In This Review

National Collective Identity: Social Constructs and International Systems
National Collective Identity: Social Constructs and International Systems
By Rodney Bruce Hall
Columbia University Press, 1999, 392 pp
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One of the great dramas of modern Western history was the transition from dynastic autocracy to democratic government. Has this great transformation altered world politics? In this ambitious and sophisticated study, Hall begins to provide answers. Most important, he detects a historical shift in state legitimacy: eighteenth-century notions of raison d'etat gave way to nationalist appeals to citizenship, and nation building replaced state building. In a series of historical snapshots, Hall traces this rise of national identity among European states and tries to disentangle its international implications. It produced new territorial conflicts, more powerful (but constrained) states, and a transformation in imperialism. The book poses an impressive challenge to realist theories that ignore differences between states or historical eras. But Hall is better at showing how notions of collective political identity and legitimacy have changed over the centuries than in teasing out the implications for interstate relations.