WHAT IS A NATIONALITY?

  In 1994 sociologist Liah Greenfeld and international studies professor Daniel Chirot identified
“national identity” as “fundamental.” It was “believed,” they added, “to define the very essence of the
individual…” Greenfeld and Chirot went on to insist that in the “modern world” national identity took
precedence over what they termed “coexisting or overlapping identities, such as occupational, religious,
tribal and gender.” In the modern world, “national identity constitutes what may be called the
‘fundamental identity… which the other identities one may have [to] modify but slightly, and as a result
these other identities are considered secondary” (Greenfeld & Chirot, 1994, 79). Since then, religiously-
motivated terrorists have made it quite clear that they do not agree. They see religion, largely displaced
from political dominance in Europe during the 17th century, as still the paramount concern.

       Tajfel and Turner’s Social Identity Theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1982, 1986) posits that individuals have
both a
personal identity (unique sense of self), and social identities (based on group memberships, such
as nation, religion, occupation, school, or perhaps even sports team, etc.). Both of these contribute to
an individual’s self-esteem- the maintenance of which is typically presumed to be of cardinal importance
in modern/western psychology. Social Identity Theory further stipulates that when social identity is
threatened, people are motivated to restore self-esteem by either a) showing favoritism to ingroup
members, or b) derogating members of outgroups, thus furthering prejudice and discrimination (Weiten
& Lloyd, 2006, 184). ) In other words, we humans are social beings who have evolved over millenia to
both maintain our individual status in our social group, and to maintain the status of our group(s) in
comparison with other groups.

       Nationality is among the most influential of these typically overlapping group identities that have
bearing on our social status. This is due both to nations' remarkable size (usually in the millions) and
their unique powers of sovereignty (which were often unchallenged until modern times). Even the largest
and most 'imaginary' of national identities tie in to (or physiologically mimic) the most fundamental bases
of human social identity. After many millenia of population growth and technological advance, such
sovereign human groups have grown (or perhaps one could say that the exercise of personal
sovereignty correspondingly shrunk) from bands and tribes, to chiefdoms and settlements, to empires,
and finally the nations of today. Given that sovereign human groups have been around for such a long
time, and in so many different geo-economic environments, it should come as no surprise that 1) the
nature of national identity has long occasioned dispute, and that 2) there is still no scholarly agreement
as to how national identities form, or why they have tended to be so competitive.

        This disputation and confusion is understandable, given that until quite recent times (the past half
century or so) it has been physically and technologically impossible for a significant percentage of
persons from one national culture to experience or understand another national culture, to attain a view
from outside their own cultural box so to speak. A small handful of men cannot make an international
conversation resonate through society; larger numbers and percentages of the population are required.
Through nearly all prehistory and recorded history, the individuals of the social network pictured to the
right (an imaginary community, too numerous for them all to know each other) could think of themselves
as extended families, tribes, or perhaps representatives of particular regions or subcultures. They would
not, however, tend to view themselves as 'Vietnamese' or 'Danish', etc., until they had sufficient
experience with, and/or (mediated) knowledge of, the outside world to know how their homeland was
distinct. And of course the homeland, the imaginary community, the sovereignty, must be defended and
honored. With great mysteries often come great power (for more on physical
& social anthropology, the
evolution of human groups, and sovereignty, see chapter 2).
        Two conflicting conceptions of what constitutes 'a nation' have long dominated the scholarly
literature. One, more popular of late, is the ethnic; the other the civic idea. With the relatively recent
disintegration along ethnic lines of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia, the "ethnic
cleansing" in Bosnia, the Rwandan ethnic genocide, and the on-going genocide in the Darfur region of
Sudan, the ethnic definition has appeared paramount in recent scholarly literature. Indeed the term
"nation-state" (with or without hyphen) has become a widely used term to refer to a
sovereign nation and
the people who compose it. However, in that term as it was originally conceived (see below), "nation"
ethnic group, one bound together by ties of ancestry (sometimes  fictive), language, and
sometimes also by religion or other customs.
State means sovereign government. Thus a nation-state is
literally an ethnic group that controls its own sovereign government. A 'nation-state' by that definition
would presumably use its political dominance to primarily serve the interests associated with that
particular ethnic group. Such ethno-political discrimination ha provoked countless conflicts throughout

        Globalization, however, may be about to change all this. Most major industrialized nations of the
world are now experiencing at or near negative population growth among those who are native, or those
whose ancestors were native, to the area of their nation. Consequently, those nations, which are
prosperous, have experienced significant immigration, much of it by people from cultures quite unlike
that long associated with the area. Such immigrants comprise an increasing portion of the population of
many European nations in particular. The immigrant riots in France during the fall of 2005 and numerous
revealed terrorist plots in recent years have made it clear that all the major nations of Europe face the
possibility of similar incidents or worse.

        The civic conception of nationality holds that each sovereign government should strive to serve
equally the interests of
all the people who reside within a nation's borders. In order to imbue all residents
of the national territory with goodwill towards public society, all government policies should avoid
discriminating either for or against any resident ethnic group, or its language, religion, or customs.
Historically that has been a tall order, especially for most European nations which, unlike the United
States, have established ‘national’ (i.e. tax-supported) Christian churches as aspects of their national
culture. France, despite usually being considered a ‘civic’ nation, has attested to this point with
reference to its ban on headscarves worn by Muslim schoolgirls. Other customs that are deemed alien to
the descendants of those native to the area, but deeply valued by those who grew up in another culture
(or in a transplanted version of an imported culture) may well cause similar difficulties, if the ethnic
conception of nation remains in vogue.

        Despite the thousands of books and articles which have focused on nationality or the closely related
nationalism and nation, there is still no universally accepted definition for any one of these terms.
Because so many authors have added to the confusion by failing to define the terms at all, we believe
that it is important for the reader to know as precisely as possible what it is that we mean when we use
any one of these terms. Consequently, this introductory chapter will focus on five main points.

        First we will provide illustrations of the conceptual confusion relating to the terms nation and its
cognates, providing examples of the frustration experienced by many authorities in attempting to come to
grips with them. Second, under the heading “
Natio and its Cognates” we will trace the seeming
ambivalence, evident from Roman times to the present, as to which of two quite different meanings of
nationality- the
ethnic or the civic- should prevail. Third, we will differentiate clearly between these two
conceptions. Fourth, we will identify criteria for deciding whether or not a particular group should be
considered a nationality in the civic sense. Finally, we will introduce the concept of
, which we see as a plausible explanation for the absence of national identities (either ethnic
or civic) in many areas of the world throughout much of history.

A Tradition of Confusion

        Somewhat like the parable of the blind men and the elephant, modern intellectuals have long been
confounded, some more candidly so than others, by the phenomenon of nationality and its various
political manifestations. Conceptual confusion over the meaning of nationality-related terms dismayed
and frustrated the Belgian ethnographer Arnold van Gennep as early as 1922. Surely he was not the
first to experience such feelings, but in his
Traite comparatif des nationalities (15) he expressed them
well: "The social reality currently designated by the word nationality is at the same time so complex in
form and content and so variable in time and space that one can never succeed in giving a definition
that is not confused and vague." Had he written two generations later, he might have added that
definitions often trail off into lists of occasional characteristics.

        A few examples will perhaps suffice to illustrate the problem. In his famous lecture delivered at the
Sorbonne in 1882, Ernest Renan answered the question "What is a Nation?" by affirming that it was "a
soul, a spiritual principle. Two things which are really one constitute this soul, this spiritual principle. One
is the possession in common of a legacy of memories; the other is the desire to live together…"  (903).
Whatever else may be said of that definition, it surely qualifies as vague.

        James A. H. Murray's New English Dictionary, published at Oxford in l903, set forth another definition
which might well have helped van Gennep conclude that all definitions of terms relating to nationality
must be "confused and vague." Murray's definition of nation reads as follows: “An extensive aggregate of
persons, so closely associated with each other by common descent, language or (sic) history, as to form
a distinct race or people, usually organized as a separate political state and occupying a definite
territory. In early examples the racial idea is usually stronger than the political; in recent use the notion of
political unity and independence is more prominent." The Oxford English Dictionary, usually considered
the most authoritative work on the English language, repeated this definition of 1903 verbatim, including
the reference to "recent use," in both its 1933 and in its 1989 editions.

