The author of this article, Professor Franco Goio, is currently teaching Political Science at the University of Trieste, Italy, and has published several academic articles and books on nationalism and nation-building process. With this article, he provides us with an important description of the theories of nation, very interesting and useful to understand what the concept of “nation” and those closely related of “nationality”, “nationalism” and “nation-state” actually mean.
The Professor takes into consideration the main theories of nation developed in political science, dividing them into cultural and political ones. The article is structured in a very clear and effective manner, which allows the reader to comprehend the main points of the theories of nation considered in the article, to compare them and to develop his own point of view on the subject.
Before starting analyzing the theories of nation, the author mentions the meanings usually ascribed in the common language to the terms “nation”, “nationalism” and “nationality”. He emphasizes from the very beginning the fact that these concepts are both cultural and political, that is, founded on the close link between cultural and politico-institutional elements. This introduction is very useful for the reader to understand how the different theories of nation regard the idea of nation and nationalism. Given these assumptions, he moves on to consider the cultural theories of nation, that is, those theories of nation that give primacy to cultural features in the nation-building process. In the article, he analyzes the works of Ernest Gellner and Karl W. Deutsch. From the author’s point of view, the cultural theories of nation are inadequate to explain nation-building process and nationalism, since politics plays a fundamental role in the definition of nation; this point is the main thesis of the author and it provides a very interesting perspective in the studies on nation and nationalism.
After, the Professor examines the main political theories of nation, considering the works of several scholars. He starts his analysis from the theories of Benedict Anderson and Mario Albertini, then he moves on to consider the works of John Breuilly and Anthony D. Smith. In the first two cases, the author stresses the definition of the relation between culture and politics in the studies of Anderson and Albertini; then, he considers more in detail the theories of Breuilly and Smith. In the study of the theory of Breuilly, the author is referring to the work “Nationalism and the state”, where Breuilly focuses especially on the concept of nationalism. According to Breuilly, in order to understand what nationalism is, it is necessary to consider the socio-political context where nationalism has developed, that is, the modern nation-state. The analysis of Breuilly is a very significant work in the studies on nationalism, since it considers more in detail the processes of citizenship and civil society building. Last, the author provides a very interesting analysis of the work of Smith, one of the most known and prolific among contemporary scholars of nationalism. In the article, the Professor focuses on those issues that Breuilly leaves unsolved in his work, thus considering Smith’s insight on the nation-building process. One of the elements, which makes the study of Professor Goio on the theory of Smith particularly notable, is his elaboration of how the cultural and the political features are connected in Smith’s work. Although Smith ascribes to ethnicity a key role in the nation-building process, his theory can be considered a political theory of nation.
After analyzing the main political theories of nation, the author concludes the article developing some very important considerations on the definition of the concept of “nation”. The idea of nation is based on two main principles: representation and integration; the elaboration of the integration processes behind the concept of nation is very enlightening for the reader. A national community can be defined as a collective identity, the outcome of an identification process.
The article treats a very complex and controversial subject such as the idea of nation and nationalism in a very helpful and intriguing way. Professor Goio provides the reader with a remarkable and interesting perspective on the definition of the concept of nation and nationalism. The article is useful particularly for Political Science students, since the jargon used is very specific and the reader should be already familiar with Political Science theories.
Besides, the article is a must-read for those Political Science students who are interested in analyzing the subject of the idea of nation and nationalism focusing on the relation between culture and politics. For those students who would like to elaborate the concepts of ethno-cultural or constitutional nationalism, this article provides a very good overview to begin with. The Professor also gives the reader the opportunity to study more in detail the theory of each scholar, since he makes specific references to their works.
The article, besides being a very remarkable, interesting and useful analysis for Political Science students, also provides the reader with much food for thought, given the importance and the urgency of the subject. It is then definitely worth being read.
MA student, Centre for European Studies