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New Left Review I/190, November-December 1991


Branka Magaš

Nationalism and Politics in Eastern Europe: A Response to Ernest Gellner

‘Nationalism’ is a much-abused concept that can be used to explain everything—hence, nothing at all. Unless rooted in concrete analysis of the national and class politics of a given state or area, it runs the risk of becoming analytically vacuous. Ernest Gellner’s work has long been distinguished by its recognition of the salience of nationalism as a force shaping the modern world. Unlike many liberal or socialist writers, Gellner has never simply condemned national movements as diversions from the path of human progress. The great value of his brief essay on ‘Nationalism and Politics in Eastern Europe’ [*] nlr 189, September–October 1991, pp. 127–34. is that its scope and ambition allow one to focus on more fundamental issues lurking behind the concept of ‘nationalism’. The following comment is put forward in a spirit of appreciative response, which seeks to bring out more clearly the specifically political moment in nationalism and its history.

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