        A definition trailing off into a list of occasional characteristics appears in the 1980 edition of the
Encyclopedia Americana. It defines nation as:
'      a large number of people who see themselves as a community or group and who generally place      
'        loyalty to the group above any conflicting loyalties. They often share one or more of the following:    
'        language, culture, religion, political and other institutions, a history with which they identify, and a
'        belief in a common destiny. They usually occupy contiguous territory. Often, though not always, the'
       group is contained within a political entity known as a nation-state, or simply a country or nation. But
'        sometimes a group that considers itself a nation is divided by political boundaries.

        Similar confusion has prevailed in use of the terms nationality and nationalism. Carton J.H Hayes, the
historian who was among the first to attract scholarly attention to nationalism, admitted in his
Essays on
(1926), that "we ourselves have been using the word nationalism to indicate two quite
different things." The first was "to denote… the process of establishing nationalities as political units."
The second was "to describe… the belief that one's own nationality… has such intrinsic worth and
excellence as to require one to be loyal to it above every other thing…" (Hayes, 1926, 245). Later in the
Historical Evolution of Modern Nationalism (1931), he would identify a bewildering variety of forms of
nationalism. Toward the end of his life he concluded that nationalism was "a religion" (1960).

       Hans Kohn’s The Idea of Nationalism (1944, 13) admitted that "nationalities defy exact definition." Still
later (1968), he affirmed a proposition fundamental to this study, that "only an interdisciplinary approach
would be able to cover the many facets of this complex phenomenon."

        Subsequent works have shown similar concern. Boyd C. Shafer marveled in Nationalism: Myth and
(1955) that: "A century of study of nationalism has produced no… acceptable definition" (243).
Benjamin Akzin chose "The Terminological Jungle" as the title of the first chapter of his
State and Nation
(1964). T.V. Sathyamurthy's
Nationalism in the Contemporary World  (1983) characterized the literature
as "distinguished by its vagueness" (1). Harold Isaacs in
Idols of the Tribe  (1975) observed that
definitions of nationality as well as related terms were "notably blurred to this day" (27).

        Skipping to some more recent authorities, Eric Hobsbawm in Nations and Nationalism Since 1870:
Programme, Myth, and Reality
(1990) considered how to define nation, but concluded that "no
satisfactory criterion can be discovered for deciding which of many human collectivities should be
labeled in this way" (5). The usual criteria of "language, ethnicity, whatever" he characterized as "fuzzy,
shifting and ambiguous, and… useless" (6). He then made an impressive historically based argument to
support this conclusion.

        Five other prominent writers on nationalism have shown similar uncertainty. Anthony D. Smith,
sociologist at the University of London and surely the most prolific of the innumerable writers on
nationalism, referred to "terminological difficulties." He then concluded that, however desirable it might
be, the aim of devising a satisfactory theory of nationalism was probably "utopian" (1998, 223). Benedict
Anderson, a historian of southeast Asia, achieved great popularity with his assertion that nationalities
Imagined Communities (1983, 1991), but he too found nationality, nation, and nationalism
"notoriously difficult to define, let alone analyze" (12). Aviel Roshwald, in his book on the
Endurance of
Nationalism: Ancient Roots and Modern Dilemmas
(2006, 296) almost echoed Anderson in affirming
that: “The contradictions and dilemmas that lie at the heart of nationalism make it notoriously difficult to
analyze or even define.” Anthropologist and philosopher Ernest Gellner of Cambridge, author of a best-
selling book on
Nations and Nationalism (1983), defined both nationalism and nation in an exclusively
ethnic context, ignoring the existence of the United Nations, which represents sovereign governments
rather than ethnic groups. He then conceded, however that "neither [definition] is adequate" (7). Charles
Tilly and a distinguished group of colleagues began "to analyze state-making and the formation of
nations interdependently," but gave up on the latter effort when they found themselves unable to agree
on the meaning of nation, "one of the most puzzling and tendentious items in the political lexicon" (Tilly,
1975, 6). Comparative political scientist and ethnicist Walker Connor complained that studies of
nationalism were plagued by a “terminological chaos” (Connor, 1994, 90).

        Sociologist Liah Greenfeld was more sanguine, if not always more convincing in her remarkable first
Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity (1992), a marvelously detailed and insightful study of the
evolution of national identity in Britain, France, Russia, Germany, and the United States. Nationalism,
she states in the introduction, has been the primary shaper of modernity
2. As she has explained, the
"cardinal fact of human existence is that humans lack built-in 'models for' behavior in groups... The lack
of innate knowledge results in the need for models and blueprints, for an image of order, or created
symbolic order..." (1992, 18). Traditionally, the highest of these conformist models or social blueprints
have been the values of one's national identity (which has more often than not altered, if not subsumed
religions)- after all, only those values have been recognized with sovereignty. Greenfeld went on to add,
however, that a 'people', is seen "always as fundamentally homogeneous." That assertion, even though
she defines 'homogeneous' narrowly, seems difficult to square with Hobsbawm, or with the inclusion of
the United States as one of her examples. Indeed she does admit later in the book to being "bewildered
by the complexity of the historical evidence" (26).

        Revisiting the subject, Greenfeld (1995) defined the civic nation model, as pioneered in 16th century
England, as “a composite entity existing only insofar as its members kept the social compact and had
neither interests nor will separate from the individual interests and wills of these members. This original
nationalism, therefore, was essentially individualistic." A decade later, Greenfeld (2005) seems to have
grasped and articulated for us all the full nature of modern, television age national identity. “Nationalism,
in short, is the modern culture. It is the symbolic blueprint of modern reality, the way we see, and thereby
construct, the world around us, the specifically modern consciousness. The core of this consciousness is
the image of the meaningful reality” (3). This “fundamentally secular and humanistic consciousness” is
“based on the principles of popular sovereignty and egalitarianism. These three characteristics are
present in every specific case of nationalism. Modern culture… is essentially nationalistic in the sense
that it has at its core the nationalist worldview and that it projects this worldview on every sphere of
cultural/social activity” (4). Nations and only nations may claim sovereignty over all the men and
institutions of a particular territory, and with the growth of socialist government over the course of the
20th century, nations’ claims on the behaviors and minds of its citizens have reached deeper, perhaps
deeper than ever before. Who among us has not a relative who killed or was killed in the world wars of
the first half of the 20th century? These sacrifices were not to gender, class, race, or even religion- but
to the flag and nation that encompass them all- the collective power, competence, status, and
sovereignty of our own society and way of life. Thus in the modern world (defined here as the 19th and
20th centuries), national identity “constitutes what may be called the fundamental identity… which the
other identities one may have [to] modify but slightly, and… are considered secondary” (Greenfeld,

Natio and its Cognates

        Leaving Greenfeld’s conflation of nationalism with sociology itself aside for the time being (see
chapter 17), the origin of the confusion between ethnic and civic concepts of ‘nation’ goes back to the
Romans. All three words,
nation, nationalism, and nationality, derive from the Latin word natio. Whatever
the connotations it acquired, the word 'natio' derived originally from the Latin word for birth. The
relationship is clearly evident still in cognate words such as natal, native, and nativity. Thus it would
seem reasonable to assume that common ancestry was implicitly a basis for any group whose generic
categorization sprang from the word 'natio'. To the Romans, the word seems initially to have designated
low status, barbarian groups which were indeed usually organized primarily on lines of kinship. Guido
Zernatto asserted (1944) that the Romans used the term derisively to designate groups of foreigners,
especially those living in ghetto-like areas of their port cities. He noted also, however, that the similarity
among members of a 'natio 'was assumed to derive from their having been "born in the same city or tract
of land." Furthermore, according to the
Oxford Latin Dictionary, Romans also used natio to mean "a
place of origin (of natural products)." Thus
natio, even at that early time, carried some territorial
connotations, as well as those of a kinship basis of group identity.

