A nation is a community
of people formed on the basis of a common language
, history, ethnicity
, or a common culture
, and, in many cases, a shared territory. A nation is more overtly political than an ethnic group
it has been described as "a fully mobilized or institutionalized ethnic group". Some nations are equated with ethnic groups (see ethnic nationalism
and nation state
) and some are equated with an affiliation with a social and political constitution
(see civic nationalism
). A nation has also been defined as a cultural-political community that has become conscious of its autonomy
, unity and particular interests.
In international law
nation is the term for a sovereign state
American political scientist Benedict Anderson
characterised a nation as an "imagined community
", and Australian academic Paul James
sees it as an "abstract community". A nation is an imagined community in the sense that the material conditions exist for imagining extended and shared connections and that it is objectively impersonal, even if each individual in the nation experience themselves as subjectively part of an embodied unity with others. For the most part, members of a nation remain strangers to each other and will likely never meet. Hence the phrase, "a nation of strangers" used by such writers as American journalist Vance Packard
. So, a nation is an intersubjective
reality and exists solely in the collective imagination of the citizens. Even if a person comes to believe that a nation does not exist, the nation will remain unharmed, as it is not a subjective
reality which exists in the mind of a single person. Only if a very large number of people come to believe that the nation should not exist and end its validity will the nation cease to exist.
Etymology and terminology
The word ''nation'' came from the Old French
word ''nacion'' – meaning "birth" (''naissance''), "place of origin" -, which in turn originates from the Latin
'' (''nātĭō'') literally meaning "birth".
''Black's Law Dictionary
'' defines a nation as follows:
nation, ''n.'' (14c) 1. A large group of people having a common origin, language, and tradition and usu. constituting a political entity. • When a nation is coincident with a state, the term ''nation-state'' is often used....
2. A community of people inhabiting a defined territory and organized under an independent government; a sovereign political state....
The word "nation" is sometimes used as synonym for:
* State (polity)
or sovereign state
: a government which controls a specific territory, which may or may not be associated with any particular ethnic group
: a geographic territory, which may or may not have an affiliation with a government or ethnic group
Thus the phrase "nations of the world" could be referring to the top-level governments (as in the name for the United Nations
), various large geographical territories, or various large ethnic groups of the planet.
Depending on the meaning of "nation" used, the term "nation state
" could be used to distinguish larger states from small city state
s, or could be used to distinguish multinational state
s from those with a single ethnic group.
In her book ''Kingdoms and Communities in Western Europe 900–1300'', Susan Reynolds
argues that many European medieval kingdoms were nations in the modern sense except that political participation in nationalism was available only to a limited prosperous and literate class. In his book ''The Construction of Nationhood: Ethnicity, Religion and Nationalism'', Adrian Hastings
states that England's Anglo Saxon kings mobilized mass nationalism in their struggle to repel Norse invasions. He argues that Alfred the Great
, in particular, drew on biblical nationalism
, using biblical language in his law code and that during his reign selected books of the Bible were translated into Old English
to inspire Englishmen to fight to turn back the Norse invaders. Hastings argues for a strong renewal of English nationalism (following a hiatus after the Norman conquest
) beginning with the translation of the complete bible into English by the Wycliffe circle in the 1380s
, positing that English nationalism
and the English nation have been continuous since that time.
Another prudent example of Medieval nationalism is the Declaration of Arbroath
, a document produced by Scottish nobles and clergy during the Scottish Wars of Independence
. The purpose of the document was to demonstrate to the Pope that Scotland was indeed a nation of its own, with its own unique culture, history and language and that it was indeed an older nation than England. The document went on to justify the actions of Robert the Bruce
and his forces in resisting the occupation and to chastise the English for having violated Scottish sovereignty without justification. The propaganda campaign supplemented a military campaign on the part of the Bruce, which after the Battle of Bannockburn
was successful and eventually resulted in the end of England's occupation and recognition of Scottish independence on the part of the English crown. The document is widely seen as an early example of both Scottish nationalism
and popular sovereignty
affirms in ''Hellenism in Byzantium'' (2008) that what is called the Byzantine Empire
was the Roman Empire transformed into a nation-state
in Middle Ages.
Azar Gat is among the scholars who argue that China
were nations by the time of the European Middle Ages.
Use of term ''nationes'' by medieval universities and other medieval institutions
A significant early use of the term ''nation'', as ''natio'', occurred at Medieval universities
to describe the colleagues in a college or students, above all at the University of Paris
, who were all born within a ''pays'', spoke the same language and expected to be ruled by their own familiar law. In 1383 and 1384, while studying theology at Paris, Jean Gerson
was elected twice as a procurator for the French ''natio''. The University of Prague
adopted the division of students into ''nationes'': from its opening in 1349 the ''studium generale
'' which consisted of Bohemian, Bavarian, Saxon and Silesian ''nations''.
