National Identity & Social Cohesion

Here is a 2021 paper by Christian Albrekt Larsen:

* [Hans] Kohn’s distinction had its roots in Meineke’s (1970[1907]) distinction between “staatsnation” (state nation) and “kulturnation” (culture nation). Kohn’s basic argument was that in Western Europe (his examples were France, the UK, The
Netherlands and Switzerland), the borders of the state were settled prior to the rise of nationalism, which created a strong focus on the new democratic procedures that could legitimize the existing state. Nationalism therefore contained a narrative about turning oppressed inhabitants into citizens. In a less positive interpretation, Tilly calls it a “state-led nationalism” where “rulers who spoke in a nation’s name successfully demanded that citizens identify themselves with that nation and subordinate other interests to those of the state” (Tilly 1994:133). In contrast, the borders in Eastern Europe were settled after the rise of nationalism, which created a strong focus on the ethnic/cultural dimension of nationhood. Tilly calls it “state-seeking nationalism” where “representative of some population that currently did not have collective control of a state claimed an autonomous political status, or even a separate state, on the ground that the population had a distinct, coherent cultural identity” (Tilly 1994:133). Kohn used the terms “Western” and “Eastern” both to denote the
geographic locations of the various ideas of the nation (Kohn drew the line between the area west of the Rhine and the areas east of the Rhine) and to denote two different ideal types of perceptions of nationhood.

* most contemporary scholars find it useful to replace Kohn’s dichotomy with either 1) a continuum from “civic/Western/political” at the one end to “ethnic/Eastern/cultural” at the other or 2) a two-dimensional solution. Those in favor of a continuum often cite Anthony Smith for the argument in his seminal 1991 book that “… every nationalism contains civic and ethnic elements in varying degrees and different forms. Sometimes civic and territorial elements predominate; at other times it is the ethnic and vernacular components that are emphasized”…

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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