        Further complicating the situation is the relationship in Roman use between the word gens and
Gens generally meant a group of non-Romans of higher status than those in a group called a
'natio'. Frequently translated as tribe, 'gens' carried, as did 'natio', the implication of common ancestry or
at least of group loyalty. While 'natio' was usually seen as quite distinct from 'gens', the
Oxford Latin
(see also James, 1996, 9-11) affirms that on some occasions it was used "as identical with it."
Over a considerable period, the Romans then developed a body of law called
ius gentium to regulate
their dealings with non-Romans. Far more practical than the
ius civile, the traditional law applicable to
ius gentium became in time the principal body of Roman civil law. From the second century
onward, new conceptions of  "natural law" were added to, or confused with
ius gentium. This led to what
one authority has called a "bewildering controversy" concerning the meaning of
ius gentium, and its
bearing on the evolution of what in time would come to be called interNATIONAL law (Nussbaum, 1947,

        But how did the law of tribes, 'ius gentium', become the law of nations? The shift appears to have
begun in the medieval era. Johan Huizinga in
Men and Ideas (1959) asserted that in the Vulgate- long
the standard translation of the Biblical writings into Latin- 'natio' was used interchangeably with 'gens'
populus in referring to the groups of the Old Testament. Huizinga added that although initially natio
had no administrative or political connotations, it seems gradually to have acquired them (106-107).
Gaines Post (1973, 323) asserted that in medieval use
natio meant "either the locality in which one was
born, or an organization of students in the university who came from the same general region."
Medieval Word List from British and Irish Sources
(1934) states that around 1400, 'natio' in those areas
had come to mean simply "territory." However, at the great church councils such as that at Lyon in 1274
and at Constance in 1414-1417, natio took on other connotations. According to Zernatto, it meant in the
context of those meetings a "representative body," whose members were in effect proxies for secular
princes or universities. It was assumed, he added, that a "loose bond of territorial origin existed among
the individual members of this body" (Zernatto, 1944). Amplifying Zernatto, Greenfeld pointed out (1992,
5) that the term
nation was beginning to take on the connotations of an elite group acting in the name of
the people of a particular area.

        Between the Reformation and the French Revolution, English usage of natio came to differ sharply
from that used on most of the continent. Greenfeld (1992, 51-52) found that the King James version of
the Bible (named for him because he appointed those who made the translations first published in 1611)
nation 454 times. On some occasions, nation had the same meaning she finds in the Vulgate, the
Catholic Bible- that is as a group bonded by either kinship or language. At other times, Greenfeld found,
it was clearly "a synonym of a people, a polity, or even a territory" (52). This non-ethnic use of nation,
Greenfeld maintained, was uniquely English; it did not appear in any other of Europe's vernacular
languages in this period (51-53). Furthermore the English began to refer to the territory associated with
them as a "nation" rather than a "realm," with the implication that the land belonged to the people, not
the king. In the Puritan Civil War and Commonwealth era (mid-17th century), the English anti-royalist
elements at times associated
nation not only with the people, but also with Parliament as the people's
agent. According to Greenfeld, this tendency abated, and "realm" returned to widespread use after the
restoration of the Stuart monarchy in 1660; but “nation” came back into favor with the expulsion of the
Stuarts in the Glorious Revolution of 1688-1689.

        Meanwhile in 1625 Dutch scholar Hugo Grotius had produced his great treatise on The Law of War
and Peace
, generally considered the first significant work on international law. Writing in the tradition of
Roman law and in Latin, Grotius used
gens to refer to what the political scientists would later term states.
However, the first English edition of his work,
The Law of Warre and Peace (1654), used nation
frequently, as in "that law which is between many nations, or their rulers" and "Controversies arising
between Nations or Kings" (1-2). A London edition of 1728 bore the title:
The Rights of War and Peace
in three books wherein are explained the Law of Nature and Nations and the Principal Points relating to
. Even more explicitly, when Emmerich de Vattel's le Droit des Gens (1758) appeared in
English translations in Dublin (1792) and London (1793), each bore the title,
The Law of Nations. Thus
in English legal use, 'gens' had come to mean 'nation' and to be associated not with ancestral or
linguistic bases of social identity but with sovereign governments.

        Popular usage in England, however, was more ambiguous. The Oxford English Dictionary cites a
reference in the 1660s to the courts and counties of the 'nation'. The context suggests that the meaning
may have been political-territorial, but does not rule out an ethnic interpretation. Samuel Johnson's
Dictionary of the English Language (l755) straddled the issue, as would so many later writers, by
defining nation as "a people distinguished from another people, generally by their language… or
government." He also cited the 17th century author and diplomat, Sir William Temple, who asserted that
a nation properly conceived must have both ethnic and political unity: "A nation properly signifies a great
number of families derived from the same blood, born in the same country, and living under the same
government." This defines loosely the modern concept of the
nation-state to which we shall reluctantly
return later.

        In France meanwhile, ‘nation’ was undergoing a somewhat similar transition. The Academie francaise
defined it in 1694 as a collective term referring to "all the inhabitants of the same State, or of the same
region (pays), who live under the same laws and use the same language." This too insists, as had
Temple, that to qualify as a nation a group must have both linguistic unity and sovereign authority. The
Encyclopedia of 1765 inched toward a more political conception, by defining nation as "a collective word
which one uses to express a considerable number of people who live in a certain area (
entendue du
), contained within fixed borders, who obey the same government and who are distinguished from
other nations by their particular character." A few years later the
Jesuit Dictionnaire de Trevous  (1771)
offered a similar definition, but added that in its "primitive" sense nation had meant "a number of families
sprung from the same stem or born in the same region."

        France's great political philosophers of the 18th century were generally nebulous on the subject of
nationality. Montesquieu, in the preface to his
Spirit of the Laws  (1748, lxviii) wrote that: "Every nation
will here find the reasons on which its maxims are founded; and this will be the natural inference, that to
propose alterations belongs only to those who are so happy as to be born with a genius capable of
comprehending the entire constitution of a state." This seems, albeit vaguely, to equate nation and state
without reference to ethnicity.

        Voltaire's Essay on the Customs and the Spirit of Nations (1756) straddled the ethnic-civic issue, as
had Sir William Temple.
Nation in that work could mean either "state" or groups- such as the ancient
Greeks, who were of course an ethnic group rather than nationals of a single sovereign government
(see chapter 5).

        Rousseau was similarly vague. He dedicated his Discourse on the Origin of Inequality (1755) to the
Republic of Geneva, the city-state in which he had been born, praising it highly as an example to other
"nations." His
Social Contract (1762), with its emphasis upon the "general will" of the people as the basic
source of authority, seemed to view the state in a political context, but to see it also as composed of
people sharing a common culture. Rousseau's writings in general, however, were clearly inspirations for
the Romantic movement (Plattner; Kohn, 1944, 23, 251; Carr; Barnard, 1988), which would do so much
in the 19th century to popularize the ethnic conception of nationality.

        Swiss writer Emmerick Vattel's le Droit des Gens (1758), another great treatise on international law,
reaffirmed the civic or political concept of nation very strongly. Its subtitle is
Principles of natural law
applied to the conduct and to the affairs of nations and sovereigns
. Its first sentence states bluntly:
"Nations or states are bodies politic…"

        Equating nation with state, as legal scholars were wont to do, rather slights the distinction that nation
may have carried greater implications of popular support than did state. In a legal context, it would have
been true that the existence of a sovereign government met the qualification for recognition as a
without reference to the popular enthusiasm or lack thereof for that government. The term
however, seemed to carry a greater implication than did state that the government belonged to the
people and should serve their interests. Greenfeld insists (1992, 14) that ‘nation’ had taken on such
connotations in England as early as the 16th century, but that they arose much later elsewhere.

