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Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, New Edition [Paperback]

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Item Specifications...

Pages   240
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 5.25" Height: 8"
Weight:   0.7 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 16, 2006
Publisher   Verso
ISBN  1844670864  
EAN  9781844670864  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...

Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson s brilliant book on nationalism, forged a new field of study when it first appeared in 1983. Since then it has sold over a quarter of a million copies and is widely considered the most important book on the subject. In this greatly anticipated revised edition, Anderson updates and elaborates on the core question: what makes people live and die for nations, as well as hate and kill in their name?

Anderson examines the creation and global spread of the imagined communities of nationality, and explores the processes that created these communities: the territorialization of religious faiths, the decline of antique kinship, the interaction between capitalism and print, the development of secular languages-of-state, and changing conceptions of time and space. He shows how an originary nationalism born in the Americas was adopted by popular movements in Europe, by imperialist powers, and by the movements of anti-imperialist resistance in Asia and Africa.

In a new afterword, Anderson examines the extraordinary influence of Imagined Communities, and the book's international publication and reception, from the end of the Cold War era to the present day.

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More About Benedict Anderson

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Benedict Anderson was Aaron L. Binenkorp Professor of International Studies Emeritus at Cornell University. He was Editor of the journal Indonesia and author of numerous books including A Life Beyond Boundaries, Java in a Time of Revolution, The Spectre of Comparisons: Nationalism, Southeast Asia, and the World and The Age of Globalization: Anarchists and the Anticolonial Imagination.

Benedict Richard O'Gorman Anderson was born in 1936.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Insightful but dry.  Jul 29, 2008
This book is something of a classic of sociology but not a light read. Very briefly, the thesis of "Imagined Communities" is that political nations are the creation of modern communication networks (definition of modern: post-Gutenberg). When one stops to think about it, this insight seems intuitive. After all, how can people relate to other people unless there is first communication among them? In a world in which most people are illiterate and never travel beyond their villages, of course they would not think of themselves as belonging to a great nation of people since they would most likely be unable to imagine such a concept. With widespread literacy, the possibility exists of having communities of people who are not in direct contact with one another. Benedict Anderson takes this insight about nationhood and discusses how these imagined communities of people not directly in contact with one another may be formed. It is not surprising that the nations of Europe have formed around linguistic communities since having a common language facilitates communication. However, a sense of alienation from a ruling class may also facilitate a sense of nationhood, as it did in the Americas in the late 18th century when our founding fathers (and those of Latin America)felt themselves excluded from the political lives of their mother countries. Having the means to communicate throughout their colonies made possible the recognition of common feelings among these colonials. Futhermore, a sense of nationhood may be fostered by a state that creates through its educational system and its media a sense of shared experiences (eg, national holidays, national heroes, and national myths). Prof Anderson also describes how the predecessors of today's European nations "created" their national languages as well as their myths. This is a very sketchy overview of what I believe to be the major points of this book. "Imagined Communities" is not a book which flows easily. I believe that Prof Anderson might have made life a bit easier for his readers had he been able to express himself a bit more clearly. For example, he is describing how a sense of history is essential for the concept of nationhood. In order to think of oneself as belonging to a nation, one must think of oneself as being related to others who share only the circumstance of living at the same time. Furthermore, it is necessary to imagine a different relationship with those who have gone before. Here is a passage describing this idea: "What has come to take the place of the medieval conception of simultaneity-along-time is, to borrow again from Benjamin, an idea of 'homogeneous, empty time,' in which simultaneity is, as it were, transverse, cross-time, marked not be prefiguring and fulfillment, but by temporal coincidence and measured by clock and calendar." I think that this should give some idea of the flavor of Prof Anderson's prose. Is it all worth the effort? I think that anyone who is trying to understand the problems created by 20th (and 21st) century nationalism will not find much help here. A better book for understanding the lunatic-type nationalism which causes so much trouble would be Eric Hoffer's classic book, "The True Believer." However, as a primer for understanding how the modern nation came to exist in the first place, this book does offer some thought-provoking ideas.
Unreadable Gibberish  Dec 12, 2007
Though some interesting and provocative ideas are presented shedding some light on the idea of the rise of nationalism, this was largely a poorly written book that will not add an iota of understanding to what motivates human behavior.
An amazing introduction  Nov 11, 2007
If you want a scholarly introduction to nationalism and its history, this is an excellent book to start with. Anderson begins with a discussion of how the concept of the nation first came into being, with emphasis on the factors that enabled people to imagine communities beyond their immediate surroundings. He then brings in more abstract concepts such as spatial/temporal relations and its relation to maps and museums... well, you'll have to read the book, since he explains it much better than me.

My only complaint is that he did focus much more on Western nationalism than on Eastern- two very different topics. Nonetheless, this is a wonderful introductory text.
Thought-provoking but unsatisfying  Jul 17, 2007
This short book/long essay offers some interesting insights on nationalism, but is limited by its Marxist-materialist perspective. Anderson obviously knows his history and his typology of three essential nationalisms (the new republics of the Americas in the late 18th-early 19th centuries, popular national revival movements in 19th-century Europe, and suffocating official nationalisms such as the British and Russian empires) is based on the history of capitalism, the development of printing, mass communication, class conflicts, and world trade. Anderson argues that these models were adapted in one form or another in the newly independent nations of Africa and Asia after World War II.
Psychology is the unmentioned elephant in the drawing room. There is no consideration of group/crowd psychology or built-in human aggressiveness and territoriality, the human need to define oneself in a group in opposition to others, or the way that nations are felt by many people to be a kind of family, with rulers as parent figures. The absence of psychology causes Anderson's argument to run out of steam toward the end, when he offers only a few pages about patriotism and racism, and here becomes shallow and unconvincing.
Some nation-states are no doubt very artificial (as Anderson's "imagined" title suggests), and borders between countries are often artificial. But cultural and linguistic differences between groups are very real. Anderson recognizes the importance of language differences. At one point he quotes a distinguished Indonesian author, leaving the quote untranslated. (Are we supposed to be impressed because Anderson reads Indonesian and we, presumably, don't?) However, Anderson does not give much consideration to cultural (including religious) differences, other than some mention of this issue in his discussion of Japan and Indonesia.
There are other curious omissions. Anderson does not note that people often have multiple and conflicting loyalties (allegiance to a nation, but also to a region, or to a religion). He never mentions the Roman Empire, says little or nothing about the Arab world, diaspora populations or stateless peoples.
Anderson is an academic writing for other academics. He wants to be quoted and to be considered clever, hence the catchy title. Readers outside academia may become irritated with his gassy, excessively precious and self-indulgent style (phrases like "discontinuity-in-connectedness"). Anderson's references to trendy authors (Foucault, Bakhtin) do not really contribute to his argument and the authors in question are no longer as trendy now as they were in the early 1980s.
This book can certainly stimulate your thinking on this important topic, but will leave many questions unanswered.
Imagine that...!  Jul 12, 2007
Great book! I am using it for academic research and have found it great from a theoretical perspective. That said, it is a bloody brillant read for anyone who is just simply interested in understanding what the big deal is about nations or wanting to just have a more general understanding behind the more everyday realities of what nation and national identity, like pretty much any other kind of social grouping mean.

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