Social Scientist. v 4, no. 37 (Aug 1975) p. 14.

Graphics file for this page

Emergence of Nationalities

THE NATION is often recognized as the central political entity of the modern world. Yet, as happens with terms which have a wide use, exceptions tend to blur the main principles, and a definition of nation acceptable to all is hard to find. Marxists have however generally followed Stalin's well-known definition: "A nation is a historically constituted community of people formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture".1

There is a traditional scholarly objection to common language being a necessary characteristic of the nation, the example of Switzerland with its three languages (German, French and Italian) being usually cited to show that a nation (in this case, the Swiss nation) might arise in spite of a multiplicity of languages. Yet the Swiss case is unique; and one might say that here the other factors, namely, geography and historical circumstances have been of such overwhelming importance as to override language as a factor altogether. There is no other indisputable case in which people speaking two different developed literary languages have yet formed a nation.

Stalin's definition does, however, contain a crucial omission, an omission which may be supplied by what he himself says about the

Back to Social Scientist | Back to the DSAL Page

This page was last generated on Wednesday 12 July 2017 at 13:02 by
The URL of this page is: