De werkelijkheid van de verbeelde natie

  • Louis Vos


National identity emerges as an interaction between identity-formation
on an individual and a collective level, wherein time (history),
space (territory as place of living and as transcendental symbol) and
generation play a role. An identity manifests itself mainly through action,
and is also represented in symbols. Not the core content, which has
to be reinterpreted continuously, but the boundaries towards the outer
world serve as markers of the we-feeling of the community. In the paradigm
debate on nationalism during the last three decades, three main
questions were at stake. At first the discussion whether an ethnic-cultural
or a voluntary dimension is more important. Secondly the question
whether the nation is a modern phenomenon or goes back to the
pre-modern era. And finally the debate between postmodernists considering
the nation as merely existing in the minds of the people, and others
considering the nation as a social reality as well, but to be understood
from an ethno-symbolic perspective. This article argues that a nation is
both voluntary and organic, can also exist in pre-modern times, and is
although imagined at the same time also a social reality. It gives a panorama
of the shifting paradigms of nationalism and their representatives,
and suggests that we are already approaching a post-postmodernist
synthesis. Finally it discusses the question of nationalism and democracy
in defending even the thesis that, as history doesn’t show examples
of democracies outside a national setting, a living nation is a prerequisite
for a fully fledged democracy.

How to Cite:

Vos, L., (2002) “De werkelijkheid van de verbeelde natie”, Handelingen - Koninklijke Zuid-Nederlandse maatschappij voor taal- en letterkunde en geschiedenis 56, 7-33. doi:

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Published on
08 Feb 2002
Peer Reviewed