In This Review

Waves of War: Nationalism, State Formation, and Ethnic Exclusion in the Modern World
Waves of War: Nationalism, State Formation, and Ethnic Exclusion in the Modern World
By Andreas Wimmer
Cambridge University Press, 2013, 346 pp.

Beginning in the nineteenth century, cycles of violent upheaval and world war collapsed empires and dynastic kingdoms, while the nation-state spread to every corner of the globe. This ambitious book provides one of the best accounts yet of this grand transformation of the global political order, driven by the explosive appeal of nationalism and self-rule. As nation-states grew in legitimacy and mobilized ever more power, other types of polities could not compete. Wimmer’s major contribution is to demonstrate how the spread of the nation-state generated violence and war. Marshaling carefully assembled quantitative evidence, Wimmer shows that the incidence of war more than doubled once nationalism gained a foothold in world politics and triggered violent struggles over borders, ethnicity, and self-determination. In a surprise, Wimmer does not find any evidence that democracies are more peaceful than autocracies, arguing that peace results less from the qualities of any particular system and more from the establishment of inclusive governments and the depoliticization of ethnicity.