Sunday, August 07, 2011

Professor Smith on national identity

Anthony D. Smith is Professor Emeritus of Nationalism and Ethnicity at the London School of Economics. This is his account of national identity:

National identity ... is felt by many people to satisfy their needs for cultural fulfilment, rootedness, security and fraternity ... Nations are linked by the chains of memory, myth and symbol to that widespread and enduring type of community, the ethnie, and this is what gives them their unique character and their profound hold over the feelings and imaginations of so many people.

(quoted in Kok-Chor Tan, Toleration, Diversity and Global Justice, kindle location 1276)

It may not be the perfect description from a traditionalist point of view, but it's a lot better than the usual dismissive liberal attitude that people are motivated to feel national identity by fear, or discrimination, or exclusiveness, or hatred, or ignorance, or bigotry or prejudice etc etc.

Note too that Professor Smith recognises that the uniqueness, depth and stability of a national character derives from its link to an ethny rather than from open borders or multiculturalism.


  1. I'm amazed this Professor has not got renta-mobs with tar and feathers trailing after him.

    The LSE is traditionally one of the lunatic institutions who seem to give humanities grants out on the basis of how much the recipient upsets the general population.

    This could perhaps be the reason he is "Emeritus".

  2. Context is everything, though. Which groups was Smith talking about when he made those comments? You can get away with a lot more ethno-positivity and communitarianism if it's nonwhite ethnicities or nonwestern communities that are the subject. I believe Mark has addressed this double standard before.

  3. Bonald, good point. I don't know the context of the quote but I agree that it's sometimes assumed in academia that "ethnies" refers to Africa or perhaps even Quebec, but never to mainstream or majority Western traditions.

  4. Whatever the context, it is still amazing a LSE Professor made such a quote on national identity.

    In both Australia and New Zealand it is doubtful if any politician or business leader would publically state similar sentiment re national identity.

    No, the creeps are too keen on making sure the Anglo-Celtic majority of both countries become a dwindling minority and thus the predominant idenity of Australia and New Zealand quickly sent down Orwell's memory hole: Historical oblivion.

  5. Anthony Smith has long gone against the grain in his studies of nationalism. While the academic mainstream claims that nationalism is a wholly modern phenomenon created by (probably malicious and racist) politicians, intellectuals, and propagandists, Smith maintains that nations usually have some sort of ancient origin.

    Wikipedia puts it this way:

    [Smith's] best-known contributions to the field are the distinction between 'civic' and 'ethnic' types of nations and nationalism, and the idea that all nations have dominant 'ethnic cores'. While Smith agrees with other authors that nationalism is a modern phenomenon, he insists that nations have pre-modern origins.

  6. Nation is the logical extention of family. Richard Dawkin's "The Selfish Gene" sealed this for me.

    You prefer members of your family because they share more genes with you, thus by helping them get on in the world you are helping yourself. It also means they are more likely to to help you which creates trust.

    In modern times we have been taught that not only are any biological preferences such as this are morally wrong but that they do not exist at all, and are instead social constructs designed to keep those cultures and peoples who have out-competed others on top.

    A quick walk by any Humanities Professor a couple of campuses over to his much better educated collegues in the biology department would destroy the last 40 years of feverish theory trying to make Tabula Rasa fit.

    Which is probably why they don't take that walk.

  7. "I don't know the context of the quote but I agree that it's sometimes assumed in academia that "ethnies" refers to Africa or perhaps even Quebec, but never to mainstream or majority Western traditions."

    Frank Salter on the failings of academia to challenge diversity and open-borders dogma:

    How have so many scholars come to ignore accessible knowledge about human nature and interests? Australia’s 39 universities employ thousands of lecturers and professors in relevant disciplines. Any one of them should be able to expose elements of the case for open borders. A first year student of social anthropology should know that borders have always been closed to replacement-level migration. Students of government and sociology should know in outline the cases for and against diversity. How can bold assertions such as those in the three articles examined here go unremarked? What is being taught at our universities?

    A century ago the social sciences began suing for divorce from the biological sciences. Reconciliation began in the 1970s but sociology, political science, large sections of anthropology and much of the humanities remain aloof. Add to that the political straight jacketing of these fields, an important reason for their doctrinaire rejection of biology, and it is not surprising that we see utopian socialism of the most naive variety emanating unchallenged from the professoriate. The world of ideas is one arena in which diversity is an unalloyed benefit, where homogeneity demonstrably degrades standards.

    The evidence refuting the case for open borders also applies to the scale and diversity of existing immigration policy. Any policy is suspect that threatens a country’s ecological sustainability, increases diversity or tends to subordinate the core ethnic group. Such a trend was already in place for several years before historian Geoffrey Blainey warned that immigration from non-traditional Asian source countries was outrunning its welcome in the mid 1980s.

    As Salter concludes:

    ... the rapid transformation of Australia by mass Third World immigration has been a top-down revolution in which exclusivist politicised circles within academia have been complicit by commission and omission. Political leaders and citizens alike look to intellectuals for the facts and analysis needed to make wise policy. In technical matters we have been well served, but not with regard to issues of population and diversity. The policy failure is not limited to the present federal government. It goes back decades, as does the failure of the nation’s brain trust.

    Full article:

    The Misguided Advocates of Open Borders

  8. "We shall go on building for our children."

    What happened to our sense of building for our children, for our kin?

    My home town Newcastle in 1945.

    The Preamble to the United States Constitution.

    "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

    "Our posterity". Lovely words. With multiculturalism everything that is ours is theirs and everything that is theirs remains theirs. Dud deal for us Westerners.