Dissertation Abstracts

The Missing Ink, Re-evaluating Socialisation and Nationalism in the Work of Ernest Gellner

Author: Judith S O'connell, judith.oconnell@nuigalway.ie
Department: Political science and Sociology
University: National University of Ireland, Ireland
Supervisor: Kevin Ryan and Sinisa Malesevic
Year of completion: 2015
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Nationalism , gellner , socialisation , bourdieu
Areas of Research: Racism, Nationalism and Ethnic Relations , Political Sociology , Education

Abstract

This thesis expands on Gellner’s theory of nationalism. Gellner provides an analysis of the ‘why’ of nationalism, i.e. why nations and nationalism develop, but, neglects to elaborate on the detail of how this takes place or by what method the nation is reproduced. This is the ‘missing ink’ in the title of the thesis, or the ‘how’ of nationalism. To focus the analysis the concept of the socialisation of nationalism has been employed. This is an application of a theory of socialisation to nationalism as a social construct. By taking Gellner’s modernist approach to the study of nations I will examine how the nation is reproduced through a complex process of socialisation that crosses between a centralised state education system and social learning. This will be synthesised with Bourdieu’s theory of socialisation, adapted by shifting the focus of analysis from social class to what is presented as ‘national doxa’. The theoretical fusion is applied to the study of observable manifestations of national doxa, habitus, and hexis, which concern the mundane and banal ways in which the nation is enacted and reproduced in the context of everyday social life. Importantly this also underscores the importance of socialisation as a process which is far more encompassing than state-run education, which is what Gellner tends to suggest in his concept of the ‘educational machine’. This is not to say that Gellner was entirely wrong in prioritising mass-compulsory education however, and the thesis examines this aspect of socialisation through a textual analysis of history text books, using Ireland as a case study. The findings are used to modify Gellner’s theory by emphasising the mutable nature of nationalism, i.e. in contrast to the linear development process found in Gellner’s work; nationalism is a more complex process whereby the past is reconstructed in accordance with present concerns. This shows how education acts as a tool of the socialisation of nationalism; this is only possible due to a centralised state education system maintained by a national government. Nationalism and the modern state work in tandem with one another, the socialisation of nationalism ensuring their existence.

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