Nationalism has become the most prevalent source of political conflict and violence in the world. Scholarship has provided scant guidance about the prospects of containing the dark side of nationalismDSits widely publicized excesses of violence, such as ethnic cleansing and genocide. Departing from the usual practice of considering only a few examples of nationalism drawn from a limited geographical and historical canvas, this book is based on fundamental theoretical ideas about the formation and solidarity of groups. Containing Nationalism offers a unified explanation of the dynamics of nationalism across the broad sweep of time and space. Among other things, it explains why nationalism is supported by specific forms of inequality between cultural groups, and why it is inclusive at some times and exclusive at others. Nationalism is the attempt of culturally-distinct peoples to attain political self-determination. Self-determination was generally afforded by traditional states, which employed a form of governance based on indirect rule. After the late 18th century, the rise of the modern state led to a new form of governance characterized by direct rule.
Containing Nationalism argues that the impetus for the most common type of nationalism arises from the imposition of direct rule in culturally heterogeneous societies. Direct rule stimulates national identity by making cultural distinctions more salient for individuals' life chances. At the same time it reduces the resources of local elites, giving them a motive to mobilize nationalist opposition to central authorities. All told, these effects heighten the demand for sovereignty. The book suggests that political institutions that reintroduce indirect rule offer the leaders of modern countries the best available means of containing nationalist violence within their borders.
It is an excellent book for two reasons. First, it provides a plausible new theory of nationalism. Second, it invites engagement with an argument that is taken far beyond theoretical niceties. Progress in Human Geography Hechter's latest book impressed me - in its clarity, logic, and comprehensiveness of argument ... Michael Hechter has written a book that without a doubt makes a significant contribution not only to the theoretical debate on the concept of nationalism, but equally to the various theoretical and practical discourses addressing the ways it can be best managed and prevented from escalating into violence. As such it should find its way into many libraries and become an integrated part of any course on nationalism. Stefan Wolff, University of Bath, The Global Review of Ethnopolitics Hechter has written more for the advanced scholar of nationalism studies and cognate fields. He is already an established name in the field ... Hechter's argument has considerable merits. M. K. Flynn, Monash University, The Global Review of Ethnopolitics Chapter 2 'Causes of Nationalism', is concise, managing to provide explanations for group formation, group solidarity, the modernity of nations and national identification ... the striking feature is that the author is able to usefully clarify in only fourteen pages what so many others take entire books to do. M. K. Flynn, Monash University, The Global Review of Ethnopolitics This is a valuable and provocative contribution to the general theory of nationalism that deserves a wide readership ... clearly written ... Hechter's arguments are bold and stimulating. British Journal of Sociology Containing Nationalism is a trenchant discussion of a problem that shows little sign of abating. Even more, however, it is a thoughtful attempt by a veteran observer to offer a theoretical analysis with very practical implications. This book will be indispensable for academics and policymakers alike. John Torpey, Contemporary Sociology