5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: The Invention of Tradition (Canto) (Paperback)This collection of essays, edited by Marxist professor Eric Hobsbawn, is dedicated to the 'modernist' theory of nationhood. It contains essays from across the political spectrum, dedicated to the idea that symbols of national identity are something fabricated (after the French and/or Industrial Revolutions) often using modern media of communication, including newspapers, state education systems and more recently TV and radio.
Hobsbawm's take is that the fabricators were the 'bourgeoisie' (capitalists) and the workers who 'have no country' were thus manipulated to create uniform 'national' markets and will soon be 'betrayed' further by global capitalism as markets widen. Informed views which are less committed to the 'modernist thesis' in general and Marxism in particular are the prolific AD Smith's Nationalism and Modernism and Tom Nairn's more populist Faces of Nationalism.
One of the essays, Hugh Trevor-Roper's essay on the Highlands, had a life of its own in the debate on Scottish devolution. The idea in its starkest form was that 'highland dress' - having been abolished in one version in 1746 following the second Jacobite rebellion - was 'in fact' not invented until the 1780s, perhaps on the inspiration of an English factory owner. Turnbull & Beveridge's response in Scotland After Enlightenment was that there were obviously several forms of dress at issue and that, although witty, the point was not really relevant to a practical civic project of democratic renewal.
A notable limitation is the predominance of historians: there's nothing from social psychology for example. All in all, I found the book worth reading, but one-sided and tendentious in its selection of contributors and facts.