Over the past few decades, Tom Nairn has become one of the most respected and provocative writers on questions of nationalism, British politics and the constitution. In his seminal essay, “The Modern Janus,” Nairn argued for the democratic necessity of nationalism in the modern world. Here, in this strikingly original and timely new work, he addresses the subsequent upheavals caused by nationalism.
In Faces of Nationalism Tom Nairn argues that nation-building movements from 1750 to 1990 have saved the world from imperial barbarism. Contrary to many gloomy prognoses following the Soviet and Yugoslav collapses, Nairn argues that the chaos feared by so many observers is neither endless nor one-sidedly destructive. While insisting that nationalism is as inescapable as ever, Nairn shows how its forms and content are shifting. The ethnic definition of the national is giving way to the civic, the “natural” to the designed. Nairn believes that today’s more civic and secular nationalism is a key feature of modernity and not an archaic reaction against it.
Tom Nairn’s wide-ranging discussion takes in Ireland and Palestine, Bosnia and the Czech and Slovak republics, Cambodia and Rwanda, South Africa and Scotland. Faces of Nationalism is a work that demands to be read by anyone wanting to understand one of the central features of politics in the modern world.