ISBN: 978-1-108-97292-5

Øyvind Østerud

University of Oslo

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‘Nationalism’ is a prime example of what Walter Bryce Gallie back in 1956 called an essentially contested concept. For some, nationalism is xenophobia and war. For others, cooperation and liberation. The contested nature of the term makes it a political weapon with incompatible meanings. Mylonas & Tudor acknowledge that nationalism is Janus-faced, with one dark side and one fair. In contemporary European discourse, the dark side is predominant. In the post-colonial world, nationalism is basically liberation and end of empire. Nationalism has been a force for justice, freedom and democracy, but also for discrimination and aggression. To solve the contradiction, the authors argue for a multifaceted view of nationalism, with a variety of manifestations. They claim that the core attributes of nationalism are intersubjective fellow-feeling, a drive for territorial and political sovereignty, and a repertoire of common symbols and practices. The authors eschew the conventional dichotomy of ‘ethnic’ and ‘civic’ nationalism. Instead, they recognize ascription to various forms of identity – such as ethnicity, religion, and language – as a continuous scale. Nationalisms also vary as to the number of historic and cultural markers that constitute a community, and as to how deep these markers are. This implies that nationalism comes in different degrees of ‘thickness’. Nationalism, further, is neither rightwing nor leftwing. It may be fused with conservatism, socialism or any political program in between. Every aspect of the conceptual discussion is illuminated by numerous examples across time and space, from the French Revolution to the distinctive and different manifestations of nationalism in Pakistan and India. This is an effectively argued and highly readable little book – 60 pages of concise analyses and 20 pages of useful references.