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Nationalism

A Very Short Introduction
Narrated by: Marc Vietor
Length: 4 hrs and 17 mins
Categories: Nonfiction, World Affairs
3.5 out of 5 stars (11 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Throughout history, humanity has borne witness to the political and moral challenges that arise when people place national identity above allegiance to geo-political states or international communities.

This audiobook discusses the concept of nations and nationalism from social, philosophical, geological, theological and anthropological perspectives. It examines nationalist conflicts past and present, including recent struggles in the Balkans and the Middle East. Above all, this fascinating and comprehensive work clearly shows how feelings of nationalism are an inescapable part of being human.

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©2005 Oxford University Press (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Biased and Marginal Introduction to the Topic

As other reviewers have noted, this is a rather strange introduction to the subject of nationalism. For it says little whatsoever about nationalism, which is usually defined as a focus on one's own nation to the exclusion or detriment of all others. A proper introduction to nationalism would therefore need to explore its more pathological fascist expressions, its tendency to result in genocide and ethnic cleansing, its challenges with integrating minorities, and its inability to grapple with global challenges like climate change. But this book ignores these questions outright.

Classics in the field of nationalism studies, like Ernest Gellner's Nations and Nationalism and Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities, are adamant that nationalism is a wholly modern phenomenon. Both works, along with Eric Hobsbawm's classic, The Invention of Tradition, focus on the arbitrariness of national identities, and the way in which they are rooted in the imaginations of their members. But Grosby ignores all of this as well, which is bizarre for an introduction to the field.

Rather, Grosby has a different agenda, emphasizing the ancient origins of nations. He argues that nations have ancient roots, in religions, and empires, and myths. And while this might sound well and good to someone new to the field, it is deeply problematic. For there is seldom much continuity in these traditions, and there is even less continuity in their territories. As European intellectuals like Lord Byron would discover to their shock, when traveling to Greece to fight in their revolution in the 1820's, modern nations often have no link whatsoever to their ancient counterparts.

Hence, it is all the more problematic that Grosby would focus so much attention on Ancient Israel, as other reviewers have noted, without mentioning a word about the challenges of its contemporary racist counterpart. The State of Israel is arguably a case study in nationalism gone wrong. The nationalism resulted in the ethnic cleansing of 700,000 Palestinian natives when the state was first founded. And it continues to result in a perpetual string of war crimes and human rights abuses in the world's last stronghold of racial apartheid.

Any serious study of nationalism, which focused so much attention on the ancient roots of Israeli identity would need to grapple with at least some of these issues. And it would need to set out an argument for why the ancient roots of an imagined identity trump a longstanding relationship to the land, as the Palestinians had prior to the founding of the state. But Grosby scarcely mentions Israel and none of its controversies - and for him, the Palestinians simply do not exist. It is difficult to tell whether this is because he is simply an author of a book on Ancient Israel, who has little whatsoever to say about modern day nationalism, or a partisan of contemporary Israel, producing sophisticated propaganda - and he would not be the first.

But the result is the same: Grosby justifies some of the grossest expressions of nationalism, and the world's worst crimes against humanity, all in the guise of an introduction to a subject he barely touches. I give it two stars only because the highly marginal material he does address is presented well. Otherwise, this strikes me as irresponsible scholarship at best (he should not have taken on this project if he was not up to it) and sophisticated propaganda at worst.

~ Theo Horesh, author of The Holocausts We All Deny

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

good content, obnoxious narrator

The choice of Marc Vietor to narrate this book is unfortunate. His faux-"highbrow" reading voice is pompous and ponderous, at best a ridiculous and annoying self-parody. He should stick to science fiction, where I guess this sort of inflated wind-baggery passes as some species of advanced knowingness.

2 of 9 people found this review helpful