Mapping the Nation

A definitive reader on the meaning, past and future of nationalism.

Few political phenomena have proved as confusing or as difficult to comprehend as nationalism. There is no established consensus on its identity, genesis or future. Are we, for example, in the process of being thrust back into a nineteenth-century world of competitive and aggressive great powers and petty nationalisms? Or, rather, are we being flung headlong into a new, globalized and supra-national millennium? Has the nation-state outlived its usefulness and exhausted its progressive and emancipatory role, or has nationalism always been implicated in an exclusivist ethnic and militaristic logic?

Mapping the Nation seeks to address these and other questions about the nature and destiny of the “national question” in the present epoch. A comprehensive and definitive reader on the subject, with contributions from some of the most significant and stimulating theorists of the nation-state, it presents a wide range of divergent ideas and controversies. Leading off with powerful statements of the classic liberal and socialist positions, by Lord Acton and Otto Bauer, there then follows an historical-sociological debate between the late Ernest Gellner and the Czech historian Miroslav Hroch, the one stressing the connections between nationalism and the transition away from agrarian society, the other emphasizing its variability and real anthropological basis. John Breuilly and Anthony D. Smith, two of the leading British specialists, provide a counterpoint to each other with considerations on the respective importance of political leadership and continuing ethnic communities in the construction of nationalist movements. Gopal Balakrishnan, in a carefully honed critique of Benedict Anderson’s seminal Imagined Communities, and Partha Chatterjee, from the Subaltern Studies circle, offer crucial insights on the limitations of the Enlightenment approach to nationhood, as do Sylvia Walby and Katherine Verdery with their reflections on the entanglements of nation, gender and identity politics. Sociologist Michael Mann delivers an authoritative refutation of the chatter about the “death of the nation-state.” Finally, relating the theoretical questions directly to the politics of our time, renowned historian Eric Hobsbawm, provocative theorist Tom Nairn, and the outstanding political philosopher Jürgen Habermas discuss, with varying degrees of optimism and pessimism, the future of the national project. 


With contributions by Lord Acton, Gopal Balakrishnan, Otto Bauer, John Breuilly, Partha Chatterjee, Ernest Gellner, Jürgen Habermas, Eric Hobsbawm, Miroslav Hroch, Michael Mann, Tom Nairn, Anthony D. Smith, Katherine Verdery, and Sylvia Walby


  • Eric Hobsbawm's Introduction to the 2012 Edition of Marx & Engels 'The Communist Manifesto'

    In commemoration of the death of renowned scholar and Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm, Verso presents his introduction to the most recent edition of Marx & Engels 'The Communist Manifesto' for all to enjoy.



    In the spring of 1847 Karl Marx and Frederick Engels agreed to join the so-called League of the Just [Bund der Gerechten], an offshoot of the earlier League of the Outlaws [Bund der Geächteten], a revolutionary secret society formed in Paris in the 1830s under French Revolutionary influence by German journeymen – mostly tailors and woodworkers – and still mainly composed of such expatriate artisan radicals. The League, convinced by their ‘critical communism’, offered to publish a Manifesto drafted by Marx and Engels as its policy document, and also to modernize its organization along their lines. Indeed, it was so reorganized in the summer of 1847, renamed League of the Communists [Bund der Kommunisten], and committed to the object of ‘the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, the rule of the proletariat, the ending of the old society which rests on class contradiction [Klassengegensätzen] and the establishment of a new society without classes or private property’. A second congress of the League, also held in London in November–December 1847, formally accepted the objects and new statutes, and invited Marx and Engels to draft the new Manifesto expounding the League’s aims and policies.

    Continue Reading

  • An interview with François Maspero: ‘A few misunderstandings’

    In commemoration of the death of author and publisher François Maspero, who passed away on Saturday, April 11 at the age of 83. Verso presents this translated interview with the founder of Éditions Maspero, the publishing house which has served as an inspiration for radical left publishing since the fifties.

    François Maspero (19 January 1932 – 11 April 2015)

    We see the publisher François Maspero as having played a leading role in ‘smuggling across’ the communist and anti-colonial thought of the postwar period and preserving its heritage. Indeed, Éditions Maspero is an unavoidable reference point for any discussion of critical publishing in France. Maspero’s output was the theatre of important debates on the far Left in the 1960s and 1970s, and played a pioneering role in many fields. It was Maspero who published Fanon, the political writings of Baldwin, Malcolm X and Che, anthologies of classic labour-movement works, Althusser’s ‘Théorie’ collection, the journal Partisans… We wanted to ask him about his project and the editorial ambitions that he had at the time. Here we reproduce what he calls an ‘attempt at a response’ to our questions.

    Continue Reading

  • New Left Review> Issue 91 out now!

    The January/February issue of New Left Review is now on sale, featuring the following essays:

    Continue Reading

Other books Edited by Gopal Balakrishnan Introduction by Benedict Anderson