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 exemplary 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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