        In France the Revolution of 1789 clearly made popular support vastly more important in determining
what constituted a nation than it had been prior to that event. The French indeed became almost
infatuated with the term in the Revolutionary period. The explanation appears to arise at least in part
from the fact that prior to the Revolution people had tended to think of 'the nation' as consisting of the
king and the aristocracy, or the king and a somewhat larger portion of the elite. Indeed such usage was
of long standing in ecclesiastical circles (Zernatto; Greenfeld, 1992, 4). Furthermore, Montesquieu had
nation in that manner in his Spirit of the Laws (1748). With the Revolution, according to Zernatto,
the upper portion of the Third Estate, those who would later be called the bourgeoisie, broadened the
term nation to include themselves. With 'nation' now suggesting greater popular as opposed to elite
control of the government, they applied the term with enthusiasm to all that had been royal. The king's
army became the
national army; crimes against the king became crimes against the nation. A national
flag, a national holiday, a national hymn, all helped to commemorate the people's rise to authority- power
that had formerly belonged only to the king and the elite. "All that was royal," wrote Ferdinand Brunot,
"became national…" (IX, 638). Thus the nation became the people, and its government became, in
theory at least, their government.

        Overwhelming as the new national spirit appeared, it did not penetrate quickly all of the outlying
regions of France. As Eugen Weber (1976) has demonstrated, patriotism was largely unknown well after
the middle of the 19th century in many regions of France. In such areas there was still minimal
involvement in the French economy, little use of the French language, and, especially among the people
of lowest status, almost no sense of French identity.

        With the new concept of 'nation' enjoying such popularity, despite the geographic and social limits of
its diffusion, it was perhaps inevitable that new terms would spin off from it. Indeed they did. One was
nationalism. It’s meaning was the subject of an interesting exchange in 1975 between historians Jacques
Godechot and Boyd C. Shafer. Godechot argued that the first phase of the French Revolution, in which
the people struggled to transfer royal authority into their own hands, should be characterized as
patriotism and not nationalism. Nationalism, Godechot held, should be reserved to
characterize the attitudes of later years when popular attention had shifted to the hostile relationship
between the French as a nation and foreign peoples. Shafer thought that, at least in English usage,
nationalism applied equally well to the popular feelings of both periods. Notably absent from their
discussion was any reference to the now widely used ethnic conception of the term, that is as the
aspiration of an ethnic group for freedom from the political domination of another group, or the ideology
which asserts that each ethnic group has a moral right to its own sovereign government
Annales historiques de la Revolution Francaise, 1975, 329-33).

        The word nationalism was slow to come into widespread use. It appeared in the sense of "egotism
practiced by a nation" in the memoirs of an exiled French priest, Jacques Barruel, published in 1798.
(Sauvigny, 1970) It had appeared even earlier in the works of Johann Gottfried Herder, the 18th century
German scholar most responsible for popularizing the ethnic conception of nationality. But the first
French dictionary to include it was Larousse in 1874. The definition there was "blind and exclusive
preference for that which is properly of one's own nation." The “derogatory tinge" connoted in this
definition of nationalism may, according to Sauvigny, have led the French to avoid it for some time as
"desecrating" the word nation, which had become hallowed by its use in the revolution. In any case, the
French decried the excesses of what they usually called "the sentiment of nationality" for some years
beyond 1830, before eventually adopting the term "nationalism" to carry that meaning. There were some
early uses of the term in German and English, but in those languages too, nationalism did not come into
common use until late in the 19th century (Sauvigny, 1970).

Fig. 1:1 Nationalism Writers on Two Dimensions
^   I  Geertz, Herder                                                                                               Gellner, Connor
E  I                                        
t   I                                                                                       
h  I                                Roshwald                                                Smith         Brubaker
n  I                                                         
i   I                                                                                                                           
c  I                                                                        
'    I                                                     Hastings                                         
'    I                                                                                                
'    I___________________________________________________________Anderson______     
'    I                                                                                                                     Hobsbawm
'    I                                                                                                                   
'    I
'    I     
'    I                                                                               
C I                                                                                            Greenfeld
i   I                                                                                            
v  I                                                    
i   I                                                        Renan
c  I__________________________________________________________________________
'      Primordialist                                                                                                          Modernist -->

The 19th century vogue for ethnic identity

        Nationality also came in for increased use following the French Revolution. One of its meanings was
that popularized in some circles by Mme. de Stael in
De l'Allemagne (1810). To her, nationality was "the
sum of features distinguishing a nation." As “the” German nation existed at that time only in ethnic, not
political terms, her frame of reference was clearly ethnic. This meaning had found its way into at least
two French dictionaries by 1823. In 1835 the
Academie francaise defined nationality rather vaguely as
"State, condition, of a group of people forming a nation distinct from others" (Sauvigny, 1970).

        In Britain, as in France, nationality came in the 19th century to carry both ethnic and political
connotations. The
Oxford English Dictionary records two instances even before the French Revolution in
nationality was used, seemingly in a territorial or political sense, to mean "attachment to one's
country." By the 1830s, however, use of the term was becoming more common and the meanings more
varied. One definition which became prominent early in the century stressed the distinctiveness or
character of a particular people, much as in Mme. de Stael's use with reference to the Germans. Another
common usage was the legal or quasi-legal sense of belonging to a particular nation, as in the
nationality of a ship or person. Still another meaning which had appeared by mid-century was that
suggesting the attainment of independence or unity by a particular group. Before the end of the century,
more references with an ethnic connotation became apparent, as, for example, to Jewish nationality.

        German writers, however, came to use nationality almost exclusively in an ethnic sense, and to
popularize that usage in both central and eastern Europe. Why did they do so? Social psychologists
have suggested (see chapter 2) that when members of a group become conscious that their group does
not come off well in comparison with another group by one standard, one of the actions which they can
take to make their group look better is to change the frame of reference. This is what the German
intellectuals of the late 18th and early 19th centuries accomplished, whether or not they consciously
intended to do so. Politically, there was then no prospect for the unification of ethnic Germans. There
was also no way in which any of the many existing German states (except perhaps Austria or Prussia-
neither of which was wholly German in ethnic terms) could compete effectively for status against the
sovereign nations of France or Britain. Instead of aiming to create a German state which could do so,
Herder and other German intellectuals changed the frame of reference. They rejected the
civic or what
Hans Kohn (1973) called the political/territorial standard for national identity and replaced it with an
ethnic standard. The Germans would not be identified as the people of a particular sovereign territorial
state, but by their ethnicity.

       German intellectuals then took steps to raise the status of those with German ethnicity. They
downplayed the Graeco-Roman heritage common to the major nations of western Europe which
intellectuals had exalted in the 18th century's Age of Reason. Instead they supported the new movement
Romanticism, glorifying the heritage of German tribesmen who had defeated the Romans and
avoided imperial domination. They glorified the virility of the German peasantry. They glorified the
German language and German cultural achievements. In short, they shifted the basis of comparison
from the political power of sovereign states to the physical and cultural attributes and achievements of
differing ethnic groups. Even ordinary people shamed the Francophilic German elite for preferring the
French language to German, and for slavish imitation of French culture. Thus began a surge of cultural
achievement, which by the end of the 19th century, had made German culture arguably the most
prestigious in Europe.

