Sociological Forum

, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 243-271

First online:

Symbols and the world system: National anthems and flags

  • Karen A. CeruloAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, Lucy Stone Hall, Rutgers University

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When one examines current national anthems and flags, one finds a great deal of variety. What explains this variation? Possible factors include a nation's world-system position and its degree of modernization. Specifically, I analyze the ways in which world-system position and modernization affect the design or configuration—the syntactic structure—of the symbols national leaders adopt to convey their nation's identity. Findings reveal a link between a nation's world-system position and the structure of its symbols. Leaders of core nations adopt more basic anthems and flags than their semiperiphery and periphery counterparts. However, modernization has no such influence.

Key words

national symbols world systems modernization symbolic communication