In This Review

Myths and Memories of the Nation
Myths and Memories of the Nation
By Anthony D. Smith
Oxford University Press, 2000, 296 pp

A useful guide to an unfinished debate. Smith argues that nationalism has become the most ubiquitous and enduring force in the modern world and is likely to remain so. He also defends his particular view of nationalism against its rivals. For Smith, nationalism is neither a primordial force that occasionally erupts out of the ground nor an invented tradition designed by elites to weather modernization. Rather, it is a mix of ethnic identities, cultural bonds, and histories that gives shape to national communities. Nationalism draws its staying power from the rediscovery and reinterpretation of cultural myths and symbols by modern elites; its ideological uses have further reinforced its power and durability. Smith's argument is backed up by discussions of the diaspora nationalisms of Greeks, Jews, and Armenians, along with an analysis of the supranational ambitions of the European Union. In Europe's case, modern citizens are capable of multiple identities, so there is no inherent conflict between national and European loyalties. But without the emergence of a stronger overarching political identity, Smith warns, the European project will rest on shaky ground.