Ethnonationalism: The Quest for Understanding by Walker Connor

Political Science professor Rupert Emerson defined nation: “the largest community, which when the chips are down, effectively commands men’s loyalty, overriding the claims both of lesser communities within it and those which cut across it or potentially enfold it within a still greater society.”

PDF of Ethnonationalism: The Quest for Understanding by Walker Connor

From Wikipedia:

…Connor is best known for his work on nationalism, and is considered one of the founders of the interdisciplinary field of nationalism studies.[1]

Before the collapse of European communism that began in the late 1980s, nationalism was not a subject of significant academic study and was generally neglected,[citation needed] with the exception of some major contributions by authors such as Ernest Gellner, Benedict Anderson, and Anthony D. Smith.[2][3][4] Connor’s work is another exception to this rule, and today he is regarded as “one of the scholars of nationalism and ethnic conflict who has contributed most towards establishing a conceptual grounding” for the study of nationalism.[5]

Widely cited for his insistence on the inherently ethnic character of nationalism, which he calls ethnonationalism to emphasize the point, Connor has long held that the most significant obstacle to advancing the study of nationalism is terminological imprecision. Particularly problematic, he contends, is the tendency to conflate the distinct concepts of state and nation, as well as the respective concepts of patriotism and nationalism which derive from them.[6]

Another significant theme in Connor’s work is the passionate, nonrational character of nationalism. When trying to understand national sentiment, he argues, the key is not chronological or factual history, but sentient or felt history. National identity is based on the emotional psychology of perceived kinship ties – a sense of the nation as the fully extended family – and accordingly belongs to the realm of the subconscious and nonrational.

Mons writes:

The notion of ethnic group or nation as arbitrary social construct can be likened to the construction of a cathedral or pyramid. True, the artifice is distinctly human and can be said to be commanded by elites. But the act of building the cathedral cannot be a hollow order but must involve labor brought forth from the masses. Without the buy-in of the people, no progress can be made. Secondly, it is an act of great effort. Cathedrals can be built, but doing so takes many, many years and much treasure. It cannot be done on a whim.

All such criticisms of social constructs are founded on the notion that the social construct is arbitrary and also that it can be destroyed and remade at a whim. But houses are social constructs. There can be significant variation in the form of a house, but certain key characteristics remain cross-culturally. This is because the house must always satisfy the needs of a house. A house that is a shitty house ceases to be built. You can have brutalist houses, Modernist houses, rococo houses, but all houses fundamentally must shelter the inhabitants in a reasonably pleasant way.

Nations are ultimately the greatest social constructs. They are constructed, yes, but through the efforts of generations and the treasure of whole states. To do so lightly is folly. To ignore the existing construction to start anew is almost always an act of madness.

Such things cannot be boiled down to mere feelz. Law is a social construct, but law is one of the most real things a person has to deal with. The unreality of social constructs is one of the key push points of the Left, and we must clarify that socially constructed is not the same as arbitrary.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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