Imagined communities : reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism

by Benedict R. O'G Anderson

Paper Book, 2016


The definitive, bestselling book on the origins of nationalism, and the processes that have shaped it. Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson's brilliant book on nationalism, forged a new field of study when it first appeared in 1983. Since then it has sold over a quarter of a million copies and is widely considered the most important book on the subject. In this greatly anticipated revised edition, Anderson updates and elaborates on the core question: what makes people live and die for nations, as well as hate and kill in their name? Anderson examines the creation and global spread of the 'imagined communities' of nationality, and explores the processes that created these communities: the territorialization of religious faiths, the decline of antique kinship, the interaction between capitalism and print, the development of secular languages-of-state, and changing conceptions of time and space. He shows how an originary nationalism born in the Americas was adopted by popular movements in Europe, by imperialist powers, and by the movements of anti-imperialist resistance in Asia and Africa. In a new afterword, Anderson examines the extraordinary influence of Imagined Communities, and the book's international publication and reception, from the end of the Cold War era to the present day.… (more)



Call number



London : Verso, 2016.

User reviews

LibraryThing member daleducatte
Wonderful book, one of my favorites. Provides a framework for studying and understanding how cultures change over time, and how people and institutions (including business enterprises and government) react to those changes.

The book also shows how critical print and publishing industries were to
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the massive societal changes that have occurred over the past few centuries. And it shows how traditional institutions (such as European aristocracies, and later governments) reacted to change and attempted to solidify their institutional control. Especially interesting to me were Anderson’s discussions of the use of state-controlled education and propaganda in the colonies populated by European expansion, to influence native residents or, in some cases, to create a line of segregation between European colonizers and a region’s original inhabitants.

I strongly recommend this book to anyone studying history, societies, or cultural change. It is not always an easy read, but once you grasp what Anderson is trying to say, you’ll see elements of his work (or at least, his essential themes) in anything else on society or culture that you read.
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LibraryThing member Scapegoats
A thorough attempt to understand the rise of nationalism. He attributes the primary causes to be the decline of religion and the rise of capitalism. Decline of religion caused a different conception of time, moving from a sense of divine plan to an unplanned, almost random sense of time. And
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nationalism provided a place to put loyalties and sense of identity that was lost to religion. Not a particularly convincing thesis and he doesn't develop it much. He is more convincing on factors that allowed nationalism to flourish, including printing capitalism, colonialism (which created and cemented certain nations), and a decline of dynastic legitimacy. Of course, his big idea of nations being constructed is the most important concept and the big worth of the book. Anyone reading about nationalism needs to read this book, if only because all other books on the subject reference it.
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LibraryThing member Stevil2001
This book was something of a difficult read. Anderson does his best, though-- he's actually quite good at clearly separating and enumerating multiple points. There's some great ideas in here, too, about what constitutes a nation, where nations came from, what cultural artifacts constitute a nation,
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and so on; he attributes nations to the rise of what he calls "print capitalism" as well as the collapse of a universal Catholic Church, among other things. I suppose what makes it inaccessible at times is the supporting data, which often derives from the South Pacific and other areas where I lack historical context and knowledge. Anderson has great ideas, but I feel like they get lost within the book-- discussing it with others and drawing these ideas out is highly recommended. Or, you can just read the chapter of Jonathan Culler's The Literary in Theory where he essentially summarizes the whole book for you. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the book was the food for thought it provides about what comes after the nation-- Anderson doesn't really discuss this at all, but you can't help thinking about it and wondering...
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LibraryThing member DaveCullen
Extraordinary book on nationalism, and how we create these images of who we are.

(I took a graduate course in Cultural Anthropology on ethnicity and nationalism, where we read a tremendous amount of the current academic thinking on related topics, and I found nearly all of it appallingly bad: in a
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world all their own, little touch with reality, and also a ridiculous fog index in the writing. There were a few gems in there, though, and this was the standout, by far. And more than a decade later, it has held up. This book has stuck with me.)
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LibraryThing member waitingtoderail
An intriguing look at how the sense of "nationality" came to be - it's more recent than you might think, since the advent of the printed page. Anderson uses examples from Southeast Asia, his area of speciality, to illustrate his points.
LibraryThing member sotirfan
Although Anderson's theory is far from perfect, and on the whole I think it's been improved upon, this gets five stars for originality.
LibraryThing member thcson
This book wasn't as original as I had hoped it would be. Many of the ideas presented here have gained wide currency in later scholarship and that's what makes them seem familiar, I suppose. Still this book has an impressively broad scope and the author discusses a variety of different cases so it's
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a good read.
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LibraryThing member bdtrump
An essential read in comparative and global politics, yet deeply flawed due to significant disregard for the importance of ethnicity and culture without strong evidence to do so.
LibraryThing member gregdehler
Nationalism and the nation-state are fairly recent phenomena, dating to the 1500s. How did they come together and how has the idea of nationalism been perpetuated in the modern era? Anderson sees the nation as an imagined political community bound together by such diverse things as common cultural
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roots, maps, museums, censuses, religion, and political dynasties. The printing press is hence a very critical component to the development of nations. Capitalism and the emergence of imperialism were other important factors that created uniformity through exchange rates, language, education, and a sense of national purpose. Since the end of World War II, all revolutions have been, Anderson argues, national revolutions.
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LibraryThing member aitastaes
What are the imagined communities that compel men to kill or to die for an idea of a nation? This notion of nationhood had its origins in the founding of the Americas, but was then adopted and transformed by populist movements in nineteenth-century Europe. It became the rallying cry for
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anti-Imperialism as well as the abiding explanation for colonialism. In this scintillating, groundbreaking work of intellectual history Anderson explores how ideas are formed and reformulated at every level, from high politics to popular culture, and the way that they can make people do extraordinary things. In the twenty-first century, these debates on the nature of the nation state are even more urgent. As new nations rise, vying for influence, and old empires decline, we must understand who we are as a community in the face of history, and change.
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LibraryThing member heggiep
I didn't anticipate the book to be so 'academic'. Took me back to university days (why, I even read the footnotes). As with any college assigned reading, it introduced important ideas and concepts - and pointed to further reading. Anderson presents the many means and ways by which nationalisms are
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'imagined' (not imaginary). Interesting but it didn't grab me the way a good popular narrative history or historical novel does. So, my rating indicates its relative reading pleasure for me - but make no mistake, this is an important book, especially for our Putin/Ukraine war time.
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Original publication date



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