Monday, September 17, 2012

Anderson - Imagined Communities

I found Anderson's discussion of the nation as imaginary construct to be quite interesting, if perhaps a bit overly historically based. That is, I felt that there were times when Anderson shied away from the question of why a community would choose to construct itself in an imaginary social sphere rather than simply just addressing how these imagined communities came to be.

It is mainly in the introduction that I felt Anderson addressed the more theoretical questions that I was most interested in. I am interested in the underlying, but never discussed, relationship between utopianism and the imagination of nationality. For example, Anderson writes of the way in which the nation is conceived of as a community because it is seen as a "deep, horizontal comradeship." It seems that Anderson's discussion of the nation is inextricably linked to a certain Marxism (and not only in the various histories that he delineates). "Comradeship" itself is a term suggestive to current readers of the type of communism understood through a (post) Cold War lens. Though Marx is mainly concerned with equality of capital/economics, here Anderson takes up a pseudo-Marxist lens in his assertion of the nation as a site of imagined social equality. I say pseudo-Marxist because a country like the United States, which in terms of actual history as well as political philosophy, has often been defined in terms of its  oppositional relationship to Marxism, in fact also seems to espouse a belief in the equality of all its citizens.

Can we see this social equality as a precondition for a completely utopian society? Is that what the nation strives for? Or is the nation simply predicated on a charade of social equality, a professed desire for "comradeship" that rarely, if ever, actually manifests itself? Does it make a difference whether or not the imagined qualities of the nation are enacted, or can they merely remain imagined and yet still work to construct a sense of nationhood?

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