A Social Theory of the Nation-State: The Political Forms of Modernity Beyond Methodological Nationalism, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

A Social Theory of the Nation-State

The Political Forms of Modernity Beyond Methodological Nationalism, 1st Edition

By Daniel Chernilo


196 pages

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A Social Theory of the Nation-State: the political forms of modernity beyond methodological nationalism, construes a novel and original social theory of the nation-state. It rejects nationalistic ways of thinking that take the nation-state for granted as much as globalist orthodoxy that speaks of its current and definitive decline.

Its main aim is therefore to provide a renovated account of the nation-state’s historical development and recent global challenges via an analysis of the writings of key social theorists. This reconstruction of the history of the nation-state into three periods:

  • classical (K. Marx, M. Weber, E. Durkheim)
  • modernist (T. Parsons, R. Aron, R. Bendix, B. Moore)
  • contemporary (M. Mann, E. Hobsbawm, U. Beck, M. Castells, N. Luhmann, J. Habermas)

For each phase, it introduces social theory’s key views about the nation-state, its past, present and future. In so doing this book rejects methodological nationalism, the claim that the nation-state is the necessary representation of the modern society, because it misrepresents the nation-state’s own problematic trajectory in modernity. And methodological nationalism is also rejected because it is unable to capture the richness of social theory’s intellectual canon. Instead, via a strong conception of society and a subtler notion of the nation-state, A Social Theory of the Nation-State tries to account for the ‘opacity of the nation-state in modernity’.


“Daniel Chernilo’s extremely innovative and challenging book is a major contribution to the literature. It will become a major reference point for further research in this area”. - William Outhwaite, Professor of Sociology at the University of Sussex

“A Social Theory of the Nation State is a work of scholarly significance and lasting importance for contemporary social theory”. - Bryan S. Turner, editor of The Cambridge Dictionary of Sociology

“Daniel Chernilo not only surveys recent theories of state and nation, he brings new insight into this complex field. Through a careful consideration of several leading theorists, he shows both the ways in which “methodological nationalism” has shaped and limited effective understanding of changes in the state and potential paths forward. Moreover, he situates the question of the state at the center of understanding modernity, integrating specifically political analysis into broader patterns of global change”. - Craig Calhoun, Professor of Sociology at New York University and President Social Science Research Council

"Make no mistake: this book is brilliant…Chernilo’s great achievement is to render all this intelligible, doing justice to the enormous wealth of theoretical detail both in these critical and postulative registers." -- Peter Beilharz, Thesis Eleven, April 2008

Table of Contents

Introduction Part 1: Understanding the Nation-State 1. The Critique of Methodological Nationalism: A Debate in Two Waves 2. A Claim to Universalism: Breaking the Equation between the Nation-State and Society Apart Part 2: Classical Social Theory 3. Karl Marx (1818-1883): The Rise of Capitalism and the Historical Elusiveness of the Nation-State 4. Max Weber (1864-1920): Politics and the Sociological Equivocations of the Nation-State 5. Emile Durkheim (1857-1917): Moral Universalism and the Normative Ambiguity of the Nation-State Part 3: Modernist Social Theory 6. Talcott Parsons (1902-1979): The Totalitarian Threat to the Nation-State 7. Raymond Aron (1905-1983), Barrington Moore (1913-2005) and Reinhardt Bendix (1916-1991): Industrialism and the Historicity of the Nation-State Part 4: Contemporary Social Theory 8. Michael Mann (1942- present) and Eric Hobsbawm (1919- present): Classes, Nations and Different Conceptions of the Nation-State 9. Manuel Castells (1942- present) and Globalization Theorists: The 'Definitive' Decline of the Nation-State 10. Niklas Luhmann (1927-1998) and Jurgen Habermas (1929- present): World Society, Cosmopolitanism and the Nation-state. Closing Remarks

About the Author

Daniel Chernilo is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University Alberto Hurtado in Chile and a Fellow of the Centre for Social Theory at the University of Warwick in England.

About the Series

Critical Realism: Interventions (Routledge Critical Realism)

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General