It is the awareness of the
many shared attitudes and beliefs towards things like family, costumes,
societal and gender roles etc. This awareness allows one to have a ‘collective
identity’ which allows them to be knowledgeable of not only where they are, but
how those places and people around them are so significant in that they
ultimately make the collective a nation. In short national consciousness can be
defined as a specific core of attitudes that provide habitual modes for
regarding life’s phenomena. Nationalism requires first a national
consciousness, the awareness of national communality of a group of people.
We can say that
nationalism in a powerful country can cause that country to move towards
imperialism. On the other hand we can say that imperialism can lead to
nationalism in countries that have been taken over by imperial powers. In
powerful countries, nationalism can lead to imperialism. Nationalism can
defined as the idea that a country is superior to all others. If people feel
nationalistic, they might start to want to prove that their country is better
than the others. One way to prove this is by taking an empire. It is
particularly true if other countries already have empires and people want their
country to prove it is better than those countries. An example of this was seen
in the decades before WW1. At that time, nationalism was rising in Germany.
Many Germans believed that Germany needed to get an empire so that it could
show that it was as good as France and England. Thus nationalism helped lead to
imperialism. A similar thing happened with Japan before WW2. This shows us that
nationalism can lead to imperialism in strong countries. But the opposite can
happen in the weak countries that get taken over by the imperial powers. When a
country is colonized by an imperial power, its people start to feel greater
nationalism. They might not think that their country is superior to others but
they can at least come to feel a sense of unity and a desire for independence.
This is a form of nationalism as well. In some ways, nationalism can lead to
imperialism but imperialism can also bring about nationalism.
Benedict Anderson tried
to describe all the chapter very nicely, and he also arranged all contents very
carefully in his book, for this most writers and readers follow this book to
gain more knowledge about nationalism.