Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Imagined Communities by Benedict Anderson - overview and review

Imagined Communities is an important and influential book by Benedict Anderson, an international relations researcher published in 1983. In the book Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson analyzes the phenomenon of nationalism and national consciousness as it emerged in the 20th century.

Benedict Anderson's main argument in terms of an "imagined community" is that a group of people defined as a nation is in fact an "imagined" political entity that exists only in the minds of people and not in reality. The central idea of ​​"imaginary communities" is that a nation is formed as soon as a group of people unites around common ideas or perceptions that cause them to function as a unified group for a common goal, regardless of their relationship in reality. A good example of "imaginary communities" could be for example the Jewish people who were scattered all over the world and lived very different lifestyles but united around a national consciousnessOne of Zionism as it is expressed in the Land of Israel. The imaginary consciousness of imaginary communities is so strong that it can motivate people to acts like going to war even at the cost of their lives for the same ideal that exists solely in their mind. The contemporary expression of imaginary communities is the nation-states uniting under different groups and different individuals under the “umbrella” of a common consciousness that unites them. Imaginary communities of nations or nations replaced in the twentieth century those more traditional imaginary communities that were expressed in religious consciousness like Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The most fundamental point of Benedict Anderson's book "Imaginary Communities" is that in today's nation states not all members of the community know each other, and these are just "imagined" mental foundations that bind them to each other and form bonds of mutual commitment and joint activity. According to Benedict Anderson, imaginary communities also create imaginary boundaries between those who are members of this community and those who are not members of it, which could explain the treatment of foreigners in contemporary nation-states.

To Benedict Anderson 's analysis in the book "Imaginary Communities" The printing revolution and capitalism which accompanied it play a significant role in the creation of modern nation-states. The pattern allowed for the widespread dissemination of common ideas and it created the unification of language, both verbal and metaphorical, between different people who thus began to form a national consciousness. According to Benedict Anderson, printing led to the distribution of materials written in mass languages ​​and accessible to a growing public of literate people, in contrast to the prevailing texts before the printing revolution that were limited to scriptures in languages ​​that were not accessible to the general public. It is capitalism that has driven this mechanism by the desire of printers to reach as wide an audience as possible and to adapt the printed content to their abilities and tastes. This trend led to the unification of different dialects that served different human groups and led to the creation of “imaginary communities” around a common language and prevailing ideas that were disseminated through the same new form of communication that came into being. That is, the new common language created due to the printing revolution united different groups and strengthened their common consciousness. The formation of novels as well as newspapers strengthened the formation of imaginary communities because it united people around events and in fact information common to all, thus creating a common consciousness of people who in practice had no direct connection with each other. That is, through the printed newspaper, people in different places and different situations could know and share the same information and the same events and thus imagined communities were created.

Another element that constitutes imaginary communities according to Benedict Anderson is shared memory. The rise of nationalism in the 19th century caused many peoples to "invent" for themselves a distant common past that was in fact at the same time an outgrowth and the cause of their consciousness forming as a people that is, of course, an imaginary community.

In conclusion, Benedict Anderson's "Imaginary Communities" states that nationality is in fact a collective imagination of a group of people that unites them through a shared memory and consciousness, and causes them to act out of a commitment to an actual political framework based on imagined foundations.