In this critically acclaimed work, for which she was awarded the Prix de L'Assemblee Nationale in 1994, sociologist Dominique Schnapper offers a learned and concise antidote to contemporary assaults on the nation. Schnapper's arguments on behalf of the modern nation represent at once a learned history of the national ideal, a powerful rejoinder to its contemporary critics, and a masterful essay in the sociological tradition of Ernest Renan, Alexis de Tocqueville, Emile Durkheim, and Raymond Aron. If Schnapper asserts, the fate of liberal democracy is coterminous with that of the national ideal, then the nation's fate—and the answer to this question—must be of pressing interest to us all. Reflecting deeply on both the nation's past and future, Schnapper places her hopes in what she terms "the community of citizens."
No mere exercise in sociological abstraction, Schnapper's case for the nation also entails a practical political objective. In a time of radical difference, the national ideal may be the last, great social unifier. This book deserves a place alongside the works of Elie Kedourie, Ernest Gellner, Anthony Smith, and other classics in the study of nationalism and nationality. This work will be of interest to sociologists, historians, and political scientists alike.