American Sociological Review The Rise Of The Nation-State .

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The Rise of the Nation-Stateacross the World, 1816 to2001American Sociological Review75(5) 764–790Ó American SociologicalAssociation 2010DOI: eas Wimmera and Yuval FeinsteinaAbstractWhy did the nation-state proliferate across the world over the past 200 years, replacingempires, kingdoms, city-states, and the like? Using a new dataset with information on 145of today’s states from 1816 to the year they achieved nation-statehood, we test key aspectsof modernization, world polity, and historical institutionalist theories. Event history analysisshows that a nation-state is more likely to emerge when a power shift allows nationalists tooverthrow or absorb the established regime. Diffusion of the nation-state within an empire oramong neighbors also tilts the balance of power in favor of nationalists. We find no evidencefor the effects of industrialization, the advent of mass literacy, or increasingly direct rule,which are associated with the modernization theories of Gellner, Anderson, Tilly, andHechter. Nor is the growing global hegemony of the nation-state model a good predictor ofindividual instances of nation-state formation, as Meyer’s world polity theory would suggest.We conclude that the global rise of the nation-state is driven by proximate and contextualpolitical factors situated at the local and regional levels, in line with historical institutionalistarguments, rather than by domestic or global structural forces that operate over the longdurée.Keywordsnationalism, nation-state, diffusion, historical institutionalismThe French and American revolutions of thelate-eighteenth century gave birth to the idealof the modern nation-state—an independentstate with a written constitution, ruled inthe name of a nation of equal citizens. Duringthose days, all other states were stillgoverned on the basis of other principles oflegitimacy. In dynastic states, a prince wasentitled to assume the mantle of powerupon the death of his father (as in the multiethnic Habsburg and Ethiopian empires); intheocracies, religious leaders guidedtheir flocks in worldly matters as well (e.g.,in Tibet and Montenegro); Ottoman andSpanish elites spread the true faith acrossthe globe, British governors brought progressto ‘‘backward’’ peoples in far-away places,and, during the twentieth century, the partycadres of the Soviet Union advanced a revolutionary, transnational project in the name ofthe world’s working classes. Kings, theocrats, and imperial elites attempted to extendtheir states’ boundaries irrespective of theaUniversity of California, Los AngelesCorresponding Author:Andreas Wimmer, Department of Sociology,University of California, Los Angeles, 264 HainesHall, Box 951551, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1551E-mail:

Wimmer and Feinstein765Figure 1. Number of Nation-States Created per Five-Year Period, Smoothed Hazard Rateethnic backgrounds of those who came undertheir rule.Compare that situation to the world today:empires have dissolved, theocracies have beendethroned, and only a handful of countries,mostly in the Middle East, are still governedas absolutist monarchies comparable to prerevolutionary France, where the king ruledin the name of God and represented the Houseof Bourbon, not the French nation. The oncerevolutionary template of political legitimacy—self-rule in the name of a nation of equalcitizens—is now almost universally adopted.This framework is recognized as the essenceof modern statehood, so much so that theterms ‘‘nations’’ and ‘‘states’’ are often usedinterchangeably. Figure 1 shows that theglobal ascent of the nation-state over thepast 200 years was a discontinuous process,unfolding in various waves linked to thebreak-up of large empires.Understanding the global rise of the nationstate is one of the most formidable tasks ofcomparative historical sociology—on parwith the analysis of the emergence of sovereign, territorial states in early modern Europe(see Tilly’s [1975] pioneering work). Why didmodern states—once they emerged out of thedynamics of war-making, bureaucratic centralization, and increasing taxation—becomenation-states? A rich literature has developed to answer this question, including thewell-known oeuvres of Gellner, Anderson,Smith, Hechter, and Meyer. This researchtradition displays two main weaknesses.First, many general theoretical statementsare meant to explore universal processesthat could account for the rise of thenation-state in the modern world as a whole,but empirical support for these generalizations is often based on examples pickedselectively, sometimes in a merely