In a similar way, the ''nationes'' were segregated by the Knights Hospitaller of Jerusalem
, who maintained at Rhodes
the hostels from which they took their name "where foreigners eat and have their places of meeting, each nation apart from the others, and a Knight has charge of each one of these hostels, and provides for the necessities of the inmates according to their religion", as the Spanish traveller Pedro Tafur
noted in 1436.
Early modern nations
In his article, "The Mosaic Moment: An Early Modernist Critique of the Modernist Theory of Nationalism", Philip S. Gorski
argues that the first modern nation was the Dutch Republic
, created by a fully modern political nationalism rooted in the model of biblical nationalism
. In a 2013 article "Biblical nationalism and the sixteenth-century states", Diana Muir Appelbaum
expands Gorski's argument to apply to a series of new, Protestant, sixteenth-century nation states. A similar, albeit broader, argument was made by Anthony D. Smith
in his books, ''Chosen Peoples: Sacred Sources of National Identity'' and ''Myths and Memories of the Nation''.
In her book ''Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity'', Liah Greenfeld
argued that nationalism was invented in England by 1600. According to Greenfeld, England was “the first nation in the world".
In the late 20th century, many social scientists argued that there were two types of nations, the civic nation
of which France was the principal example and the ethnic nation
exemplified by the German peoples. The German tradition was conceptualized as originating with early 19th-century philosophers, like Johann Gottlieb Fichte
, and referred to people sharing a common language, religion, culture, history, and ethnic origins
, that differentiate them from people of other nations.
On the other hand, the civic nation was traced to the French Revolution
and ideas deriving from 18th-century French philosophers. It was understood as being centered in a willingness to "live together", this producing a nation that results from an act of affirmation. This is the vision, among others, of Ernest Renan
Present day analysis tend to be based in socio-historical studies about the building of national identity
sentiments, trying to identify the individual and collective mechanisms, either conscient or non-conscient, intended or un-intended. According to some of these studies, it seems that the State
often plays a significant role, and communications, particularly of economic content, also have a high significance.
Debate about a potential future of nations
There is an ongoing debate about the future of nations − about whether this framework will persist as is and whether there are viable or developing alternatives.
The theory of the clash of civilizations
lies in direct contrast to cosmopolitan
theories about an ever more-connected world that no longer requires nation states. According to political scientist Samuel P. Huntington
, people's cultural and religious identities
will be the primary source of conflict in the post–Cold War
The theory was originally formulated in a 1992 lecture at the American Enterprise Institute
, which was then developed in a 1993 ''Foreign Affairs
'' article titled "The Clash of Civilizations?",
[Official copy (free preview): ]
in response to Francis Fukuyama
's 1992 book, ''The End of History and the Last Man
''. Huntington later expanded his thesis
in a 1996 book ''The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order''.
Huntington began his thinking by surveying the diverse theories about the nature of global politics in the post–Cold War
period. Some theorists and writers argued that human rights
, liberal democracy
and capitalist free market
economics had become the only remaining ideological alternative for nations in the post–Cold War world. Specifically, Francis Fukuyama
, in ''The End of History and the Last Man
'', argued that the world had reached a Hegelian
"end of history".
Huntington believed that while the age of ideology
had ended, the world had reverted only to a normal state of affairs characterized by cultural conflict. In his thesis, he argued that the primary axis of conflict in the future will be along cultural and religious lines.
is the process or trend by which nation states and national identities lose their importance relative to supranational and global entities. Several factors contribute to its aspects including economic globalization
, a rise in importance of multinational corporation
s, the internationalization of financial markets, the transfer of socio-political power
from national authorities to supernational entities, such as multinational corporations, the United Nations
and the European Union
and the advent of new information and culture technologies such as the Internet
. However attachment to citizenship and national identities
often remains important.
[I. Bloemraad; "Who claims dual citizenship? The limits of postnationalism, the possibilities of transnationalism, and the persistence of traditional citizenship"; ''International Migration Review'' 38:389–426 (2004)]
Jan Zielonka of the University of Oxford states that "the future structure and exercise of political power will resemble the medieval model more than the Westphalian one" with the latter being about "concentration of power, sovereignty and clear-cut identity" and neo-medievalism
meaning "overlapping authorities, divided sovereignty, multiple identities and governing institutions, and fuzzy borders".
* City network
* Identity (social science)
* ''Imagined Communities''
* Invented tradition
* Lists of people by nationality
* Multinational state
* National emblem
* National god
* National memory
* Race (human categorization)
* Sovereign state
* Stateless nation
* Manent, Pierre (2007)
"What is a Nation?"
''The Intercollegiate Review'', Vol. XLII, No. 2, pp. 23–31.
* Renan, Ernest (1896)
"What is a Nation?"
In: ''The Poetry of the Celtic Races, and Other Essays''. London: The Walter Scott Publishing Co., pp. 61–83.
Category:Political science terminology
Category:Types of communities