[OPE-L:6783] banal nationalism

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Wed Mar 20 2002 - 15:53:49 EST

living in the US now, I felt compelled to read Michael Billig's Banal 
Nationalism which is a great book. It's not a Marxist theory of the 
nation-state (will need to read Bauer, Rosdolsky, Horace Davis as 
well as critics such as Rudolf Rocker); but it is a compelling 
rhetorical analyis of how national identity is assumed in everyday 
discourse and how the very idea of society comes to be 
interchangeable with nations. The book began as critique of leading 
American philosopher Richard Rorty's call for leftist patriotism.
I recommend this book very highly. Again it is not a materialist 
analysis but a discursive critique.
Best, Rakesh

Banal Nationalism
by Michael Billig
Paperback - 208 pages (August 1995)
                            Sage Publications; ISBN: 0803975252 ; 
Dimensions (in inches): 0.61 x 9.22 x 6.14

Amazon review:

                                        Essential reading, May 17, 2001
                                        Reviewer: Edward Bosnar (see 
more about me) from Zagreb, Croatia
                                        This book should not be so 
hard to get, and it definitely should be more widely read - and not 
just by
                                        scholars. In contrast to the 
oft-mentioned "hot" nationalisms which seem to plague far-off or 
obscure places
                            like the Balkans, the Caucuses, etc., 
Billig introduces the concept of "banal" nationalism to refer to 
nationalism and the way
                            this form of identity politics is 
reinforced in stable, affluent and apparently "anational" societies, 
such as Great Britain or the
                            United States. This is not a consideration 
of fringe groups, but of societies as a whole. Billig conducts an 
                            analysis into how identification with 
one's nation or country is reinforced on a daily basis in the most 
subtle and
                            unnoticeable (and thus banal) manner: the 
weather maps in newspapers or on television which show one's country
                            highlighted in a different color, currency 
or postage stamp containing patriotic motifs, pledging allegiance to 
the flag every
                            morning by school children, etc. Billig's 
point is that this everyday, almost unconscious intake of 
psychologically loaded
                            signs, symbols and signals can be one 
factor in explaining how easily people come to adopt irrational 
openly "patriotic"
                            ways of thinking in times of crisis, 
whether real or perceived (as anyone who lived in the U.S. during the 
Gulf War can
                            attest to). There is also a good critique 
of the dichotomy created between "civic" and "ethnic" nationalism, in 
that those who
                            insist on this dichotomy usually tend to 
view the former as "good" while the latter is definitely "bad." 
Billig points out that
                            both have the potential to become 
dangerously irrational.

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