By James G. Kellas
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Additional resources for The Politics of Nationalism and Ethnicity
Gellner's theory is compelling, but it has its limitations. There is little here about the primordial roots of nationalism, and its powerful emotional appeal. Why should people be prepared to die for what is in this analysis an imperative of a rational economic and social system of industrialisation? Nationalist behaviour in its contemporary form is hardly explained in this theory. It deals instead with the reasons why industrialising states adopted a national form in order to prosper, and the nationalism which was associated with that.
Orthodox French revolutionaries, however, defined the French nation in terms ofthe citizenship of the French state, which made no ethnic distinctions. Rather it resulted from the 'social contract' which all could make. This was to prove a continuing problem Nationalism as Ideology 29 for France in an age of ethnic nationalism, for Corsicans, Bretons, and much later, Algerians and other 'non-French' colonials developed a non-French nationalism which would not rest content with citizenship of the French state.
The ramifications of such prejudices stretch into justifications for systems of slavery and castes, genocide, chauvinism and imperialism. Of course, there are differences between all these ideologies and the behaviour associated with them. Nationalism does not entail racism or genocide, but racism and genocide entail some form of nationalist ideology. The idea of the nation and the ideology of nationalism at the simplest means the recognition of a people and its need for status, perhaps including its own state (the principle of 'national self-determination' Nationalism as Ideology 33 was accepted in theory by American capitalists such as President Woodrow Wilson and by Soviet Communists such as Lenin and Stalin by 1917).