Is the Nation Really a Horizontal Community of Direct Access?

JVF Conference Papers

Benedict Anderson’s concept of the nation as a political “imagined community” is well known. He defined it as an entity imagined in a categorial way, as a community of compatriots who, as members of the community, possessed basically equal status. According to the British anthropologist, it is conceived as one community among many other, similar ones, and it serves as a main source of a political identity of its members.

Anderson’s concept has achieved unprecedented popularity among scholars. Here I would like to explore certain paradoxical consequences derriving from the notion of the “imagined community.” Some scholars seem to suggest that the nation is not only based on the vision of a horizontal community of a direct access, but actually is one. Is the nation only imagined as such or could it really be one? I think, the word “imagined” is crucial, because this kind of community probably cannot exist in the world of social phenomena. The very notion of an “imagined community” contains an internal contradiction: the existence of such an entity seems to be impossible simply because of its macro-social character. However, I do not suggest (as would a Marxist), that I would label the very concept of an “imagined community” as being merely form of false consciousness. The matter is much too complicated to be solved in this simplistic way.

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