        By that time, more pragmatic political leaders had also created a sovereign German government.
Because ethnic Germans were highly productive and especially because they were more numerous than
the French or the British, the German government was ready as the 20th century began to challenge
Britain's status as the world's dominant power. It did so even without encompassing all of Europe's ethnic

'          The German emphasis on the ethnic aspect of identity proved popular also in other areas of central
and eastern Europe. Italians used similar arguments to bring about the unification of Italy. In the old
Austro-Hungarian, Russian, and Ottoman Empires, intellectual leaders of linguistic and religious
minorities welcomed the idea that identity should derive from ethnicity, not from alien and hereditary
political authority. Frequent victims of discrimination by imperial authorities, many ethnic minorities
embraced enthusiastically the idea that each ethnic group ought as a moral right to have its own
sovereign government. Some called this new idea "nationalism," while others called it "self-

'          Self-determination sprang largely from the imagination of Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803). A
Prussian-born Protestant minister, Herder was the author of some thirty-three volumes whose insistent
theme was that the most precious possession of any group of people is its ancestral culture, especially
language. He insisted that each homogeneous ethnic group should dwell peacefully and
democratically within its own natural borders, cherishing its
Volksgeist or spirit of the people and
resisting its dilution by intermixture with others. Governments encompassing people of different
ethnicities or "nationalities," as Herder called them, were doomed, he wrote, as "patched up, fragile
contraptions… wholly devoid of inner life." They would have "no sentiment, no sympathy of any kind
linking their component parts" (Barnard, 1965, 58; 1988; Ergang, 1931; Hayes, 1927; Kohn, 1944, 427-
51; 1960; 1967, 168-179; Meinecke; Breuilly, 1990, 1992; Sheehan, 1989; Schama, 1995).

'          To the English historian William Stubbs, events also played a role in popularizing what in 1880 he
called not self-determination, but the idea of
nationality. In Stubbs' view, "the partition of Poland… was
the event that forced the idea of nationality upon the world, and the revolt of the American provinces of
the British empire forced the idea of self-government… upon general belief." The "extinction" of Polish
nationality in the late 18th century, as he saw it, "aroused a sympathy, awakened an idea of the
importance of nationality as a reconstituting idea in a reformed society." Napoleon, he continued, had
"carved out" nationalities "with amusing caprice," but after the Napoleonic interlude both the Belgians
and the Greeks in their independence movements revived the ideas of self-government and of  
"nationality" (Stubbs, 1886, 236-238).

'          Aided by intellectuals of the Romantic era, by prosaic influences such as those noted by Stubbs,
and perhaps above all by the unification of both Germany and Italy, "self-determination" became
enormously popular in the last decades of the 19th century and the first two of the twentieth. Its
popularity, however, was distinctly greater in central and eastern Europe than in the west. The lesser
popularity of the idea in Britain, France, and Spain had two very practical foundations.

'          First of all, each of those nations in its homeland was what Carton J. H. Hayes (1931, 4)
characterized as more a "small empire" (civic) than a "large tribe" (ethnic). Each, given its Roman
imperial heritage, encompassed many people of several different ethnicities. Implementing
would have split each of those nations into several ethnic components, as indeed
nationalist movements in each have sought to do since World War II. Such segmentation would have
reduced the size and power of Britain, France, or Spain dramatically.

'          Each of those three had also became a colonial power, dominating overseas possessions whose
people in many instances bore an ethnic identity quite unlike any of those of the imperial homeland.
Thus in relation to their
imperial status, as well as to their internal unity, Britain, France, and Spain each
had good reason to eschew self-determination as decidedly disadvantageous (Johannet, 1923, 217).

'          The popularity of self-determination, and hence also of the ethnic conception of nationality, reached
a peak in the period of World War I. Woodrow Wilson added greatly to its credibility by including a
commitment to "national self-determination" in the Fourteen Points in which he sought to define the war
aims of the Allied powers. To him and to millions whom he influenced, self-determination became almost
as important a goal as democracy itself. To the ethnic minorities still living under the domination of either
the Austro-Hungarian or the Ottoman empires (both German allies in the war) the promise was alluring.
Nonetheless, the Versailles settlements although “ostensibly based on… self-determination, in fact
assigned tens of millions of people to nation-states other than 'their own' at the same time that they
focused unprecedented attention” on the ethnic qualities of those states” (Brubaker, 1996, 6). Between
the end of World War I and the end of World War II, the popularity of self-determination and of the ethnic
conception of nationality declined significantly. Even Wilson's Secretary of State, Robert Lansing, had
denounced the idea as an impractical calamity (Cobban, 1970, 62). Trying to implement it at the
Versailles peace conference had proved troublesome in the extreme. It suffered also in the cynical
disillusionment with all ideals so characteristic of the 1920s. Hitler and the Nazis, however, utterly
disgraced the concept. They used the excuse of unifying ethnic Germans to justify the annexation of
Austria, the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, and the invasion of Poland which began World War II.
Even Hitler's "final solution" to what he called the "Jewish problem" was at least in some sense merely an
extreme distortion of Herder's recommendation against ethnic intermixture.

        During the period of decolonization and so-called Cold War (1945-90) following World War II, both
the ethnic and the civic conceptions of nationality had successes. The new nations of the Indian
subcontinent and Israel were clearly formed with ethnic considerations, notably religion, predominant. In
other areas, however, notably subSaharan Africa, the Arab regions, Malaysia and Indonesia, newly
independent governments kept borders that had been fixed by the European imperial powers without
reference to ethnic considerations. They mingled ethnic groups under one new sovereign government or
split ethnic groups among separate governments.

        Since the end of the Cold War, ethnic identities have again appeared paramount. The disintegration
into presumed ethnic entities of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and the split of Czechoslovakia into Czech
and Slovak sovereignties have provided dramatic examples of the power of ethnic identities and rivalries.
Ethnic separatism has plagued Britain, Spain, and France. Hundreds of thousands have died from ethnic
violence in Sri Lanka, Rwanda and elsewhere in Africa and Asia. Francophone ethnic separatism came
very close to dismembering Canada in the 1990s, while the United States faced increasing pressures
from multiculturalists to "empower" ethnic groups to preserve their cultural identities. An enormous body
of literature focusing on ethnicity or on "nationality" conceived in ethnic terms has appeared, most of it
strongly Herderian in tone. It utterly dwarfs that on nationality in the civic sense.

'          Intellectually, however, the exaltation of ethnic identities has encountered significant setbacks.
Edward Shils (1957) and Clifford Geertz (1973) had popularized the idea that ethnic identities were
"primordial," that is, oversimplifying somewhat, that they were somehow programmed into human beings
at birth and were thereafter inescapable. Indeed that general concept appeared either implicitly or
explicitly in much of the voluminous literature on ethnicity in the latter 20th century.

'          Among repudiations of the "primordial" nature of ethnicity, several stand out. In 1976 sociologist E.K.
Francis asserted flatly in his widely cited volume on
Interethnic Relations that "A nation is by no means
based on shared ethnicity but on political relationships…" Similarly, scholars focusing on African history
concluded that ethnicities there were frequently quite recent creations, often resulting from imperial
influence and urbanization. Eller and Coughlan went still farther. Ethnicity, they assert, "like any
emotional attachment, is born out of social interaction." There are, they assert, "no circumstances in
which ethnicity can be described as primordial" (Eller & Coughlan, 1970). Indeed the United States can
be seen as a standing refutation of primordialism. Likewise, the concept of ethnicity has also come under
attack, especially the presumption that tribal or ethnic unity should be seen as somehow enduring and
immutable. Patrick J. Geary has demonstrated that it was a "myth" to conceive of modern European
ethnic nations as the literal descendants of early medieval "tribes," which were themselves highly fluid in
membership and of very mixed ethnicity (Geary, 2002). Richard White made essentially the same point
about "tribal" identities among 18th century American Indians of the Great Lakes region (R. White,
1991). Terence Ranger (1983) as well as Rene Lemarchand (1986) have demonstrated that central
African tribes in the period since 1885 were similarly fluid rather than constant in their ethnic make-up.
Such evidence from three continents and in widely separated time periods surely establishes the fluid
nature of tribal and hence ethnic identities. By doing so, it also calls into question a basic assumption of
many of those who believe that each ethnic group should control its own sovereign government, its own
"nation-state" in the original articulation of the term.