766illustrative manner (deplored by Breuilly2005; Wimmer 2008). Second, more empirical research on particular trajectories ofnation-state creation tends to be segmentedalong regional and disciplinary lines. Forexample, the political science literature ondecolonization (Spruyt 2005; Strang 1990)and nation-building (Bendix 1964) in thepostcolonial world developed quite independently from debates among historical sociologists about the origins of the nation-state inthe West. Yet another strand of scholarshipinvestigates the historical developmentsthat led to the collapse of the land-basedOttoman, Habsburg, or Soviet empires andsubsequent waves of nation-state creation(e.g., Barkey and von Hagen 1997; Roshwald 2001; Saideman and Ayres 2008).Given that nation-states cover almost theentire world by now, one wonders whetheran integrated view might be within reach.To overcome some of these limitations,we assembled a new, global dataset thatallows identification of those patterns ofnation-state formation that recur acrosscontinents, empires, and time periods. Thisrequired considerable efforts because onlyindependent nation-states systematically collect information on their economies and societies. Available datasets thus do not allow usto understand why such states emerged in thefirst place, which is perhaps the main reasonwhy quantitatively minded scholars have sofar shied away from a more systematic evaluation of existing theories of nation-state formation (but see the work of Strang andRoeder, to be discussed in later sections).The new dataset introduced here includesindependent states, colonies, and imperialdependencies over two centuries, andcontains almost the entire universe ofnation-state creations. It provides information on 145 of today’s states from 1816 untilthe years they achieved nation-statehood (or2001 if they did not). Many of the variablesin this dataset—for example, the length ofrailways, government expenditures, and literacy rates—had to be assembled by extractingAmerican Sociological Review 75(5)information from secondary sources, such ascountry histories. Despite its limitations, thisnew, global dataset allows us to assess theplausibility of major theories of the nationstate from a global, comparative perspective.Many comparative historical sociologistsare deeply skeptical of the use of quantitativetechniques and large datasets because theseseem to imply a disregard for contingency,context, and complexity. We show that atleast some of these concerns can beaddressed within a quantitative framework.A focus on recurrent patterns does not ruleout the importance of contingency, andenough cases will be ‘‘off the regressionline’’ to motivate in-depth case studies basedon historical methods. Context can be transformed into cause by using dummy variablesthat indicate whether a group of cases ora particular time period differs from the rest(Collier and Mazzuca 2006) or by using subsample analysis (Young 2009). Causal complexity can be addressed, for example, byexploring whether the effects of one variabledepend on the values of another. In otherwords, some of the configurational logic ofinquiry that underlies traditional comparativehistorical sociology can be translated intoa quantitative research design, while keepingthe advantage of being able to generalizeacross a large number of cases. This is particularly important if the outcome of interestrecurs across the globe—as is the case withnation-state formation.HYPOTHESES AND EXISTINGQUANTITATIVE STUDIESAlas, a quantitative approach to historical processes comes at a price. Not only must we content ourselves with proxy variables that measure the hypothesized processes imperfectly,we also cannot address the rich argumentsoffered by past scholarship in an as nuancedway as one would wish. Effectively, we testcrucial elements of theories—the correlationbetween core conditions and outcomes—but

