The Nation-State: Durability Through Change

  • Hedva Ben-Israel


The nation–state has recently come under attack as an institution incompatible with liberal democracy, or under ridicule as being a faked representation of a virtual invention, the nation. This study shows the historical reality and durability of the nation–state as adapted to a modern perception of the nation and to the profoundly changed conditions in which it functions. It shows the transformation of the romantic ideology of nationalism of the early nineteenth century to a mere principle of political organization, according to which the nation–state combines the cultural identity and the democratic will of a people. It shows also the resulting changes in the understanding of national identity and belonging for the individual. This study also examines some of the rival theories offered in this connection, such as the preference for the so-called civic nationality over an ethnic one and also the strong case for multiculturalism often voiced. The conclusions from these examinations are that the democratic nation–state with a cultural identity of its own, with equal citizenship for all and extensive recognition of the cultural rights of minorities, has legitimately survived into a new era of globalization, of increasingly mixed populations, of cultures crossing borders and of increased international intervention. As an example of the problems faced by relatively new nation–states, an epilogue presents the case of Israel which demonstrates the centrality and complexity of the minorities’ problem in the process of shaping a modern and normal nation–state.


Nationalism Nation–state Multiculturalism Globalization 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HistoryHebrew UniversityJerusalemIsrael

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