        A similar fate is overdue for the ethnicist construct nation-state. ‘Nation’ in that term, to repeat,
means ethnic group. ‘State’ means sovereign government. Together they represent what amounts to a
moral imperative- as per Herder, "nationalism," and "self-determination"- that each ethnic group should
possess its own sovereign government. So popular is the term and so widespread the wishful thinking
attached to it that not only the faithful, but the public in general have come too often to apply this
ethnicist term to sovereign governments, including even governments that make no ethnicist claims.
There are major problems in doing so. First, hardly any of the world's sovereign governments
encompass people of only one ethnicity (Connor, 1973; 1978; Smith, 1991). Nearly all include people of
more than one ethnic group. Furthermore, globalizing tendencies, as indicated at the outset, almost
guarantee that in the future most sovereign governments will see still more ethnic intermixture, not less.
Thus fixing borders with the goal of putting all the world's people of a particular ethnic group together in
one political entity which would include no people of different ethnic identities is certainly not a feasible
option. Even if such an ethnically homogeneous society could be created, it would prove difficult in the
extreme to ensure that it remained homogeneous in perpetuity.

Modern civic national identity

        In common usage today, civic, as does its close synonym civil, means simply ‘of or relating to (or
befitting) citizens as individuals.’ Derived from the Latin
civicus "of a citizen," and civis "townsman", the
term became popular in English in the early modern era. This was after some centuries of medieval
towns and cities (both in England and on the continent) establishing their municipal rights and trading
privileges from the interference of princes, popes, and would-be emperors- or any other foreign
strongmen deemed tyrannical or otherwise contrary to the interests (typically commercial) of the
community (see chapter 9). From these municipal roots, it follows that nationalities in the
civic sense are
groups in which the basic bond holding society together is voluntary loyalty to the sovereign government
of a particular geographic territory- Ernest Renan’s “daily plebescite” on whether or not the society is
serving the interests of its citizens. People identify with such a civic state and give loyalty to it when they
perceive it as serving their interests- as all civil or civic associations are essentially volitional in nature,
regardless of how anonymous or large they may grow over time. A nationality in the
ethnic sense,
however, has primarily been bound together by one or more of the following ascribed (non-volitional)
factors: ancestry, language, religion, or other cultural features of one’s native group.
        Preoccupied since 1989 with ethnic identities and conflicts, academic writers on the subject of
nationality have given relatively little notice to the development of two new identities which- despite a
long history of intensely hostile interethnic relations among them- are now attempting to create newly
civic national identities, uniting traditionally hostile ethnic identities. The European Union and South
Africa are both attempting to unite previously hostile ethnic groups to form new civic identities and a new
loyalty. Such developments, we will argue, tend to be more beneficial over the long-term than the ethnic
or Herderian ideal of the "nation-state." People identify with and give loyalty to incipient civic states like
the EU and South Africa when- and only when- they perceive the state as adequately (or at least
honestly) serving their interests. This is another way of saying that all (genuine) civic associations are
volitional at core.

        Underlying the differences between ethnic and civic justifications for nationality is the ancient
distinction between identities based on
kinship, and those based on territory. As early as the 19th
century, anthropologists pointed out that when nomadic people settled down, their basis of identity
tended to shift from kinship to territory (Maine, 1889). However, this has not always been the case. Both
Germans and Japanese, for example, abandoned nomadism ages ago, but both groups continue to
make common ancestry a central basis of their national identity. Like other groups which embrace the
ethnic conception of nationality and the ideal of the "nation-state," they each attach enormous
importance to their own distinctive cultural features which are more often viewed as outgrowths of their
shared ancestry and ethnicity, as opposed to shared territory and economic interdependence (see for
example, Sheehan,1989; Marshall, 1967).

        Nationalities of the civic variety, it should be noted, divide easily into two not necessarily exclusive
subcategories. The first is
inter-ethnic; the second intra-ethnic. In the first, people of differing ethnic
identities share a territory and loyalty to the governmental bodies exercising democratic authority over it.
Switzerland with its German, French, and Italian ethnic elements is the classic example of an inter-ethnic
civic state. In the intra-ethnic category are groups that share one or more of the fundamentals of ethnic
identity with people living under the authority of another sovereign state. The Arabic, Spanish, and
English languages among others, for example, are each common to a great many separate sovereign
governments. None of those languages now unites all its native speakers under one government, as it
would in Herder's ideal world.

        Why is the civic basis of national identity a primary interest of this book? First of all, one of this project’
s original goals, first articulated over four decades ago, was to explain the origins of American national
identity. For some who define nationality in ethnic terms there is no such thing as an American
nationality. Americans typically have no common ancestry, no state religion, and although we do (most of
us) speak English as our common language, it is hardly, as its name suggests, a language which we can
call our own. Because we share it with the people of so many other nations, the English language is an
unconvincing basis for American national identity. Thus
all of the basic elements of an ethnic identity are
either lacking in the United States, or widely shared with other nations. Nevertheless an American
identity exists. It exists not just in a legal sense, but also in an emotional context, as demonstrated
repeatedly in times of war or other national crises for over two centuries (see chapter 13).

        Secondly, an extraordinarily high proportion of the recent literature on nationality construes the term
exclusively in an ethnic sense. As the initial paragraphs of this chapter suggest, globalizing trends
throughout the industrialized world make clear that ethnic intermixture is likely to increase, not decrease.
The world could use more
civil and civic institutions in dealing with this intermixture. In order to attain
those goals, and to avoid the intraspecific violence often encouraged by the ethno-centrism, it would
seem helpful to know more about how civic nationalities originate (see chapter 2).

        Any nationality, whether ethnicly or civicly conceived, has at some time sought to attain sovereignty.
Sovereignty creates power to serve the interests of the group, whatever they may be. In addition,
sovereignty is desirable because it confers status. The converse of this is also significant. The absence
of sovereignty suggests strongly either subordination to the authority of some outside group, or inability
to enforce the will of the group within its own territory, perhaps both. Either is a demeaning sign of
weakness, and quite possibly subordination based on ethnic differences. Most people are predisposed
to resent and resist such subordination.

'          To qualify as a sovereign nationality, a group must have a territory with which it is associated. In fact
such groups often derive their name from the territory, or the territory from the name of the group. Even
within an ethnic concept, nationality generally implies that a territory goes with the group, although
during the heyday of that concept in the later 19th and early 20th century there was a tendency among
its devotees to identify even Gypsies as a nationality, despite the absence of a territory associated with
them. Changing usage of the term
nationality with reference to Jews seems also to illustrate the territorial
point. In the century preceding the establishment of modern Israel, many of the writers construing
nationality in the ethnic sense referred to Jews as a nationality. This usage was reinforced by the
historical association of Jews with ancient Israel and Judea, and by the prominence in Jewish theology of
the idea of a return to Jerusalem. Since the creation of modern Israel, however, the tendency has been
to characterize Jews as a religious or an ethnic group, and to reserve the designation nationality for the
Israelis, who of course do possess a territory. This change reflects a trend since the 1930s to use ethnic
group to designate what the central and eastern Europeans (as well as many academic writers on the
subject) still prefer to call a ‘nationality’. It also reinforces the implicit assumption that nationalities must
have a territorial base. While the territorial requirement is less than firmly fixed among those who use
nationality to mean what we prefer to call an ethnic group, it is a must for those who prefer the civic
concept of nationality.

        Two primary characteristics distinguish nationalities of the civic variety: volition and non-
discrimination. Sociologists Frank Jones and Philip Smith (2001, 50) assert that, in the modern sense at
least, civic identity has been “based upon the concept of voluntary attachment to the nation and its
institutions.” Civic nationalities must also be
non-discriminatory. Ethnic states have traditionally been
openly, if not proudly, discriminatory in favor of the dominant ethnic group. Civic nations, while often far
from the ideal on this measure, have more often at least touted the ideal of ethnic equality, which (as
was shown in the later 20th century) was eventually sufficient for today’s broader ethnic and gender
equality to blossom fully over a fairly short number of decades.