Wimmer and Feinsteinnot whether the postulated mechanismslinking conditions to outcomes are actuallyat work. Our empirical analysis thereforedoes not pretend to submit whole theoriesto a sort of Popperian falsification test.Rather, we focus on key arguments thatcan be evaluated for a wide range of territories over long periods.What are these theories theories of? Theydo not mainly concern the emergence of thenation-state model in the United States,France, or perhaps earlier in Britain, butrather its subsequent proliferation across theworld. While sharing this common focus,many classical authors are somewhat ambiguous as to whether their primary aim is toexplain nationalism as a political movement,the spread of national consciousness amonga population (i.e., nation-building), or theshift in the institutional set-up of the state(i.e., the creation of a nation-state). They allconcur, however, that these three processesare closely related to each other, if throughdifferent pathways. In Anderson’s account,nationalism leads to nation-building andeventually a nation-state, while accordingto Gellner, nationalists form nation-statesthat then build their nations. World politytheorists such as Meyer, by contrast, consider neither nationalism nor nations to bea necessary condition for nation-states toemerge. Our own historical institutionalistapproach assumes that nationalists createnation-states, whether or not nations havealready been built. All of these argumentscontain the nation-state as a central elementin the analytic tableau; the emergence ofnation-state institutions therefore representsan appropriate dependent variable for thisstudy.767empires of the past, the economic systemcontained many highly specialized nichesreproduced through on-the-job training inthe specific skills demanded. The industrialmode of production, by contrast, needsa mobile and flexible labor force. A rationalized, standardized education in a commonlanguage provides workers with the genericskills to shift from job to job and communicate effectively with strangers. The educational apparatus of a nation-state eventuallyprovides the new, standardized, and homogenized culture that industrial societies need.Gellner’s (1983) functionalist analysis iscomplemented by a subtle study of four historical pathways through which industrialsociety’s needs were met (we will discussonly the two most important). First, unevenindustrialization drew rural peasants intoindustrialized centers, where their ascentand prospects remained limited if their language and culture did not correspond to thecenter’s high culture. Resentment fed intonationalism and eventually led to the creationof nation-states, as in the Balkans and theperipheries of the Habsburg Empire. Second,a similar process unfolded in the colonialworld, where skin color was associated withunequal power, unleashing anti-colonialnationalisms as soon as industrialization setin and delegitimized the colonial hierarchy.These different trajectories describe howindustrial society, arriving at different timesin different parts of the world, led to the reorganization of political boundaries alongcultural lines and the formation of nationstates. Focusing on this general association,rather than the mechanisms that bring it about,we can state the simple hypothesis that thelikelihood of nation-state creation shouldincrease with industrialization (Hypothesis 1).Economic ModernizationAccording to Gellner (1983), the epochalshift from an agricultural to an industrialsociety brings about nationalism and eventually the nation-state. In the agriculturalPolitical ModernizationTilly’s (1994), Mann’s (1995), and Hechter’s(2000) political modernization theories shiftour attention to the system of governance.

768Starting in the sixteenth century, permanentwar between competing European statesmade techniques of governmental controland resource extraction ever more effectiveand efficient. Indirect rule via regional elitesand notables was replaced by direct rulethrough a unified and hierarchically integrated bureaucracy. From there, two majorpathways led to the nation-state. In autonomous states (e.g., France), state elites gradually homogenized the population over thecourse of the nineteenth century and developed an assimilatory nationalism to legitimize their rule (Hechter 2000; Tilly 1994).In Mann’s (1995) related, yet differentlyaccented, account of this process, nationalism emerged from below to justify thepublic’s demands for democratic representation vis-à-vis the increasingly interventionistmilitary state.Far more frequent than the transition tothe nation-state within existing boundaries,however, is the second, secession trajectory.In the multiethnic empires of the Habsburgsand the Ottomans (and according to Hechteralso in Yugoslavia and beyond), the shift todirect rule led to nationalist mobilization byperipheral elites who resented beinggoverned by ethnic others and sought to reestablish self-rule. Whether such state-seeking nationalists are successful depends onadditional (including international) factorsand forces. Simplifying these accounts bysubsuming these additional factors and forcesunder a ceteris paribus clause, we can deriveHypothesis 2: the more directly a territory isruled, the more likely nation-state formationshould be.Cultural ModernizationAnderson’s (1991) theory of nationalismdistinguishes between three mechanismsthat combine in different ways across fourdifferent waves of nation-state creation. First,reformation, state bureaucratization, and,most importantly, the rise of print capitalismAmerican Sociological Review 75(5)enabled and propelled literacy in vernacularlanguages, replacing complex elite languagessuch as Latin. The emerging reading publicthus shared a narrative cosmos and soonimagined itself as a national community ofcommon origin and future political destiny.Mass literacy was less important for thefirst wave of nation-state creation than forsubsequent waves. Overall literacy levelswere still low when the first wave rolledover Latin America, but Anderson nevertheless sees the emergence of newspapers andreading publics as crucial. Mass literacythen became central to the empowerment ofsecond wave linguistic nationalisms in nineteenth-century Europe, as well as for thethird wave, when dynastic rulers sought tocontain nationalism by adopting it as a statedoctrine themselves. Mass literacy remaineda central causal force during the fourthwave, leading to decolonization after WorldWar II. Anderson’s first mechanism ofnation-state formation thus leads to Hypothesis 3: an increase in the literacy rate in vernacular language should make nationalism,nation-building, and ultimately a transitionto the nation-state more likely.Anderson’s second mechanism comesinto play during the first and fourth wavesof nation-state creation. Why did Bolivia,the Ivory Coast, and Vietnam become independent states, rather than the whole territory of Spanish Latin America, FrenchWest Africa, or French Indochina as onewould expect in view of the popular literacyargument? Low-level colonial administrators recruited from the local populationcould not aspire to positions above the provincial levels, Anderson argues, which ledto resentment and growing nationalist dissent. Being confined to the provincialbureaucratic space laid the groundwork forimagining the nation along provincial,rather than linguistic, lines. During thefourth wave, the European colonies’ vastlyexpanded educational system not onlyhelped fuel nationalism by spreading literacy, but it also reinforced the provincial

