Toward a Socialist Theory of Nationalism

Toward a Socialist Theory of Nationalism

Of all the historical phenomena discussed by Karl Marx, his treatment of nationalism, nationalist movements, and the emergence of the nation-state is the least satisfactory. It also left a problematic heritage to the socialist movement, with a veritable “black hole” where a confrontation with one of the most potent social and political forces of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries should have been.

Marx never discussed nationalism in any systematic way, and what we have are a number of disjointed statements dealing with the issue, sometimes on a very general level, sometimes in response to specific historical events on which he had been commenting in newspaper articles. A careful study of these scattered references will show that  there are two distinct analyses of nationalism in Marx, one pre- and one post-1848. The pre-1848 I would like to call the premodern paradigm, the post-1848 the bourgeois paradigm.


Socialist thought provides us with an imaginative and moral horizon.

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