Benedict Anderson, "Imagined Communities. Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism"


Book, 13,4 x 20,2 x 1,2 cm.

Collection: Collection MHKA, Antwerp.

With his best-known book, Imagined Communities. Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, Irish political scientist Benedict Anderson (1936-2015) went against the grain of the historical research on nationalism of his time. Firstly, by shifting the focus to the American continent in the 18th and 19th centuries, he broke with the Eurocentric approach to nationalism. Secondly, by abandoning a purely socio-economic angle, he made room for a cultural approach to the origins of modern nationalism. Anderson's premise is that 'print capitalism' – capitalism in the age of commercial printing, which allowed newspapers and novels to be widely distributed – made people feel like they were part of an 'imagined community'.

“The idea of a sociological organism moving calendrically through homogeneous, empty time is a precise analogue of the idea of the nation, which also is conceived as a solid community moving steadily down (or up) history”.

With his idea of an 'imagined nation' – often misunderstood, especially in translation, as an 'imaginary', a 'made-up' nation – Anderson points to the sense of connection that exists between people who never met, giving them the feeling of belonging to a group with common history, beliefs and customs. Unlike many of his colleagues, Anderson saw the potential of nationalism to unite people of all classes and to sacrifice the individual in the service of the collective as a positive force. In 1991, a chapter on maps, censuses and museums was added to the book.

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