Stephen Van Evera teaches in the political science department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Thanks to Robert Art, Don Blackmer, David Laitin, John Mearsheimer, Barry Posen, Jack Snyder, and Stephen Walt for sharing their thoughts on nationalism and their comments on this paper. A version of this article will appear in 1994 in a Council on Foreign Relations volume edited by Charles Kupchan.
1. A survey is Anthony D. Smith, Theories of Nationalism, 2nd ed. (New York: Harper & Row, 1983). Prominent recent works include: Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983); Anthony D. Smith, The Ethnic Origins of Nations (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986); E.J. Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism Since 1780 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990); Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, rev. ed. (London: Verso, 1991); Liah Greenfeld, Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992); and Barry R. Posen, "Nationalism, the Mass Army, and Military Power," International Security, Vol. 18, No. 2 (Fall 1993), pp. 80-124. However, the nationalism literature leaves ample room for more work on nationalism's causes: much of it fails to frame hypotheses clearly and much does not systematically test hypotheses against empirical evidence; hence the literature leaves many questions unresolved.
2. Thus Anthony Smith notes that "the prevailing image of nationalism in the West today is mainly negative," and Boyd Shafer states his "belief that nationalism, especially when carried to extremes, leads to war and destruction." Smith, Theories of Nationalism, p. 8; Boyd C. Shafer, Faces of Nationalism (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1972), p. xiii. Yet the entry under "Nationalism and War" in Louis Snyder's 435-page Encyclopedia of Nationalism fills only two pages, and its bibliography lists no works focused on the topic. Louis L. Snyder, Encyclopedia of Nationalism (New York: Paragon, 1990), pp. 248-250. Exceptions exist: a few scholars have held a less purely critical view of nationalism, arguing that it has the potential for both good and evil. See, for example, Carlton J.H. Hayes, Essays on Nationalism (New York: Macmillan, 1926), pp. 245-275; Hayes's views are summarized in Snyder, Encyclopedia of Nationalism, pp. 132-133. And the impact of nationalism on the risk of war is now receiving more attention: see especially Jack Snyder, "Nationalism and the Crisis of the Post-Soviet State," Survival, Vol. 35, No. 1 (Spring 1993), pp. 5-26; and Barry R. Posen, "The Security Dilemma and Ethnic Conflict," Survival, Vol. 35, No. 1 (Spring 1993), pp. 27-47. The Snyder and Posen pieces are also published in Michael E. Brown, ed., Ethnic Conflict and International Security (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993).
3. My usage of "ethnic community" follows Anthony Smith, who suggests that an ethnic community has six characteristics: a common name, a myth of common ancestry, shared memories, a common culture, a link with a historic territory or homeland (which it may or may not currently occupy), and a measure of common solidarity. See Smith, Ethnic Origins of Nations, pp. 22-30. Summarizing Smith nicely is Michael E. Brown, "Causes and Implications of Ethnic Conflict," in Brown, ed., Ethnic Conflict and International Security, pp. 3-26 at 4-5.
Smith's second criteria (myth of common ancestry) would exclude immigrant societies of diverse origin that have developed the other five characteristics of ethnic community, such as the immigrant peoples of the United States, Cuba, Argentina, Chile, and Brazil. However, the common usage of "nation" and "nationalism" includes these groups as nations that can have a nationalism, e.g., "American nationalism," "Argentine nationalism," "Chilean nationalism." I define nationalism as a movement of a "national community" as well as an "ethnic community" in order to include these nationalisms. My usage of "national" follows the Dictionary of the Social Sciences, which defines "nation" as "the largest society of people united by a common culture and consciousness," and which "occupies a common territory." Julius Gould and William L. Kolb, eds., A Dictionary of the Social Sciences (New York: Free Press of Glencoe, 1964), p. 451.
4. The academic literature defines nationalism in an annoyingly wide range of ways. My definition follows no other exactly...