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Bringing the state back into the sociology of nationalism: the persona ficta is political

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This article re-examines two key questions from the sociology of nationalism – why nationalism resonates emotionally and to what extent nations are socially salient – and the implications of these for a sense of peoplehood and collective political agency. The particular focus is on the state. Instead of conflating statehood with nationhood, or seeking to expose it as illusory, sociologists should consider how the state – imagined and experienced as a permanent, transhistorical fixture structuring public power and authority – has crucial conditioning effects on society and politics. It will be posited that statehood is a more useful concept than nationhood for explaining the resonance and salience ascribed to nationalism and nations. Whether we favour reinvigorating or abolishing nationalism, the implications of this argument are profound, with contemporary cosmopolitan sociology in particular suffering analytically and prescriptively from a failure to recognise its tacit methodological statism.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSociology
Publication statusAccepted for publication - 6 Apr 2020

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  • Sociology of nationalism

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    Accepted author manuscript (Post-print), 295 KB, PDF document

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