Wimmer and Feinsteinsegmentation of these nationalisms, especially where educational and administrativeboundaries overlapped, as in Indonesia(Anderson 1991). This suggests Hypothesis4: a territory that corresponds to a provinceor a state should be more likely to seenationalism arise and more likely to eventually become a nation-state.The third, and perhaps least crucial, mechanism in Anderson’s account relates to globaldiffusion processes, which are especiallyimportant for the last wave of nation-stateformation in the former colonies, as well asin Japan, Thailand, and Switzerland. Suchglobal processes are at the heart of Meyer’sworld polity approach.World Polity TheoryMeyer’s diffusion theory emphasizes external influences rather than domestic modernization. Meyer and his co-authors show thatthe nation-state template is part of a worldculture that emerged over the past 200 yearsand eventually became institutionalized inthe United Nations. This world culture gradually forced state elites and political challengers alike to adopt nationalism as a template of political legitimacy and the nationstate as the most legitimate form of statehood(Meyer et al. 1997).World polity theory offers a crosssectional and a longitudinal argument. First,the more linkages a territory maintains to thecenters of global culture and power, themore its elites are exposed to world cultureand the more likely they will adopt world-cultural templates and create a nation-state(Hypothesis 5). Second, the likelihood ofa transition to the nation-state should increasethe more territories of the world have alreadyadopted the nation-state (Hypothesis 6).Historical InstitutionalismHistorical institutionalism (Lachmann 2009;Pierson and Skocpol 2002) emphasizes the769power configurational and political factorsoverlooked by modernization and global diffusion theories. Transition from one form ofstate organization to another is seen as the outcome of a struggle between various politicallyorganized segments of society. The balance ofpower between these actors determines whichvision of a legitimate political order andwhich institutional principles will prevail. Inthis view, proximate causes, most importantlythe power configurations between actors,trump slowly moving structural forces, andexternal diffusion is more important thanendogenous modernization.Historical institutionalism usually takesthe emergence of new templates of politicallegitimacy as exogenously given. It is a theory of selection, as it were, not of mutation.The global diffusion of nationalism is thusoutside the purview of the historical institutionalist argument we develop here. It isenough to assume an imitation processthrough which a variety of political movements across the world adopt nationalistideologies (Greenfeld 1992). Because thefirst nation-states (i.e., Great Britain, theUnited States, and France) happened to bethe most powerful states in the world fromthe eighteenth century to today, these political movements ‘‘pirated’’ nationalism, touse Anderson’s felicitous term, hoping theywould one day preside over states thatmatched the military glory, political might,and cultural prestige of these powerfulnation-states. This imitation process proceedsalong established networks of political andcultural relations: African nationalists wereinspired by the might of France or Great Britain, Turkish and Japanese nationalistsresented these two imperial powers andlooked at their German nemesis for inspiration, Kurdish and Arab nationalists orientedthemselves on Turkish models, and so on.This diffusion process is neither driven bythe hegemonic power of a uniform world culture, nor by domestic modernization process,but rather follows the logic of a decentralizedcontagion process. If this accounts for

770nationalism’s global appeal as

Wimmer and Feinstein 765. illustrative manner (deplored by Breuilly 2005; Wimmer 2008). Second, more empir- . 766 American Sociological Review 75(5) not whether the postulated mechanisms . Wimmer and Feinstein 7

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