Filozofija i drustvo 2004 Issue 25, Pages: 177-210
doi:10.2298/FID0525177S
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Do nations have navels'?: Gellner and Smith on the emergence of nations

Subotić Milan M.

This paper interprets and analyzes the debate having taken place in 1995 between E. Gellner and A. Smith concerning the problem of the emergence of nations. This discussion is used as an example to show the basic general features of two approaches in theories of nationalism - the modernist and the ethno symbolic ones. Pointing to the common assumptions shared by Gellner's and Smith's theories of nations (critique of primordialism and perennialism), the author interprets ethno-symbolism as a sort of internal self-criticism of the modernist standpoint. This polemic is therefore interpreted not as a debate between "creationist" and "evolutionist" solutions to the problem of the emergence of nations, but rather as a debate between two theoretical paradigms defining different research priorities in studying nations and nationalisms. From this perspective, the author concludes that the ethno symbolic approach to the genealogy of nations has broader heuristic capacities than the modernist paradigm, at least when the emergence of "peripheral nations" and the understanding of the dynamic of their nationalisms are concerned.

Keywords: nations, nationalism, modernism, ethno-symbolism, primordialism, perennialism, modernization, history, myth

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