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New Left Review I/211, May-June 1995


Gopal Balakrishnan

The National Imagination

Eric Hobsbawm, in the final chapter of a comprehensive survey on the history of nationalism, claimed that as a historical phenomenon, it had passed its heyday. [1] E.J. Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism Since 1788, London 1990. Employing a Hegelian idiom he suggested that the nation-state was now on a declining curve of historical viability, the beginnings of its fossilization clearing the way for deeper explorations into its origins, impact, and possible futures. Subsequently, this statement has occasioned some amount of criticism on the part of those who think it flatly invalidated by the rebondissement of national causes in the former Communist world. In fact Hobsbawm’s statement was suitably qualified to take into acccount the outbreak and intensification of national conflicts in such contexts. His claim that the nation-state was no longer a vector of historical development meant only that the dominant trends of state formation, immigration, and economic life in the world’s most dynamic societies were pushing beyond familiar national dimensions.

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