        Among the more prominent secondary characteristics associated with civic nationalities are a number
of qualities related to economic freedom and (for better or for worse) unrestricted capital. These include:
relatively secure and economically advantageous geographic position, liberal trading and economic
rights, more participatory political traditions and negotiated social statuses, openness to debate and
pragmatism, resultant prosperity, capitalist enterprises, and (eventually) imperialism. Quite a list of
developments to spring forth from originally just trying to be relatively open-minded, pragmatic, and

        Devotees of the ethnic conception of nationality often have a problem distinguishing between civilized
and uncivilized groups. The latter generally meet the specifications of the
ethnic conception of
nationality. Such groups usually share a common ancestry, or are at least bound together by a mythic
belief in their kinship. Quite often they have a language unique to their group. They often share a
distinctive religion and other cultural facets which are theirs alone. Indeed such groups were once
designated "nations" as in the "Five Nations" of the Iroquois Indians of North America. Some
embarrassment arises on this score in subSaharan Africa, where unfortunately it is still customary to use
the word
tribe- implying to some people the absence of civilization- when referring to major ethnic groups
encompassing in some cases millions of people. In eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union such
groups, even much smaller ones, are usually called 'nationalities'.

        Civic nationalities have not always lived up to their billing. It took a Civil War to end slavery for most
African-Americans and the “civil rights revolution” of the 1960s to end (if it is ended yet) discrimination
based on color. Ukrainian scholar Taras Kuzio  (2000, 12) has pointed out that for more than “80
percent of American history US laws declared most people in the world ineligible to become full US
citizens because of their race, nationality or gender…” Concluding, not unreasonably, that pure civic and
ethnic societies do not exist in practice, Kuzio runs through the well-known litany of pre-1970 US
hypocrisies and hostilities, from “highly ethnocentric” 16th century colonists who “defined Indians as
‘Satan’,” to the demonization of blacks and (for a shorter time) Japanese. Likewise a few centuries earlier
in England, a “burgeoning literature developed a national idea…[of] England as the new Israel of the Old
Testament. England’s growing nationalism, self-confidence and wealth was tied to colonial expansion
both overseas and closer to home in Ireland. Indeed, one could not be divorced from the other” (Kuzio,
10) (see chapter 8). By the high
imperial era of approximately 100 years ago, it could be said of the civic
West that: given “a culture of racism and ethnic superiority entrenched at home Western imperialism
could justify its colonization of 85 percent of the world by 1914 through the stereotyping of peoples as
‘primitive,’ ‘barbaric’ and ‘uncivilized.’ They were not like ‘us’ and therefore deserved to be ruled by ‘us’
who would provide ‘la mission civilisatrice’” (9). It is sometimes overlooked that the United States imposed
ethnic restrictions on immigration in 1882 and adopted a system of discriminatory quotas for ethnic
groups in the 1920s. Legal discrimination against ethnic Germans was severe in World War I, but not as
bad as the “internment” of Japanese-Americans in World War II. Among the features associated with
civic nationalities is
capitalism, as exemplified today by major multi-national and American corporations
accelerating the trend toward globalization. This trend began in earnest in 17th century Holland and
England, two exemplars of empire-building and the horrors of colonialism, and likewise both the
achievements and evils associated with capitalism. Whether the abuses of capitalism can be separated
from the civic form of national identity is among the challenges awaiting the 21st century.

        Although it is widely acknowledged that civic nationalities have become significantly more civic
(egalitarian and non-ethnic) after the tragedies of the first and second world wars, the pursuant
decolonization movements of the mid-20th century at times indicate that nation-building efforts justified
with a civic conception of nationality were no less likely to be violent than ethno-cultural strategies. In
southeast Asia at least, “the ethno-cultural variant of nation-building in Malaysia proved to be much
more integrative than the civic variant espoused by the Indonesian nation-builders… [where] violence
reigned supreme” (Kreuzer, 2006, 41).

        Widespread idealizations of the civic West, most famously exemplified by Hans Kohn (1944), do seem
to have had an impact on national leaders and other elites of the later 20th century. Jones and Smith’s
(2001) quantitative study of cross-national patterns of national identity in 23 (mostly first-world and post-
communist) nations found that: “Throughout the world official definitions of national identification have
tended to shift towards a civic model. Yet citizens remain remarkably traditional in outlook” (45). Indeed,
the “meanings of ‘citizenship’ in everyday life, for example, bear no necessary relationship to their
meanings in legal statutes” (47). Although the study had some problem differentiating clearly between
indicators of the ‘civic model’ and ‘ethnic model’ of nationality, the authors are certain that they
“documented hitherto unsuspected commonalities in the ways that people in a wide range of countries
think about
national identity. Far from emphasizing diversity of experience… our findings point to a
remarkable structural consistency across this set of countries. In this respect our research supports
other recent work. For example, Hjerm (1998b) reports remarkable similarity between so-called
‘multicultural’ and so-called ‘ethnic’ nations in terms of popular attitudes to national pride, immigration,
integration and assimilation. National identity theory tends to treat countries like Australia and Canada
as being fundamentally different from countries like Austria and Germany. Yet at the level of individual
consciousness there is remarkably little divergence…  distinctive discourses and policies on national
identity, associated with specific religious, social, economic and historical trajectories, do not prevent
people around the developed world thinking about national belonging in very similar ways (58).

        Both ethnic and civic models have blurred considerably over the past century, if not earlier, and most
of the movement in recent decades (the writings of ethnicist academics aside) has been more towards
multi-ethnic tolerance. Is the
ethnic-civic dichotomy still helpful in today’s globalizing and converging
world? We think so, but given some important qualifications. First of all, we are all the same species, and
any dichotomous categorizations of the behavior of large aggregates of people are likely to prove blurry
under objective scrutiny.

        Secondly, as Jones and Smith have shown, the laws and policies of (either civic or ethnic nationalist)
elites do not necessarily translate into the values and attitudes of the people. Past interpretations of the
dichotomy were based more on the attitudes of national elites, as opposed to today’s greater reliance on
mass public opinion surveys.

        Thirdly, as world cultures globalize or converge in this current era of inexpensive, if not free,
international communication, national cultures will, however incrementally or reluctantly, tend to follow
suit in order to not be viewed as anachronistic. Nationalist and cultural values were more divergent in the
past than they are today, and significantly moreso in the ancient and medieval eras- when national
interests were dictated by the facts of geography and muscle power, not the more far-reaching tentacles
of global capitalism and media power. The civic ideal, as noted above in reference to the mid-20th
century Civil Rights Movement, continues to serve as an influential benchmark of socio-economic
progress in traditionally ethnic and authoritarian societies, as well as civic.

        The fourth and most significant qualification to the continued use of the traditional civic-ethnic
dichotomy in categorizing nationalities is that the dichotomy is too narrow and limited. Through most of
human history, many if not most people have had neither a salient ethnic nor civic-based national
identity. Understanding the phenomenon of nationality in our species requires moving beyond the
dichotomy, to a broader focus (see charismatic dependence, below).

Coming to terms

        How do we define the three terms, nation, nationality, and nationalism? (Fig. 1.2) The word nation we
shall use exclusively to apply to a sovereign government ruling a particular territory; and never to mean
ethnic group- peoples bound by perceived ethnic ties, but lacking a sovereign government. We will
use the term
ethnic nationalities or "nationalities in the ethnic sense" for groups that have attained
national sovereignty, but define their national identity predominantly in terms of ethnicity- such as
modern Japan or Germany.

        National Identity we shall use to mean: 1) [in the individual sense], an individual’s perception of and
identification with the nation in which they reside or are citizens; or 2) [in the societal sense], when the
percentage of a nation’s residents who are consciously aware of their national identity as salient
approximates 50 percent or more- i.e. the mass/majority of the population identifies with their nation as a
prominent or powerful identity.

        Nationality we will use to mean: 1) [in the individual sense] the state of belonging to or residing within
a particular nation or territory; or 2) [in the societal sense] when the percentage of a nation’s residents
who are consciously aware of their nationality approximates less than 50 percent- i.e. there is only an
elite/minority awareness of nationality, often indicating an incipient or developing national identity within
the population at large. For example, only an elite minority in Russia or France held Russian or French
identity salient prior to the 19th century, so it is reasonable to speak of Russian (or French)
prior to the modern age. But the idea of ‘Russians’ or ‘Frenchmen’ resonating with anything
approximating a majority of the public (
national identity) in these states did not occur until the 19th
century. In this sense, it could be said that the “modernists” in our field deal only with ‘national identity’
that resonates with the mass of the population of a state; whereas this study also examines the stem
(nationality among the leadership and elite) and roots (human social evolutionary predispositions) of the
plant (the overall phenomenon of nationality)- not just the flowering of national identity in the population
at large.

