Book reviewSadmir Sisic Eric. J. Hobsbawm, Nations and nationalism since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality, CambridgeUniversity Press, 2.
nd. ed. 1992, UK Biography of author:„ Eric Hobsbawm was born into a Jewishfamily in 1927 to an Austrian mother British Father.When Hitler came into power in 1933, they moved to England. Heexperienced the rise of fascism in Vienna and Berlin. His political stance andhistoriography were likely affected by this cosmopolite background. In 1994during an interview he claimed that if the Soviet Union had succeeded increating a true communist society, it would have been worth the deaths of thetwenty million people who perished under Stalin. Additionally, he never deniedStalin’s truculence and never criticized Stalin for being a nationalist.
But itshould be remembered that he never chose to become a Zionist either. On theother hand, during another interview in 2002 he said; “In Germany there wasn’tany alternative left. Liberalism was failing. If I’d been German and not a Jew,I could see I might have become a Nazi, a German nationalist. I could see howthey’d become passionate about saving the nation. It was a time when you didn’tbelieve there was a future unless the world was fundamentally transformed.
“Hobsbawm also paid dearly for his Marxism in terms of a reportedly decade-longstymied career trajectory.”1 In the introduction, I would like to put some ideasof the book, because I consider it is important having a general attitude ofbook. His general attitude is that one cannot be a good historian of the nationand nationalist at the same time, which backs up the following:Nationalismrequires too much belief in what is patently not so. 2Hobsbawm´s story is rich of examples of history ofalmost every nation, on the European continent (because he apparently believesthat it comes from here, and he doesn´t put in focus other regions).
But whatis interesting? He never mention the whole story, just part of it, presentingus the real picture of it; nationalism is incorrect, and more precisely, thatit has wicked verity. It show us thetheory behind, what actually makes a nation. This is his great contribution. In first chapter of his book, on so many pages heexplain that nation, actually, doesn´t have its nascency, which means that isrecent phenomenon. This is totally opposite the way how teaches us, and howhistorians, politicians talk about it. Verily, encouragement on nationalfeeling, depends from its conception of being primordial. This is the way howtoday´s presents to public are shown. The beginnings of nation are found inFrench Revolution, which would make modern nation-states and overcomingcapitalism.
Basically, this the period of upbuilding nation, which politicalelement is more importantly than cultural, because it was important to overcomeloyalities, standing on the way to progress. Author gives here a facts, butalso put us in the way of thinking that nation is recent.Opposite to Anderson (which accomplishments mentionsin introduction of book), and his syntagm imaginedcommunity, ( the termin which Anderson himself never used like phrase of dissent), Hobsbawm argues thatthis syntagm tends ineffectively to fillthe emotional void left by the retreat or disintegration.
..of real humancommunities.3To better explain this, relationships we have to other nation and their membersat all, are conceived and developed- they are based on ideas. But what makes it(nation) so important from the view ofsocial and political movements, which would make a nationalism a force? Why andhow it overcame the imagination of masses? Answers relates to governments andtheir encourgments of nationalism and its directions accordingly their needs.Hobsbawm claims that if regimes, at least, in theory do not identify with theirnationalities they are non-national. So: aswe can now see in melancholy retrospect, it was the great achievment of thecommunist regimes in multinational countries to limit the disastrous effects onnationalism within them.4 He made a connection, which seems like a verygood comparation, and good example of religious nationalism, a Russiannationalism, and the elements that fused into it, were curch and holy icons.
Icons,as Hobsbawm claim, are essential part of nationalism, either religious or not. …give a palpable reality to otherwise imaginary community.5He concludes, inducing supra-local bonds, andpolitical bonds, that proto-nationalism is neither satisfying neither needfulfor nationalism.
Thenumber of national movements, with or without states, is patently much smallerthan the number of human groups capable of forming such movements by currentcriteria of potential nationhood, and certainly smaller than the number ofcommunities with a sense of belonging together in a manner which is hard todistinguish from proto-national. 6Hobsbawm´s directions of analysis, seems to me, areon the good way. He never talk more, that can be backed up with informationsand arguments. This is good, but his approach to the facts or stories, is hardto understand, so, in one moment it can brings out loosing the focus. Also, he doesn´t put in so much attention onsense which nationalism spans national patriotism to express socialanomalies like xenophobia.
What makes a fabulous job here, is his knowledge based on seriesof lectures, but not trying to give all answers. In one pointof book he relies on other Authors, such are Anderson and Gellener, and theirdefinitions of these expression ( e.g., Gellner´s definition of nationalism: ..
. primarily a principle which holds thatthe political and national unit should be congurent. )7 whichforced me to think deeper about this and similar topics.
If we returnto first premise that nations are not crucial and everlasting elements of civilization, histreatment of first premise (The basiccharateristic of the modern nation and everything connected with it is itsmodernity. Pg.15:1992) is a bit tautological. However, this helps us to understand that studies ofnation before Hobsbamw´s (which closelydescribes nation´s history like ancient, and had natural herritage) areopposite.In conclusion, I am in agreement that nations andnationalism are modern, and I apsolutely uphold his view based on Marxisttheory that they are appeared under bourgeois ascendancy in Europe. Hobsbawm´sdefinitions are too suitable, and also, they are historically helpful.
His approach is chronological. Nationalism,as Author pervades through book, doesn´t have durable tradition and its necessarily establishment is not insupra-local bonds (language, ethnicity or religion), as he mentions. Despite mymisunderstandings about some parts of book, I gladly emphasize his analysis aresource of inestimable education. 1 https://nationalismstudies.wordpress.com/2013/10/30/eric-hobsbawm/2Eric Hobsbawm, Nations and nationalismsince 1780, Cambridge University Press, 2nd.
ed. 1992, pg. 12 3Eric Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalismsince 1780, Cambridge University Press, pg.464Ibid, pg. 1805Ibid, pg.
716Ibid, pg. 777Ibid, pg. 9