A figure of enduring ingenuity, the nation has for centuries played a part on the socio-political stage. Whether centre stage or background scenery, it has featured in violent tragedies, revolutionary drama and nostalgic fable. Today, the nation is cast simultaneously in the roles of villain and hero. While it is renounced by those advocating trans-national, post-national and cosmopolitan forms of belonging, it has lately also been asserted as the solution to various social failures in liberal democracies. This appears to leave us with two alternatives: to jettison the nation in order to move towards a less parochial world, a world in which new forms of belonging underpin more inclusive politics. Or to celebrate the nation as way of ensuring the social cement that can unite a diverse society.
Using the ideas of Wittgenstein and Lacan, Amanda Machin expertly explains that the overlapping and conflicting language games of the nation produce it as an object of desire in an uncertain world. The nation is not a pre-political thing but a matter of persistent political contestation and coalition. She reveals that the nation still has a vital part to play in democratic politics, but that this role is one of improvisation. While they endure as tools of emancipatory promise, nations nonetheless remain potential categories of violent exclusion. They cannot be pinned down as easily as anti-national and pro-national alternatives suggest. It is precisely the indeterminacy of the nation that gives it ongoing importance for democracy today.
Providing an urgent riposte to dominant accounts, this thought provoking and highly original account demands a re-politicisation of the nation. This book will appeal to those engaged in theory and empirical research on nations and nationalism and the question of their link to democracy in a changing world, as well as those interested in psychoanalysis and Wittgenstein.
Introduction: The Persistent Nation1. The Puzzling Nation: The Challenge for Traditional Accounts 2. The Protean Nation: Wittgenstein and Language Games 3. The Potent Nation: Lacan, Desire and the Imaginary Ego 4. The De-Politicised Nation: Problems in Contemporary Accounts 5. The Political Nation: Democracy and Identification Conclusion: What is the Nation? Why should we ask the question?
Advisory Board: Amy Allen (Penn State University), Benjamin Barber (City University of New York), Rajeev Bhargava (Centre for the Study of Developing Societies), David Chandler (University of Westminster), Fred Dallmayr (University of Notre Dame), John Keane (University of Sydney), James R. Martel (San Francisco State University), Chantal Mouffe (University of Westminster), Davide Panagia (UCLA), Bhikhu Parekh (House of Lords), and Nadia Urbinati (Columbia University)
Democracy is being re-thought almost everywhere today: with the widespread questioning of the rationalist assumptions of classical liberalism, and the implications this has for representational competition; with the Arab Spring, destabilizing many assumptions about the geographic spread of democracy; with the deficits of democracy apparent in the Euro-zone crisis, especially as it affects the management of budget deficits; with democracy increasingly understand as a process of social empowerment and equalization, blurring the lines of division between formal and informal spheres; and with growing demands for democracy to be reformulated to include the needs of those currently marginalized or even to include the representation of non-human forms of life with whom we share our planet.
Routledge Advances in Democratic Theory publishes state of the art theoretical reflection on the problems and prospects of democratic theory when many of the traditional categories and concepts are being reworked and rethought in our globalized and complex times.
The series is published in cooperation with the Centre for the Study of Democracy, University of Westminster, London, UK.
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