        The word nationalism we shall avoid when at all possible. When forced to use it, we shall do so in the
early French sense of "egotism practiced by a nation", or to refer to the demand of a particular group for
its own sovereign government.

Fig.1:2 Natio and its cognates:

'                Original definition & Early usage        Modern development toward         Our definition

1.Natio      BCE- non-Roman peoples (groups),             ethnic-nation, or a distinct                      a self-segregated
'                      identified by birth/place of origin                      subclass of ascribed status                  ethno-nation

2.Nation    14thc- ‘a people, group of peoples,                1) sovereign nation (country),                a sovereign country
'                       or a political state’  (Oxford English)                  or 2) an ethnic group                                (as in United Nations)

3.Nationality 17thc- a national quality or character            the status of belonging to                       an incipient, proto-phase
'                       18thc- a national feeling/attachment             a particular nation                                    of NI, present in an elite
'                                                                                                                                                                          or minority of the total
'                                                                                                                                                                          populace

.National    modern subtype of social identity;                 constantly reproduced                            a conscious awareness
Identity (NI)  a powerful mass identification                       and reinterpreted;  i.e.                             of one’s NI; in >50% of a
'                       with national symbols                                      Renan’s “daily plebescite”                     nation’s population
'                        (less strident than nationalism)

5.Nationalism  18thc- ‘love for a particular                            1) ‘a religion’ of all-encom-                     love for a particular
'                        nation’, especially to the                                passing patriotic sentiment                   culture & consciousness;
'                        exclusion of other nations                            2) ethnic self-determinism                      often exclusive/chauvinist

Charismatic dependence

        National identities have been absent from most areas of the world for considerable periods of time.
Any book attempting to explore the concept of national identity must offer an explanation for that
absence. Our explanation derives in part from the concept of charisma. The literature on
charisma is
vast, but much of it focuses on those attributes of an individual which are seen to endow that person with
charismatic authority The focus here will be instead on the qualities that incline so many in our species
to look for and indeed almost to require a leader whom the people see as endowed with supernatural
power, or as in close communication with those whom the people perceive as possessing such powers,
or who at the very least is perceived as having extraordinary capacities. We believe it is this quality in
our species that accounts for the existence, in so many areas of the world, of prolonged periods in which
enduring authority is predominantly charismatic and authoritarian in character. We have in mind not just
ancient Egypt for example (see chapter 4), a multi-ethnic state where the ruling pharaohs were
perceived for some time as actual gods, but the many historical eras throughout the world in which
unlimited authority was believed to repose in a hereditary dynasty, or some other individual or institution
believed to be endowed with extraordinary or even supernatural powers.

        Charismatic dependence tends to substitute for feelings of nationality or national identity. People
confronted by crisis conditions in countless places have sought a charismatic leader, someone endowed
with power to rescue them from whatever it was that threatened them. In such conditions of crisis people
did not develop a sense of national identity. They did not manifest the solidarity associated with national
identity, but instead relied upon their charismatic leader (or absolutist institution) to save them from the
threat. These circumstances seem to apply reasonably well in explaining the
absence of national identity
in economically stressful medieval and earlier times (for more on charisma, authoritarian institutions, and
the cycle thereof, see chapter 3).

        We have represented the rise of charismatic authority (absolutism) and its resultant charismatic
(social breakdown) in the chart below (Fig. 1:1). The diagram represents increasing stress
along the horizontal axis; and increasing affiliative tendencies on the vertical axis. The chart makes three
basic points: 1) Even with zero stress individuals of our species experience some affiliative tendency
because we are social animals and (see chapter two) are programmed genetically to live in groups; 2)
increasing stress increases affiliative tendency and the search for charismatic authority, up to a point
which may vary according to the health and strength of the individual; 3) increasingly high stress can
eliminate affiliative tendency entirely at the point of panic when presumably most people experience only
a desire to save themselves. Another point implied by the diagram is that descending affiliative tendency
may well be the condition under which many people lived throughout much of earlier human history, or at
least from the Neolithic through Medieval eras. This tradition of high stress may help explain why
widespread feelings of national identity (marked by more egalitarian and inter-dependent relations) are a
relatively recent phenomenon.

Fig. 1:3 Affiliative Tendency and Stress (may read incorrectly in Internet Explorer)

CONCLUSION:  What is a nationality?

        In the two millennia since the Romans began labeling the low-status, immigrant workers of their port
cities as
natios, a satisfactory definition for the term “nationality” has been lacking. Clearly the term
evolved from “natio,” the Latin word for birth. Somehow the Latin word
gens, connoting higher status
groups of non-Romans than a 'natio', came to be translated into English as “nationality”, and into a body
of law called international law. But to this day no one has put forth a satisfactory definition for
respecting both the ethnic and territorial ancestry of the term.

        Nationality for centuries has had two quite distinct meanings. On the one hand, it refers to what we
prefer to call an
ethnic group, one in which cohesiveness arises from one or more of several perceived
or imagined commonalities: ancestry, language, religion, or other cultural features. This meaning has
dominated the recent literature, and still prevails in many geographic regions of the world. The other
meaning is
civic. In that sense, the principal tie that binds the people of a society together is common
loyalty to the public institutions of a particular territory. The loyalty typically arises because the people
perceive the government as committed to serve their interests without reference to particular ethnic
considerations. This loyalty is subjective and voluntary. Its existence involves, as Ernest Renan put it, "a
daily plebiscite" (Renan, 1947, I, 904). It is notable that while the ethnic concept dominates the academic
literature, recent instances of inter-ethnic violence around the world seem to have motivated the United
Nations, the European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the government of the United
States to encourage, especially in the Balkans and eastern Europe, the formation of national identities
on a civic basis. Paradoxically, however, the civic model of nationality appears to be losing some clarity
and distinctiveness, just as it seems to have carried the day in a large number of the
world’s more powerful and far-reaching institutions. On the other hand, influential sources are presently
urging an ethnic solution (Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish ethnic segments) for the Iraq dilemma.

        Anthropologists of the 19th century discovered that when previously nomadic people settled in one
place, they tended to shift from a kinship to a territorial basis of identity. By 1944 Hans Kohn and others
had transformed this territorial basis into the
civic national identity and exalted it above the ethnic
identity, which still prevailed in central and eastern Europe. The
ethnic national identity concept is the
basis of the term “nation-state”, which assumes that all states must be ethnically homogeneous, and
that, if they are not, that the dominant ethnic group will control the government and use that control to
benefit the interests (religious. economic, whatever) of the dominant ethnic group. The civic identity,
evolving from the ancient territorial basis of identity, assumes that governments should endeavor to use
their powers to serve equally the interests of
all who happen to live within the nation’s territory. The
ethnic-civic dichotomy, however, is incomplete and cannot be applied to all countries today, yet alone
societies from centuries and millennia past. The sociology of our species was not invented in the latter
l8th century. The explanation of the formation and maintenance of human groups may well lie far back in
early human and pre-human history. We should not overlook that evolution has decreed that we humans
share certain behavioral predispositions with several other related animal species. Accordingly we shall
examine this deeper past in the next chapter.


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'                                    text copyright 2008 Philip L. White and Michael L. White
2  Indeed, Greenfeld has stated that "the
emergence of nationalism predated the
development of every significant component of
modernization" (1992, 21).
Return to Index                    Chapter Two
Return to Index              Chapter Two
1  Portions of this chapter appeared in: White, Philip L.
(2006). "Globalization and the Mythology of the Nation
State," in A. G. Hopkins (ed.),
Global History:
Interactions Between the Universal and the Local

(Palgrave Macmillan).