The Good Kind Of Nationalism

Thanks to Sven Arne Serrano

Benedict Anderson was a political scientist who conceived of ‘Imagined Communities’ as a way of analyzing nationalism. He believed that nations are socially constructed; that even though most members of a nation will never know each other, their similar interests and ideals hold them together in an imagined communion.

According to Anderson, nationalism arose due to two main causes: the rise of the printing press allowed people with similar ideas to communicate in their own language, and the fatalistic traditions of feudalism and divine right were being eroded by the Enlightenment. So as people were coming to terms with the idea of their own agency, the printed word allowed them to forge alliances around shared ideals.

Anderson’s view of nationalism seems very different from the conventional idea of nationalism with its roots in xenophobia and bigotry. This concept, that groups of people with common values should forge their own destiny, is a very positive one that provides the spiritual force behind independence movements like California, Scotland and Catalonia.

Sven Serrano adds:

“We should remember as we go forward that there is a ‘good’ nationalism, the kind that is used for nation building; progressive, inclusive, and tolerant. It had its great moment first in the New World 1776-1830, then in Europe from 1815 to 1850.”

It’s an important point, considering how other parts of the world, including America, appear to be flirting with nationalist movements that wallow in ignorance and racism, and yearn for regress to a darker past. With California’s embrace of progress, diversity, and scientific knowledge, our ‘good’ nationalist movement stands in stark contrast to theirs. They seek to leave the international community where we seek to build our own nation and join it.

While not every Californian will see eye to eye on every issue, our collective ideals have always set us apart from the rest of the country. As BoomCalifornia points out, California is an like an island containing many different islands, but the “whole is distinct from the rest of the country.”

We already have our ‘imagined community’ in California, and have had for some time. Benedict Anderson would say we already have our own nation. We just need to make it official.

Imagined Communities