Eric Hobsbawm 's Influence On National Consciousness Essay

Eric Hobsbawm 's Influence On National Consciousness Essay

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Eric Hobsbawm did not see nations as naturally occurring ideas, but rather as deliberately engineered; thus leading to the unequal development of national consciousness amongst social groups and different regions. As a Marxist historian, Hobsbawm contended that the “national consciousness” often leaves out the popular masses, even though they are the group most talked about within nationalistic rhetoric. While this idea raises relevant points, I do not believe it is universally applicable, as especially within post-colonial states it become difficult to tell the elite from the masses, the oppressor from the oppressed. Moreover, his ideas do not account for whether the group willingly accepted such identities, rather than it merely being a false-consciousness imposed from above. Nationalist movements were also frequently advocates for the rights of disenfranchised, particularly in relation to post-colonial states such as Indonesia. Again, while his theories rain true to many nationalisms, they are not universally generalizable.
Hobsbawm later argued that ‘nation’ and ‘nationalism’ were no longer adequate terms to describe the politic entities described as such by the late Twentieth Century. This point is valid in that it is important to recognize the key changes that nationalism went following World War II and the Cold War; however, much of the older work on nationalism still remains relevant, despite Hobsbawm’s opinion that nationalism has become an entirely new concept. Although I disagree with many of Hobsbawm’s points, his work is still incredibly influential, especially as he argued that nationalism is what ties the civilians to their government through daily bonds. This easily ties into the later works of Michael Billig, wher...


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...but briefly addressed in numerous studies before. Through Deutsch’s empirical studies, he saw that national consciousness is rooted in its attachment to symbols of nationality, which allow a society to communicate and see itself as united. Anthony D. Smith argues that nationalism and the symbols behind it are one of the leading causes of war, particularly in removing rationality away from such a declaration. Smith contends that nationalism was a leading cause in why the twentieth century had so many wars. Such symbolism is important to how the nation views itself, although often it is propagated through the government. For example, Joshua Barker contends that the Indonesian government symbols such as a nation-wide satellite system, highways, monuments, and amusement parks to convey nationalism among the people, because they would regularly interact with such objects.

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