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Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism Paperback – July 17, 1991


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Verso; Revised edition (July 17, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0860915468
  • ISBN-13: 978-0860915461
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84,924 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“... a brilliant little book.”—Neal Ascherson, The Observer

“... sparkling, readable, densely packed...”—Peter Worsley, Guardian

About the Author

Benedict Anderson is Aaron L. Binenkorp Professor of International Studies Emeritus at Cornell University. He is editor of the journal Indonesia and author of Java in a Time of Revolution, The Spectre of Comparisons: Nationalism, Southeast Asia, and the World and Imagined Communities.

Customer Reviews

Anderson's book provides a great framework from which to do future scholarship.
Charlotte A. Hu
Growing population in general led to the development of new languages from Latin, and the new languages thereby helped shape national consciousness as well.
Tanja M. Laden
Having read this book as a graduate student finishing my Master of Arts Degree in History I thought the book would be easier to understand.
Chef Rachel

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

120 of 128 people found the following review helpful By Charlotte A. Hu on November 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
In Imagined Communities, Anderson gives a detailed analysis of nation building projects and their relationship to print media. Nationalism has been a difficult concept to define. Some like King Faisal's right hand man, Sati Al-Husri, defined nationalism by language. In contrast, Anderson defines nationalism as a construction created in imagination by print media. "It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members," Anderson explains. Moreover, "It is imagined as a community, because, regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is always conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship. Ultimately, it is this fraternity that makes it possible, over the past two centuries for so many millions of people, not so much to kill, as willingly to die for such limited imaginings."
Anderson looks at the early communities, which he says were mostly constructed around religious ideologies and were linked by the publication of books on those religious concepts. These original "communities" did not necessarily confine themselves to a given geo-political unit. However, newspapers made it possible for people in a geographically vast region to discuss the same topic at the local coffee shop, coffer or workshop. This, says Anderson, had a powerful impact on the creation of an imagined community, called a nation. Anderson then begins to look at conglomerate pioneers as a contrast to nation-state building projects. In this area, he discusses market-zones, similar to, but preceding organizations like the European Union. Who would die for such a construction? asks Anderson. He makes a distinction between this kind of imagined community and the imagined community of the nation-state.
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103 of 115 people found the following review helpful By "stoyan" on February 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
Benedict Anderson's book Imagined Communities is an intriguing attempt at explanation of the phenomenon of nations and nationalism. Anderson's approach centers around the socio-cultural aspects of the explanation. For him a nation is by definition an imagined community, that is a community, the members of which are aware of each other's existence but, even for a lifetime do not meet or come to know a substantial number of the rest of the members of that community. Yet through a number of media they acquire a sense of belonging to this larger group. This definition which can be derived from the text leads Anderson to explore the origins of this sense of commonality. In his view three major factors have contributed to the emergence of these communities. One is the fragmentation of the previously single religious community. The Reformation, which led to the emergence of new Christian denominations constituted an assault on the Catholic Church and thus an assault on the principle of universality that the Church was promoting. Also, the geographical discoveries broadened the universe of the man of the Middle Ages to whom, previously, that same universe had been confined to the realm of Christendom. As universality was particularized and as the world suddenly broadened this for the first time gave the people the opportunity to compare and contrast their lives to those of others, very unlike themselves. The world and life had become more complex and the straightforward and, what is more important, traditional explanations of the church of life and death and suffering no longer sufficed. A comparison with Karl Deutsch (1966) shows certain similarities in this understanding of the origins of nations and nationalism.Read more ›
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 9, 2003
Format: Paperback
Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities is one of the most important and influential books on the phenomenon of nationalism currently in print. The primary contribution he makes concerns the notion of the development of a community with shared or common cultural media that generate a sense of communal self-awareness or consciousness. Although he uses as his primary example the experience of reading a newspaper (which makes readers conscious of others who share their values, concerns, and experiences, even if they have no direct contact with those people, often over a great distance), the imagined community has broader implications.
This book will make you think about how you conceive of the communities you belong to, and how these communities are created and reproduced. Beyond the obvious importance of broadcast media, in modern American culture, the mall, with its ubiquitous chain stores, is an important motor of our imagined American community: you will find the same basic stores, carrying the same basic styles, in every town in America, creating a sense of common tastes and culture.
While some may complain that the book is dry and boring, it is a scholarly work intended for an educated audience. It is not a popularization intended for the general public. Nevertheless, if you are up for it, it is more than worthwhile.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful By 3rdeadly3rd on March 25, 2006
Format: Paperback
Benedict Anderson's "Imagined Communities" is justifiably a classic of political science and history. Its impact on the study of nationalism - which is arguably the ideology most resistant to academic study - can hardly be measured.

Anderson, a specialist in South-East Asian history, lets his scholarly instincts roam across the entire world as he seeks to explain just why it is that nationalism has become so prevalent in the world. What factors have meant that we take pride in someone dying "for our nation", while we don't take the same pride in someone dying "for our political beliefs"?

The answer, somewhat surprisingly, begins with a description of the origins and impact of the printing press. Anderson's argument, particularly the section most well-known to his readers, is that the ability of those living in a particular place to read in their own language (as against Latin, Arabic, Sanskrit or Chinese) began this process. It was enhanced, he contends, with the production of newspapers, allowing people to "imagine" themselves as Peruvian or Chilean, rather than as Spanish colonials.

Yes, the choices of nation were used advisedly above, as Anderson's second striking conclusion is that nationalism is a new-world (i.e. the Americas) phenomenon. The "Creole" intelligentsia, allowed to progress only so far by their colonial rulers, became the fertile ground necessary for nationalist ideals.

Anderson also discusses "official" nationalism in some depth, focusing on Europe and making some quite surprising comments regarding the penetration of the various vernacular languages into their respective empires.
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