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History after HobsbawmWriting the Past for the Twenty-First Century$
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John H. Arnold, Matthew Hilton, and Jan Rüger

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198768784

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198768784.001.0001

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Hobsbawm and Researching the History of Nationalism

Hobsbawm and Researching the History of Nationalism

(p.76) 5 Hobsbawm and Researching the History of Nationalism
History after Hobsbawm

John Breuilly

Oxford University Press

Hobsbawm’s work on nationalism has three successive phases, which reflect how the subject has been approached by others. In the first phase, nationalism was subordinated to Marxist class analysis. The second phase, is marked by a spate of studies on nationalism as inventing or imagining nations. Hobsbawm’s key contribution was as co-editor of The Invention of Tradition. In the third phase, nationalism was treated as ‘identity politics’, as one finds in some of Hobsbawm’s later works. These approaches yield diminishing results. Class analysis makes nationalism an epiphenomenon; treating nationalism as an invention detaches it from social reality; identity politics turns it into social psychology. Yet Hobsbawm’s global perspective, his treatment of nationalism as an ideology, and his concern with ‘history from below’ represent three promising new avenues for nationalism research.

Keywords:   class, history from below, ideology, nationalism, identity politics

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